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Title: Who Wrote the Bible? : a Book for the People
Author: Gladden, Washington
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Who Wrote the Bible? : a Book for the People" ***

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The aim of this volume is to put into compact and popular form, for the
benefit of intelligent readers, the principal facts upon which scholars
are now generally agreed concerning the literary history of the Bible.
The doctrines taught in the Bible will not be discussed; its claims to a
supernatural origin will not be the principal matter of inquiry; the
book will concern itself chiefly with those purely natural and human
agencies which have been employed in writing, transcribing, editing,
preserving, transmitting, translating, and publishing the Bible.

The writer of this book has no difficulty in believing that the Bible
contains supernatural elements. He is ready to affirm that other than
natural forces have been employed in producing it. It is to these
superhuman elements in it that reference and appeal are most frequently
made. But the Bible has a natural history also. It is a book among
books. It is a phenomenon among phenomena. Its origin and growth in this
world can be studied as those of any other natural object can be
studied. The old apple-tree growing in my garden is the witness to me of
some transcendent truths, the shrine of mysteries that I cannot unravel.
What the life is that was hidden in the seed from which it sprang, and
that has shaped all its growth, coördinating the forces of nature, and
producing this individual form and this particular variety of
fruit,--this I do not know. There are questions here that no man of
science can answer. Life in the seed of the apple as well as in the
soul of man is a mystery. But there are some things about the apple-tree
that may be known. I may know--if any one has been curious enough to keep
the record--when the seed was planted, when the shoot first appeared above
the ground, how many branches it had when it was five years old, how
high it was when it was ten years old, when this limb and that twig were
added, when the first blossom appeared, when that branch was grafted and
those others were trimmed off. All this knowledge I may have gained; and
in setting forth these facts, or such as these, concerning the natural
history of the tree, I do not assume that I am telling all about the
life that is in it. In like manner we may study the origin and growth of
the Bible without attempting to decide the deeper questions concerning
the inspiration of its writers and the meaning of the truths they

That the Bible has a natural as well as a supernatural history is
everywhere assumed upon its pages. It was written as other books are
written, and it was preserved and transmitted as other books are
preserved and transmitted. It did not come into being in any such
marvelous way as that in which Joseph Smith's "Book of Mormon," for
example, is said to have been produced. The story is, that an angel
appeared to Smith and told him where he would find this book; that he
went to the spot designated, and found in a stone box a volume six
inches thick, composed of thin gold plates, eight inches by seven, held
together by three gold rings; that these plates were covered with
writing in the "Reformed Egyptian" tongue, and that with this book were
"the Urim and the Thummim," a pair of supernatural spectacles, by means
of which he was able to read _and translate_ this "Reformed
Egyptian" language. This is the sort of story which has been believed,
in this nineteenth century, by tens of thousands of Mormon votaries.
Concerning the books of the Bible no such astonishing stories are told.
Nevertheless some good people seem inclined to think that if such
stories are not told, they might well be; they imagine that the Bible
must have originated in a manner purely miraculous; and though they know
very little about its origin, they conceive of it as a book that was
written in heaven in the English tongue, divided there into chapters and
verses, with head lines and reference marks, printed in small pica,
bound in calf, and sent down to earth by angels in its present form.
What I desire to show is, that the work of putting the Bible into its
present form was not done in heaven, but on earth; that it was not done
by angels, but by men; that it was not done all at once, but a little at
a time, the work of preparing and perfecting it extending over several
centuries, and employing the labors of many men in different lands and
long-divided generations. And this history of the Bible as a book, and
of the natural and human agencies employed in producing it, will prove,
I trust, of much interest to those who care to study it.

Mr. Huxley has written a delightful treatise on "A Piece of Chalk," and
another on "The Crayfish;" a French writer has produced an entertaining
volume entitled "The Story of a Stick;" the books of the Bible,
considered from a scientific or bibliographical point of view, should
repay our study not less richly than such simple, natural objects.

A great amount of study has been expended of late on the Scriptures, and
the conclusions reached by this study are of immense importance. What is
called the Higher Criticism has been busy scanning these old writings,
and trying to find out all about them. What is the Higher Criticism? It
is the attempt to learn from the Scriptures themselves the truth about
their origin. It consists in a careful study of the language of the
books, of the manners and customs referred to in them, of the historical
facts mentioned by them; it compares part with part, and book with book,
to discover agreements, if they exist, and discrepancies, that they may
be reconciled. This Higher Criticism has subjected these old writings to
such an analysis and inspection as no other writings have ever
undergone. Some of this work has undoubtedly been destructive. It has
started out with the assumption that these books are in no respect
different from other sacred books; that they are no more a revelation
from God than the Zendavesta or the Nibelungen Lied is a revelation from
God; and it has bent its energies to discrediting, in every way, the
veracity and the authority of our Scriptures. But much of this criticism
has been thoroughly candid and reverent, even conservative in its temper
and purpose. It has not been unwilling to look at the facts; but it has
held toward the Bible a devout and sympathetic attitude; it believes it
to contain, as no other book in the world contains, the message of God
to men; and it has only sought to learn from the Bible itself how that
message has been conveyed. It is this conservative criticism whose
leadership will be followed in these studies. No conclusions respecting
the history of these writings will be stated which are not accepted by
conservative scholars. Nevertheless it must be remembered that the
results of conservative scholarship have been very imperfectly reported
to the laity of the churches. Many facts about the Bible are now known
by intelligent ministers of which their congregations do not hear. An
anxious and not unnatural feeling has prevailed that the faith of the
people in the Bible would be shaken if the facts were known. The belief
that the truth is the safest thing in the world, and that the things
which cannot be shaken will remain after it is all told, has led to the
preparation of this volume.

I have no doubt, however, that some of the statements which follow will
fall upon some minds with a shock of surprise. The facts which will be
brought to light will conflict very sharply with some of the traditional
theories about the Bible. Some of my readers may be inclined to fear
that the foundations of faith are giving way. Let me, at the outset,
request all such to suspend their judgment and read the book through
before they come to such a conclusion. Doubtless it will be necessary to
make some readjustment of theories; to look at the Bible less as a
miraculous and more as a spiritual product; to put less emphasis upon
the letter and more upon the spirit; but after all this is done it may
appear that the Bible is worth more to us than it ever was before,
because we have learned how rightly to value it.

The word "Bible" is not a biblical word. The Old Testament writings were
in the hands of the men who wrote the books of the New Testament, but
they do not call these writings the Bible; they name them the Scriptures,
the Holy Scriptures, the Sacred Writings, or else they refer to them
under the names that were given to specific parts of them, as the Law,
the Prophets, or the Psalms. Our word Bible comes from a word which
began to be applied to the sacred writings as a whole about four hundred
years after Christ. It is a Greek plural noun, meaning the books, or the
little books. These writings were called by this plural name for about
eight hundred years; it was not till the thirteenth century that they
began to be familiarly spoken of as a single book. This fact, of itself,
is instructive. For though a certain spiritual unity does pervade these
sacred writings, yet they are a collection of books, rather than one
book. The early Christians, who honored and prized them sufficiently,
always spoke of them as "The Books," rather than as "The Book,"--and
their name was more accurate than ours.

The names Old and New Testament are Bible words; that is to say we find
the names in our English Bibles, though they are not used to describe
these books. Paul calls the old dispensation the old covenant; and that
phrase came into general use among the early Christians as contrasted
with the Christian dispensation which they called the new covenant;
therefore Greek-speaking Christians used to talk about "the books
of the old covenant," and "the books of the new covenant;" and by and by
they shortened the phrase and sometimes called the two collections
simply "Old Covenant" and "New Covenant." When the Latin-speaking
Christians began to use the same terms, they translated the Greek word
"covenant" by the word "testament" which means a will, and which does
not fairly convey the sense of the Greek word. And so it was that these
two collections of sacred writings began to be called The Old Testament
and The New Testament. It is the former of these that we are first to

When Jesus Christ was on the earth he often quoted in his discourses
from the Jewish Scriptures, and referred to them in his conversations.
His apostles and the other New Testament writers also quote freely from
the same Scriptures, and books of the early Christian Fathers are full
of references to them. What were these Jewish Scriptures?

At the time when our Lord was on the earth, the sacred writings of the
Jews were collected in two different forms. The Palestinian collection,
so called, was written in the Hebrew language, and the Alexandrian
collection, called the Septuagint, in the Greek. For many years a large
colony of devout and learned Jews had lived in Alexandria; and as the
Greek language was spoken there, and had become their common speech,
they translated their sacred writings into Greek. This translation soon
came into general use, because there were everywhere many Jews who knew
Greek well enough but knew no Hebrew at all. When our Lord was on earth,
the Hebrew was a dead language; it may have been the language of the
temple, as Latin is now the language of the Roman Catholic mass; but the
common people did not understand it; the vernacular of the Palestinian
Jews was the Aramaic, a language similar to the Hebrew, sometimes called
the later Hebrew, and having some such relation to it as the English has
to the German tongue. There is some dispute as to the time when the Jews
lost the use of their own language and adopted the Aramaic; many of the
Jewish historians hold the view that the people who came back from the
captivity to Jerusalem had learned to use the Aramaic as their common
speech, and that the Hebrew Scriptures had to be interpreted when they
were read to them. Others think that this change in language took place
a little later, and that it resulted in great measure from the close
intercourse of the Jews with the peoples round about them in Palestine,
most of whom used the Aramaic. At any rate the change had taken place
before the coming of Christ, so that no Hebrew was then spoken
familiarly in Palestine. When "the Hebrew tongue" is mentioned in the
New Testament it is the Aramaic that is meant, and not the ancient
Hebrew. The Greek, on the other hand, was a living language; it was
spoken on the streets and in the markets everywhere, and many Jews
understood it almost as well as they did their Aramaic vernacular, just
as many of the people of Constantinople and the Levant now speak French
more fluently than their native tongues. The Greek version of the
Scriptures was, for this reason, more freely used by the Jews even in
Palestine than the Hebrew original; it was from the Septuagint that
Christ and his apostles made most of their quotations. Out of three
hundred and fifty citations in the New Testament from the Old Testament
writings about three hundred appear to be directly from the Greek
version made at Alexandria. Between these two collections of sacred
writings, the one written in Hebrew, then a dead language, and the other
in Greek,--the one used by scholars only, and the other by the common
people,--there were some important differences, not only in the
phraseology and in the arrangement of the books, but in the contents
themselves. Of these I shall speak more fully in the following chapters.
It is to the Hebrew collection, which is the original of these writings,
and from which our English Old Testament was translated, that we shall
now give our attention. What were these Hebrew Scriptures of which all
the writers of the New Testament knew, and from which they sometimes
directly quote?

The contents of this collection were substantially if not exactly the
same as those of our Old Testament, but they were arranged in very
different order. Indeed they were regarded as three distinct groups of
writings, rather than as one book, and the three groups were of
different degrees of sacredness and authority. Two of these divisions
are frequently referred to in the New Testament, as The Law and The
Prophets; and the threefold division is doubtfully hinted at in Luke
xxiv. 44, where our Lord speaks of the predictions concerning himself
which are found in the Law and the Prophets and in the Psalms.

The first of these holy books of the Jews was, then, THE LAW contained
in the first five books of our Bible, known among us as the Pentateuch,
and called by the Jews sometimes simply "The Law," and sometimes "The
Law of Moses." This was supposed to be the oldest portion of their
Scriptures, and was by them regarded as much more sacred and
authoritative than any other portion. To Moses, they, said, God spake
face to face; to the other holy men much less distinctly. Consequently
their appeal is most often to the law of Moses.

The group of writings known as "The Prophets" is subdivided into the
Earlier and the Later Prophets. _The Earlier Prophets_ comprise
Joshua, the Judges, the two books of Samuel, counted as one, and the two
books of the Kings, counted also as one. _The Later Prophets_
comprise Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets, the
last books in our Old Testament,--Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah,
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These
twelve _were counted as one book_; so that there were four volumes
of the earlier and four of the later prophets. Why the Jews should have
called Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and the Kings books of the Prophets is
not clear; perhaps because they were supposed to have been written by
prophets; perhaps because prophets have a conspicuous place in their
histories. This portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, containing the four
historical books named and the fifteen prophetical books (reckoned,
however, as four), was regarded by the Jews as standing next in
sacredness and value to the book of the Law.

The third group of their Scriptures was known among them as Kethubim, or
Writings, simply. Sometimes, possibly, they called it The Psalms,
because the book of the Psalms was the initial book of the collection.
It consisted of the Psalms, the Proverbs, Job, the Song of Solomon,
Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and
the Chronicles. This group of writings was esteemed by the Jews as less
sacred and authoritative than either of the other two groups; the
authors were supposed to have had a smaller measure of inspiration.
Respecting two or three of these books there was also some dispute among
the rabbis, as to their right to be regarded as sacred Scripture.

Such, then, were the Hebrew Scriptures in the days of our Lord, and such
was the manner of their arrangement.

They had, indeed, other books of a religious character, to which
reference is sometimes made in the books of the Bible. In Numbers xxi.
14, 15, we have a brief war song quoted from "The Book of the Wars of
Jehovah," a collection of which we have no other knowledge. In Joshua x.
13, the story of the sun standing still over Gibeon is said to have been
quoted from "The Book of Jasher," and in 2 Samuel i. 18, the beautiful
"Song of the Bow," written by David on the death of Saul and Jonathan,
is said to be contained in the "Book of Jasher." It is evident that this
must have been a collection of lyrics celebrating some of the great
events of Hebrew history. The title seems to mean "The Book of the
Just." The exploits of the worthies of Israel probably furnished its
principal theme.

In 1 Chronicles xxix. 29, we read: "Now the acts of David the king,
first and last, behold they are written in the History of Samuel the
Seer, and in the History of Nathan the Prophet, and in the History of
Gad the Seer." There is no reason to doubt that the first named of these
is the history contained in the books of Samuel in our Bible; but the
other two books are lost. We have another reference to the "History of
Nathan," in 2 Chronicles ix. 29,--the concluding words of the sketch of
King Solomon's life. "Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and
last, are they not written in the History of Nathan the Prophet, and in
the Prophecy of Abijah the Shilonite, and in the Visions of Iddo the
Seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat?" Here are two more books of
which we have no other knowledge; their titles quoted upon the page of
this chronicle are all that is left of them. A similar reference, in the
last words of the sketch of Solomon's son Rehoboam, gives us our only
knowledge of the "Histories of Shemaiah the Prophet."

In the Kings and in the Chronicles, reference is repeatedly made to the
"Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel," and the "Books of the
Chronicles of the Kings of Judah," under which titles volumes that are
now lost are brought to our notice. Undoubtedly much of the history in
the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles was derived from these
ancient annals. They are the sources from which the writers of these
books drew their materials.

We are also told in 2 Chronicles xxvi. 22, that Isaiah wrote a history
of the "Acts of Uzziah," which is wholly lost.

Other casual references are made to historical writings of various
sorts, composed by prophets and seers, and thus apparently accredited by
the biblical writers as authoritative utterances of divine truth. Why
were they suffered to perish? Has not Emerson certified us that

  "One accent of the Holy Ghost
   The heedless world has never lost"?

But this is a fond exaggeration. Mr. Emerson was certainly not himself
inspired when he uttered it. Many and many an accent of the Holy Ghost
has been lost by this heedless world. And it is not at all improbable
that some of these histories of Nathan and Gad and Shemaiah held vital
and precious truth,--truth that the world has needed. The very fact that
they are hopelessly lost raises some curious questions about the method
of revelation. Is it to be supposed that the Providence which suffers
whole books to be lost by men would infallibly guarantee those that
remain against errors in the copies, and other imperfections? As a
matter of fact, we know that He has not so protected any of them.

Still I doubt not that Providence has kept for us the best of this
Hebrew literature. To say that it is the best literature that the world
has produced is to say very little. It is separated widely from all
other sacred writings. Its constructive ideas are as far above those of
the other books of religion as the heavens are above the earth. I pity
the man who has had the Bible in his hand from his infancy, and who has
learned in his maturer years something of the literature of the other
religions, but who now needs to have this statement verified. True it is
that we find pure maxims, elevated thoughts, genuine faith, lofty
morality, in many of the Bibles of the other races. True it is that in
some of them visions are vouchsafed us of the highest truths of
religion, of the very substance of the gospel of the Son of God. But
when we take the sacred books of the other religions in their entirety,
and compare them with the sacred writings of the Hebrews, the
superiority of these in their fundamental ideas, in the conceptions that
dominate them, in the grand uplifting visions and purposes that vitalize
them, can be felt by any man who has any discernment of spiritual
realities. It is in these great ideas that the value of these writings
consists, and not in any petty infallibility of phrase, or inerrancy of
statement. They are the record, as no other book in the world is a
record, of that increasing purpose of God which runs through the ages.
I hope that it will appear as the result of our studies, that one may
continue to reverence the Scriptures as containing a unique and special
revelation from God to men, and yet clearly see and frankly acknowledge
the facts concerning their origin, and the human and fallible elements
in them, which are not concealed, but lie upon their very face.



We are now to study the first five books of the Bible, known as the
Pentateuch. This word "Pentateuch" is not in the Bible; it is a Greek
word signifying literally the Five-fold Work; from _penta_, five,
and _teuchos_, which in the later Greek means roll or volume.

The Jews in the time of our Lord always considered these five books as
one connected work; they called the whole sometimes "Torah," or "The
Law," sometimes "The Law of Moses," sometimes "The Five-fifths of the
Law." It was originally one book, and it is not easy to determine at
what time its division into five parts took place.

Later criticism is also inclined to add to the Pentateuch the Book of
Joshua, and to say that the first six books of the Bible were put into
their present form by the same hand. "The Hexateuch," or Six-fold Work,
has taken the place in these later discussions of the Pentateuch, or
Five-fold Work. Doubtless there is good reason for the new
classification, but it will be more convenient to begin with the
traditional division and speak first of the five books reckoned by the
later Jews as the "Torah," or the Five-fifths of the Law.

Who wrote these books? Our modern Hebrew Bibles give them the general
title, _"Quinque Libri Mosis_." This means "The Five Books of
Moses." But Moses could never have given them this title, for these are
Latin words, and it is not possible that Moses should have used the
Latin language because there was no Latin language in the world until
many hundreds of years after the day of Moses. The Latin title was given
to them, of course, by the editors who compiled them. The preface and
the explanatory notes in these Hebrew Bibles are also written in Latin.

But over this Latin title in the Hebrew Bible is the Hebrew word
"Torah." This was the name by which these books were chiefly known among
the Jews; it signifies simply "The Law." This title gives us no
information, then, concerning the authorship of these books.

When we look at our English Bibles we find no separation, as in the
Hebrew Bible, of these five books from the rest of the Old Testament
writings, but we find over each one of them a title by which it is
ascribed to Moses as its author,--"The First Book of Moses, commonly
called Genesis;" "The Second Book of Moses, commonly called Exodus;" and
so on. But when I look into my Hebrew Bible again no such title is
there. Nothing is said about Moses in the Hebrew title to Genesis.

It is certain that if Moses wrote these books he did not call them
"Genesis," "Exodus," "Leviticus," "Numbers," "Deuteronomy;" for these
words, again, come from languages that he never heard. Four of them are
Greek words, and one of them, Numbers, is a Latin word. These names were
given to the several books at a very late day. What are their names in
the Hebrew Bible? Each of them is called by the first word, or some of
the first words in the book. The Jews were apt to name their books, as
we name our hymns, by the initial word or words; thus they called the
first of these five books, "Bereshith," "In the Beginning;" the second
one "Veelleh Shemoth," "Now these are the names;" the third one
"Vayikra," "And he called," and so on. The titles in our English Bible
are much more significant and appropriate than these original Hebrew
titles; thus Genesis signifies origin, and Genesis is the Book of
Origins; Exodus means departure, and the book describes the departure of
Israel from Egypt; Leviticus points out the fact that the book is mainly
occupied with the Levitical legislation; Numbers gives a history of the
numbering of the people, and Deuteronomy, which means the second law,
contains what seems to be a recapitulation and reënactment of the
legislation of the preceding books. But these English titles, which are
partly translated and partly transferred to English from older Latin and
Greek titles, tell us nothing trustworthy about the authorship of the

How, then, you desire to know, did these books come to be known as the
books of Moses?

"They were quoted," answer some, "and thus accredited by our Lord and
his apostles. They are frequently mentioned in the New Testament as
inspired and authoritative books; they are referred to as the writings
of Moses; we have the testimony of Jesus Christ and of his apostles to
their genuineness and authenticity." Let us see how much truth this
answer contains. It confronts us with a very important matter which may
as well be settled before we go on.

It is true, to begin with, that Jesus and the Evangelists do quote from
these books, and that they ascribe to Moses some of the passages which
they quote. The soundest criticism cannot impugn the honesty or the
intelligence of such quotations. There is good reason, as we shall see,
for believing that a large part of this literature was written in the
time of Moses, and under the eye of Moses, if not by his hand. In a
certain important sense, which will be clearer to us as we go on, this
literature is all Mosaic. The reference to it by the Lord and his
apostles is therefore legitimate.

But this reference does by no means warrant the sweeping conclusion that
the five books of the law were all and entire from the pen of the
Lawgiver. Our Lord nowhere says that the first five books of the Old
Testament were all written by Moses. Much less does he teach that the
contents of these books are all equally inspired and authoritative.
Indeed he quotes from them several times for the express purpose of
repudiating their doctrines and repealing their legislation. In the very
fore-front of his teaching stands a stern array of judgments in which
undoubted commandments of the Mosaic law are expressly condemned and set
aside, some of them because they are inadequate and superficial, some of
them because they are morally defective. "Ye have heard that it was said
to them of old time" thus and thus; "but I say unto you"--and then
follow words that directly contradict the old legislation. After quoting
two of the commandments of the Decalogue and giving them an
interpretation that wholly transforms them, he proceeds to cite several
old laws from these Mosaic books, in order to set his own word firmly
against them. One of these also is a law of the Decalogue itself. There
can be little doubt that the third commandment is quoted and criticised
by our Lord, in this discourse. That commandment forbids, not chiefly
profanity, but perjury; by implication it permits judicial oaths. And
Jesus expressly forbids judicial oaths. "Swear not at all." I am aware
that this is not the usual interpretation of these words, but I believe
that it is the only meaning that the words will bear. Not to insist upon
this, however, several other examples are given in the discourse
concerning which there can be no question.

Jesus quotes the law of divorce from Deuteronomy xxiv. 1,2. "When a man
taketh a wife and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favour
in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he
shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send
her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house she may
go and be another man's wife." These are the words of a law which Moses
is represented as uttering by the authority of Jehovah. This law, as
thus expressed, Jesus Christ unqualifiedly repeals. "I say unto you that
every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of
fornication, maketh her an adulteress, and whosoever shall marry her
when she is put away committeth adultery."

The law of revenge is treated in the same way. "Ye have heard that it
was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Who said this? Was
it some rabbin of the olden time? It was Moses; nay, the old record says
that this is the word of the Lord by Moses: "The Lord spake unto Moses,
saying [among other things], If a man cause a blemish in his neighbor,
as he hath done so shall it be done to him; breach for breach, eye for
eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it
be rendered unto him." (Lev. xxiv. 19,20.) So in Exodus xxi. 24, "Thou
shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand,
burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." It is
sometimes said that these retaliations were simply permitted under the
Mosaic law, but this is a great error; they were enjoined: "Thine eye
shall not pity," it is said in another place (Deut. xix. 21); "life
shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for
foot." This law of retaliation is an integral part of the moral
legislation of the Pentateuch. It is no part of the ceremonial law; it
is an ethical rule. It is clearly ascribed to Moses; it is distinctly
said to have been enacted by command of God. But Christ in the most
unhesitating manner condemns and countermands it.

"Ye have heard," he continues, "that it was said, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies,
and pray for them that persecute you." "But this," it is objected, "is
not a quotation from the Old Testament. These words do not occur in that
old legislation." At any rate Jesus introduces them with the very same
formula which he has all along been applying to the words which he has
quoted from the Mosaic law. It is evident that he means to give the
impression that they are part of that law. He is not careful in any of
these cases to quote the exact words of the law, but he does give the
meaning of it. He gives the exact meaning of it here. The Mosaic law
commanded Jews to love their neighbors, members of their own tribe, but
to hate the people of surrounding tribes: "An Ammonite or a Moabite
shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth
generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the
Lord for ever.... Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity
all thy days for ever." (Deut. xxiii. 3-6.)

"When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest
to possess it, and shalt cast out many nations before thee, ... then
thou shalt utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them,
nor show mercy unto them." (Deut. vii. 1,2.) This is the spirit of much
of this ancient legislation; and these laws were, if the record is true,
literally executed, in after times, by Joshua and Samuel, upon the
people of Canaan. And these bloody commands, albeit they have a "Thus
said the Lord" behind every one of them, Jesus, in the great discourse
which is the charter of his kingdom, distinctly repeals.

Such is the method by which our Lord sometimes deals with the Old
Testament. It is by no means true that he assumes this attitude toward
all parts of it. Sometimes he quotes Lawgiver and Prophets in
confirmation of his own words; often he refers to these ancient
Scriptures as preparing the way for his kingdom and foreshadowing his
person and his work. Nay, he even says of that law which we are now
studying that not one jot or tittle shall in any wise pass from it till
all things be accomplished. What he means by that we shall be able by
and by to discover. But these passages which I have cited make it clear
that Jesus Christ cannot be appealed to in support of the traditional
view of the nature of these old writings.

The common argument by which Christ is made a witness to the
authenticity and infallible authority of the Old Testament runs as

Christ quotes Moses as the author of this legislation; therefore Moses
must have written the whole Pentateuch.

Moses was an inspired prophet; therefore all the teaching of the
Pentateuch must be infallible.

The facts are, that Jesus nowhere testifies that Moses wrote the whole
of the Pentateuch; and that he nowhere guarantees the infallibility
either of Moses or of the book. On the contrary, he sets aside as
inadequate or morally defective certain laws which in this book are
ascribed to Moses.

It is needful, thus, on the threshold of our argument, to have a clear
understanding respecting the nature of the testimony borne by our Lord
and his apostles to this ancient literature. It is upon this that the
advocates of the traditional view of the Old Testament wholly rely.
"Christ was authority," they say; "the New Testament writers were
inspired; you all admit this; now Christ and the New Testament writers
constantly quote the Scriptures of the Old Testament as inspired and as
authoritative. Therefore they must be the infallible word of God." To
this it is sufficient to reply, Christ and the apostles do quote the Old
Testament Scriptures; they find a great treasure of inspired and
inspiring truth in them, and so can we; they recognize the fact that
they are organically related to that kingdom which Christ came to found,
and that they record the earlier stages of that great course of
revelation which culminates in Christ; but they nowhere pronounce any of
these writings free from error; there is not a hint or suggestion
anywhere in the New Testament that any of the writings of the Old
Testament are infallible; and Christ himself, as we have seen, clearly
warns his disciples that they do not even furnish a safe rule of moral
conduct. After this, the attempt to prove the inerrancy of the Old
Testament by summoning as witnesses the writers of the New Testament may
as well be abandoned.

But did not Jesus say, "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye
have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me?" Well, if he
had said that, it would not prove that the Scriptures they searched were
errorless. The injunction would have all the force to-day that it ever
had. One may very profitably study documents which are far from
infallible. This was not, however, what our Lord said. If you will look
into your Revised Version you will see that his words, addressed to the
Jews, are not a command but an assertion: "Ye search the Scriptures, for
in them ye think ye have eternal life" (John v. 39); if you searched
them carefully you would find some testimony there concerning me. It is
not an injunction to search the Scriptures; it is simply the statement
of the fact that the Jews to whom he was speaking did search the
Scriptures, and searched them as many people in our own time do, to very
little purpose.

But does not Paul say, in his letter to Timothy, that "All Scripture is
given by inspiration of God?" No, Paul does not say that. Look again at
your Revised Version (2 Tim. iii. 16): "Every Scripture inspired of God
is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction, which is in righteousness." Every writing inspired of God
is profitable reading. That is the whole statement.

But Paul says in the verses preceding, that Timothy had known from a
child the Sacred Writings which were able to make him wise unto
salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Was there not, then, in his
hands, a volume or collection of books, known as the Sacred Writings,
with a definite table of contents; and did not Paul refer to this
collection, and imply that all these writings were inspired of God and
profitable for the uses specified?

No, this is not the precise state of the case. These Sacred Writings had
not at this time been gathered into a volume by themselves, with a fixed
table of contents. What is called the Canon of the Old Testament had not
yet been finally determined.[Footnote: See chapter xi] There were,
indeed, as we saw in the last chapter, two collections of sacred
writings, one in Hebrew and the other in Greek. The Hebrew collection
was not at this time definitely closed; there was still a dispute among
the Palestinian Jews as to whether two or three of the books which it
now contains should go into it; that dispute was not concluded until
half a century after the death of our Lord. The other collection, as I
have said, was in the Greek language, and it included, not only our Old
Testament books, but the books now known as the Old Testament Apocrypha.
This was the collection, remember, most used by our Lord and his
apostles. Which of these collections was in the hands of Timothy we do
not certainly know. But the father of Timothy was a Greek, though his
mother was a Jewess; and it is altogether probable that he had studied
from his childhood the Greek version of the Old Testament writings.
Shall we understand Paul, then, as certifying the authenticity and
infallibility of this whole collection? Does he mean to say that the
"Story of Susanna" and "Bel and the Dragon," and all the rest of these
fables and tales, are profitable for teaching and instruction in
righteousness? This text, so interpreted, evidently proves too much.
Doubtless Paul did mean to commend to Timothy the Old Testament
Scriptures as containing precious and saving truth. But we must not
force his language into any wholesale indorsement of every letter and
word, or even of every chapter and book of these old writings.

So far, therefore, as our Lord himself and his apostles are concerned,
we have no decisive judgment either as to the authorship of these old
writings or as to their absolute freedom from error. They handled these
Scriptures, quoted from them, found inspired teaching in them; but the
Scriptures which they chiefly handled, from which they generally quoted,
in which they found their inspired teaching, contained, as we know,
worthless matter. It is not to be assumed that they did not know this
matter to be worthless; and if they knew this, it is not to be asserted
that they intended to place upon the whole of it the stamp of their

We have wandered somewhat from the path of our discussion, but it was
necessary in order to determine the significance of those references to
the Old Testament with which the New Testament abounds. The question
before us is, Why do we believe that Moses wrote the five books which
bear his name in our Bibles? We have seen that the New Testament writers
give us no decisive testimony on this point. On what testimony is the
belief founded?

Doubtless it rests wholly on the traditions of the Jews. Such was the
tradition preserved among them in the time of our Lord. They believed
that Moses wrote every word of these books; that God dictated the
syllables to him and that he recorded them. But the traditions of the
Jews are not, in other matters, highly regarded by Christians. Our Lord
himself speaks more than once in stern censure of these traditions by
which, as he charges, their moral sense was blunted and the law of God
was made of none effect. Many of these old tales of theirs were
extremely childish. One tradition ascribes, as we have seen, to Moses
the authorship of the whole Pentateuch; another declares that when,
during an invasion of the Chaldeans, all the books of the Scripture were
destroyed by fire, Ezra wrote them all out from memory, in an incredibly
short space of time; another tradition relates how the same Ezra one day
heard a divine voice bidding him retire into the field with five swift
amanuenses,--"how he then received a full cup, full as it were of water,
but the color of it was like fire, ... and when he had drank of it, his
heart uttered understanding and wisdom grew in his breast, for his
spirit strengthened his memory, ... and his mouth was opened and shut no
more and for forty days and nights he dictated without stopping till two
hundred and four books were written down." [Footnote: 2 Esdras xiv. See,
also, Stanley's _Jewish Church_, iii, 151.] These fables had wide
currency among the Jews; they were believed by Irenæus, Tertullian,
Augustine, and others of the great fathers of the Christian Church; but
they are not credited in these days. It is evident that Jewish tradition
is not always to be trusted. We shall need some better reason than this
for believing that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch.

I do not know where else we can go for information except to the books
themselves. A careful examination of them may throw some light upon the
question of their origin. A great multitude of scholars have been before
us in their examination; what is their verdict?

First we have the verdict of the traditionalists,--those, I mean, who
accept the Jewish tradition, and believe with the rabbins that Moses
wrote the whole of the first five books of the Bible. Some who hold this
theory are ready to admit that there may be a few verses here and there
interpolated into the record by later scribes; but they maintain that
the books in their substance and entirety came in their present form
from the hands of Moses. This is the theory which has been generally
received by the Christian church. It is held to-day by very few eminent
Christian scholars.

Over against this traditional theory is the theory of the radical and
destructive critics that Moses wrote nothing at all; that perhaps the
ten commandments were given by him, but hardly anything more; that these
books were not even written in the time of Moses, but hundreds of years
after his death. Moses is supposed to have lived about 1400 B.C.; these
writings, say the destructive critics, were first produced in part about
730 B.C., but were mainly written after the Exile (about 444 B.C.),
almost a thousand years after the death of Moses. "Strict and impartial
investigation has shown," says Dr. Knappert, "that ... nothing in the
whole Law really comes from Moses himself except the ten commandments.
And even these were not delivered by him in the same form as we find
them now." [Footnote: _The Religion of Israel_, p. 9.] This is, to
my mind, an astounding statement. It illustrates the lengths to which
destructive criticism can go. And I dare say that we shall find in our
study of these books reason for believing that such views as these are
as far astray on the one side as those of the traditionalists are on the

Let us test these two theories by interrogating the books themselves.

First, then, we find upon the face of the record several reasons for
believing that the books cannot have come, in their present form, from
the hand of Moses.

Moses died in the wilderness, before the Israelites reached the Promised
Land, before the Canaanites were driven out, and the land was divided
among the tribes.

It is not likely that he wrote the account of his own death and burial
which we find in the last chapter of Deuteronomy. There are those, it is
true, who assert that Moses was inspired to write this account of his
own funeral; but this is going a little farther than the rabbins; they
declare that this chapter was added by Joshua. It is conceivable that
Moses might have left on record a prediction that he would die and be
buried in this way; but the Spirit of the Lord could never inspire a man
to put in the past tense a plain narrative of an event which is yet in
the future. The statement when written would be false, and God is not
the author of falsehood.

It is not likely either that Moses wrote the words in Exodus xi. 3:
"Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the
sight of all the people;" nor those in Numbers xii. 3: "Now the man
Moses was very meek above all the men which were on the face of the
earth." It has been said, indeed, that Moses was directed by inspiration
to say such things about himself; but I do not believe that egotism is a
supernatural product; men take that in the natural way.

Other passages show upon the face of them that they must have been added
to these books after the time of Moses. It is stated in Exodus xvi. 35,
that the Israelites continued to eat manna until they came to the
borders of the land of Canaan. But Moses was not living when they
entered that land.

In Genesis xii. 6, in connection with the story of Abraham's entrance
into Palestine, the historical explanation is thrown in: "And the
Canaanite was then in the land." It would seem that this must have been
written at a day when the Canaanite was no longer in the land,--after
the occupation of the land and the expulsion of the Canaanites. In
Numbers xv. 32, an incident is related which is prefaced by the words,
"While the children of Israel were in the wilderness." Does not this
look back to a past time? Can we imagine that this was written by Moses?
Again, in Deuteronomy iii. 11, we have a description of the bedstead of
Og, one of the giants captured and killed by the Israelites, just before
the death of Moses; and this bedstead is referred to as if it were an
antique curiosity; the village is mentioned in which it is kept. In
Genesis xxxvi. we find a genealogy of the kings of Moab, running through
several generations, prefaced with the words: "These are the kings that
reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the
children of Israel." This is looking backward from a day when kings were
reigning over the children of Israel. How could it have been written
five hundred years before there ever was a king in Israel? In Genesis
xiv. 14, we read of the city of Dan; but in Judges xviii. 29, we are
told that this city did not receive its name until hundreds of years
later, long after the time of Moses. Similarly the account of the naming
of the villages of Jair, which we find in Deuteronomy iii. 14, is quite
inconsistent with another account in Judges x. 3, 4. One of them must be
erroneous, and it is probable that the passage in Deuteronomy is an

Most of these passages could be explained by the admission that the
scribes in later years added sentences here and there by way of
interpretation. But that admission would of course discredit the
infallibility of the books. Other difficulties, however, of a much more
serious kind, present themselves.

In the first verse of the twentieth chapter of Numbers we read that the
people came to Kadesh in the first month. The first month of what year?
We look back, and the first note of time previous to this is the second
month of the second year of the wandering in the wilderness. Their
arrival at Kadesh described in the twentieth chapter would seem, then,
to have been in the first month of the third year. In the twenty-second
verse of this chapter the camp moves on to Mount Hor, and Aaron dies
there. There is no note of any interval of time whatever; yet we are
told in the thirty-third chapter of this book that Aaron died in the
fortieth year of the wandering. Here is a skip of thirty-eight years in
the history, without an indication of anything having happened meantime.
On the supposition that this is a continuous history written by the man
who was a chief actor in it, such a gap is inexplicable. There is a
reasonable way of accounting for it, as we shall see, but it cannot be
accounted for on the theory that the book in its present form came from
the hand of Moses.

Some of the laws also bear internal evidence of having originated at a
later day than that of Moses. The law forbidding the removal of
landmarks presupposes a long occupation of the land; and the law
regulating military enlistments is more naturally explained on the
theory that it was framed in the settled period of the Hebrew history,
and not during the wanderings. This may, indeed, have been anticipatory
legislation, but the explanation is not probable.

Various repetitions of laws occur which are inexplicable on the
supposition that these laws were all written by the hand of one person.
Thus in Exodus xxxiv. 17-26, there is a collection of legal enactments,
all of which can be found, in the same order and almost the same words,
in the twenty-third chapter of the same book. Thus, to quote the summary
of Bleek, we find in both places, (_a_) that all the males shall
appear before Jehovah three times in every year; (_b_) that no
leavened bread shall be used at the killing of the Paschal Lamb, and
that the fat shall be preserved until the next morning; (_c_) that
the first of the fruits of the field shall be brought into the house of
the Lord; (_d_) that the young kid shall not be seethed in its
mother's milk.[Footnote: _Introduction to the Old Testament_, i.

We cannot imagine that one man, with a fairly good memory, much less an
infallibly inspired man, should have written these laws twice over, in
the same words, within so small a space, in the same legal document. In
Leviticus we have a similar instance. If any one will take that book and
carefully compare the eighteenth with the twentieth chapter, he will see
some reason for doubting that both chapters could have been inserted by
one hand in this collection of statutes. "It is not probable," as Bleek
has said, "that Moses would have written the two chapters one after the
other, and would so shortly after have repeated the same precepts which
he had before given, only not so well arranged the second time."
[Footnote: _Introduction to the Old Testament_, i. 240.]

There are also quite a number of inconsistencies and contradictions in
the legislation, all of which may be easily explained, but not on the
theory that the laws all came from the pen of one infallibly inspired
lawgiver. We find also several historical repetitions and historical
discrepancies, all of which make against the theory that Moses is the
author of all this Pentateuchal literature. A single author, if he were
a man of fair intelligence, good common sense, and reasonably firm
memory, could not have written it. And unless tautology, anachronisms,
and contradictions are a proof of inspiration, much less could it have
been written by a single inspired writer. The traditional theory cannot
therefore he true. We have appealed to the books themselves, and they
bear swift witness against it.

Now let us look at the other theory of the destructive critics which not
only denies that Moses wrote any portion of the Pentateuch, but alleges
that it was written in Palestine, none of it less than six or seven
hundred years after he was dead and buried.

In the first place the book expressly declares that Moses wrote certain
portions of it. He is mentioned several times as having written certain
historical records and certain words of the law. In Exodus xxiv., we are
told that Moses not only rehearsed to the people the Covenant which the
Lord had made with them, but that he wrote all the words of the Covenant
in a book, and that he took the book of the Covenant and read it in the
audience of all the people. After the idolatry of the people Moses was
again commanded to write these words, "and" it is added, "he wrote upon
the tables the words of the Covenant, the ten commandments." In Exodus
xvii. 14, we are told that Moses wrote the narrative of the defeat of
Amalek in a book; and again in Numbers xxxiii. 21, we read that Moses
recorded the various marches and halts of the Israelites in the
wilderness. We have also in the Book of Deuteronomy (xxxi. 24-26) a
statement that Moses wrote "the words of the law" in a book, and put it
in the ark of the covenant for preservation. Precisely how much of the
law this statement is meant to cover is not clear. Some have interpreted
it to cover the whole Pentateuch, but that interpretation, as we have
seen, is inadmissible. We may concede that it does refer to a body or
code of laws,--probably that body or code on which the legislation of
Deuteronomy is based.

These are all the statements made in the writings themselves concerning
their origin. They prove, if they are credible, that portions of these
books were written by Moses; they do not prove that the whole of them
came from his hand.

I see no reason whatever to doubt that this is the essential fact. The
theory of the destructive critics that this literature and this
legislation was all produced in Palestine, about the eighth century
before Christ, and palmed off upon the Jews as a pious fraud, does not
bear investigation. In large portions of these laws we are constantly
meeting with legal provisions and historical allusions that take us
directly back to the time of the wandering in the wilderness, and cannot
be explained on any other theory. "When," says Bleek, "we meet with laws
which refer in their whole tenor to a state of things utterly unknown in
the period subsequent to Moses, and to circumstances existing in the
Mosaic age, and in that only, it is in the highest degree likely that
these laws not only in their essential purport proceeded from Moses, but
also that they were written down by Moses or at least in the Mosaic age.
Of these laws which appear to carry with them such clear and exact
traces of the Mosaic age, there are many occurring, especially in
Leviticus, and also in Numbers and Exodus, which laws relate to
situations and surrounding circumstances only existing whilst the
people, as was the case in Moses' time, wandered in the wilderness and
were dwellers in the close confinement of camps and tents." [Footnote:
Vol. i. p. 212.] It is not necessary to draw out this evidence at
length; I will only refer to a few out of scores of instances. The first
seven chapters of Leviticus, containing laws regulating the burnt
offerings and meat offerings, constantly assume that the people are in
the camp and in the wilderness. The refuse of the beasts offered in
sacrifice was to be carried out of the camp to the public ash heap, and
burned. The law of the Great Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi.) is also full
of allusions to the fact that the people were in camp; the scapegoat was
to be driven into the wilderness, and the man who drove it out was to
wash his clothes and bathe, and afterward come into the camp; the
bullock and the goat, slain for the sacrifice, were to be carried forth
without the camp; he who bears them forth must also wash himself before
he returns to the camp. Large parts of the legislation concerning
leprosy are full of the same incidental references to the fact that the
people were dwelling in camp.

There are also laws requiring that all the animals killed for food
should be slaughtered before the door of the Tabernacle. There was a
reason for this law; it was intended to guard against a debasing
superstition; but how would it have been possible to obey it when the
people were scattered all over the land of Palestine? It was adapted
only to the time when they were dwelling in a camp in the wilderness.

Besides, it must not be overlooked that in all this legislation "the
priests are not at all referred to in general, but by name, as Aaron and
his sons, or the sons of Aaron the priests."

All the legislation respecting the construction of the tabernacle, the
disposition of it in the camp, the transportation of it from place to
place in the wilderness, the order of the march, the summoning of the
people when camp was to be broken, with all its minute and
circumstantial directions, would be destitute of meaning if it had been
written while the people were living in Palestine, scattered all over
the land, dwelling in their own houses, and engaged in agricultural

The simple, unforced, natural interpretation of these laws takes us
back, I say, to the time of Moses, to the years of the wandering in the
wilderness. The incidental references to the conditions of the
wilderness life are far more convincing than any explicit statement
would have been. Can any one conceive that a writer of laws, living in
Palestine hundreds of years afterwards, could have fabricated these
allusions to the camp life and the tent life of the people? Such a
novelist did not exist among them; and I question whether Professor
Kuenen and Professor Wellhausen, with all their wealth of imagination,
could have done any such thing. Many of these laws were certainly
written in the time of Moses; and I do not believe that any man was
living in the time of Moses who was more competent to write such laws
than was Moses himself. The conclusion of Bleek seems therefore to me
altogether reasonable: "Although the Pentateuch in its present state and
extent may not have been composed by Moses, and also many of the single
laws therein may be the product of a later age, still the legislation
contained in it is genuinely Mosaic in its entire spirit and character."
[Footnote: Vol. i. p. 221.] We are brought, therefore, in our study, to
these inevitable conclusions:

1. The Pentateuch could never have been written by any one man, inspired
or otherwise.

2. It is a composite work, in which many hands have been engaged. The
production of it extends over many centuries.

3. It contains writings which are as old as the time of Moses, and some
that are much older. It is impossible to tell how much of it came from
the hand of Moses, but there are considerable portions of it which,
although they may have been somewhat modified by later editors, are
substantially as he left them.

I have said that the Pentateuch is a composite work. In the next chapter
we shall find some curious facts concerning its component parts, and the
way in which they have been put together. And although it did not come
into being in the way in which we have been taught by the traditions of
the rabbins, yet we shall see that it contains some wonderful evidence
of the superintending care of God,--of that continuous and growing
manifestation of his truth and his love to the people of Israel, which
is what we mean by revelation.

Revelation, we shall be able to understand, is not the dictation by God
of words to men that they may be written down in books; it is rather the
disclosure of the truth and love of God to men in the processes of
history, in the development of the moral order of the world. It is the
Light that lighteth every man, shining in the paths that lead to
righteousness and life. There is a moral leadership of God in history;
revelation is the record of that leadership. It is by no means confined
to words; its most impressive disclosures are in the field of action.
"Thus _did_ the Lord," as Dr. Bruce has said, is a more perfect
formula of revelation than "Thus said the Lord." It is in that great
historical movement of which the Bible is the record that we find the
revelation of God to men.



In the last chapter we found evidence that the Pentateuch as it stands
could not have been the work of Moses, though it contains much material
which must have originated in the time of Moses, and is more likely to
have been dictated by him than by any one else; that large portions of
the Mosaic law were of Mosaic authorship; that the entire system of
Levitical legislation grew up from this Mosaic germ, though much of it
appeared in later generations; and that, therefore, the habit of the
Jews of calling it all the law of Moses is easily understood. We thus
discovered in this study that the Pentateuch is a composite book.

The Christian Church in all the ages has been inclined to pin its faith
to what the rabbins said about the origin of this book, and this is not
altogether surprising; but in these days when testimony is sifted by
criticism we find that the traditions of the rabbins are not at all
trustworthy; and when we go to the Book itself, and ask it to tell us
what it can of the secret of its origin, we find that it has a very
different story to tell from that with which the rabbins have beguiled
us. A careful study of the Book makes it perfectly certain that it is
not the production of any one man, but a growth that has been going on
for many centuries; that it embodies the work of many hands, put
together in an artless way by various editors and compilers. The
framework is Mosaic, but the details of the work were added by reverent
disciples of Moses, the last of whom must have lived and written many
hundred years after Moses' day.

Some of the evidences of composite structure which lie upon the very
face of the narrative will now come under our notice. It is plain that
the whole of this literature could not have been written by any one man
without some kind of assistance. All the books, except the first, are
indeed a record of events which occurred mainly during the lifetime of
Moses, and of most of which he might have had personal knowledge. But
the story of Genesis goes back to a remote antiquity. The last event
related in that book occurred four hundred years before Moses was born;
it was as distant from him as the discovery of America by Columbus is
from us; and other portions of the narrative, such as the story of the
Flood and the Creation, stretch back into the shadows of the age which
precedes history. Neither Moses nor any one living in his day could have
given us these reports from his own knowledge. Whoever wrote this must
have obtained his materials in one of three ways.

1. They might have been given to him by direct revelation from God.

2. He might have gathered them up from oral tradition, from stories,
folk-lore, transmitted from mouth to mouth, and so preserved from
generation to generation.

3. He might have found them in written documents existing at the time of
his writing.

The first of these conjectures embodies the rabbinical theory. The later
form of that theory declared, however, that God did not even dictate
while Moses wrote, but simply handed the law, all written and
punctuated, out of heaven to Moses; the only question with these rabbins
was whether he handed it down all at once, or one volume at a time. It
is certain that this is not the correct theory. The repetitions, the
discrepancies, the anachronisms, and the errors which the writing
certainly contains prove that it could not have been dictated, word for
word, by the Omniscient One. Those who maintain such a theory as this
should beware how they ascribe to God the imperfections of men. It seems
to me that the advocacy of the verbal theory of inspiration comes
perilously near to the sin against the Holy Ghost.

The second conjecture, that the writer of these books might have
gathered up oral traditions of the earlier generations and incorporated
them into his writings, is more plausible; yet a careful examination of
the writings themselves does not confirm this theory. The form of this
literature shows that it must have had another origin.

The only remaining conjecture, that the books are compilations of
written documents, has been established beyond controversy by the most
patient study of the writings themselves. In the Book of Genesis the
evidence of the combination of two documents is so obvious that he who
runs may read. These two documents are distinguished from each other,
partly by the style of writing, and partly by the different names which
they apply to the Supreme Being. One of these old writers called the
Deity Elohim, the other called him Yahveh, or Jehovah. These documents
are known, therefore, as the Elohistic and the Jehovistic narratives.
Sometimes it is a little difficult to tell where the line runs which
separates these narratives, but usually it is distinct. Readers of
Genesis find many passages in which the name given to the Deity is
"God," and others in which it is "LORD," in small capitals. The first of
these names represents the Hebrew Elohim, the second the Hebrew Yahveh
or Jehovah. In one important section, beginning with the fourth verse of
the second chapter, and continuing through the chapter, the two names
are combined, and we have the Supreme Being spoken of as "The LORD God,"
Jehovah-Elohim. It is evident to every observing reader that we have in
the beginning of Genesis two distinct accounts of the Creation, the one
occupying the first chapter and three verses of the second, the other
occupying the remainder of the second chapter with the whole of the
third. The difference between these accounts is quite marked. The style
of the writing, particularly in the Hebrew, is strongly contrasted; and
the details of the story are not entirely harmonious. In the first
narrative the order of creation is, first the earth and its vegetation,
then the lower animals, then man, male and female, made in God's image.
In the second narrative the order is, first the earth and its
vegetation, then man, then the lower orders of animals, then woman. In
the first story plant life springs into existence at the direct command
of God; in the second it results from a mist which rose from the earth
and watered the whole face of the ground. These striking differences
would be hard to explain if we had not before our faces the clear
evidence of two old documents joined together.

I spoke in the last chapter of certain historical discrepancies which
are not explicable on the supposition that this is the work of a single
writer. Such are the two accounts of the origin of the name of
Beersheba, the one in the twenty-first and the other in the twenty-sixth
chapter of Genesis. The first account says that it was named by Abraham,
and gives the reason why he called the place by this name. The second
account says that it received its name from Isaac, about ninety years
later, and gives a wholly different explanation of the reason why he
called it by this name. When we find that in the first of these stories
God is called Elohim, [Footnote: In the last verse of this narrative the
word Jehovah is used, but this is probably an interpolation.] and in the
second Jehovah, we can readily explain this discrepancy. The compiler
took one of these narratives from one of these old documents, and the
other from the other, and was not careful to reconcile the two.

A similar duplication of the narrative is found in chapters xx. and
xxvi., with respect to the incident of Abimelech; in the first of these
narratives a serious complication is described as arising between
Abimelech King of Gerar on the one hand and Abraham and Sarah on the
other; in the second Abimelech is represented as interfering, in
precisely the same way and with the same results, in the domestic
felicity of Isaac and Rebekah. The harmonizers have done their work, of
course, upon these two passages; they have said that there were two
Abimelechs, and that Isaac repeated the blunder of his father; but it is
a little singular, if this were so, that no reference is made in the
latter narrative to the former. It is altogether probable that we have
the same story ascribed to different actors; and when we find that the
one narrative is Elohistic and the other Jehovistic, the problem is

More curious than any other of these combinations is the account of the
Flood, in which the compiler has taken the narratives of these two old
writers and pieced them together like patchwork. Refer to your Bibles
and note this piece of literary joiner-work. At the fifth verse of the
sixth chapter of Genesis this story begins; from this verse to the end
of the eighth verse the Jehovistic document is used. The name of the
Deity is Jehovah, translated LORD. From the ninth verse to the end of
the chapter the Elohistic document is used. The word applied to God is
Elohim, translated God. With the seventh chapter begins again the
quotation from the other document, "And the LORD [Jehovah] said unto
Noah." This extends only to the sixth verse; then the Elohistic
narrative begins again, and continues to the nineteenth verse of the
eighth chapter, including it; then the Jehovistic narrative begins
again, and continues through the chapter; then the Elohist takes up the
tale for the first seventeen verses of the ninth chapter; then the
Jehovist goes on to the twenty-seventh verse, and the Elohist closes the
chapter. It is true that we have in the midst of some of these Elohistic
passages a verse or two of the other document inserted by the compiler;
but the outlines of the different documents are marked as I have told
you. If you take this story and dissect out of it the portions which I
have ascribed to the Elohist and put them together, you will have a
clear, complete, consecutive story of the Flood; the portions of the
Jehovistic narrative inserted rather tend to confusion. "The
consideration of the context here," says Bleek, "quite apart from the
changes in the naming of God, shows that the Jehovistic passages of the
narrative did not originally belong to it. It cannot fail to be observed
that the connection is often interrupted by the Jehovistic passages, and
that by cutting them out a more valuable and clearer continuity of the
narrative is almost always obtained. For instance, in the existing
narrative certain repetitions keep on occurring; one of these,
especially, is connected with a difference in the matters of fact
related, introducing no slight difficulty and obscurity." [Footnote:
Vol. i. p. 273.]

Hear the Jehovist: "And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great
in the earth" (ch. vi. 5). Now hear the Elohist (vi. 11): "And the earth
was corrupt before Elohim, and the earth was filled with violence." The
Jehovist says (vi. 7): "And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have
created from the face of the ground." The Elohist says (vi. 13): "The
earth is filled with violence through them, and behold I will destroy
them with the earth." In the ninth verse of the sixth chapter we read:
"Noah was a righteous man and perfect in his generations; Noah walked
with Elohim." In the first verse of the seventh chapter, we read, "And
Jehovah said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for
thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." These
repetitions show how the same story is twice told. But the
contradictions are more significant. Here the one narrative represents
Elohim as saying (vi. 19): "And of every living thing of all flesh, two
of every kind shalt thou bring into the ark to keep them alive with
thee; they shall be male and female. Of the fowl after their kind and of
the cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after
its kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee to keep them alive."
But the other narrative represents Jehovah as saying, "Of every clean
beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the male and the female;
and of the beasts that are not clean, two, the male and the female; of
the fowl also of the air seven and seven, male and female, to keep seed
alive upon the face of all the earth." The one story says that of every
kind of living creature one pair should be taken into the ark; the other
says that of _clean_ beasts, seven pairs of each species should be
received, and of unclean beasts only one pair. The harmonists have
wrestled with this passage also; some of them say that perhaps the first
passage only meant that they should _walk in_ two and two; others
say that a good many years had elapsed between the giving of the two
commands (of which there is not a particle of evidence), and we are left
to infer that in the mean time the Almighty either forgot his first
orders, or else changed his mind. It is a pitiful instance of an attempt
to evade a difficulty that cannot be evaded. One of the very
conservative commentators, Dr. Perowne, in Smith's "Bible Dictionary,"
concludes to face it: "May we not suppose," he timidly asks, "that we
have here traces of a separate document, interwoven by a later writer,
with the former history? The passage has not, indeed, been incorporated
intact, but there is a coloring about it which seems to indicate that
Moses, or whoever put the book of Genesis into its present shape, had
here consulted a different narrative. The distinct use of the divine
names in the same phrase (vi. 22; vii. 5), in the former Elohim, in the
latter Jehovah, suggests that this may have been the case." [Footnote:
Art. "Noah," iii. 2179, American Edition.]

"May we not suppose," the good doctor asks, that we have traces of two
documents here? Certainly, your reverence. It is just as safe to suppose
it, as it is to suppose, when you see a nose on a man's face, that it is
a nose. There is no more doubt about it than there is about any other
palpable fact. The truth is, that the composite character of Genesis is
no longer, in scholarly circles, an open question. The most cautious,
the most conservative of scholars concede the point. Even President
Bartlett, of Dartmouth College, a Hebraist of some eminence, and as
sturdy a defender of old-fashioned orthodoxy as this country holds, made
this admission more than twenty years ago: "We may accept the traces of
earlier narratives as having been employed and authenticated by him
[Moses]; and we may admit the marks of later date as indications of a
surface revision of authorized persons not later than Ezra and
Nehemiah." And Dr. Perowne, the conservative scholar already quoted, in
the article on the "Pentateuch" in "Smith's Bible Dictionary," sums up
as follows:--

  "1. The Book of Genesis rests chiefly on documents much earlier than
      the time of Moses, though it was probably brought to very nearly
      its present shape either by Moses himself, or by one of the
      elders who acted under him.

  "2. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are to a great extent
      Mosaic. Besides those portions which are expressly declared to
      have been written by him, other portions, and especially the
      legal sections, were, if not actually written, in all probability
      dictated by him.

  "3. Deuteronomy, excepting the concluding part, is entirely the work
      of Moses, as it professes to be.

     .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

  "5. The first _composition_ of the Pentateuch as a whole could
      not have taken place till after the Israelites entered Canaan.

  "6. The whole work did not finally assume its present shape till its
      revision was undertaken by Ezra after the return from the
      Babylonish captivity."

The volume from which I have quoted these words bears the date of 1870.
Twenty years of very busy work have been expended upon the Pentateuch
since Dr. Perowne wrote these words; if he were to write to-day he would
be much less confident that Moses wrote the whole of Deuteronomy, and he
would probably modify his statements in other respects; but he would
retract none of these admissions respecting the composite character of
these five books.

The same fact of a combination of different documents can easily be
shown in all the three middle books of the Pentateuch, as well as in
Genesis. This is the fact which explains those repetitions of laws, and
those singular breaks in the history, to which I called your attention
in the last chapter. There is, as I believe, a large element of purely
Mosaic legislation in these books; many of these laws were written
either by the hand of Moses or under his eye; and the rest are so
conformed to the spirit which he impressed upon the Hebrew jurisprudence
that they may be fairly called Mosaic; but many of them, on the other
hand, were written long after his day, and the whole Pentateuch did not
reach its present form until after the exile, in the days of Ezra and

The upholders of the traditional theory--that Moses wrote the
Pentateuch, just as Blackstone wrote his Commentaries--are wont to make
much account of the disagreements of those critics who have undertaken
to analyze it into its component parts. "These critics," they say, "are
all at loggerheads; they do not agree with one another; none of them
even agrees with himself very long; most of them have several times
revised their theories, and there seems to be neither certainty nor
coherency in their speculations." But this is not quite true. With
respect to some subordinate questions they are not agreed, and probably
never will be; but with respect to the fact that these books are
composite in their origin they are perfectly agreed, and they are also
remarkably unanimous in their judgments as to where the lines of
cleavage run between these component parts. The consensus of critical
opinion now is that there are at least four great documents which have
been combined in the Pentateuch; and the critics agree in the main
features of the analysis, though they do not all call these separated
parts by the same names, nor do they all think alike concerning the
relative antiquity of these portions. Some think that one of these
documents is the oldest, and some give that distinction to another; nor
do they agree as to how old the oldest is, some bringing the earliest
composition down to a recent period; but on the main question that the
literature is composite they are at one. The closeness of their
agreement is shown by Professor Ladd in a series of tables [Footnote:
_The Doctrine of Sacred Scripture_, Part II. chap. vii.] in which
he displays to the eye the results of the analysis of four independent
investigators, Knobel, Schrader, Dillmann, and Wellhausen. He goes
through the whole of the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua,--the
Hexateuch, as it is now called,--and picks out of every chapter those
verses assigned by these several authorities to that ancient writing
which we have been calling the Elohistic narrative, and arranges them in
parallel columns. You can see at a glance when they agree in this
analysis, and when they disagree. I think that you would be astonished
to find that the agreements are so many and the disagreements so few. So
much unity of judgment would be impossible if the lines of cleavage
between these old documents were not marked with considerable
distinctness. "The only satisfactory explanation," says Professor Ladd,
"of the possibility of accomplishing such a work of analysis is the fact
that the analysis is substantially correct." [Footnote: _What is the
Bible?_ p. 311.]

Professor C. A. Briggs, of the Union (Presbyterian) Theological Seminary
in New York, bore this testimony three years ago in the "Presbyterian
Review:" "The critical analysis of the Hexateuch is the result of more
than a century of profound study of the documents by the greatest
critics of the age. There has been a steady advance until the present
position of agreement has been reached, in which Jew and Christian,
Roman Catholic and Protestant, Rationalistic and Evangelical scholars,
Reformed and Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopal, Unitarian, Methodist,
and Baptist all concur. The analysis or the Hexateuch into several
distinct original documents is a purely literary question in which no
article of faith is involved. Whoever in these times, in the discussion
of the literary phenomena of the Hexateuch, appeals to the ignorance and
prejudices of the multitude as if there were any peril to faith in these
processes of the Higher Criticism, risks his reputation for scholarship
by so doing. There are no Hebrew professors on the continent of Europe,
so far as I know, who would deny the literary analysis of the Pentateuch
into the four great documents. The professors of Hebrew in the
Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh, and tutors in a large
number of theological colleges, hold to the same opinion. A very
considerable number of the Hebrew professors of America are in accord
with them. There are, indeed, a few professional scholars who hold to
the traditional opinion, but these are in a hopeless minority. I doubt
whether there is any question of scholarship whatever in which there is
greater agreement among scholars than in this question of the literary
analysis of the Hexateuch."

I have but one more witness to introduce, and it shall be the
distinguished German professor Delitzsch, who has long been regarded as
the bulwark of evangelical orthodoxy in Germany. "His name," says
Professor Ladd, "has for many years been connected with the conception
of a devout Christian scholarship used in the defense of the faith
against attacks upon the supernatural character of the Old Testament
religion and of the writings which record its development." In a preface
to his commentary on Isaiah published since his recent death, he speaks
with great humility of the work that he has done, adding, "Of one thing
only do I think I may be confident,--that the spirit by which it is
animated comes from the good Spirit that guides along the everlasting
way." The opinion of such a scholar ought to have weight with all
serious-minded Christians. When I give you his latest word on this
question, you will recognize that you have all that the ripest and most
devout scholarship can claim. Let me quote, then, Professor Ladd's
abstract of his verdict:--

"In the opinion of Professor Delitzsch only the basis of the several
codes... incorporated in the Pentateuch is Mosaic; the form in which
these codes... are presented in the Pentateuch is of an origin much
later than the time of Moses. The Decalogue and the laws forming the
Book of the Covenant are the most ancient portions; they preserve the
Mosaic type in its relatively oldest and purest form. Of this type
Deuteronomy _is a development_. The statement that Moses 'wrote'
the Deuteronomic law (Deut. xxxi. 9, 24) _does not refer to the
present Book of Deuteronomy, but to the code of laws which underlies

"The Priest's Code, which embodies the more distinctively ritualistic
and ceremonial legislation, is the result of a long and progressive
development. Certain of its principles originated with Moses, but its
form, which is utterly unlike that of the other parts of the Pentateuch,
was received at the hands of the priests of the nation. Probably some
particular priest, at a much later date, indeed, than the time of Moses,
but prior to the composition of Deuteronomy, was especially influential
in shaping it. But the last stages of its development may belong to the
period after the Exile.

"The historical traditions which are incorporated into the Hexateuch
were committed to writing at different times and by different hands. The
narratives of them are superimposed, as it were, stratum upon stratum,
in the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua. For the Book of Joshua is
connected intimately with the Pentateuch, and when analyzed shows the
same composite structure. The differences which the several codes
exhibit are due to modifications which they received in the course of
history as they were variously collected, revised, and passed from
generation to generation.... The Pentateuch, like all the other
historical books of the Bible, is composed of documentary sources,
differing alike in character and age, which critical analysis may still
be able, with greater or less certainty, to distinguish and separate
from one another." [Footnote: _What is the Bible?_ pp. 489-491.]

That such is the fact with respect to the structure of these ancient
writings is now beyond question. And our theory of inspiration must be
adjusted to this fact. Evidently neither the theory of verbal
inspiration, nor the theory of plenary inspiration can be made to fit
the facts which a careful study of the writings themselves bring before
us. These writings are not inspired in the sense which we have commonly
given to that word. The verbal theory of inspiration was only tenable
while they were supposed to be the work of a single author. To such a
composite literature no such theory will apply. "To make this claim,"
says Professor Ladd, "and yet accept the best ascertained results of
criticism, would compel us to take such positions as the following: The
original authors of each one of the writings which enter into the
composite structure were infallibly inspired; every one who made any
changes in any one of these fundamental writings was infallibly
inspired; every compiler who put together two or more of these writings
was infallibly inspired, both as to his selections and transmissions
[omissions?], and as to any connecting or explanatory words which he
might himself write; every redactor was infallibly inspired to correct
and supplement and omit that which was the product of previous
infallible inspirations. Or perhaps it might seem more convenient to
attach the claim of a plenary inspiration to the last redactor of all;
but then we should probably have selected of all others the one least
able to bear the weight of such a claim. Think of making the claim for a
plenary inspiration of the Pentateuch in its present form on the ground
of the infallibility of that one of the Scribes who gave it its last
touches some time subsequent to the date of Ezra!" [Footnote: _The
Doctrine of Sacred Scripture_, i. 499]

And yet this does not signify that these books are valueless. When it
was discovered that the Homeric writings were not all the work of Homer,
the value of the Homeric writings was not affected. As pictures of the
life of that remote antiquity they had not lost their significance. The
value of these Mosaic books is of a very different sort from that of the
Homeric writings, but the discoveries of the Higher Criticism affect
them no more seriously. Even their historical character is by no means
overthrown. You can find in Herodotus and in Livy discrepancies and
contradictions, but this does not lead you to regard their writings as
worthless. There are no infallible histories, but that is no reason why
you should not study history, or why you should read all history with
the inclination to reject every statement which is not forced on your
acceptance by evidence which you cannot gainsay.

These books of Moses are the treasury, indeed, of no little valuable
history. They are not infallible, but they contain a great deal of truth
which we find nowhere else, and which is yet wonderfully corroborated by
all that we do know. Ewald declares that in the fourteenth chapter of
Genesis Abraham is brought before us "in the clear light of history."
From monuments and other sources the substantial accuracy of this
narrative is confirmed; and the account of the visit of Abraham to Egypt
conforms, in all its minute incidents, to the life of Egypt at that
time. The name Pharaoh is the right name for the kings reigning then;
the behavior of the servants of Pharaoh is perfectly in keeping with the
popular ideas and practices as the monuments reveal them. The story of
Joseph has been confirmed, as to its essential accuracy, as to the
verisimilitude of its pictures of Egyptian life, by every recent
discovery. Georg Ebers declares that "this narrative contains nothing
which does not accurately correspond to a court of Pharaoh in the best
times of the Kingdom." Many features of this narrative which a rash
skepticism has assailed have been verified by later discoveries.

We are told in the Exodus that the Israelites were impressed by Pharaoh
into building for him two store-cities ("treasure cities," the old
version calls them), named Pithom and Rameses, and that in this work they
were made to "serve with rigor;" that their lives were embittered "with
hard service in mortar and brick and all manner of hard service in the
field;" that they were sometimes forced to make brick without straw. The
whereabouts of these store-cities, and the precise meaning of the term
applied to them, has been a matter of much conjecture, and the story has
sometimes been set aside as a myth. To Pithom there is no clear
historical reference in any other book except Exodus. Only four or five
years ago a Genovese explorer unearthed, near the route of the Suez
Canal, this very city; found several ruined monuments with the name of
the city plainly inscribed on them, "Pi Tum," and excavating still
further uncovered a ruin of which the following is Mr. Rawlinson's
description: "The town is altogether a square, inclosed by a brick wall
twenty-two feet thick, and measuring six hundred and fifty feet along
each side. Nearly the whole of the space is occupied by solidly built,
square chambers, divided one from another by brick walls, from eight to
ten feet thick, which are unpierced by window or door or opening of any
kind. About ten feet from the bottom the walls show a row of recesses
for beams, in some of which decayed wood still remains, indicating that
the buildings were two-storied, having a lower room which could only be
entered by a trap-door, used probably as a store-house, or magazine, and
an upper one in which the keeper of the store may have had his abode.
Therefore this discovery is simply that of a 'store-city,' built partly
by Rameses II.; but it further appears from several short inscriptions,
that the name of the city was Pa Tum, or Pithom; and thus there is no
reasonable doubt that one of the two cities built by the Israelites has
been laid bare, and answers completely to the description given of it."
[Footnote: Quoted by Robinson in _The Pharaohs of the Bondage_, p.

The walls of Egypt were not all laid with mortar, but the record speaks
of mortar in this case, and here it is: the several courses of these
buildings were usually "laid with mortar in regular tiers." More
striking still is the fact that in some of these buildings, while the
lower tiers are composed of bricks having straw in them, the upper tiers
consist of a poorer quality of bricks without straw. Photographs may be
seen in this country of some of these brick granaries of this old
store-city of Pithom, with the line of division plainly showing between
the two kinds of bricks; and thus we have before our eyes a most striking
confirmation of the truth of this story of the bondage of the Israelites
in Egypt. Quite a number of such testimonies to the substantial
historical verity of these Old Testament records have been discovered in
recent years as old mounds have been opened in Egypt and in Chaldea, and
the monuments of buried centuries have told their story to the wondering
world. The books are not infallible, but he who sets them all aside as a
collection of myths or fables exposes his ignorance in a lamentable way.

But what is far more to the purpose, the ideas running all through the
old literature, the constructive truths of science, of ethics, of
religion, are pure and lofty and full of saving power. Even science, I
say, owes much to Genesis. The story of the Creation in the first
chapter of Genesis must not indeed be taken for veritable history; but
it is a solemn hymn in which some great truths of the world's origin are
sublimely set forth. It gives us the distinct idea of the unity of
Creation,--sweeping away, at one mighty stroke, the whole system of
naturalistic polytheism, which makes science impossible, when it
declares that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
In the same words it sets forth the truth by whose light science alone
walks safely, that the source of all things is a spiritual cause. The
God from whose power all things proceed is not a fortuitous concourse of
atoms, but a spiritual intelligence. From this living God came forth
matter with its forces, life with its organisms, mind with its freedom.
And although it may not be possible to force the words of this ancient
hymn into scientific statements of the order of creation, it is most
clear that it implies a continuous process, a law of development, in the
generations of the heaven and the earth. This is not a scientific
treatise of creation, but the alphabet of science is here, as Dr. Newman
Smyth has said; and it is correct. The guiding lights of scientific
study are in these great principles.

Similarly the ethical elements and tendencies of these old writings are
sound and strong. I have shown you how defective many of the Mosaic laws
are when judged by Christian standards; but all this legislation
contains formative ideas and principles by which it tends to purify
itself. Human sacrifices were common among the surrounding nations; the
story of Abraham and Isaac banishes that horror forever from Hebrew
history. Slavery was universal, but the law of the Jubilee Year made an
end of domestic slavery in Israel. The family was foundationless; the
wife's rights rested wholly on the caprice of her husband; but that law
of divorce which I quoted to you, and which our Lord repealed, set some
bounds to this caprice, for the husband was compelled to go through
certain formalities before he could turn his wife out of doors. The law
of blood vengeance, though in terms it authorized murder, yet in effect
powerfully restrained the violence of that rude age, and gave a chance
for the development of that idea of the sacredness of life which to us
is a moral commonplace, but which had scarcely dawned upon the minds of
those old Hebrews. Thus the history shows a people moving steadily
forward under moral leadership, out of barbarism into higher
civilization, and we can trace the very process by which the moral
maxims which to us are almost axioms have been cleared of the crudities
of passion and animalism, and stamped upon the consciousness of men. Is
not God in all this history?

Those first principles which I have called the guiding lights of science
are also the elements of pure religion. Science and religion spell out
different messages to men, but they start with the same alphabet. And
the religious purity of that hymn of the Creation is not less wonderful
than its scientific verity. Compare it with the other traditional
stories of the origin of things; compare it with the mythologies of
Egypt, of Chaldea, of Greece and Rome, and see how far above them it
stands in spiritual dignity, in moral beauty. "We could more easily,
indeed," says Dr. Newman Smyth, "compute how much a pure spring welling
up at the source of a brook that widens into a river, has done for
meadow and grass and flowers and overhanging trees, for thousands of
years, than estimate the influence of this purest of all ancient
traditions of the Creation, as it has entered into the lives and revived
the consciences of men; as it has purified countries of idolatries and
swept away superstition; and has flowed on and on with the increasing
truth of history, and kept fresh and fruitful, from generation to
generation, faith in the One God and the common parentage of men."
[Footnote: _Old Faiths in New Light_, p. 73.]

Above all, we find in all this literature the planting and the first
germination of that great hope which turned the thought of this people
from the earliest generations toward the future, and made them trust and
pray and wait, in darkest times, for better days to come. "Speak unto
the children of Israel that they go forward!" This is the voice that is
always sounding from the heights above them, whether they halt by the
shore of the sea, or bivouac in the wilderness. They do not always obey
the voice, but it never fails to rouse and summon them. No people of all
history has lived in the future as Israel did. "By faith" they worshiped
and trusted and wrought and fought, the worthies of this old religion;
towards lands that they had not seen they set their faces; concerning
things to come they were always prophesying; and it is this great hope
that forms the germ of the Messianic expectation by which they reach
forth to the glories of the latter day. This attitude of Israel, in all
the generations, is the one striking feature of this history. No
soulless sphinx facing a trackless desert with blind eyes--no impassive
Buddha ensphered in placid silence--is the genius of this people, but
some strong angel poised on mighty pinion above the highest peak of
Pisgah, and scanning with swift glances the beauty of the promised land.
Now any people of which this is true must be, in a large sense of the
word, an inspired people; and their literature, with all the signs of
imperfection which must appear in it, on account of the medium through
which it comes, will give proof of the divine ideas and forces that are
working themselves out in their history.

It is in this large way of looking at the Hebrew literature that we
discover its real preciousness. And when we get this large conception,
then petty questions about the absolute accuracy of texts and dates no
longer trouble us. "He who has once gained this broader view of the
Bible," says Dr. Newman Smyth, "as the development of a course of
history itself guided and inspired by Jehovah, will not be disconcerted
by the confused noises of the critic. His faith in the Word of God lies
deeper than any difficulties or flaws upon the surface of the Bible. He
will not be disturbed by seeing any theory of its mechanical formation,
or school-book infallibility broken to fragments under the repeated
blows of modern investigation; the water of life will flow from the rock
which the scholar strikes with his rod. He can wait, without fear, for a
candid and thorough study of these sacred writings to determine, if
possible, what parts are genuine, and what narratives, if any, are
unhistorical. His belief in the Word of God, from generation to
generation, does not depend upon the minor incidents of the Biblical
stories; it would not be destroyed or weakened, even though human
traditions could be shown to have overgrown some parts of this sacred
history, as the ivy, creeping up the wall of the church, does not loosen
its ancient stones." [Footnote: _Old Faiths in New Light_, p. 59.]



We found reasons, in previous chapters, for believing that considerable
portions of the Levitical legislation came from the hands of Moses,
although the narratives of the Pentateuch and many of its laws were put
into their present form long after the time of Moses. The composite
character of all this old literature has been demonstrated. The fact
that its materials were collected from several sources, by a process
extending through many centuries, and that the work of redaction was not
completed until the people returned from the exile about five centuries
before Christ, and almost a thousand years after the death of Moses, are
facts now as well established as any other results of scholarly

Nevertheless, we have maintained that the Israelites possessed, when
they entered Canaan, a considerable body of legislation framed under the
eye of Moses and bearing his name. Throughout the Book of Joshua this
legislation is frequently referred to. If the Book of Joshua was, as we
have assumed, originally connected with the first five books,
constituting what is now called the Hexateuch, if these six books were
put into their present form by the same writers, we should expect that
the Mosaic legislation would be clearly traced through all these books.

But when we go forward in this history we come at once upon a remarkable
fact.  The Book of Judges, the Book of Ruth, and the two books of Samuel
cover a period of Jewish history estimated in our common chronology at
more than four hundred years, and in these four books there is no
mention whatever of that Mosaic legislation which constituted, as we
have supposed, the germ of the Pentateuch. The name of Moses is
mentioned only six times in these four books; twice in the early
chapters of the Judges in connection with the settlement of the kindred
of his wife in Canaan; once in a reference to an order given by Moses
that Hebron should be given to Caleb; twice in a single passage in I
Samuel xii., where Moses and Aaron are referred to as leaders of the
people out of Egyptian bondage, and once in Judges iii. 4, where it is
said that certain of the native races were left in Canaan, "to prove
Israel by them, whether they would hearken to the commandments of the
Lord which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses." This last
is the only place in all these books where there is the faintest
allusion to any legislation left to the Israelites by Moses; and this
reference does not make it clear whether the "commandments" referred to
were written or oral. The word "law" is not found in these four books.
There is nothing in any of these books to indicate that the children of
Israel possessed any written laws. There are, indeed, in Ruth and in the
Judges frequent accounts of observances that are enjoined in the
Pentateuch; and in Samuel we read of the tabernacle and the ark and the
offering of sacrifices; the history tells us that some of the things
commanded in the Mosaic law were observed during this period; but when
we look in these books for any reference or appeal to the sacred
writings of Moses, or to any other sacred writings, or to any laws or
statutes or written ordinances for the government of the people, we look
in vain. Samuel the Prophet anointed Saul and afterward David as Kings
of Israel; but if, on these solemn occasions, he said anything about the
writings of Moses or the law of Moses, the fact is not mentioned. The
records afford us no ground for affirming that either Samuel or Saul was
aware of the existence of such sacred writings.

This is a notable fact. That the written law of Moses should, for four
centuries of Hebrew history, have disappeared so completely from notice
that the historian did not find it necessary to make any allusion to it,
is a circumstance that needs explanation.

It is true, as I have said, that during this period certain observances
required by the law were kept more or less regularly. But it is also
true that many of the most specific and solemn requirements of the law
were neglected or violated during all these years by the holiest men.
The Mosaic law utterly forbids the offering of sacrifices at any other
place than the central sanctuary, the tabernacle or the temple; but the
narrative of these early historical books shows all the saints and
heroes of the earlier history building altars, and offering sacrifices
freely in many places, with no apparent consciousness of
transgression,--nay, with the strongest assurance of the divine approval.
"Samuel," says Professor Robertson Smith, "sacrifices on many high places,
Saul builds altars, David and his son Solomon permit the worship at the
high places to continue, and the historian recognizes this as legitimate
because the temple was not yet built (I Kings iii. 2-4). In Northern
Israel this state of things was never changed. The high places were an
established feature in the Kingdom of Ephraim, and Elijah himself
declares that the destruction of the altars of Jehovah--all illegitimate
according to the Pentateuch--is a breach of Jehovah's covenant."
[Footnote: _The Old Testament in the Jewish Church_, pp. 220, 221.]

According to the Levitical law it was positively unlawful for any person
but the high priest ever to go into the innermost sanctuary, the holy of
holies, where the ark of God was kept; and the high priest could go into
that awful place but once a year. But we find the boy Samuel actually
sleeping "in the temple of the Lord where the ark of the Lord was." The
old version conceals this fact by a mistranslation. These are only a few
of many violations of the Pentateuchal legislation which we find
recorded in these books.

From the silence of these earlier histories concerning the law of Moses,
and from these many transgressions, by the holiest men, of the positive
requirements of the Pentateuchal legislation, the conclusion has been
drawn by recent critics that the Pentateuchal legislation could not have
been in existence during this period of history; that it must have been
produced at a later day. It must be admitted that they make out a strong
case. For reasons presented in the second chapter, I am unable to accept
their theory. It is probable, however, that the code of laws in
existence at this time was a limited and simple code--no such elaborate
ritual as that which we now find in the Pentateuch; and that those
particular requirements with respect to which the earlier Judges and
Samuel and David appear to behave themselves so disorderly, had not then
been enacted.

Moreover, it seems to be necessary to admit that there was a surprising
amount of popular ignorance respecting even those portions of the law
which were then in existence. This is the astonishing phenomenon.
Attempts are made to illustrate it by the ignorance of the Bible which
prevailed among our own ancestors before the invention of printing; but
no parallel can be found, as I believe, in the mediæval history of
Europe. It is true that many of the common people were altogether
unfamiliar with the Bible in mediæval times; but we cannot conceive of
such a thing as that the priests, the learned men, and the leaders of
the church at that time, should have been unaware of the existence of
such a book.

On his death-bed David is said to have admonished Solomon (I Kings ii.
3), that he should keep the statutes and commandments of the Lord,
"according to that which is written in the law of Moses." This is the
first reference to the Mosaic law which we find in connection with the
history of David; the first mention of a written law since the death of
Joshua, four centuries before. After this there are three other casual
allusions to the law of Moses in the first book of Kings, and four in
the second book. The books of Chronicles, which follow the Kings,
contain frequent allusions to the law; but these books, as we shall see
by and by, were written long afterward; and the tradition which they
embody cannot be so safe a guide as that of the earlier histories. It is
in Chronicles that we learn of the attempt which was made by one of the
good kings of Judah, Jehoshaphat, to have certain princes, priests, and
Levites appointed to teach the law; they went about the land, it is
said, teaching the people, "and had the book of the law of Jehovah with
them." I think that this is the first intimation, after the death of
Moses, that the law delivered by him had been publicly taught or even
read in connection with the ordinances of worship. The earlier narrative
of Jehoshaphat's reign, which we find in the Book of the Kings, makes no
allusion to this circumstance.

Nearly three hundred years after Jehoshaphat, and nearly five hundred
years after David, the young King Josiah was reigning in Jerusalem. The
temple had fallen into ruin, and the good king determined to have it
repaired. Hilkiah, the high priest, who was rummaging among the rubbish
of the dilapidated sanctuary, found there the Book of the Law of the
Lord. The surprise which he manifests at this discovery, the trepidation
of Shaphan the scribe, who hastens to tell the king about it, and the
consternation of the king when he listens for the first time in his life
to the reading of the book, and discovers how grievously its
commandments have been disobeyed, form one of the most striking scenes
of the old history. "How are we to explain," asks Dr. Perowne, "this
surprise and alarm in the mind of Josiah, betraying, as it does, such
utter ignorance of the Book of the Law and the severity of its
threatenings,--except on the supposition that as a written document it
had well-nigh perished?" [Footnote: Smith's _Bible Dictionary_,
art. "Pentateuch."] Undoubtedly "the Book of the Law" thus discovered
was that body of legislation which lies at the heart of the Deuteronomic
code; and this was never again lost sight of by the Jewish people. It
was less than fifty years after this that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the
city and the temple and carried the people away into captivity. And it
was not until their return from the Captivity, seventy years later, that
these sacred writings began to assume that place of eminence in the
religious system of the Jews which they have held in later times. The
man by whom the Jews were taught to cherish and study these writings was
Ezra, one of the returning exiles. This Ezra, the record says, "was a
ready scribe in the law of Moses which the Lord God of Israel had
given," and "he had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and
to do it and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." He it was, no
doubt, who gave to these laws their last revision, and who put the
Pentateuch substantially into the shape in which we have it now.
Doubtless much was added at this time; ritual rules which had been
handed down orally were written out and made part of the code; the
Pentateuch, after the Exile, was a more elaborate law book than that
which Hilkiah found in the old temple. Under the presidency of Ezra in
Jerusalem, and in the days which followed, the Book of the Law was
exalted; it was the standard of authority; it was read in the temple and
explained in the synagogues; its writings were woven into all the
thought and life of the people of Israel; there never has been a time
since that day when the history of the reign of any king could have been
written without mentioning the law of Moses; there never has been a
decade when any adequate account of the life of the Jewish people could
have been given which would not bring this book constantly into view.

This Book of the Law, as finally completed by Ezra and his co-laborers,
was the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures; it possessed a sacredness
in the eyes of the Jews far higher than that pertaining to any other
part of their writings. Next to this in age and importance was the great
division of their Scriptures known by them as _"The Prophets."_

After the Book of the Law was given to the people with great solemnity,
in the days of Ezra, and the public reading and explanation of it became
a principal part of the worship of the Jews, it began to be noised
abroad that there were certain other sacred writings worthy to be known
and treasured. The only information we have concerning the beginning of
this second collection is found in one of the apocryphal books, the
second of Maccabees (ii. 14), in which we are told that Neemias
(Nehemiah), in "founding a library, gathered together the acts of the
kings, and [the writings of] the prophets, and of David, and the
epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts." These last named
documents are not now in existence. They appear to have been the letters
and commissions of Babylonian and Persian kings respecting the return of
the people to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple. The other
writings mentioned are, however, all known to us, and are included in
our collection. It is not certain that Nehemiah began this collection;
it may have been initiated before his day, and the "founding" of the
library may have been only the work of providing for the preservation
and arrangement of books already in his possession. This second
collection of sacred writings, called The Prophets, was divided, as I
have before stated, into the Earlier and the Later Prophets; the former
subdivision containing the books of Joshua, [Footnote: Joshua, although
originally a portion of the pentateuchal literature, was, about the time
of the Exile, separated from the first five books, and put into this
later collection.] Judges, Samuel, and Kings; the latter, the books
which we now regard and class as the prophecies. Ruth was at first
considered as a part of the Judges, and was included among the "Earlier
Prophets," and Lamentations was appended to Jeremiah, and included among
the "Later Prophets." These two books were afterward removed from this
collection, for liturgical reasons, and placed in the third group of
writings, of which we shall speak farther on.

It is probable that the prophetic writings proper were first collected;
but it will be more convenient to speak first of the books known to the
Jews as the "Earlier Prophets," and to us as the Old Testament
Histories,--Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and the Kings.

These books take up the history of Israel at the death of Joshua, and
continue it to the time of the Captivity, a period of more than eight
centuries. Some of the critics are inclined to connect them all together
as successive volumes of one great history; but there is not much
foundation for this judgment, and it is better to treat them separately.

The Book of Judges contains the annals of the Israelites after the death
of Joshua, and covers a period of three or four centuries. It was a
period of disorder and turbulence,--the "Dark Ages" of Jewish history;
when every man, as the record often says, "did that which was right in
his own eyes." There is frequent mention of the keeping of various
observances enjoined in the laws of Moses; but there is no express
mention of these laws in the book. The story is chiefly occupied with
the northern tribes; no mention is made of Judah after the third
chapter; and it is largely a recital of the various wars of deliverance
and defense waged by these northern Hebrews against the surrounding
peoples, under certain leaders who arose, in a providential way, to take
command of them.

The questions, Who wrote it? and When was it written? are not easily
answered. It would appear that portions of it must have been written
after the time of Saul, for the phrase, frequently repeated, "there was
then no king in the land," looks back from a period when there
_was_ a king in the land. And it would appear that the first
chapter must have been written before the middle of the reign of King
David; for it tells us that the Jebusites had not yet been driven out of
Jerusalem; that they still held that stronghold; while in 2 Samuel v. 6,
7, we are told of the expulsion of the Jebusites by David, who made the
place his capital from that time. The tradition that Samuel wrote the
book rests on no adequate foundation.

The evidence that this book also was compiled, by some later writer,
from various written documents, is abundant and convincing. There are
two distinct introductions, one of which comprises the first chapter and
five verses of the second, and the other of which occupies the remainder
of the second chapter. The first of these begins thus: "And it came to
pass after the death of Joshua that the children of Israel asked of the
Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites, to fight
against them?" The second of these introductions begins by telling how
Joshua sent the people away, after his farewell address, and goes on
(ii. 8) to say, "And Joshua the son of Nun the servant of the Lord died,
being an hundred and ten years old." After recounting a number of events
which happened, as it tells us, after the death of Joshua, the narrative
goes on to give us as naively as possible an account of Joshua's death.
If this were a consecutive narrative from the hand of one writer,
inspired or otherwise, such an arrangement would be inexplicable; but if
we have here a combination of two or more independent documents, the
explanation is not difficult. It is a little puzzling, too, to find the
circumstances of the death of Joshua repeated here, in almost the same
words as those which we find in the Book of Joshua (xxiv. 29-31). It
would seem either that the writer of Joshua must have copied from
Judges, or the writer of Judges from Joshua, or else that both copied
from some older document this account of Joshua's death.

Another still more striking illustration of the manner in which these
old books are constructed is found in the account given in the first
chapter of the capture of Debir, by Caleb (i. 11-15). Here it is
expressly said that this capture took place after the death of Joshua,
as a consequence of the leadership assigned by Jehovah to the tribe of
Judah in this war against the Canaanites. But the same narrative, in the
same words, is found in the Book of Joshua (xv. 15-19), and here we are
told no less explicitly that the incident happened during the lifetime
of Joshua. There is no doubt that the incident happened; it is a simple
and natural story, and carries the marks of credibility upon its face;
but if it happened after the death of Joshua it did not happen before
his death; one of these narrators borrowed the story from the other, or
else both borrowed it from a common source; and one of them, certainly,
put it in the wrong place,--one of them must have been mistaken as to
the time when it occurred. Such a mistake is of no consequence at all to
one who holds a rational theory of inspiration; he expects to find in
these old documents just such errors and misplacements; they do not in
the least affect the true value of the book; but it must be obvious to
any one that instances of this nature cannot be reconciled with the
theory of an infallible book, which has been generally regarded as the
only true theory.

The book is of the utmost value as showing us the state of morals and
manners in that far-off time, and letting us see with what crude
material the great ideas committed to Israel--the unity and spirituality
and righteousness of God--were compelled to work themselves out.

The Book of Ruth, which was formerly, in the Jewish collections,
regarded as a part of the Book of Judges, is a beautiful pastoral idyl
of the same period. Its scene is laid in Judea, and it serves to show us
that in the midst of all those turbulent ages there were quiet homes and
gentle lives. No sweeter story can be found in any literature; maternal
tenderness, filial affection, genuine chivalry, find in the book their
typical representatives. The first sentence of the book gives us the
approximate date of the incidents recorded: it was "in the days when the
judges judged." The concluding verses give us the genealogy of King
David, showing that Ruth was his great-grandmother; it must, therefore,
have been written as late as the reign of David,--probably much later;
for it describes, as if they belonged to a remote antiquity, certain
usages of the Jews which must needs have shaped themselves after the
occupation of Canaan. Yet it could scarcely have been written so late as
the Captivity, for the marriage of Ruth, who is a Moabitess, to Boaz, is
mentioned as if it were a matter of course, with no hint of censure. In
the latter days of Israel such an alliance of a Jew with a foreigner
would have been regarded as highly reprehensible. Indeed the
Deuteronomic law most stringently forbids all social relations with that
particular tribe to which Ruth belonged. "An Ammonite or a Moabite shall
not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation
shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the Lord for
ever.... Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy
days for ever." (Deut. xxiii. 3, 6.) But Ruth, the Moabitess, becomes
the wife of one of the chief men of Bethlehem, with the applause of all
the Bethlehemites, and the highest approval of the author of this
narrative; nay, she becomes, in the fourth generation, the ancestress of
the greatest of all the kings of Israel. This certainly shows that the
people of Bethlehem did not know of the Deuteronomic law, for they were
a God-fearing and a law-abiding people; and it also makes it probable
that the incident occurred, and that the book which describes the
incident was written, before this part of the Deuteronomic code was in
existence. It is therefore valuable, not only as throwing light on the
life of the people at that early period, but also as illustrating the
growth of the pentateuchal literature.

The two Books of Samuel and the two Books of Kings appear in the
Septuagint and in the Latin Vulgate as one work in four volumes,--they
are called the Four Books of Kings. In the recent Hebrew Bibles they are
divided, however, as in our Bible, and bear the same names. They
constitute, it is true, a continuous history; but the supposition that
they were all written at one time and by one author is scarcely
credible. The standpoint of the writer of the Kings is considerably
shifted from that occupied by the writer of Samuel; we find ourselves in
a new circle of ideas when we pass from the one book to the other.

The Books of Samuel are generally ascribed to Samuel as their author.
This is a fair sample of that lazy traditionalism which Christian
opinion has been constrained to follow. There is not the slightest
reason for believing that the Books of Samuel were written by Samuel any
more than that the Odyssey was written by Ulysses, or the Æneid by
Æneas, or Bruce's Address by Bruce, or Paracelsus by Paracelsus, or St.
Simeon Stylites by Simeon himself. Even in Bible books we do not hold
that the Book of Esther was written by Esther, or the Book of Ruth by
Ruth, or the Book of Job by Job, or the Books of Timothy by Timothy. The
fact that Samuel's name is given to the book proves nothing as to its
authorship. It may have been called Samuel because it begins with the
story of Samuel. The Hebrews were apt to name their books by some word
or fact at the beginning of them, as we have seen in their naming of the
books of the Pentateuch.

It is true that certain facts are mentioned in this book of which Samuel
would have better knowledge than any one else; and he is said to have
made a record of certain events, (I Sam. x. 25.) But his death is
related in the first verse of the twenty-fifth chapter of First Samuel;
and it is certain, therefore, that considerably more than half of the
document ascribed to him must have been written by some one else.

As to the name of the writer we are wholly ignorant, and it is not easy
to determine the date at which he wrote. If we regarded this as a
continuous history from the hand of one writer, we should be compelled
to ascribe it to a date somewhat later than the separation of the two
kingdoms; for in I Sam. xxvii. 6, we read of the present made by the
king of Gath to David of the city of Ziklag, at the time when David was
hiding from Saul; "wherefore," it is added, "Ziklag pertaineth unto the
kings of Judah even unto this day." Now there were no "kings of Judah"
until after the ten tribes seceded; Rehoboam was the first of the kings
of Judah, therefore this must have been written after the time of
Rehoboam. Doubtless this sentence was written after that time; and in
all probability the books of Samuel did not receive their present form
until some time after the secession of the ten tribes. The materials
from which the writer composed the book are hinted at here and there; it
is almost certain that here, as in the other books, old documents are
combined by the author, and not always with the best editorial care.
Several old songs are quoted: the "Song of Hannah," David's exquisite
lament over Saul and Jonathan, which is known as "The Bow;" David's
"Song of Deliverance," after he had escaped from Saul, which we find in
the Psalter as the Eighteenth Psalm, and "The Last Words of David." The
books contain a vivid narrative of the times of Eli and Samuel and Saul,
and of the splendid reign of King David. No portion of the Old Testament
has been more diligently studied, and the moral teaching of the books is
clear and luminous. The ethical thoroughness of these writings when
compared with almost any literature of equal antiquity is always
remarkable. Take, as an example, the treatment which David receives at
the hands of the writer. He is a great hero, the one grand figure of
Hebrew history; but there is nothing of the demigod in this picture of
him; his faults and crimes are exposed and denounced, and he gains our
respect only by his hearty contrition and amendment. Verily the God of
Israel whom this book reveals is a God who loveth righteousness and
hateth iniquity.

The Books of the Kings were originally one book, and ought to have
remained one. The manuscript was torn in two by some scribe or copyist
long ago, in the middle of the story of the reign of King Ahaziah; the
first word of Second Kings goes on without so much as taking breath,
from the last word of First Kings. There is no excuse for this bisection
of the narrative; it must be due to some accident, or to the arbitrary
and unintelligent act of some person who paid no attention to the
meaning of the document. As the Books of Samuel carry the history from
the birth of Samuel down to the end of David's reign, so the Books of
the Kings take up the story in the last days of David and carry it on to
the time of the Exile, a period of four hundred and fifty years. The
name of the author is concealed from us; there is a tradition, not
altogether improbable, that it was written by the Prophet Jeremiah. If
you will compare the last chapter of Second Kings with the last chapter
of Jeremiah, you will discover that they are almost verbally the same.
Here, again, if Jeremiah was not the author, either writer may have
copied the passage from the other, or both may have taken it from some
older book. But this passage gives us a note of time. It tells us that
Evil-Merodach, king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, released
the captive king of Judah, Jehoiachin, from his long confinement, and
gave him a seat at his own table. The book must have been written, then,
after the beginning of the reign of Evil-Merodach; and there is plenty
of history to show that his reign began 561 B.C. And inasmuch as the
book gives no hint of the return of the Jews from their captivity, which
began in 538 B.C., we may fairly conclude that the book was written some
time between those dates. Let us suppose that Jeremiah wrote it; even
he, as prophet of the Lord, certainly used the materials of history
which had accumulated in the archives of the two nations.

It is evident that, after the establishment of the kingdom, considerable
attention was paid to the preservation of the records of important
national events. The kings kept chroniclers who not only preserved and
edited old documents, but who wrote the annals of their own times. In I
Kings xi. 41, at the conclusion of the narrative of Solomon's reign, we
read, "Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his
wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon?" For
his history of Jeroboam the writer refers in the same way to "The Book
of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel," and for his history of
Rehoboam to "The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah." The same
is true of the reigns of other kings. These were not, of course, our
Books of Chronicles, for these were not written for two hundred years
after the Book of Kings was finished. It is thus evident, as one modern
writer has said, "that the author laboriously employed the materials
within his reach, very much as a modern historian might do, and further
that he was as much puzzled by chronological difficulties as a modern
historian frequently is." [Footnote: Horton's _Inspiration and the
Bible_, p. 182.] Prophet or not, he took the materials at his hands,
and put them together in this history.

The splendid but corrupt reign of the son of David; the secession of the
ten tribes under Jeroboam; the hostile relations of the two kingdoms of
Israel and Judah for two hundred and fifty years, by which both were
weakened, and through unholy alliances corrupted, and the result of
which was the final destruction of both, are described in this book in a
spirited and evidently veracious manner. The two great prophets, Elijah
and Elisha, are grand figures in this narrative; much of the story
revolves around them. As witnesses for the righteous Jehovah they stand
forth, warning, rebuking, counseling kings and people; the moral
leadership by which Israel is chastened and corrected and led in the way
of righteousness expresses itself largely through their ministry. The
words of Lord Arthur Hervey, in Smith's "Bible Dictionary," none too
strongly convey the historian's sense of the value of this part of the
Old Testament:--

"Considering the conciseness of the narrative and the simplicity of the
style, the amount of the knowledge which these books convey of the
characters, conduct, and manners of kings and people during so long a
period is truly wonderful. The insight which they give us into the
aspect of Judah and Jerusalem, both natural and artificial, with the
religious, military, and civil institutions of the people, their arts
and manufactures, the state of education and learning among them, their
resources, commerce, exploits, alliances, the causes of their decadence,
and finally of their ruin, is most clear, interesting, and instructive.
In a few brief sentences we acquire more accurate knowledge of the
affairs of Egypt, Tyre, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, and other neighboring
nations than had been preserved to us in all the other remains of
antiquity up to the recent discoveries in hieroglyphical and cuneiform
monuments." [Footnote: Vol. iii. p. 1561, American Edition.]

The substantial historical veracity of these books has been confirmed in
many ways by these very monuments to which Lord Hervey refers. And yet
this substantial historical accuracy is found, as in other histories of
the olden time, in the midst of many minor errors and discrepancies. It
would seem as if Providence had taken the utmost pains to show us that
the essential truth and the moral and religious value of this history
could not be identified with any theory of verbal or even plenary

Take, for example, some of the chronological items of this record. Mr.
Horton's clear statement will bring a few of them before us:--

"The author seems to have been content, in dealing with an Israelite
king, to give the date reckoned by the year of the reigning king in
Judah just as he found it stated in the Israelite chronicles, and then
to do the same in dealing with the dates of the reigning kings of
Israel; but he did not consider whether the two chronicles harmonized.
We may take some illustrations from the latter part of the work. Hoshea
began to reign in Israel (2 Kings xv. 30) in the twentieth year of
Jotham the king of Judah. So far writes our author, following the
records of the Northern Kingdom. For his next paragraph he turns to his
records of the Southern Kingdom, and naively tells us that Jotham never
reached a twentieth year, but only reigned sixteen years (xv. 33); but
even this is not the end of the difficulty; in chapter xvii. he goes
back to the Northern Kingdom and tells us that Hoshea began to reign,
not in Jotham's reign at all, but in the reign of Ahaz, Jotham's
successor; and if now he had said, 'in the fourth year of Ahaz,' we
might see our way through the perplexity, for the fourth year of Ahaz
would, at any rate, be twenty years from the beginning of Jotham's
reign, though Jotham himself had died after reigning sixteen years; but
he says, not in the fourth, but 'in the twelfth year of Ahaz king of
Judah.' We may give it up, and exclaim with the Speaker's commentator,
'The chronological confusion of the history, as it stands, is striking,'
and then perhaps we may exclaim at the Speaker's commentator, that he
and the like of him have given us so little account of these
unmistakable phenomena, and the cause of them, in the history.

"One other illustration may suffice. King Ahaz, according to one
authority, lived twenty years and then came to the throne and reigned
for sixteen years. (2 Kings xvi. 2.) At his death, therefore, Ahaz was
thirty-six years of age. In that year he was succeeded by his son
Hezekiah, who was twenty-five years of age. This would mean that King
Ahaz was married at the age of ten, which, making all allowance for the
earlier puberty of Eastern boys, does not seem probable; and the
explanation is much more likely to be found in the chronological
inaccuracies of our author, to which, if we have been observantly
reading his book through, we shall by this time have become quite
accustomed." [Footnote: Inspiration and the Bible, pp. 189-191.]

Observe that we are not going to any hostile or foreign sources for
these evidences of inaccuracy; we are simply letting the book tell its
own story. Such phenomena as these appear throughout this history. They
lie upon the very face of the narrative. Probably few of the readers of
these pages have noted them. For myself, I must confess that I read the
Bible through, from cover to cover, several times before I was thirty
years old, but I had never observed these inaccuracies. The
commentators, for the most part,--the orthodox commentators,--carefully
keep these facts out of sight. Sometimes they attempt, indeed, to
explain or reconcile them, but such explanations generally increase the
incredibility of the narrative. The latest verdict of ultra-conservatism
is that these dates and chronological notes are interpolated by some
later hand; but this, too, is quite out of the question. The only true
account of the matter is, that the author took these records from the
Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and the Chronicles of the Kings of
Israel, and pieced them together without noticing or caring whether they
agreed. His mind was not fixed upon scientific accuracy of dates. He was
thinking only of the great ethical and spiritual problems working
themselves out in this history,--of the question whether or not these
kings "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord," and of the
effects of their right doing and their evil doing upon the lives of the
people. What difference, indeed, does it make to you and me whether
Jotham reigned sixteen years or twenty years? It seems to me that these
inaccuracies are suffered to lie upon the face of the narrative that our
thoughts may be turned away from these details of the record to the
great principles of morality and religion whose development it reveals
to us.

These errors which appear upon the surface are obvious enough to any
careful reader. But other facts, most important and suggestive, are
brought to light when we compare these narratives of Samuel and Kings as
we find them in the Hebrew text with the same narrative in the Greek
text, the Septuagint. The Old Testament, as we have seen, was translated
into the Greek language, for the benefit of those Jews who spoke only
Greek, early in the third century before Christ. Undoubtedly it was a
pretty faithful translation at the time when it was made. But a careful
comparison of the two texts as they exist at the present time shows that
considerable additions have been made to both of them; and that some
changes and misplacements have occurred in both of them. Sometimes it is
evident that the Hebrew is the more correct, because the story is more
orderly and consistent; and sometimes it is equally evident that the
Greek version, which, as you remember, was commonly used by our Lord and
his apostles, is the better. This comparison gives us a vivid and
convincing illustration of the freedom with which the text was handled
by scribes and copyists; how bits of narrative--most commonly legends
and popular tales concerning the heroes of the nation--were thrust into
the text, sometimes quite breaking its continuity; they make it plain
that that preternatural supervision of it, for the prevention of error,
which we have frequently heard about, is itself a myth. It is in these
books of Samuel and the Kings that these variations of the Septuagint
from the Hebrew text are most frequent and most instructive.

In the story of David's introduction to Saul, for example, our version,
following the Hebrew, tells us (I Sam. xvi. 14-23), that when David was
first made known to Saul he was "a mighty man of valor, and a man of
war, and prudent in speech, and a comely person." He comes into Saul's
household; Saul loves him greatly, and makes him his armor-bearer. In
the next chapter David is represented as a mere lad, and it appears that
Saul had never seen or heard of him. Indeed, he asks his general, Abner,
who this stripling is. The contradiction in these narratives is palpable
and irreconcilable. When we turn now to the Septuagint, we find that it
omits from the seventeenth chapter verses 12-31 inclusive; also from the
55th verse to the end of the chapter and the first five verses of the
next chapter. Taking out these passages, the main difficulties of the
narrative are at once removed. It appears probable that these passages
were not in the narrative when it was translated into Greek, but that
they embodied a current and a very beautiful tradition about David which
some later Hebrew transcriber ventured to incorporate into the text.

In the Books of the Kings the variations between these two versions are
also extremely suggestive. You can see distinctly, as if it were done
before your eyes, how supplementary matter has been inserted into the
one text or the other, since the Greek translation was made. In the
sixth chapter of First Kings, the Septuagint omits verses 11-14, which
is an exhortation to Solomon, injected into the specifications
respecting the temple building. Omit these verses, and the description
goes on smoothly. Similarly in the ninth chapter of the same book the
Septuagint omits verses 15-25. This passage breaks the connection; the
narrative of Solomon's dealings with Hiram is consecutively told in the
Greek version; in the Hebrew it is interrupted by this extraneous
matter. You can readily see which is the original form of the writing.

Now what does all this signify? Of course it signifies most distinctly
that this history must not be judged by the canons of modern historical
criticism. Mr. Horton quotes some strenuous advocate of the traditional
theory of the Bible as maintaining that "when God writes history he will
be at least as accurate as Bishop Stubbs or Mr. Gardiner; and if we are
to admit errors in his historical work, then why not in his plan of
salvation and doctrine of atonement?" It is this kind of reasoning that
drives intelligent men into infidelity. For the errors are here; they
speak for themselves; nothing but a mole-eyed dogmatism can evade them;
and if we link the great doctrines of the Bible with this dogma of the
historical inerrancy of the Scriptures, they will all go down together.

But what, after all, do these errors amount to? What is the meaning and
purport of this history? What are these writers trying to do? "It
seems," says Mr. Horton, "as if their purpose was not so much to tell us
what happened as to emphasize for us the lesson of what happened. It is
_applied_ history, rather than history pure and simple; and on this
ground we can understand the tendency to irritation which critical
historians sometimes betray in approaching it.... The prophetic
historian would never dream, like a modern historian, of writing
interminable monographs about a disputed name or a doubtful date; he
might even take a story which rested on very doubtful authority, finding
in it more that would suit his purpose than the bare and accurate
statement of the fact which could be authenticated. The standpoint of
the prophetic historian and of the scientific historian are wholly
different; they cannot be judged by the same canons of criticism. ...To
the prophetic eye the significance of all events seems to be in their
relation to the will of God. The prophet may not always discern what the
will of God is; he may interpret events in a quite inadequate manner.
But his predominant thought makes itself felt; and consequently the
study of these histories leaves us in a widely different frame of mind
from that which Thucydides or Mr. Freeman would produce. We do not feel
to know, perhaps, so accurately about the wars between Israel and Judah
as we know about the wars between Athens and Sparta; we do not feel to
know, perhaps, so much about the monarchy of Israel as we know about the
Anglo-Norman monarchy; but, on the other hand, we seem to be more aware
of God, we seem to recognize his hand controlling the wavering affairs
of states, we seem to comprehend that obedience to his will is of more
importance than any political consideration, and that in the long course
of history disobedience to his will means national distress and national
ruin. The study of scientific histories has its advantages; but it is
not quite certain that these advantages are greater than those which the
study of prophetic history yields. Perhaps, after all, the one fact of
history is God's work in it; in which case the scientific histories,
with all their learning, with all their toil, will look rather small by
the side of these imperfect compositions which at least saw vividly and
recognized faithfully _the one fact_."



In the last chapter the opinion was expressed that the first books
collected by Nehemiah, when he made up his "library," a century after
the Exile, were the writings of the prophets. We studied the historical
books first, because they stand first in the Hebrew Bible, and are there
named the "Earlier Prophets;" but the probabilities are that the
prophetical writings proper, called by the Jews the "Later Prophets,"
were first gathered.

When was this collection made? If it was made by Nehemiah (and there is
nothing to discredit the statement of the author of 2 Maccabees that he
was the collector), then it was not compiled until one hundred years
after the Exile, or only about four hundred and twenty years before
Christ. Most of the prophets had written before or during the Exile.
Joel, Hosea, and Amos had flourished three or four hundred years before
this collection was made; Isaiah, the greatest of them all, had been in
his grave almost three centuries; Micah, nearly as long; Nahum,
Habakkuk, and Zephaniah had been silent from one to two hundred years;
Jeremiah, who was alive when the seventy years' captivity began, and
Ezekiel, who prophesied and perished among the captives on the banks of
the Euphrates, were more remote from Nehemiah than Samuel Johnson and
Jonathan Edwards are from us; even Haggai and Zechariah, who came back
with the returning exiles and helped to build the second temple, had
passed away from fifty to one hundred years before the time of Nehemiah.
Malachi alone,--"The Messenger,"--and the last of the prophets, may have
been alive when the compilation of the prophetic writings was made.

It may be safely conjectured that the Jews, although they had never
possessed any collection of the books of the prophets, had known
something of their contents. Several of the prophets had foretold the
desolation and the captivity, and there had been abundant time during
the Exile to recall the words they had spoken and to wish that their
fathers had heeded them. These remembered words of the prophets, passing
from lip to lip, would thus have acquired peculiar sacredness. It seems
clear, also, that copies of these books must have been kept,--perhaps in
the schools of the prophets; for the later prophets quote, verbally,
from the earlier ones. It may, therefore, have been in response to a
popular wish that this collection of their writings was undertaken.
Words so momentous as these ought to be sacredly treasured. Furthermore,
there were reasons to apprehend that the holy flame of prophecy was
dying out. Malachi may have been speaking still, but there was not much
promise that he would have a successor, and the expectation of prophetic
voices was growing dim among the people.

The Levitical ritual, now so elaborate and cumbersome, had supplanted
the prophetic oracle. The ritualist is never a prophet; and out of such
a formal cult no words of inspiration are apt to flow. With all the
greater carefulness, therefore, would the people treasure the messages
that had come to them from the past. Accordingly these prophetic
writings, which had existed in a fragmentary and scattered form, were
gathered into a collection by themselves.

It must be admitted that when we try to tell how these writings had been
preserved and transmitted through all these centuries, we have but
little solid ground of fact to go upon. The Scriptures themselves are
entirely silent with respect to the manner of their preservation; the
traditions of the Jews are wholly worthless. We must not imagine that
these books of Isaiah and Jeremiah and Hosea were written and published
as our books are written and published; there was no book trade then
through which literature could be marketed, and no subscription agencies
hawking books from door to door. You must not imagine that every family
in Judea had a copy of Isaiah's Works,--nor even that a copy could be
found in every village; it is possible that there were not, when the
people were carried into captivity, more than a few dozen copies of
these prophecies in existence, and these were in the hands of some of
the prophets or literary dignitaries of the nation, or in the archives
of some of the prophetical schools. The notion that these works were
distributed among the people for study and devotional reading is not to
be entertained. No such general use of the prophetical writings was ever
conceived of by the Jews before the Captivity.

Indeed, many of these prophecies, as we call them, were not, primarily,
literature at all. They were sermons or addresses, delivered orally to
the individuals concerned, or to assemblies of the people. You can see
the evidence, in many cases, that they must have been thus delivered.

We speak of the "prophecy" of Isaiah, or the "prophecy" of Jeremiah; but
the books bearing their names are made up of a number of "prophecies,"
uttered on various occasions. The division between these separate
prophecies is generally indicated by the language; in all Paragraph
Bibles it is marked by blank lines. In each of these earlier prophetical
books we thus have, in all probability, a succession of deliverances,
extending through long periods of time and prepared for various

After the oracle was spoken to those for whom it was designed, it was
written down by the prophet or by his friends and disciples, and thus
preserved. This supposition seems, at any rate, more plausible than any
other that I have found. Manifestly many of these prophecies were
originally sermons or public addresses; it is natural to suppose that
they were first delivered, and then, for substance, reduced to writing,
that a record might be made of the utterance.

It is sometimes alleged that these prophecies, as soon as they were
produced, were at once added to a collection of sacred Scriptures which
was preserved in the sanctuary. There was a "Book" or "Scripture," it is
said, "which from the time of Moses was kept open, and in which the
writings of the prophets may have been recorded as they were produced."
[Footnote: Alexander on Isaiah, i. 7.]

The learned divine who ventures this conjecture admits that it would be
as hard to prove it as to disprove it. My own opinion is that it would
be much harder. If there had been any such official receptacle of sacred
writings, the prophets were not generally in a position to secure the
admission of their documents into it. They were often in open
controversy with the people who kept the sanctuary; the political and
the religious authorities of the nation were the objects of their
severest denunciations; it is not likely that the priests would make
haste to transcribe and preserve in the sanctuary the sermons and
lectures of the men who were scourging them with censure. This national
_bibliotheca sacra_ in which the writings of the prophets were
deposited as soon as they were composed is the product of pure fiction.
It was not thus that the prophetical utterances were preserved; rather
is it to be supposed that the pupils and friends of the prophet
faithfully kept his manuscripts after he was gone; that occasional
copies were made of them by those who wished to study them, and that
thus they were handed down from generation to generation.

When Nehemiah made his collection he found these manuscripts, in whose
hands we know not, and brought them together in one place. We may
presume that the writings of each prophet were copied upon a separate
roll, and that the rolls were kept together in some receptacle in the
temple. Most of these prophets had now been dead some hundreds of years;
the truth of their messages was no longer disputed even by the priests
and the scribes; their heresy was now the soundest orthodoxy; the
custodians of orthodoxy would of course now make a place for their
writings in the national archives. The priests have always been ready to
build sepulchres for the prophets after they were dead, and to pay them
plenty of _post mortem_ reverence.

The books of the prophets stand in the later Hebrew Bibles in the same
order as that in which they are placed in our own; they occupy a
different place in the whole collection: they are in the middle of the
Hebrew Bible, and they are at the end of ours; but their relation to one
another is the same in both Bibles. This order is not chronological; in
part, at least, it seems to represent what was supposed to be the
relative importance of the books. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are
placed first, perhaps because they are longest, although several of the
minor prophets are of earlier date than they. "Daniel" is not among the
prophets in the Hebrew Bible; the book which bears this name is one of
the books of the third collection,--the Hagiographa,--of which we shall
speak at another time.

"When we follow further the same collection," says Professor Murray, "we
find Hosea immediately following Ezekiel [although Hosea lived more than
two centuries before Ezekiel] and in turn followed by Joel and Amos,
mainly on the principle of comparative bulk. Haggai, Zechariah, and
Malachi were placed at the end for reasons purely chronological, after
the rest of the collection had been made up. We cannot see any clear or
consistent reason for the position of Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum,
Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, which stand together in the middle of the

An examination of the chronological notes on the margin of our English
Bibles (which are not always correct though they are approximately so)
will show that these prophetical books are not arranged in the order of
time. It would be a great improvement to have them so arranged. Pupils
in the Sunday-schools who attempted a few years ago to follow the
"International" lessons through these prophecies, _seriatim_, found
themselves skipping back and forward over the centuries in a
history-defying dance which was quite bewildering to all but the clearest
heads. We could understand these prophecies much better if they were
arranged in the order of their dates. And as no one supposes that the
present arrangement, made by Jewish scribes, is in any wise inspired,
there seems to be no good reason why the late revisers might not have
altered it, and set these books in a historical and intelligible order.

Who were these prophets and what was their function? To give any
adequate answer to this inquiry would require a treatise; it is only in
the most cursory manner that we can deal with it in this place.

The prophet is the man who speaks for God. He is the interpreter of the
divine will. By some means he has come to understand God's purpose, and
his function is to declare it. Thus in Exodus iv. 16, Jehovah says to
Moses, "Aaron thy brother ... shall be thy spokesman unto the people,
and it shall come to pass that he shall be to thee a mouth and thou
shalt be to him as God." And again (vii. i), "See, I have made thee a
god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." These
passages indicate the Biblical meaning of the word. The prophet is the
spokesman or interpreter of some superior authority. In Classic Greek,
also, Apollo is called the prophet of Jupiter, and the Pythia is the
prophetess of Apollo. Almost universally, in the Old Testament, the word
is used to signify an expounder or interpreter of the divine will.

"The English words 'prophet, prophecy, prophesying,'" says Dean Stanley,
"originally kept tolerably close to the Biblical use of the word. The
celebrated dispute about 'prophesyings' in the sense of 'preachings' in
the reign of Elizabeth, and the treatise of Jeremy Taylor on 'The
Liberty of Prophesying,' _i.e._, the liberty of preaching, show
that even down to the seventeenth century the word was still used as in
the Bible, for preaching or speaking according to the will of God. In
the seventeenth century, however, the limitation of the word to the
sense of prediction had gradually begun to appear. This secondary
meaning of the word had by the time of Dr. Johnson so entirely
superseded the original Scriptural signification that he gives no other
special definition of it than 'to predict, to foretell, to
prognosticate,' 'a predicter, a foreteller,' 'foreseeing or foretelling
future events;' and in this sense it has been used almost down to our
own day, when the revival of Biblical criticism has resuscitated, in
some measure, the Biblical use of the word." [Footnote: _History of
the Jewish Church_, i. 459, 460.] The predictive function of the
prophet is not, then, the only, nor the prominent feature of his work.
By far the larger portion of the prophetic utterances were concerned
with the present, and made no reference to the future.

The prophet exercised his office in many ways. Moses was a prophet, the
first and greatest of the prophets; but we have from him few
predictions; he interpreted the will of God in the enactment of laws.
Samuel was a great prophet; but Samuel was not employed in foretelling
future events; he sought to know the will of God, that he might
administer the affairs of the Jewish commonwealth in accordance with it.
Elijah and Elisha were great prophets, but they were not
prognosticators; they were preachers of righteousness to kings and
people, and they delivered their message in a way to make the ears of
those who heard them to tingle. And this, for all the prophets who
succeeded them, was the one great business. The ethical function of
these men of God came more and more distinctly into view.

When Paul admonished Timothy (2 Tim. iv. 2) to "preach the word; be
instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all
long-suffering and teaching," he was calling on him to be a follower of
the prophets. When kings became profligate and faithless, when priests
grew formal and greedy, when the rich waxed extortionate and tyrannical,
these men of God arose to denounce the transgressors and threaten them
with the divine vengeance. They might arise in any quarter, from any
class. They were confined to no tribe, to no locality, to no calling.
Neither sex monopolized this gift. Miriam, Deborah, Huldah were shining
names upon their roll of honor. To no ecclesiasticism or officialism did
they owe their authority; no man's hands had been laid upon them in
ordination; they were Jehovah's messengers; from him alone they received
their messages, to him alone they held themselves responsible.

No such preachers of politics ever existed as these Hebrew prophets;
with all the affairs of state they constantly intermeddled; bad laws and
unholy policies found in them sharp and unsparing critics; the
entangling alliances of Israel with the surrounding nations were
denounced by them in season and out of season. The people of their own
time often stigmatized them as unpatriotic; because they would not
approve popular iniquities, or refrain their lips from rebuking even
"favorite sons," or the idols of the populace, they often found
themselves under the ban of public opinion; they lived lonely lives; not
a few of them died violent deaths. "Which of the prophets did not your
fathers persecute?" demanded Stephen, "and they killed them which showed
before of the coming of the Righteous One; of whom ye have now become
betrayers and murderers." [Footnote: Acts vii. 52.]

The relation of the prophets to the political life of the Jewish people
is brought out in a striking way by John Stuart Mill in his book on
"Representative Government." In that chapter in which he discusses the
criterion of a good government, he shows how the Egyptian hierarchy and
the Chinese paternal despotism destroyed those countries by stereotyping
their institutions. Then he goes on:--

"In contrast with these nations let us consider the example of an
opposite character, afforded by another and a comparatively
insignificant Oriental people, the Jews. They, too, had an absolute
monarchy and a hierarchy, and their organized institutions were as
obviously of sacerdotal origin as those of the Hindoos. These did for
them what was done for other Oriental races by their institutions,
subdued them to industry and order, and gave them a national life. But
neither their kings nor their priests ever obtained, as in those other
countries, the exclusive moulding of their character. Their religion,
which enabled persons of genius and a high religious tone to be regarded
and to regard themselves as inspired from heaven, gave existence to an
inestimably precious unorganized institution,--the Order (if it may be
so termed) of Prophets. Under the protection, generally though not
always effectual, of their sacred character, the Prophets were a power
in the nation, often more than a match for kings and priests, and kept
up in that little corner of the earth the antagonism of influences which
is the only real security for continued progress. Religion,
consequently, was not then what it has been in so many other places, a
consecration of all that was once established, and a barrier against
further improvement. The remark of a distinguished Hebrew, M. Salvador,
that the Prophets were in church and state the equivalent of the modern
liberty of the press, gives a just but not an adequate conception of the
part fulfilled in national and universal history by this great element
of Jewish life; by means of which, the canon of inspiration never being
complete, the persons most eminent in genius and moral feeling could not
only denounce and reprobate, with the direct authority of the Almighty,
whatever appeared to them deserving of such treatment, but could give
forth better and higher interpretations of the national religion, which
thenceforth became part of the religion. Accordingly, whoever can divest
himself of the habit of reading the Bible as if it was one book, which
until lately was equally inveterate in Christians and unbelievers, sees
with admiration the vast interval between the morality and religion of
the Pentateuch, or even of the historical books (the unmistakable work
of Hebrew Conservatives of the Sacerdotal order), and the morality and
religion of the Prophecies. Conditions more favorable to progress could
not easily exist; accordingly, the Jews, instead of being stationary
like other Asiatics, were, next to the Greeks, the most progressive
people of antiquity, and, joint with them, have been the starting-point
and main propelling agency of modern civilization." [Footnote:
_Considerations on Representative Government,_ pp. 51-53, American

Not only in the sphere of politics, but in that of religion also, were
they constantly appearing as critics and censors. The tendency of
religion to become merely ritual, to divorce itself from righteousness,
is inveterate. Against this tendency the prophets were the constant
witnesses. The religious "machine" is always in the same danger of
becoming corrupt and mischievous as is the political "machine;" the man
with the sledge-hammer who will smash it and fling it into the junk-pile
has a work to do in every generation. This was the work of the Hebrew
prophets. "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice," cries Hosea, speaking
for Jehovah. "I hate, I despise your feast days," says Amos, "and I will
not smell in your solemn assemblies,...but let judgment run down as
waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." "Your new moons and your
appointed feasts my soul hateth," proclaims Isaiah; "they are a trouble
unto me; I am weary to bear them. Wash ye, make you clean; cease to do
evil; learn to do well. Is not this the fast that I have chosen, to
loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burden, and to let the
oppressed go free?"

This is, then, the chief function of the Hebrew prophet; he is the
expounder of the righteous will of God, not mainly with respect to
future events, but with respect to present transgressions and present
obligations of kings and priests and people. And yet it would be an
error to overlook or disparage his dealings with the future. As a
teacher of righteousness he saw that present disobedience would bring
future retribution, and he pointed it out with the utmost fidelity. Any
man who carefully studies the laws of God can make some predictions with
great confidence. He knows that certain courses of conduct will be
followed by certain consequences. Some of the predictions of the Hebrew
prophets were of this nature. Yet predictions of this nature were always
conditional. The condition was not always expressed, but it was always
understood. The threatening of destruction to the disobedient was
withdrawn when the disobedient turned from their evil ways. The
predictions of the prophets were not always fulfilled for this good
reason. The rule is explicitly laid down by the Prophet Jeremiah: "At
what instant I shall speak concerning a nation...to destroy it; if that
nation...turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought
to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a
nation...to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it
obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I
would benefit them." [Footnote: Jeremiah xviii. 7-9.]

And there is something more than this. Instances are here recorded of
specific predictions of future events, which came to pass as they were
predicted,--predictions which cannot be explained on naturalistic
principles. "Of this sort," says Bleek, "are the prophecies of Isaiah as
to the closely impending destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and
Syria, which he predicted with great confidence at a time when the two
kingdoms appeared particularly strong by their treaty with each
other,...besides the repeated predictions as to the destruction of the
mighty hosts of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, which besieged Jerusalem,
and the deliverance of the state from the greatest distress. Among these
predictions, those in Isaiah xxix. 1-8, appear to me particularly
noteworthy, where he foretells that a long time hence Jerusalem should
be besieged by a foreign host and pressed very hard, but that the
latter, just as they believed they were getting possession of the city,
should be scattered and annihilated; for this prediction, from its whole
character, appears to have been uttered before any danger showed itself
from this quarter." [Footnote: _Introduction to the Old Testament_,
ii. 27.]

Beyond and above all this is the gradual rise in Israel of that great
Messianic hope, of which the prophets were the inspired and inspiring
witnesses. We find, at a very early day, an expectation of a future
revelation of the glory of God, dawning upon the consciousness of the
nation, and expressing itself by the words of its most devout spirits.
Even in prosperous days there was a dim outreaching after something
better; in times of disaster and overthrow this hope was kindled to a
passionate longing. Of this Messianic hope, its nature and its
fulfillment, no words of mine can tell so eloquently as these words of
Dean Stanley:--

"It was the distinguishing mark of the Jewish people that their golden
age was not in the past, but in the future; that their greatest hero (as
they deemed him to be) was not their Founder, but their Founder's latest
Descendant. Their traditions, their fancies, their glories, gathered
round the head, not of a chief or warrior or sage that had been, but of
a King, a Deliverer, a Prophet who was to come. Of this singular
expectation the Prophets were, if not the chief authors, at least the
chief exponents. Sometimes he is named, sometimes he is unnamed;
sometimes he is almost identified with some actual Prince of the present
or the coming generation, sometimes he recedes into the distant ages.
But again and again, at least in the late prophetic writings, the vista
is closed by this person, his character, his reign. And almost
everywhere the Prophetic spirit in the delineation of his coming remains
true to itself. He is to be a King, a Conqueror, yet not by the common
weapons of earthly warfare, but by those only weapons which the
Prophetic order recognized; by justice, mercy, truth, and goodness; by
suffering, by endurance, by identification of himself with the joys, the
sufferings of his nation; by opening a wider sympathy to the whole human
race than had ever been offered before. That this expectation, however
explained, existed in a greater or less degree amongst the Prophets is
not doubted by any theologians of any school whatever. It is no matter
of controversy. It is a simply and universally recognized fact that,
filled with these Prophetic images, the whole Jewish nation--nay, at
last, the whole Eastern world--did look forward with longing expectation
to the coming of this future Conqueror. Was this unparalleled
expectation realized? And here again I speak only of facts which are
acknowledged by Germans and Frenchmen no less than by Englishmen, by
critics and by skeptics even more than by theologians and ecclesiastics.
There did arise out of this nation a Character as unparalleled as the
expectation which had preceded him. Jesus of Nazareth was, on the most
superficial no less than on the deepest view of his coming, the greatest
name, the most extraordinary power that has ever crossed the stage of
History. And this greatness consisted not in outward power, but
precisely in those qualities in which from first to last the Prophetic
order had laid the utmost stress,--justice and love, goodness and
truth." [Footnote: _History of the Jewish Church_, i. 519, 520.]

This is the great fact from which the student of the Old Testament must
never remove his attention. That this wonderful hope and expectation did
suffuse all the utterances of the prophets is not to be gainsaid by any
candid man. That the expectation assumed, as the ages passed, a more and
more definite and personal form is equally certain. Isaiah was perhaps
the first to give distinct shape to this prophetic hope. Ewald thus
summarizes the Messianic idea in the writings of Isaiah:--

"There must come some one who should perfectly satisfy all the demands
of the true religion, so as to become the centre from which all its
truth and force should operate. His soul must possess a marvelous and
surpassing nobleness and divine power, because it is his function
perfectly to realize in life the ancient religion, the requirements of
which no one has yet satisfied, and that, too, with that spiritual
glorification which the great prophets had announced. Unless there first
comes some one who shall transfigure this religion into its purest form,
it will never be perfected, and its kingdom will never come. But he will
and must come, for otherwise the religion which demands him would be
false; he is the first true King of the community of the true God, and
as nothing can be conceived of as supplanting him, he will reign forever
in irresistible power; he is the divine-human King, whose coming had
been due ever since the true community had set up a human monarchy in
its midst, but who had never come. He is to be looked for, to be longed
for, to be prayed for; and how blessed it is simply to expect him
devoutly, and to trace out every feature of his likeness. To sketch the
nobleness of his soul is to pursue in detail the possibility of
perfecting all religion; and to believe in the necessity of his coming
is to believe in the perfecting of all divine agency on earth."
[Footnote: _The History of Israel_, iv. 203, 204.]

It is precisely here that we get at the heart of the Old Testament; this
wonderful fore-looking toward the Messianic manifestations of God upon
the earth, which kindled the hearts of the people and found clearest
utterance by the lips of its most inspired men, which binds this
literature all together, histories, songs, precepts, allegories. This it
is which reveals the true inspiration of these old writings, and which
makes them, to every Christian heart, precious beyond all price.

Such being the character of these prophetic books, let us glance for a
moment at a few of them, merely for the purpose of locating the prophecy
in the history, and of discerning, when it is possible, the providential
causes which called it forth.

It is difficult to tell which of these fifteen prophets, whose
utterances are treasured in this collection, first appeared upon the
scene. The probability seems to be that the earliest of them was Joel.
Opinions differ widely; I cannot discuss them nor even cite them; but
the old theory that Joel lived and preached about eight hundred and
seventy-five years before Christ does not seem to me to be invalidated
by modern criticism. He was a native of the Southern Kingdom; and at the
time we have named, the King of Judea was Joash, whose dramatic
elevation to the throne in his seventh year, by Jehoiada the priest, is
narrated in the Book of Kings. It was a time of disturbance and disaster
in Judah and Jerusalem; the boy-king was but a nominal ruler; the regent
was Jehoiada; and incursions of the surrounding tribes, who carried away
the people and sold them as slaves, kept the land in a constant state of
alarm. Worse than this was the visitation of locusts, continuing, as it
would seem, for several years, by which the country was stripped and
devastated. This visitation furnishes the theme of the short discourse
which is here reported. The description of the march of the locusts over
the land is full of poetic beauty; and the people are admonished to
accept this as a divine chastisement for their sins, and to do the works
meet for repentance. Then comes the promise of the divine forgiveness,
and of that great gift of the Spirit, whose fulfillment Peter claimed on
the day of Pentecost: "In the midst of the deepest woes which then
afflicted the kingdom," says Ewald, "his great soul grasped all the more
powerfully the eternal hope of the true community, and impressed it all
the more indelibly upon his people, alike by the fiery glow of his clear
insight and the entrancing beauty of his passionate utterance."
[Footnote: _The History of Israel_, iv. 139.]

The next prophet in the order of time is undoubtedly Amos. He tells us
that he lived in the days of Uzziah, King of Judah, about seventy years
after Joel. He was a herdsman of Tekoa, a small city of Judah, twelve
miles south of Jerusalem. In these days the Northern Kingdom was far
more prosperous and powerful than the Southern; under Jeroboam II.
Israel had become rich and luxurious; and the prophet was summoned, as
he declares, by the call of Jehovah himself to leave his herds upon the
Judean hills, and betake himself to the Northern Kingdom, there to bear
witness against the pride and oppression of its people. This messenger
and interpreter of Jehovah to his people is a poor man, a laboring man;
but he knows whose commission he bears, and he is not afraid. Stern and
terrible are the woes that fall from his lips: the words vibrate yet
with the energy of his righteous wrath.

"Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to
come near; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon
their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of
the midst of the stall; that sing idle songs to the sound of the viol;
that devise for themselves instruments of music, like David; that drink
wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; but they
are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph."

Such luxury always goes hand in hand with contempt of the lowly and
oppression of the poor; it is so to-day; it was so in that far-off time;
and this prophet pours upon it the vials of the wrath of God:--

"Forasmuch therefore as ye trample upon the poor, and take exactions
from him of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not
dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not
drink the wine thereof. For I know how manifold are your transgressions
and how mighty are your sins; ye that afflict the just, that take a
bribe, and that turn aside the needy in the gate from their right."

It is no wonder that Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, writhed under the
scourge of the herdsman prophet, and wanted to be rid of him: "O thou
seer," he cried, "go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there
eat bread, and prophesy there: but prophesy not again any more in
Bethel." But the prophet stood his ground and delivered his message, and
it still resounds as the very voice of God through every land where the
greed of gold makes men unjust, and the love of pleasure banishes
compassion from human hearts.

The nearest successor of Amos, in this collection, seems to have been
Hosea, who tells us in the opening of his prophecy that the word of the
Lord came unto him in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah,
kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king of
Israel. There is some doubt about the genuineness of this
superscription; but it was about this time, undoubtedly, that Hosea
flourished. To which kingdom he belonged it is not known; probably,
however, to Israel, with whose affairs his teaching is chiefly
concerned. He must have followed close upon the herdsman of Tekoa;
possibly they were contemporaries. His prophecy, too, is a blast from
the trumpet of the Lord our Righteousness. Such an indictment of a
people has not often been heard.

"Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a
controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth,
nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. There is nought but
swearing and breaking faith, and killing, and stealing, and committing
adultery; they break out, and blood toucheth blood."

Especially severe is the prophet in his denunciation of the priesthood.

"They feed on the sin of my people, and set their heart on their
iniquity. And it shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish
them for their ways, and will reward them their doings."

These prophecies of Hosea are instinct with a severe morality; the
ethical thoroughness with which he chastises the national sins is
unflinching; but it is not all threatening; now and again we hear the
word of tenderness, the promise of the divine forgiveness:--

"I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely; for mine anger
is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall
blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon."

Micah follows Hosea, at an interval of perhaps fifty years. He lived in
a little village of Judah, west of Jerusalem, and exercised his ministry
in both kingdoms, testifying impartially against the wickedness of
Jerusalem and Samaria, though the weight of his censure seems to rest
upon the Judean capital. His strain is an echo of the outcry of Amos and
Hosea; it is the same intense indignation against the violence and
rapacity of the rich, against corrupt judges, false prophets, rascally
traders, treacherous friends. For all these sins condign punishment is
threatened; and yet, after these retributive woes are past, there is
promise of a better day. The great Messianic hope here begins to find
clear utterance; the former prophets have seen in their visions only the
restoration of the people of Israel; to Micah there comes the
anticipation of an individual Leader and Deliverer.

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, which art little to be among the
thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth that is to be ruler
in Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting.... And he
shall stand and shall feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the
majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide; for now
shall he be great unto the ends of the earth."

Thus slowly broadens the dawn of the Messianic hope.

The first part of the fourth chapter of Micah, which is a prediction of
the glory that shall come to Zion in the latter day, is verbally
identical with the first part of the second chapter of Isaiah. One of
the prophets must have quoted from the other or else, as Dr. Geikie
suggests, both copied from some older prophet.

After Micah comes the greatest of the prophets, Isaiah. He appeared upon
the scene in his native city of Jerusalem about the middle of the eighth
century before Christ. His work was mainly done during the reigns of
Ahaz, "the Grasper," one of the vilest and most ungodly of the Judean
monarchs, and of Hezekiah, the good king, about a century and a half
before the destruction of Jerusalem.

About this time Judea was constantly exposed to the rapacity of the
great Assyrian power before whose armies she finally fell; sometimes her
rulers entered into coalitions with the surrounding nations to resist
the Assyrian; sometimes they submitted and paid heavy tribute. Egypt, on
the south, was also a mighty empire at this time, constantly at war with
Assyria; and the kings of Judah sometimes sought alliances with one of
these great powers, as a means of protection against the other. They
proved to be the upper and nether millstones between which the Jewish
nationality was ground to powder. It was in the midst of these alarming
signs of national destruction that Isaiah arose. Of the prophetic
discourses which he delivered in Jerusalem we have about thirty; his
words are the words of a patriot, a statesman, a servant and messenger
of Jehovah. He warned the kings against these entangling alliances with
foreign powers; he admonished them to stand fast in their allegiance to
Jehovah, and obey his laws; yet he saw that they would not heed his
word, and that swift and sure destruction was coming upon the nation.
And his expectation was not like that of the other prophets, that the
nation as a whole would be saved out of these judgments; to him it was
made plain that only a remnant would survive; but that from that remnant
should spring a noble race, with a purer faith, in whom all the nations
of the earth should be blessed. Of the Messianic hope as it finds
expression in these words of Isaiah I have already spoken.

This Book of Isaiah contains thirty-one prophetic discourses, some of
them mere fragments. There is reason for doubt as to whether they were
all spoken by Isaiah; when they were gathered up, two hundred years
later, some utterances of other prophets may have been mingled with
them. Indeed it is now regarded as well-nigh certain that the last
twenty-seven chapters are the work of a later prophet,--of one who wrote
during the Captivity. Professor Delitzsch, in the last edition of his
commentary on Isaiah, finally concedes that this is probable. The Book
of Isaiah, he is reported as saying, "may have been an anthology of
prophetic discourses by different authors; that is, it may have been
composed partly and directly by Isaiah, and partly by other later
prophets whose utterances constitute a really homogeneous and
simultaneous continuation of Isaian prophecy. These later prophets so
closely resemble Isaiah in prophetic vision that posterity might, on
that account, well identify them with him,--his name being the correct
common denominator for this collection of prophecies."

These words of the most distinguished and devout of the Old Testament
critics throw a flood of light on the structure not only of Isaiah, but
of other Old Testament writings; they show how unlike our own were the
primitive ideas of authorship; and how the Pentateuch, for example,
drawn from many sources and revised by many editors, could be called the
law of Moses; how _his_ name may have been the "common denominator"
of all that collection of laws.

I have shown, perhaps, in these hasty notices, something of the nature
and purpose of five of these prophetic books. Of the rest I must speak
but a single word, for the time fails me to tell of Zephaniah, who in
the time of good King Josiah, denounced the idolatry of the people, the
injustice of its princes and judges, and the corruption of its prophets
and priests, threatened the rebellious with extermination, and promised
to the remnant an enduring peace; of Jeremiah, who about the same time
first lifted up his voice, and continued speaking until after the
destruction of Jerusalem,--from whose writings we may derive a more
complete and intelligible account of the period preceding the Exile than
from any other source; of Nahum, who, just before the fall of Jerusalem,
uttered his oracle against Nineveh; of Obadiah, who, after the fall of
the holy city, launched his thunderbolts against the perfidious Edomites
because of their rejoicing over the fate of Jerusalem; of Ezekiel, the
prophet of the Exile, who wrote among the captives by the rivers of
Babylon; of Haggai and Zechariah, who came back with the returning
exiles, and whose courageous voices cheered the laborers who wrought to
restore the city and the temple; of Malachi, whose pungent reproofs of
the people for their lack of consecration followed the erection of the
second temple, and closed the collection of the Hebrew prophets.

The limits of this small volume forbid us to enter upon several
interesting critical inquiries respecting the component parts of Isaiah
and Zechariah, and especially the matter of the variations of the
Septuagint from the Hebrew text in the Book of Jeremiah. In this last
named book we find the same phenomena that we encountered in our study
of Samuel and The Kings: the Greek version differs considerably from the
Hebrew; a comparison of the two illustrates, as nothing else can do, the
processes through which the text of these old documents has passed, and
the freedom with which they have been handled by scribes and copyists.
The Hebrew text, from which our English version was made, is generally
better than the Greek; but there are several cases in which the Greek is
manifestly more accurate.

There is one book, reckoned among these minor prophets, of which I have
not spoken, and to which I ought to make some reference. That is the
book of Jonah.

It is found among the minor prophets, but it is not in any sense
prophetical; it is neither a sermon nor a prediction; it is a narrative.
Probably it was placed by the Jews among these prophetical books because
Jonah was a prophet. But this book was not written by Jonah; there is
not a word in the book which warrants the belief that he was its author.
It is a story about Jonah, told by somebody else long after Jonah's day.
Jonah, the son of Amittai, was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom in the
days of Jeroboam II., far back in the ninth century. The only reference
to him contained in the Old Testament is found in 2 Kings xiv. 25. But
this book was almost certainly written long after the destruction of
Nineveh, which took place two hundred years later. One reason for this
belief is in the fact that the writer of the book feels it necessary to
explain what kind of a city Nineveh was. He stops in the midst of his
story to say: "Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days'
journey." That explanation would have been superfluous anywhere in
Israel in the days of Jeroboam II., and the past tense indicates that it
was written by one who was looking back to a city no longer in
existence. "Nineveh was." The character of the Hebrew also favors the
theory of a later date for the book. We have, therefore, a tale that was
told about Jonah probably three or four hundred years after his day.

Is it a true tale, or is it a work of didactic fiction? I believe that
it is the latter. It is a very suggestive apologue, full of moral beauty
and spiritual power, designed to convey several important lessons to the
minds of the Jewish people. I cannot regard it as the actual experience
of a veritable prophet of God, because I can hardly imagine that such a
prophet could have supposed, as the Jonah of this tale is said to have
supposed, that by getting out of the bounds of the Kingdom of Israel, he
would get out of the sight of Jehovah. This is precisely what this Jonah
of the story undertook to do. When he was bidden to go to Nineveh and
cry against it, "he rose up to flee unto Tarshish _from the presence
of the Lord;_ and he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to
Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with
them unto Tarshish _from the presence of the Lord"_ (ch. i. 3). Is
this actual history? Is this the belief of a genuine prophet of the
Lord? What sort of a prophet is he who holds ideas as crude as this
concerning the Being with whom he is in constant communication and from
whom he receives his messages? If Jonah did entertain this belief, then
it is not likely that he can teach us anything about God which it is
important that we should know.

Thus, without touching the miraculous features of the story, we have
sound reasons for believing that this cannot be the actual experience of
any veritable prophet of God; that it is not history, but fiction. Why
not? Can any one who has read the parable of the Prodigal Son or the
Good Samaritan doubt that fiction may be used in Sacred Scripture for
the highest purpose?

But it is argued that the references to this story which are found in
the words of Christ authenticate the story. Our Lord, in Matt. xii,
39-42, refers to this book. He speaks of the repentance of the Ninevites
under the preaching of Jonah as a rebuke to the Jews who had heard the
word of life from him and had not repented; and he uses these words: "An
evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign; and there shall no sign
be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three
days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man
be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

This confirms, say the orthodox commentators, the historical accuracy of
the story of Jonah. "If," says Canon Liddon, "he would put his finger on
a fact in past Jewish history which, by its admitted reality, would
warrant belief in his own resurrection, he points to Jonah's being three
days and three nights in the belly of the whale." This use of the
incident by our Lord clearly authenticates the incident as an actual
historical fact. So say the conservative theologians. And so say also
the men who labor to destroy the authority of Christ. Mr. Huxley
perfectly agrees with Canon Liddon. He praises the Canon's penetration
and consistency; he agrees that there can be no other possible
interpretation of Christ's words. The ultra-conservative and the
anti-Christian critics are at one in insisting that Christ stands
committed to the literal truth of the narrative in Jonah. The inference
of the ultra-conservative is that the narrative is historically true; the
inference of the anti-Christian critic is that Jesus is unworthy our
confidence as a religious teacher; that one who fully indorsed such a
preposterous tale cannot be divine. It is instructive to observe the
ultra-conservative critics thus playing steadily into the hands of the
anti-Christian critics, furnishing them with ammunition with which to
assail the very citadel of the Christian faith. It is a kind of business
in which, I am sorry to say, they have been diligently engaged for a
good while.

Now I, for my part, utterly deny the proposition which these allied
forces of skepticism and traditionalism are enlisted in supporting. I
deny that Jesus Christ can be fairly quoted as authenticating this
narrative. I maintain that he used it allegorically for purposes of
illustration, without intending to express any opinion as to the
historical verity of the narrative. It was used in a literary way, and
not in a dogmatic way. Our Lord speaks always after the manner of
men,--speaks the common speech of the people, takes up the phrases and
even the fables that he finds upon their lips, and uses them for his own
purposes. He does not stop to criticise all their stories, or to set
them right in all their scientific errors; that would have been utterly
aside from his main purpose, and would certainly have confused them and
led them astray. He speaks always of the rising and the setting of the
sun, using the phrases that were current at that time, and never hinting
at the error underneath them. He knew what these people meant by these
phrases. If he knew that these phrases conveyed an erroneous meaning,
why did he not correct them? So, too, he quotes from the story of the
Creation in Genesis, and never intimates that the six days there
mentioned are not literal days of twenty-four hours each. He knew that
those to whom he was speaking entertained this belief, and put this
interpretation upon these words. Why does he not set it aside?

These questions may admit of more than one answer; but, taking the very
highest view of Christ's person, it is certainly enough to say that any
such discussion of scientific questions would have been, as even we can
see, palpably unwise. There was no preparation in the human mind at that
day for the reception and verification of such a scientific revelation.
It could not have been received. It would not have been preserved. It
would only have confused and puzzled the minds of his hearers, and would
have shut their minds at once against that moral and spiritual truth
which he came to impart. And what we have said about scientific
questions applies with equal force to questions of Old Testament
criticism. To have entered upon the discussion of these questions with
the Jews would have thwarted his highest purpose. In the largest sense
of the word these Scriptures were true. Their substantial historical
accuracy he wished to confirm. Their great converging lines of light
united in him. He constantly claimed their fulfillment in his person and
his kingdom. Why, then, should he enter upon a kind of discussion which
would have tended to confuse and obscure the main truths which he came
to teach? If, then, he refers to these Scriptures, he uses them for his
own ethical and spiritual purposes,--not to indorse their scientific
errors; not to confirm the methods of interpretation in use among the

But Mr. Huxley insists, and all the ultra-conservative commentators join
him in insisting, that Christ could not, if he had been an honest man,
have spoken thus of Jonah if the story of Jonah had not been
historically accurate. This is the way he puts it: "If Jonah's three
days' residence in the whale is not an 'admitted fact,' how could it
'warrant belief' in the 'coming resurrection'?" [Footnote: _The
Nineteenth Century_, July, 1890.] Mr. Huxley is using Canon Liddon's
phrases here; but he is using them to confute those for whom, as he
knows very well, Canon Liddon does not speak. Those who say that the
story of Jonah is an "admitted reality" may, perhaps, be able to see
that it "warrants belief" in the "coming resurrection." To my own mind,
even this is by no means clear. I do not see how the one event, even if
it were an "admitted reality," could "warrant belief" in the other. No
past event can warrant belief in any future event, unless the two events
are substantially identical. The growth of an acorn into an oak in the
last century "warrants the belief" that an acorn will grow into an oak
in the present century; but it does not "warrant the belief" that a city
planted on an eligible site will grow to be a great metropolis. The one
event might illustrate the other, but no conclusions of logic can be
carried from the one to the other. It is precisely so with these two
events. There is a certain analogy between the experience of Jonah, as
told in the book, and that of our Lord; but it is ridiculous to say that
the one event, if an "admitted reality," "warrants belief" in the
other,--whether it is said by Mr. Huxley or Canon Liddon. Our Lord's
words convey no such meaning. In truth, if we are here dealing with
scientific comparisons, the one event, if taken as an "admitted
reality," _warrants disbelief_ in the other. What are our Lord's
precise words? "_As_ Jonah was three days and three nights in the
whale's belly, _so_ shall the Son of man be three days and three
nights in the heart of the earth." We are told by Mr. Huxley and his
orthodox allies that we must take this as a literal historical parallel,
or not at all; that if we treat it in any other way, we accuse our Lord
of dishonesty. What, then, was the condition of Jonah during these three
days and nights? Was he dead or alive? He was certainly alive, if the
tale is history--very thoroughly alive in all his faculties. He was
praying part of the time, and part of the time he was writing poetry. We
have a long and beautiful poem which he is said to have composed during
that enforced retirement from active life. It would appear that his
release took place immediately after the poem was finished. If, now,
these events are bound together with the links of logic, if the one
event is the historic counterpart of the other, the Son of man, during
the three days of his sojourn in the heart of the earth, was not dead at
all! He was only hidden for a little space from the sight of men. He was
alive all the while, _and there was no resurrection!_ It is to this
that you come when you begin to apply to these parables and allegories
of the Bible the methods of scientific exposition. This may be
satisfactory enough to Mr. Huxley. I should like to know how it suits
his orthodox allies.

The fact is, that you are not dealing here with equivalents, but with
analogies; not with laws of evidence, but with figures of rhetoric: and
it is absurd to say that one member of an analogy "warrants belief" in
the existence of the other. There is no such logical nexus. The leaven
in the meal does not "warrant belief" in the spread of Christianity, but
it serves to illustrate it. The story of the Prodigal Son does not
"warrant belief" in the fatherly love of God, but it helps us to
understand something of that love, and it helps us precisely as much as
if it had been a veritable history, instead of being, as it is, a pure
work of fiction.

"What sort of value," asks Mr. Huxley, "as an illustration of God's
methods of dealing with sin, has an account of an event that never
happened?" Such an admonition, he says, is "morally about on a level
with telling a naughty child that a bogy is coming to fetch it away."
Let us apply this maxim to some of Mr. Huxley's homilies:--

"Surely," he says in one of his "Lay Sermons," "our innocent pleasures
are not so abundant in this life that we can afford to despise this or
any other source of them. We should fear being banished for our neglect
_to that limbo where the great Florentine tells us are those who
during this life wept when they might be joyful_." [Footnote: _Lay
Sermons and Addresses_, p. 92.] This limbo of Dante's is not, I dare
say, an "admitted reality" in Mr. Huxley's physical geography. "What
sort of value," therefore, has his reference to it? Is he merely raising
the cry of bogy? He certainly does intend what he says as a dissuasive
from a certain course of erroneous conduct. I venture to insist that he
has a real meaning, and that, although the limbo is a myth, the
condition which he intends to illustrate by his allusion to it is a

Once more: "I do not suppose that the dead soul of Peter Bell, of whom
the great poet of nature says,--

  'A primrose by the river's brim
   A yellow primrose was to him,
   And it was nothing more,'

would have been a whit roused from its apathy by the information that
the primrose is a Dicotyledonous Exogen, with a monopetalous corolla and
a central placentation." [Footnote: _Ibid_. p. 91.]

Does Mr. Huxley believe that Peter Bell was a historical person? If he
was not, how, in the name of biological theology, could his dead soul
have been roused by any information whatever? Yet these sentences of his
have a real and valuable meaning. It is evident that Mr. Huxley does
understand the uses of allegory and fable for purposes of illustration;
that he can employ characters and situations which are not historical,
but purely imaginary, to illustrate the realities which he is trying to
present,--speaking of them all the while just as if they were historical
persons or places, and trusting his readers to interpret him aright.
Such a use of language is common in all literature. To affirm that our
Lord could not resort to it without dishonesty is to deny to him the
ordinary instruments of speech.

"We may conclude, then," with Professor Ladd, "that the reference to
Jonah does not cover the question whether the prophet's alleged sojourn
in the sea monster is an historical verity; and that it is no less
uncritical than invidious to make the holding of any particular theory
of the Book of Jonah a test of allegiance to the teachings of the
Master." [Footnote: _The Doctrine of Sacred Scripture_, i. 67. ]

It is evident enough, as Professor Cheyne has said, that the symbolic
meaning of the book was the most important part of it in the New
Testament times. But other and more obvious meanings are conveyed by the
narrative. Indeed, there is scarcely another book in the Old Testament
whose meaning is so clear, whose message is so divine. Apologue though
it is, it is full of the very truth of God. There is not one of the
minor prophecies that has more of the real gospel in it. To the people
who first received it, how full of admonition and reproof it must have
been! That great city Nineveh--a city which was, in its day, as Dr.
Geikie says, "as intensely abhorred by the Jews as Carthage was by Rome,
or France under the elder Napoleon was by Germany"--was a city dear to
God! He had sent his own prophet to warn it of its danger; and his
prophet, instead of being stoned or torn asunder, as the prophets of God
had often been by their own people, had been heard and his message
heeded. The Ninevites had turned to God, and God had forgiven them! God
was no less ready to forgive and save Nineveh than Jerusalem. What a
wonderful disclosure of the love of the universal Father! What a telling
blow, even in those old days, at the "middle wall of partition" by which
the Jew fenced out the Gentile from his sympathy!

And then the gentle rebuke of Jonah's petulant narrowness! How true is
the touch that describes Jonah as angry because God had forgiven the
Ninevites! His credit as a prophet was gone. I suppose that he was
afraid also, like many theologians of more modern times, that if
threatened penalty were remitted solely on the ground of the repentance
of the sinners, the foundations of the divine government would be
undermined. How marvelously does the infinite pity and clemency of God
shine out through all this story, as contrasted with the petty
consistency and the grudging compassion of man; and how clearly do we
hear in this beautiful narrative the very message of the gospel: "Let
the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and
let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our
God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your
thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."

May I say, in closing, that the treatment which the Book of Jonah has
received, alike from skeptics and from defenders of the faith,
illustrates, in a striking way, the kind of controversy which is raised
by the attempt to maintain the infallibility of the Bible. The
_crux_ of all the critics, orthodox and heterodox, is the story
about the fish. The orthodox have assumed that the narrative without the
miracle was meaningless, and the heterodox have taken them at their
word. In their dispute over the question whether Jonah did really
compose that psalm in the belly of the fish, with his head festooned
with seaweed, they have almost wholly overlooked the great lessons of
fidelity to duty, of the universal divine fatherhood, and the universal
human brotherhood, which the story so beautifully enforces. How easy it
is for saints as well as scoffers, in their dealing with the messages of
God to men, to tithe the mint, anise, and cummin of the literal sense,
and neglect the weightier matters of judgment, mercy, and truth which
they are intended to convey!



After the Book of the Law had been revised by Ezra, and the Book of the
Prophets had been compiled by Nehemiah, there still remained a body of
sacred writings, not Mosaic in their origin and not from the hands of
any recognized prophet, but still of value in the eyes of the Jews. We
cannot tell the time at which the work of collecting these Scriptures
was begun; possibly it was going on while the Books of the Prophets were
being compiled. This third collection was called from the first by the
Jews, "Ketubim," meaning simply writings; the Greeks afterward called it
by a name which has been anglicized, and which has become the common
designation of these writings among us, "The Hagiographa," or the Holy
Writings. The adjective holy was not a part of the Jewish title; it
would have overstated, somewhat, their first estimate of this part of
their Bible. For while the degree of sacredness attached to these books
gradually increased, they were always held as quite inferior to the
other two groups of Scriptures. For convenience the list of books in
this collection may be here repeated:--

   The Psalms.
   The Proverbs.
   The Song of Solomon.
   1 Chronicles.
   2 Chronicles.

The arrangement is topical; first, three poetical books, The Psalms, The
Proverbs, and Job; then five so-called Megilloth, or Rolls, read in the
later synagogues on certain great feast days,--The Song of Songs at the
Passover, Ruth at Pentecost, Lamentations on the anniversary of the
burning of the temple, Ecclesiastes at the Feast of Tabernacles, and
Esther at the Feast of Purim; lastly, the historical and quasi-historical
books, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Chronicles.

Of Ruth I have already spoken in its proper historical connection,
taking it with the Book of Judges.

In treating of the remaining books I shall not follow the order of the
Hebrew Bible, which I have given above, but shall rather reverse it,
treating first of the historical books, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the
Chronicles, also of Esther and Daniel; then, in a subsequent chapter, of
the poetical books, the Lamentations, the books attributed to
Solomon,--Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Solomon's Song,--and finally of
Job and the Psalms.

The histories which, under the title of the "Earlier Prophets," are
contained in the middle group of the Hebrew Scriptures, have been
studied in a former chapter. In this later group of writings we find
certain other historical works which cover the same ground. In the words
of Mr. Horton:--

"Taking historical excerpts from the first six books of the Bible, and
then going on in a continuous narrative from the beginning of Judges to
the end of the Second Book of Kings, we have a story--true, a story with
many gaps in it, still a connected story--from the earliest times to the
captivity of Judah. Then, starting from the First Book of Chronicles and
reading on to the end of Nehemiah, we have, in a very compressed form,
though enlarged in some parts, a complete record from Adam to the return
from the Captivity; at the end of this long sweep of narrative comes the
Book of Esther, which is a brief appendix containing a historical
episode of the Captivity. Taking these two distinct histories, we have
two lines of narrative, an older and a later, which run together up to
the Captivity; the older, though covering a shorter time, is much the
larger and fuller; the later, very thin in most parts, becomes very full
in its account of the Temple-worship and Temple-kingship at Jerusalem,
and then continues the story alone up to the end of the Captivity, and
the reëstablishment of the Temple-worship after the return." [Footnote:
_Inspiration and the Bible_, pp. 159, 160.]

The older history, contained in Samuel and Kings, breaks off abruptly in
the time of the Captivity; we know that it must have been written during
the Exile, and could not have been written earlier than about 550 B.C.
The later history, in Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah, begins with Adam,
and goes on, by one or two genealogical tables, for almost two centuries
after the Captivity. In 1 Chronicles iii. 19, the genealogy of
Zerubbabel, who came back with the captives, is carried on for at least
six generations. Counting thirty years for a generation, the table
extends the time of the writing of this record to at least one hundred
and eighty years after the return of the exiles. This occurred in 538
B.C., and the book must therefore have been written as late as 350 B.C.,
or very nearly two centuries after the earlier history was finished.

There are conclusive reasons for believing that the four books now under
consideration, the two books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, were
originally but one book. In the Hebrew Canon the Chronicles is now but
one book; and in the old Hebrew collections Ezra and Nehemiah were but
one book. It was in the Septuagint that they were first separated. Thus
we have the four certainly reduced to two. And it is not difficult, on
an inspection of the documents, to reduce the two to one. If you will
open your Bible at the last verses of Second Chronicles, beginning with
the twenty-second verse of the last chapter, and, fixing your eyes on
this passage, will ask some one to read to you the first three verses of
the Book of Ezra, you will see how these two books were formerly one;
and how the manuscript was torn in two in the wrong place; so that the
Book of Chronicles actually ends in the middle of a sentence. The period
at the end of this book ought to be expunged.

The explanatfon of this curious phenomenon is not difficult. The last
group of sacred writings, what the Jews call the Ketubim, was kept open
for additions to a very late day. After this history was written
(Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah) the question arose whether it should be
admitted into the canon. The first answer to this question evidently
was: "We do not need the first part of the history,--the Book of
Chronicles,--for we have the substance of it already in the Books of
Samuel and Kings and in the earlier writings; but we do need the last
part of it, 'Ezra-Nehemiah,' for this carries the history on beyond the
Captivity, and gives the account of the return of the exiles and the
rebuilding of the city and the temple." So they tore the book in two,
and put the last part of it into the growing collection of "Ketubim," or
"Writings." The careless division of the manuscript, not at the
beginning of a paragraph, but in the middle of a sentence, made it
necessary, of course, for the scribe to copy at the beginning of the
Ezra-roll the words belonging to it which had been torn off; but they
were not erased from the first part, and have been left there, as the
old historians say, "unto this day."

By and by there were requests that this first part--the Chronicles--be
admitted to the Ketubim. The priests and the Levites of the temple would
be sure to urge this request, for the Chronicles is the one book of the
Old Testament in which their order is glorified; and at length the
request was granted; the Chronicles were added to the collection, and as
they went in last they follow Ezra-Nehemiah, although they belong,
chronologically, before it. They stand to-day at the end of the Hebrew
Bible, and thus testify, by their position, respecting the lateness of
the date at which they were admitted to the canon. Thus the Hebrew Bible
ends with an incomplete sentence.

What this later history may have been called before it was torn in two
we have no means of knowing; but the Jews called the last part of it
(which stands first in their collection) by the name of Ezra, and the
first part of it (which is last in their canon) they named, "Events of
the Times," or "Annals." In the Septuagint this book of the Chronicles
was called "Paraleipomena," "Leavings," "Things Left Over,"
"Supplements." Jerome first gave it the name of "Chronicles," by which
we know it.

The name of the author of this book is unknown. The strong probabilities
are that he was a Levite, connected with the temple service in
Jerusalem. The Levites had charge of the public religious services of
the temple, especially of its music; and the fullness with which this
writer expatiates upon all this part of the ritual shows that it was
very dear to his heart. [Footnote:  See 1 Chron. vi. 31-48; xv. 16-24;
xvi 4-42; xxv.2 Chron. v. 12, 13; vii. 6; viii. 14; xx. 19-21; xxiii.
13; xxix. 25-30; xxxi 2; zxxiv. 12; xxxv. 15.] Everything relating to
the Levitical priesthood and its services is dwelt upon in this book
with emphasis and elaboration; as the histories of Samuel and the Kings
are written from the prophetical standpoint, this is most evidently
written from the priestly point of view.

In these books of the Chronicles the author constantly points out the
sources of his information. He tells us that he quotes from the "Book of
the Kings of Judah and Israel," from the "Acts of the Kings of Israel,"
and from "The Story of the Book of the Kings." The identity of these
books is a disputed question. It is supposed by some critics that he
refers to the Books of Kings in our Bible; others maintain that he draws
from another and much larger book of a similar name which has been lost.
The latter theory is generally maintained by the more conservative
critics; and it is easier to vindicate the author's trustworthiness on
this supposition; yet even so there are serious difficulties in the
case; for it is hard to believe that he could have written these annals
without having had before him the earlier record, and between the two
are many discrepancies. The main facts of the history are substantially
the same in the two narratives; but in minor matters the disagreements
and contradictions are numerous. It is part of the purpose of this study
to look difficulties of this kind fairly in the face; it is treason to
the spirit of all truth to refuse to do so. Let us examine, then, a few
of these discrepancies between the earlier and later history.

In 2 Samuel viii. 4, we are told that in David's victory over Hadadezer
king of Zobah, he took from the latter "a thousand and seven hundred
horsemen." In 1 Chronicles xviii. 4, he is said to have taken "a
thousand chariots and seven thousand horsemen." In 2 Samuel xxiv. 9,
David's census is said to have returned 800,000 warriors for Israel, and
500,000 for Judah. In 1 Chronicles xxi. 5, the number is stated as
1,100,000 for Israel, and 470,000 for Judah. In 2 Samuel xxiv. 24, David
is said to have paid Araunah for his threshing-floor fifty shekels of
silver, estimated at about thirty dollars of our money; in 1 Chronicles
xxi. 25, he is said to have given him "six hundred shekels of gold by
weight," amounting to a little more than thirty-four hundred dollars. In
2 Chronicles xiv. i, we read that Asa reigned in the stead of his father
Abijah, and that in his days the land was quiet ten years. Again in the
10th and the 19th verses of the following chapter we learn that from the
fifteenth to the thirty-fifth year of Asa there was no war in the land.
In 1 Kings xv. 32, we are explicitly told that "there was war between
Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days." In 1 Chronicles xx. the
story of the taking of Rabbah seems to be abridged from 2 Samuel xi.,
xii.; but the abridgment is curiously done, so that the part taken by
David in the siege and capture of the city is not brought out; and the
whole narrative of David's relation to Uriah and Bathsheba, with the
rebuke of Nathan and the death of David's child, is not alluded to. The
relation of the two narratives at this point is significant; it deserves
careful study. One more curious difference is found in the two accounts
of the numbering of Israel. In 2 Samuel xxiv. 1, we read, "And the anger
of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them,
saying, Go, number Israel and Judah." In 1 Chronicles xxi., we read,
"And Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel."
The numbering in both narratives is assumed to be a grievous sin; and
the penalty of this sin, which was David's, was visited upon the people
in the form of a pestilence, which slew seventy thousand of them. I
observe that the commentators try to reconcile these statements by
saying that God _permitted_ Satan to tempt David. I wonder if that
explanation affords to any mind a shade of relief. But the older record
utterly forbids such a gloss. "The anger of the Lord against Israel"
prompted the Lord to "move David against them," and the Lord said, "Go,
number Judah and Israel!" It was not a permission; it was a direct
instigation. Then because David did what the Lord moved him to do, "the
Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel," which destroyed seventy thousand
men. We are not concerned to reconcile these two accounts, for neither
of them can be true. Let us not suppose that we can be required, by any
theory of inspiration, to blaspheme God by accusing him of any such
monstrous iniquity. Let no man open his mouth in this day to declare
that the Judge of all the earth instigated David to do a presumptuous
deed, and then slew seventy thousand of David's subjects for the sin of
their ruler. Such a view of God might have been held without censure
three thousand years ago; it cannot be held without sin by men who have
the New Testament in their hands. This narrative belongs to that class
of crude and defective teachings which Jesus, in the Sermon on the
Mount, points out and sets aside. We may, nay we must apply to the
morality of this transaction the principle of judgment which Jesus gives
us in that discourse, and say: "Ye have heard that it hath been said by
them of old time that God sometimes instigates a ruler to do wrong, and
then punishes his people for the wrong done by the ruler which he
himself has instigated; but I say unto you that 'God cannot be tempted
with evil, neither tempteth he any man;' moreover the ruler shall not
bear the sin of the subject, nor the subject the sin of the ruler; for
every man shall give account of himself unto God." It is by the higher
standard that Christ has given us in the New Testament that we must
judge all these narratives of the Old Testament, and when we find in
these old writings statements which represent God as perfidious and
unjust, we are not to try to "harmonize" them with other statements; we
are simply to set them aside as the views of a dark age.

Such blurred and distorted ideas about God and his truth we do certainly
find here and there in these old writings; the treasure which they have
preserved for us is in earthen vessels; the human element, which is a
necessary part of a written revelation, all the while displays itself.
It is human to err; and the men who wrote the Bible were human. We may
have a theory that God must have guarded them from every form of error,
but the Bible itself has no such theory; and we must try to make our
theories of inspiration fit the facts of the Bible as we find them lying
upon its pages.

The second portion of this history, the Book of Ezra-Nehemiah, presents
fewer of these difficulties than the Book of Chronicles. It is a
fragmentary, but to all appearance a veracious record of the events
which took place after the first return of the exiles to Jerusalem. The
first caravan returned in the first year of King Cyrus; and the history
extends to the last part of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus,--covering
a period of more than a hundred years. The documents on which
it is based were largely official; and there is no doubt that
considerable portions of the first book came from the pen of Ezra
himself, and that the second book was made up in part from writings left
by Nehemiah. The language of the second book is Hebrew; that of the
first is partly Hebrew and partly Chaldee or Aramaic. We read in the
fourth chapter of Ezra that a certain letter was written to King
Artaxerxes, and it is said that "the writing of the letter was written
in the Syrian character." The margin of the revised version says
"Aramaic." We find this letter in our Hebrew Bibles in the Aramaic
language. And the writer, after copying the letter in Aramaic, goes
right on with the history in Aramaic; from the twelfth verse of the
fourth chapter to the eighteenth verse of the sixth chapter the language
is all Aramaic; then the historian drops back into Hebrew again, and
goes on to the twelfth verse of the seventh chapter, when he returns to
Aramaic to record the letter of Artaxerxes, which extends to the
twenty-seventh verse. The rest of the book is Hebrew. With the exception
of some short sections of the Book of Daniel, this is the only portion of
our Old Testament that was not written originally in the Hebrew tongue.

The contents of these two books may be briefly summarized. The first
book tells us how the Persian king Cyrus, in the first year of his
reign, issued a proclamation to the Jews dwelling in his kingdom,
permitting and encouraging them to return to their own country and to
rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The conquest of the Babylonians by the
Persians had placed the captive Jews in vastly improved circumstances.
Between the faith of the Persians and that of the Jews there was close
affinity. The Persians were monotheists; and "Cyrus," as Rawlinson says,
"evidently identified Jehovah with Ormazd, and, accepting as a divine
command the prophecy of Isaiah, undertook to rebuild their temple for a
people who, like his own, allowed no image of God to defile the
sanctuary.... The foundation was then laid for that friendly intimacy
between the two peoples of which we have abundant evidence in the books
of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther." The words of the decree of Cyrus, with
which the Book of Ezra opens, show how he regarded the God of the Jews:
"Whosoever there is among you of all his people, his God be with him,
and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house
of the Lord, the God of Israel, (he is God,) which is in Jerusalem." The
parenthetical clause is a clear confession of the faith of Cyrus that
Jehovah was only another name for Ormazd; that there is but one God.

In consequence of this decree, a caravan of nearly fifty thousand
persons, led by Zerubbabel, carrying with them liberal free-will
offerings of those who remained in Babylon for the building of the
temple, went back to Jerusalem, and in the second year began the
erection of the second temple. With this pious design certain Samaritans
interfered, finally procuring an injunction from the successor of Cyrus
by which the building of the temple was interrupted for several years.
On the accession of Darius, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah stirred up
the people to resume the work, and at length succeeded in getting from
the great king complete authority to proceed with it. In the sixth year
of his reign the second temple was completed, and dedicated with great
rejoicing. This closes the first section of the Book of Ezra. The rest
of the book is occupied with the story of Ezra himself, who is said to
have been "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," and who, "in the seventh
year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia," led a second caravan of exiles home
to Jerusalem, with great store of silver and gold and wheat and wine and
oil for the resumption of the ritual worship of the Lord's house. The
story of this return of the exiles is minutely told; and the remainder
of this book is devoted to a recital of the matter of the mixed
marriages between the Jewish men and the women of the surrounding
tribes, which caused Ezra great distress, and which he succeeded in
annulling, so that these "strange women," as they are called, were all
put away. To our eyes this seems a piece of doubtful morality, but we
must consider the changed standards of our time, and remember that these
men might have done with the purest conscientiousness some things which
we could not do at all.

The Book of Nehemiah is in part a recital by Nehemiah himself of the
circumstances of his coming to Jerusalem, which seems to have taken
place about thirteen years after the coming of Ezra. He was the
cupbearer of Artaxerxes the king; he had heard of the distress and
poverty of his people at Jerusalem, and in the fervid patriotism of his
nature he begged the privilege of going up to Jerusalem to rebuild its
walls. Permission was gained, and the first part of the book contains a
stirring account of the experiences of Nehemiah in building the walls of
Jerusalem. After this work was finished, Nehemiah undertook a census of
the restored city, but he found, as he says, "the book of the genealogy
of them that came up at the first,"--the list of families which appears
in Ezra,--and this he copies. It may be instructive to take these two
lists--the one in Ezra ii. and the one in Nehemiah vii.--and compare
them. After this we have an account of a great congregation which
assembled "in the broad place that was before the water gate," when Ezra
the scribe stood upon "a pulpit of wood" from early morning until
midday, and read to the assembled multitude from the book of the law.
"And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was
above all the people); and when he opened it all the people stood up,
and Ezra blessed Jehovah the great God. And all the people answered,
Amen, Amen, with the lifting up of their hands; and they bowed their
heads, and worshiped Jehovah, with their faces to the ground." Other
scribes stood by, apparently to take turns in the reading; and it is
said that "they read in the book, in the law of the Lord distinctly [or,
'with an interpretation,' Marg.], and they gave the sense, so that they
understood the reading." From this it has been inferred that the people
had already become, in their sojourn in the East, more familiar with
Aramaic than with their own tongue, and that they were unable to
understand the Hebrew without some words of interpretation. It is
doubtful, however, whether all this meaning can be read into this
passage. At any rate, we have here, undoubtedly, the history of the
inauguration of the reading of the law as one of the regular acts of
public worship. And this must have been about 440 B.C.

The narrative of the first complete and formal observance of the Feast
of Tabernacles since the days of Joshua; the narrative of the solemn
league and covenant by which the people bound themselves to keep the
law; the narrative of the dedication of the wall of the city, and the
account of various reforms which Nehemiah prosecuted, with certain lists
of priests and Levites, fill up the remainder of the book.

Taking it all in all it is a very valuable record; no historical book of
the Old Testament gives greater evidence of veracity; none excels it in
human interest. The pathetic tale of the return of this people from
their long exile, of the rebuilding of their city and their temple, and
of the heroic and self-denying labors of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, the
governors, and Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets, and Ezra the scribe,
with all their coadjutors, is full of significance to all those who
trace in the history of the people of Israel, more clearly than anywhere
else, the increasing purpose of God which runs through all the ages.

That portions of the first book were written by Ezra, and of the second
book by Nehemiah, is not doubted; but both books were revised somewhat
by later hands; additions were undoubtedly made after the death of
Nehemiah; for one, at least, of the genealogies shows us a certain
Jaddua as high priest, and tells us that he was the great grandson of
the man who was high priest when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem. It is not
probable that Nehemiah lived to see this Jaddua in the high priest's
office. It is probable that the last revision of the Bible was made some
time after 400 B.C.

I have now to speak, in the conclusion of this chapter, of two other
books of this last group, concerning which there has always been much
misconception, the Book of Esther and the Book of Daniel. Esther stands
in our Bibles immediately after Ezra-Nehemiah, while Daniel is included
among the prophets. But in the Hebrew Bibles both books are found in the
group which was last collected and least valued.

I have styled these historical books; are they truly historical? That
they are founded upon fact I do not doubt; but it is, perhaps, safer to
regard them both rather as historical fictions than as veritable
histories. The reason for this judgment may appear as we go on with the

The Book of Esther may be briefly summarized. The scene is laid in
Shushan the palace, better known as Susa, one of the royal residences of
the kings of Persia. The story opens with a great feast, lasting one
hundred and eighty days, given by the King Ahasuerus to all the nabobs
of the realm. It is assumed that this king was Xerxes the Great, but the
identification is by no means conclusive. At the close of this
monumental debauch, the king, in his drunken pride, calls in his queen
Vashti to show her beauty to the inebriated courtiers. She refuses, and
the refusal ought to be remembered to her honor; but this book does not
so regard it. The sympathy of the book is with the bibulous monarch, and
not with his chaste and modest spouse. The king is very wroth, and after
taking much learned advice from his counselors, puts away his queen for
this act of insubordination, and proceeds to look for another. His
choice falls upon a Jewish maiden, a daughter of the Exile, who has been
brought up by her cousin Mordecai. Esther, at Mordecai's command, at
first conceals her Jewish descent from the king. An opportunity soon
comes for Mordecai to reveal to Esther a plot against the king's life;
and the circumstance is recorded in the chronicles of the realm.

Soon after this a certain Haman is made Grand Vizier of the kingdom, and
Mordecai the Jew refuses to do obeisance to him; in consequence of which
Haman secures from the king an edict ordering the assassination of all
the Jews in the kingdom. His wrath against Mordecai being still further
inflamed, he erects a gallows fifty cubits high, with the purpose of
hanging thereon the testy Israelite. The intervention of Esther puts an
end to these malicious schemes. At the risk of her life she presents
herself before the king, and gains his favor; then, while Haman's
purpose halts, the king is reminded, when the annals of his kingdom are
read to him on a wakeful night, of the frustration of the plot against
his person by Mordecai, and learning that no recompense has been made to
him, suddenly determines to elevate and honor him; and the consequence
is, that Haman himself, his purposes being disclosed by the queen, is
hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai, and Mordecai is
elevated to Hainan's place. The decree of an Eastern king cannot be
annulled, and the massacre of the Jews still remains a legal
requirement; yet Esther and Mordecai are permitted to send royal orders
to all parts of the realm authorizing the Jews upon the day of the
appointed massacre to stand for their lives, and to kill as many as they
can of their enemies. Thus encouraged, and supported also by the king's
officials in every province, who are now the creatures of Mordecai, the
Jews turn upon their enemies, and slay in one day seventy-five thousand
of them,--five hundred in the palace of Shushan,--among whom are the ten
sons of Haman. On the evening of this bloody day, the king says to
Esther the queen: "The Jews have slain five hundred men in Shushan the
palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what then have they done in the rest
of the king's provinces? [From this sample of their ferocity you can
judge how much blood must have been shed throughout the kingdom.] Now
what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee; or what is thy
request further? and it shall be done." It might be supposed that this
fair Jewish princess would be satisfied with this banquet of blood, but
she is not; she wants more. "Then said Esther, if it please the king,
let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to-morrow also,
according unto this day's decree, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged
upon the gallows." The request is granted; the next day three hundred
more Persians are butchered in Shushan the palace; and the dead bodies
of the ten sons of Haman, weltering in their gore, are lifted up and
hanged upon the gallows, and all to please Queen Esther! If a single Jew
loses his life in this outbreak, the writer forgets to mention it. It is
idle to say that this is represented as a defensive act on the part of
the Jews; the impression is given that the Persians, by the menacing
action of their own officials under Mordecai's authority, were
completely cowed, and were simply slaughtered in their tracks by the
infuriated Jews.

As a memorial of this feast of blood, the Jewish festival of Purim was
instituted, which is kept to this day; and the Book of Esther is read at
this feast, in dramatic fashion, with passionate responses by the

Is this history? There is every reason to hope that it is not. That some
deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in Persia may be commemorated
by the feast of Purim is possible; that precisely such a fiendish
outbreak of fanatical cruelty as this ever occurred, we may safely and
charitably doubt. The fact that the story was told, and that it gained
great popularity among the Jews, and by some of those in later ages came
to be regarded as one of the most sacred books of their canon is,
however, a revelation to us of the extent to which the most baleful and
horrible passions may be cherished in the name of religion. It is
precisely for this purpose, perhaps, that the book has been preserved in
our canon. If any one wishes to see the perfect antithesis of the
precepts and the spirit of the gospel of Christ, let him read the Book
of Esther. Frederick Bleek is entirely justified in his statement that
"a spirit of revenge and persecution prevails in the book, and that no
other book of the Old Testament is so far removed as this is from the
spirit of the gospel." [Footnote: Introduction to the Old Testament, i.
450.] For it is not merely true that these atrocities are here recited;
they are clearly indorsed. There is not a word said in deprecation of
the beastliness of the king or the vindictiveness of the hero and the
heroine. It is clear, as Bleek says, "that the author finds a peculiar
satisfaction in the characters and mode of acting of his Jewish
compatriots, Esther and Mordecai; and that the disposition shown by them
appears to him as the right one, and one worthy of their nation."
"Esther the beautiful queen," whose praises have been sung by many of
our poets, possesses, indeed, some admirable qualities; her courage is
illustrious; her patriotism is beautiful; but her bloodthirstiness is

As to the time when this book was written, or who wrote it, I am not
curious. Probably it was written long after the Exile, but by some one
who was somewhat familiar with the manners of Oriental courts. The name
of God is not once mentioned in the book; and it seems like blasphemy to
intimate that the Spirit of God could have had anything to do with its
composition. It is absolutely sickening to read the commentaries, which
assume that it was dictated by the Holy Ghost, and which labor to
justify and palliate its frightful narrative. One learns, with a sense
of relief, that the Jews themselves long disputed its admission to their
canon; that the school of Schammai would not accept it, and that several
of the wisest and best of the early fathers of the Christian church,
Athanasius and Melito of Sardis among the rest, denied it a place in
sacred Scripture. Dr. Martin Luther is orthodox enough for me, and he,
more than once, expressed the hearty wish that the book had perished.
That, indeed, we need not desire; let it remain as a dark background on
which the Christian morality may stand forth resplendent; as a striking
example of the kind of ideas which Christians ought not to entertain,
and of the kind of feelings which they ought not to cherish.

The Book of Daniel brings us into a very different atmosphere. Esther is
absolutely barren of religious ideas or suggestions; Daniel is full of
the spirit of faith and prayer. Whether the character of Daniel, as here
presented, is a sketch from life or a work of the imagination, it is a
noble personality. The self-control, the fidelity to conscience, the
heroic purposes which are here attributed to him, make up a picture
which has always attracted the admiration of generous hearts.

"As in the story of the Three Children," says Dean Stanley, "so in that
of the Den of Lions, the element which has lived on with immortal vigor
is that which tells how, 'when Daniel knew that the writing was signed,
he kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks
to God, as he did aforetime.' How often have these words confirmed the
solitary protest, not only in the Flavian amphitheatre, but in the
ordinary yet not more easy task of maintaining the right of conscience
against arbitrary power or invidious insult! How many an independent
patriot or unpopular reformer has been nerved by them to resist the
unreasonable commands of king or priest! How many a little boy at school
has been strengthened by them for the effort, when he has knelt down by
his bedside for the first time to say his prayers in the presence of
indifferent or scoffing companions.... Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel in the court of Darius, are the
likenesses of 'the small transfigured band whom the world cannot tame,'
who, by faith in the Unseen, have in every age 'stopped the mouths of
lions, and quenched the violence of fire.' This was the example to those
on whom, in all ages, in spirit if not in letter, 'the fire had no
power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats
changed, nor the smell of fire passed upon them;' but it was 'as it were
a moist, whistling wind, and the form of the fourth, who walked with
them in the midst of the fire, was like a Son of God.'" [Footnote:
_History of the Jewish Church_, pp. 41, 42.]

Was Daniel a historical person? The question has been much disputed, but
I think that we may safely answer it in the affirmative. It is true that
in all these writings of the later period of Israel Daniel is mentioned
but twice, both times in the Book of Ezekiel (xiv. 14; xxviii. 3). The
first of these allusions is a declaration that a few righteous men
cannot save a wicked city, when the decree of destruction against it has
been issued; "though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it,
they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith
the Lord God." The other is in a prophecy against the King of Tyre, in
which he is represented as saying to himself that he is wiser than
Daniel; that there is no secret that can be hidden from him. Whether
these casual uses of the name of Daniel for purposes of illustration can
be regarded as establishing his historical character may be questioned.
And it is a singular fact that we have not in Ezra, or Nehemiah, or
Haggai, or Zechariah, or Malachi, any reference to the existence of
Daniel. Nevertheless, it is hardly to be supposed that such a character
was wholly fictitious; we may well suppose that he existed, and that the
narratives of his great fidelity and piety are at any rate founded upon

The first six chapters of the book are not ascribed to Daniel as their
author; he is spoken of in the third person, and sometimes in a way that
a good man would not be likely to speak about himself. The remainder of
the book claims to be written by him. The question is whether this claim
is to be taken as an assertion of historical fact, or as a device of
literary workmanship. Ecclesiastes was undoubtedly written long after
the Exile, yet it purports to have been composed by King Solomon. The
author puts his words into the mouth of Solomon, to gain attention for
them. It is not fair to call this a fraud; it was a perfectly legitimate
literary device. It is entirely possible that this may be the case with
the author of this book. Daniel was a person whose name was well-known
among his contemporaries, and the author makes him his mouthpiece. There
may have been a special reason why the author should have desired to
send out these narratives and visions under the name of a hero of
antiquity, a reason which we shall presently discover.

The Book of Daniel is not what is commonly called a prophecy; it is
rather an apocalypse. It belongs to a class of literature which sprang
up in the last days of the Jewish nationality, after the old prophets
had disappeared; it is designed to comfort the people with hopes of
future restoration of the national power; its method is that of vision
and symbolic representation. Daniel is the only book of this kind in the
Old Testament; the New Testament canon closes, as you know, with a
similar book. I shall not undertake to interpret to you these visions of
the Book of Daniel; they are confessedly obscure and mysterious. But
there is one portion of the book, the eleventh chapter, which is
admitted to be a minute and realistic description of the coalitions and
the conflicts between the Græco-Syrian and the Græco-Egyptian kings,
events which took place about the middle of the second century before
Christ. These personages are not named, but they are vividly described,
and the intrigues and vicissitudes of that portion of Jewish history in
which they are the chief actors are fully told. Moreover the recital is
put in the future tense; "There shall stand up yet three kings in
Persia; and the fourth shall be richer than they all; and when he is
waxed strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm
of Greece." If, now, the Book of Daniel was written in the early days of
the Exile, this was a very circumstantial prediction of what happened in
the second century,--a prediction uttered three hundred years before the
event. And respecting these predictions, if such they are, we must say
this, that we have no others like them. The other prophets never
undertake to tell the particulars of what is coming to pass; they give
out, in terms very large and general, the nature of the events which are
to come. No such carefully elaborated programme as this is found in any
other predictive utterance.

But there are those--and they include the vast majority of the leading
Christian scholars of the present day--who say that these words were not
written in the early days of the Exile; that they must have been written
about the middle of the second century; that they were therefore an
account of what was going on, by an onlooker, couched in these phrases
of vision and prophecy. The people of Israel were passing through a
terrible ordeal; they needed to be heartened and nerved for resistance
and endurance. Their heroic leader, Judas Maccabeus, was urging them on
to prodigies of valor in their conflict with the vile Antiochus; such a
ringing manifesto as this, put forth in the progress of the conflict,
might have a powerful influence in reinforcing their patriotism and
confirming their faith. It might also have appeared at some stage of the
conflict when it would have been imprudent and perhaps impossible to
secure currency for the book if the reference to existing rulers had
been explicit; such a device as the author adopted may have been
perfectly understood by the readers; although slightly veiled in the
form of its deliverance, it was, perhaps, for this very reason, all the
better fitted for its purpose.

It might, then, have been written when the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ
were wasting the fields of Palestine with their conflicts. But was it
written then? How do we know that it was not a circumstantial prediction
made three hundred years before? We do not know, with absolute
certainty, when it was written; but there are strong reasons for
believing that the later date is the true date.

1. The book is not in the Hebrew collection of the Prophets. That
collection was made at least a hundred years after the time at which
Daniel is here said to have lived; if so great a prophecy had been
existing then, it is strange that it should not have been gathered with
the other prophets into Nehemiah's collection. It is found, instead,
among the Ketubim,--the later and supplementary writings of the Hebrew

2. It is strange also, as I have intimated, that no mention of Daniel or
of his book is found in the histories of the Exile and the return, or in
any of the prophecies uttered in Israel after the return. That there
should be no allusion in any of these books to so distinguished a
personage can hardly be explained.

3. Jesus, the son of Sirach, one of the writers of the Apocrypha, who
lived about 200 B.C., gives a full catalogue of all the great worthies
of Israel; he has a list of the prophets; he names all the other
prophets; he does not name Daniel.

4. The nature of this prediction, if it be a prediction, is
unaccountable. Daniel is said to have lived in the Babylonian period,
and looked forward from that day. His people were in exile, but there is
not a vision of his that has any reference to their return from the
captivity, to the rebuilding of the temple, or to any of the events of
their history belonging to the two centuries following. It is strange
that if, standing at that point of time, he was inspired to predict the
future of the Jewish people, he should not have had some message
respecting those great events in their history which were to happen
within the next century. Instead of this, his visions, so far as his own
people are concerned, overleap three centuries and land in the days of
Antiochus Epiphanes. Here they begin at once to be very specific; they
tell all the particulars of this period, but beyond this period they
give no particulars at all; the vision of the Messianic triumph which
follows is vague and general like the rest of the prophecies. These
circumstances strongly support the theory of the later date.

5. Words appear in this writing which almost certainly fix it at a later
date than the Babylonian period. There are certainly nine undoubted
Persian words in this book; there are no Persian words in Ezekiel, who
lived at the time when Daniel is placed at the Babylonian court, nor in
Haggai, Zechariah, or Malachi. There are several Greek words, names of
musical instruments, and it is almost certain that no Greek words were
in use in Babylonia at that early day. This philological argument may
seem very dubious and far-fetched, but it is really one of the most
conclusive tests of the date of a document. There is no witness so
competent as the written word. Let me give you a homely illustration.
Suppose you find in some late history of the United States a quoted
letter said to have been written by President Zachary Taylor, who died
in 1850, respecting a certain political contest. The letter contains
the following paragraph:--

"On receiving this intelligence, I called up the Secretary of State by
telephone, and asked him how he explained the defeat. He told me that,
in his opinion, boodle was at the bottom of it. I determined to make an
investigation, and after wiring to the member of Congress in that
district, I ordered my servant to engage me a section in a Pullman car,
and started the same night for the scene of the contest."

Now of course you know that this paragraph could not have been written
by President Taylor, nor during the period of his administration. The
telephone was not then in existence; there were no Pullman cars; the
words "boodle" and "wire," in the sense here used, had never been heard.
In precisely the same way the trained philologist can often determine
with great certainty the date of a writing. He knows the biography of
words or word-forms; and he may know that some of the words or the
word-forms contained in a certain writing were not yet in the language
at the date when it is said to have been written. It is by evidence of
this nature that the critics fix the date of the Book of Daniel at a
period long after the close of the Babylonian empire.

This verdict reduces, somewhat, the element of the marvelous contained
in the book; it does not in any wise reduce the moral and spiritual
value of it. The age of the Maccabees, when this book appeared, was one
of the great ages of Jewish history. Judas Maccabeus is one of the first
of the Israelitish heroes; and the struggle, in which he was the leader,
against the dissolute Syrian Greeks brought out some of the strongest
qualities of the Hebrew character. The genuine humility, the fervid
consecration, the dauntless faith of the Jews of this generation put to
shame the conduct of their countrymen in many ages more celebrated. And
it cannot be doubted that this book was both the effect and the cause of
this lofty national purpose. "Rarely," says Ewald, "does it happen that
a book appears as this did, in the very crisis of the times, and in a
form most suited to such an age, artificially reserved, close and
severe, and yet shedding so clear a light through obscurity, and so
marvelously captivating. It was natural that it should soon achieve a
success entirely corresponding to its inner truth and glory. And so, for
the last time in the literature of the Old Testament, we have in this
book an example of a work which, having sprung from the deepest
necessities of the noblest impulses of the age, can render to that age
the purest service; and which, by the development of events immediately
after, receives with such power the stamp of Divine witness that it
subsequently attains imperishable sanctity." [Footnote: Quoted by
Stanley, _History of the Jewish Church_, iii. p. 336.]



The poetical books of the Old Testament now invite our attention,--"The
Lamentations," "Proverbs," "Ecclesiastes," "The Song of Solomon," "Job,"
and "The Psalms." Ecclesiastes is not in poetical form, but it is a
prose poem; the movement of the language is often lyrical, and the
thought is all expressed in poetic phrases. The other books are all
poetical in form as well as in fact.

LAMENTATIONS, called in the Hebrew Bible by the quaint title "Ah How,"
the first two words of the book, and in the Greek Bible "Threnoi,"
signifying mourning, is placed in the middle of the latest group of the
Hebrew writings. In the English Bible it follows the prophecy of
Jeremiah. It is called in our version "The Lamentations of Jeremiah."
This title preserves the ancient tradition, and there is no reason to
doubt that the tradition embodies the truth. "In favor of this opinion,"
says Bleek, "we may note the agreement of the songs with Jeremiah's
prophecies in their whole character and spirit, in their purport, and in
the tone of disposition shown in them, as well as in the language.... As
regards the occasion and substance of these songs, the two first and the
two last relate to the misery which had been sent on the Jewish people,
and particularly on Jerusalem; the middle one, however, chiefly refers
to the personal sufferings of the author." [Footnote: Vol. ii. p. 102. ]

These five parts are not the five chapters of a book; they are five
distinct poems, each complete in itself, though they are all connected
in meaning. You notice the regularity of the structure, which is even
exhibited to some extent in the Old Version. The first and second, the
fourth and fifth, have each twenty-two verses or stanzas; the third one
has sixty-six stanzas. All but the last are acrostical poems. There are
twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet; each of these letters, in
regular order, begins a verse in four of these songs; in the third
lamentation there are three verses for each letter.

The time at which these elegies were written was undoubtedly the year of
the capture of Jerusalem by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, 586 B.C. The
Chaldean army had been investing the city for more than a year; the
walls were finally broken down, and the Chaldeans rushed in; as they
gained entrance on one side, the wretched King Zedekiah escaped on the
other with a few followers and fled down the Jericho road; he was
pursued and overtaken, his sons and princes were slain before his face,
then his own eyes were put out, and he was led away in chains to
Babylon, where he afterward died in captivity. After a few months' work
of this sort, a portion of the Chaldeans under Nebuzar-adan returned to
the dismantled and pillaged city and utterly destroyed both the city and
the temple. It is supposed that Jeremiah, who was allowed to remain in
the city during this bloody interval, wrote these elegies in the midst
of the desolation and fear then impending. "Never," says Dean Milman,
"was ruined city lamented in language so exquisitely pathetic. Jerusalem
is, as it were, personified and bewailed with the passionate sorrow of
private and domestic attachment; while the more general pictures of the
famine, common misery of every rank and age and sex, all the desolation,
the carnage, the violation, the dragging away into captivity, the
remembrance of former glories, of the gorgeous ceremonies, and of the
glad festivals, the awful sense of the Divine wrath, heightening the
present calamities, are successively drawn with all the life and reality
of an eye-witness." [Footnote: _History of the Jews_, i. 446.]  The
ethical and spiritual qualities of the book are pure and high; the
writer does not fail to enforce the truth that it is because "Jerusalem
hath grievously sinned" that "she is become an unclean thing." And in
the midst of all this calamity there is no rebellion against God; it is
only the cry of a desolate but trusting soul to a just and faithful

THE PROVERBS, in the Hebrew Bible, is called "Mishle," or sometimes
"Mishle Shelomoh." The first word signifies Parables or Proverbs or
Sayings; the second word is the supposed name of the author, Solomon. By
the later Jews it is sometimes called "Sepher Chokmah,"--the Book of
Wisdom,--the same title as that which is borne by one of the apocryphal

Here, doubtless, we have again, in the name of the author, what
Delitzsch calls a common denominator. On this subject the words of
William Aldis Wright, in Smith's "Bible Dictionary," express a
conservative judgment:--

"The superscriptions which are affixed to several portions of the Book
of Proverbs in i. 1, x. 1, xxv. 1, attribute the authorship of those
portions to Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel. With the
exception of the last two chapters, which are distinctly assigned to
other authors, it is probable that the statement of the superscriptions
is in the main correct, and that the majority of the proverbs contained
in the book were uttered or collected by Solomon. It was natural and
quite in accordance with the practice of other nations that the Hebrews
should connect Solomon's name with a collection of maxims and precepts
which form a part of their literature to which he is known to have
contributed most largely (1 Kings, iv. 32). In the same way the Greeks
attributed most of their sayings to Pythagoras; the Arabs to Lokman, Abu
Obeid, Al Mofaddel, Meidani, and Samakhshari; the Persians to Ferid
Attar; and the northern people to Odin.

"But there can be no question that the Hebrews were much more justified
in assigning the Proverbs to Solomon than the nations which have just
been enumerated were in attributing the collections of national maxims
to the traditional authors above mentioned." [Footnote: Art. "Book of

This is, undoubtedly, as much as can be truly said respecting the
Solomonian authorship of these sayings. Professor Davidson, writing at a
later day, is more guarded.

"In the book which now exists we find gathered together the most
precious fruits of the wisdom of Israel during many hundreds of years,
and undoubtedly the later centuries were richer, or at all events
fuller, in their contributions than the earlier. The tradition, however,
which connects Solomon with the direction of mind known as 'The Wisdom'
cannot be reasonably set aside.... Making allowances for the
exaggerations of later times, we should leave history and tradition
altogether unexplained if we disallowed the claim of Solomon to have
exercised a creative influence upon the wisdom in Israel." [Footnote:
Art. "Proverbs," _Encyc. Brit._]

The book is divided into several sections:

1. A general introduction, explaining the character and aim of the book,
which occupies the first six verses.

2. A connected discourse upon wisdom, not in the form of maxims, but
rather in the manner of a connected essay, fills the first nine

3. The next thirteen chapters (x.-xxii. 16) contain three hundred and
seventy-four miscellaneous proverbs, each consisting of two phrases, the
second of which is generally antithetical to the first, as "A wise son
maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is a heaviness to his mother."
There is only one exception (xix. 7), where the couplet is a triplet.
Probably one phrase has been lost. The heading of this section is "The
Proverbs of Solomon;" the section ends with the twenty-second chapter.

4. From xxii. 17 to xxiv. 22 is a more connected discussion, though in
the proverbial form, of the principles of conduct. This is introduced by
a brief exhortation to listen to "the words of the wise."

5. At xxiv. 23, begins another short section which extends through the
chapter, under this title: "These also are sayings of the wise."

6. The next five chapters (xxv.-xxix.) have for their caption this
sentence: "These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of
Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out."

7. Chapter xxx. is said to contain "The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh,
the oracle." The author is wholly unknown.

8. Chapter xxxi. 1-9, contains "The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy
that his mother taught him." He too stands here upon the sacred page but
the shadow of a name.

9. The book closes with an acrostical poem---twenty-two verses beginning
with the Hebrew letters in the order of the alphabet--upon "The Virtuous
Woman." The word "virtue" here is used in the Roman sense; it signifies
rather the vigorous woman, the capable woman.

Of these sections it seems probable that the one here numbered 6 is the
oldest, and that it contains the largest proportion of Solomonian
sayings. Professor Davidson thinks that it cannot have taken its present
form earlier than the eighth century.

The character of the teaching of the book is not uniform, but on the
whole it is best described as prudential rather than prophetic. It
embodies what we are in the habit of calling "good common sense." There
is an occasional maxim whose application to our own time may be doubted,
and now and then one whose morality has been superseded by the higher
standards of the New Testament; but, after making all due deductions, we
shall doubtless agree that it is a precious legacy of practical counsel,
and shall consent to these words of Professor Conant:--

"The gnomic poetry of the most enlightened of other nations will not
bear comparison with it in the depth and certainty of its foundation
principles, or in the comprehensiveness and moral grandeur of its
conceptions of human duty and responsibility." [Footnote: Smith's
_Bible Dictionary_, iii. 2616. ]

Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher, bears in the Hebrew collection the name,
"Koheleth," which means the assembler of the people, and therefore,
probably, the man who addresses the assembly. Ecclesiastes is the Greek
name of the book in the Septuagint; we have simply copied the Greek word
in English letters.

The first verse is, "The words of Koheleth (the Preacher), the son of
David, King in Jerusalem." The only son of David who was ever king in
Jerusalem was Solomon; was Solomon the author of this book? This is the
apparent claim; the question is whether we have not here, as in the case
of Daniel, a book put forth pseudonymously; whether the author does not
personate Solomon, and speak his message through Solomon's lips. That
this is the fact modern scholars almost unanimously maintain. Their
reasons for their opinion may be briefly stated:

1. In the conclusion of the book the author speaks in his own person,
laying aside the thin disguise which he has been wearing. In several
other passages the literary veil becomes transparent. Thus (i. 12), "I
Koheleth was king over Israel in Jerusalem." This sounds like the voice
of one looking backward and trying to put himself in Solomon's place.
Again, in this and the following chapter, he says of himself: "I have
gotten me great wisdom above all that were before me in Jerusalem;" "I
was great, and increased more than all that were before me in
Jerusalem," etc.,--"all of which," says Bleek, "does not appear very
natural as coming from the son of David, who first captured Jerusalem."
Nobody had been before him in Jerusalem except his father David.

2. The state of society as described in the book, and particularly the
reference to rulers, agree better with the theory that it was written
during the Persian period, after the Captivity, when the satraps of the
Persian king were ruling with vacillating arbitrariness and fitful

3. The religious condition of the people as here depicted, and the
religious ideas of the book represent the period following the
Captivity, and do not represent the golden age of Israel.

4. More important and indeed perfectly decisive is the fact that the
book is full of Chaldaisms, and that the Hebrew is the later Hebrew, of
the days of Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, and Esther. It could not have been
written by Solomon, any more than the "Idylls of the King" could have
been written by Edmund Spenser. There are those, of course, who maintain
that the book was written by Solomon; just as there are those who still
maintain that the sun revolves around the earth. The reason for this
opinion is found in the first sentence of the book itself. The book
announces its own author, it is said; and to question the truth of this
claim is to deny the veracity of Scripture. On this question we may
call, from the array of conservative writers who have given us Smith's
"Bible Dictionary," such a witness as Professor Plumptre:--

"The hypothesis that every such statement in a canonical book must be
received as literally true is, in fact, an assumption that inspired
writers were debarred from forms of composition which were open, without
blame, to others. In the literature of every other nation the form of
personated authorship, when there is no _animus decipiendi_, has
been recognized as a legitimate channel for the expression of opinions,
or the quasi-dramatic representation of character. Why should we venture
on the assertion that if adopted by the writers of the Old Testament it
would make them guilty of falsehood?...There is nothing that need
startle us in the thought that an inspired writer might use a liberty
which has been granted without hesitation to the teachers of mankind in
every age and country." [Footnote:  Art. "Ecclesiastes," vol. i. p.

That such is the character of the book and that it appeared some time
during the Persian age are well-ascertained results of scholarship.

The doctrine of the book is not so easily summarized. It is a hard book
to interpret. Dr. Ginsberg gives a striking _résumé_ of the
different theories of its teaching which have been promulgated. There is
no room here to enter upon the great question. Let it suffice to say
that we seem to have in these words the soliloquy of a soul struggling
with the problem of evil, sometimes borne down by a dismal skepticism,
sometimes asserting his faith in the enduring righteousness. The
writer's problem is the one to which Mr. Mallock has given an
epigrammatic statement: "Is life worth living?" He greatly doubts, yet
he strongly hopes. Much of the time it appears to him that the best
thing a man can do is to enjoy the present good and let the world wag.
But the outcome of all this struggle is the conviction that there is a
life beyond this life and a tribunal at which all wrongs will be
righted, and that to fear God and keep his commandments is the whole
duty of man. There are thus many passages in the book which express a
bitter skepticism; to winnow the wheat from the chaff and to find out
what we ought to think about life is a serious undertaking. It is only
the wise and skillful interpreter who can steer his bark along these
tortuous channels of reflection, and not run aground. Yet, properly
interpreted, the book is sound for substance of doctrine, and the
experience which it delineates, though sad and depressing, is full of
instruction for us. Dean Stanley's words about it are as true as they
are eloquent; they will throw some light on the path which lies just
before us:--

"As the Book of Job is couched in the form of a dramatic argument
between the patriarch and his friends, as the Song of Songs is a
dramatic dialogue between the Lover and the Loved One, so the Book of
Ecclesiastes is a drama of a still more tragic kind. It is an
interchange of voices, higher and lower, mournful and joyful, within a
single human soul. It is like the struggle between the two principles in
the Epistle to the Romans. It is like the question and answer of 'The
Two Voices' of our modern poet.... Every speculation and thought of the
human heart is heard and expressed and recognized in turn. The
conflicts, which in other parts of the Bible are confined to a single
verse or a single chapter, are here expanded into a whole book." And
after quoting a few of the darker and more cynical utterances, this
clear-sighted teacher goes on: "Their cry is indeed full of doubt and
despair and perplexity; it is such as we often hear from the melancholy,
skeptical, inquiring spirits of our own age; such as we often refuse to
hear and regard as unworthy even a good man's thought or care, but the
admission of such a cry into the Book of Ecclesiastes shows that it is
not beneath the notice of the Bible, not beneath the notice of God."
[Footnote: _History of the Jewish Church_, ii. 283, 284.]

"THE SONG OF SONGS" is another of the books ascribed to Solomon. It may
have been written in Solomon's time; that it was composed by Solomon
himself is not probable.

It has generally been regarded as an allegorical poem; the Jews
interpreted it as setting forth the love of Jehovah for Israel; the
Christian interpreters have made it the representation of the love of
Christ for his Church. These are the two principal theories, but it
might be instructive to let Archdeacon Farrar recite to us a short list
of the explanations which have been given of the book in the course of
the ages:--

"It represents, say the commentators, the love of God for the
congregation of Israel; it relates the history of the Jews from the
Exodus to the Messiah; it is a consolation to afflicted Israel; it is an
occult history; it represents the union of the divine soul with the
earthly body, or of the material with the active intellect; it is the
conversation of Solomon and Wisdom; it describes the love of Christ to
his Church; it is historico-prophetic; it is Solomon's thanksgiving for
a happy reign; it is a love-song unworthy of any place in the canon; it
treats of man's reconciliation to God; it is a prophecy of the Church
from the Crucifixion till after the Reformation; it is an anticipation
of the Apocalypse; it is the seven days' epithalamium on the marriage of
Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh; it is a magazine for direction and
consolation under every condition; it treats in hieroglyphics of the
sepulchre of the Saviour, his death, and the Old Testament saints; it
refers to Hezekiah and the Ten Tribes; it is written in glorification of
the Virgin Mary. Such were the impossible and diverging interpretations
of what many regarded as the very Word of God. A few only, till the
beginning of this century, saw the truth,--which is so obvious to all
who go to the Bible with the humble desire to know what it says, and not
to interpret it into their own baseless fancies,--that it is the
exquisite celebration of a pure love in humble life; of a love which no
splendor can dazzle and no flattery seduce."

These last sentences of Canon Farrar give the probable clew to the
interpretation of the book. It is a dramatic poem, celebrating the story
of a beautiful peasant girl, a native of the northern village of Shunem,
who was carried away by Solomon's officers and confined in his harem at
Jerusalem. But in the midst of all this splendor her heart is true to
the peasant lover whom she has left behind, nor can any blandishments of
the king disturb her constancy; her honor remains unstained, and she is
carried home at length, heart-whole and happy, by the swain who has come
to Jerusalem for her rescue. This is the beautiful story. The phrases in
which it is told are, indeed, too explicit for Occidental ears; the
color and the heat of the tropics is in the poetry, but it is perfectly
pure; it celebrates the triumph of maiden modesty and innocence. "The
song breathes at the same time," says Ewald, "such deep modesty and
chaste innocence of heart, such determined defiance of the
over-refinement and degeneracy of the court-life, such stinging scorn of
the growing corruption of life in great cities and palaces, that no
clearer or stronger testimony can be found of the healthy vigor which,
in this century, still characterized the nation at large, than the
combination of art and simplicity in the Canticles." [Footnote: _History
of Israel_, iv. 43.]

The Book of Job has been the subject of a great amount of critical
study. The earliest Jewish tradition is that it was written by Moses;
this tradition is preserved in the Talmud, which afterward states that
it was composed by an Israelite who returned to Palestine from the
Babylonian Captivity. It is almost certain that the first of these
traditions is baseless. The theory that it was written after the
Captivity is held by many scholars, but it is beset with serious

The book contains no allusion whatever to the Levitical law, nor to any
of the religious rites and ceremonies of the Jews. The inference has
therefore been drawn that it must have been written before the giving of
the law, probably in the period between Abraham and Moses. It seems
inconceivable that a devout Hebrew should have treated all the great
questions discussed in this book without any reference to the religious
institutions of his own people. It is equally difficult to understand
how the divine interposition for the punishment of the wicked and the
rewarding of the righteous could have been so fully considered without a
glance at the lessons of the Exodus, if the Exodus had taken place
before the book was written. But these arguments for an early origin are
quite neutralized by the doctrine of the book. The view of divine
providence set forth in it is very unlike that contained in the
Pentateuch. It is not necessary to say that there is any contradiction
between these two views; but the subject is approached from a very
different direction, and the whole tone of the book indicates a state of
religious thought quite different from that which existed among the
Hebrews before the Exodus. "If we are to believe that Moses wrote it,"
says a late critic, "then we must believe that he held these views as an
esoteric philosophy, and omitted from the religion which he gave to his
people the truths which had been revealed to him in the desert. The book
itself must have been suppressed until long after his day. The ignorant
Israelites could not have been trained under the discipline of the Law
if they had had at the same time the fiery, cynical, half-skeptical, and
enigmatical commentary which the Book of Job furnishes. There is nothing
abnormal or contrary to the conception of an inspired revelation in the
development of truth by wider views and deeper analysis through
successive sacred writers. But it is repulsive to conceive an inspired
teacher as first gaining the wider view, and then deliberately hiding
it, to utter the truth in cruder and more partial forms." [Footnote:
Raymond's _The Book of Job_, p. 18.] The fact that neither the
person nor the Book of Job is mentioned in the historical books of the
Jews, and that the first reference to him is in the Book of Ezekiel,
would indicate that the date of the book must have been much later than
the time of Moses. This argument could not be pressed, however, for we
have noted already the silence of the earlier historical books
concerning the Mosaic law.

The dilemma of the critics may be summed up as follows:--

1. The absence of allusion to the history of the Exodus and to the
Mosaic system shows that it must have been written before the Exodus. 2.
The absence of all reference to the book in the Hebrew history, and more
especially the doctrinal character of the book, shows that it could not
have been written before the age of Solomon. The latter conclusion is
held much more firmly than the former; and the silence respecting the
history and the Law is explained on the theory that the book is a
historical drama, the scene of which is laid in the period before Moses,
and the historic unities of which have been perfectly observed by the
writer. _The people of this drama_ lived before the Exodus and the
giving of the Law, and their conversations do not, therefore, refer to
any of the events which have happened since. The locality of the drama
is the "Land of Uz," and the geographers agree that the descriptions of
the book apply to the region known in the classical geographies as
"Arabia Deserta," southeast of Palestine. It is admitted that the
scenery and costume of the book are not Jewish; and they agree more
perfectly with what is known of that country than with any other. That
Job was a real personage, and that the drama is founded upon historical
tradition cannot be doubted. It is probable that it was written after
the time of Josiah.

I need not rehearse the story. Job is overtaken by great losses and
sufferings; in the midst of his calamities three friends draw near to
condole with him, and also to administer to him a little wholesome
reproof and admonition. Their theory is that suffering such as he is
enduring is a sign of the divine displeasure; that Job must have been a
great sinner, or he could not be such a sufferer. This argument Job
indignantly repels. He does not claim to be perfect, but he knows that
he has been an upright man, and he knows that bad men round about him
are prospering, while he is scourged and overwhelmed with trouble; he
sees this happening all over the earth,--the good afflicted, the evil
exalted; and he knows, therefore, that the doctrine of his miserable
comforters cannot be true. Sin does bring suffering, that he admits; but
that all suffering is the result of sin he denies. He cannot understand
it; his heart is bitter when he reflects upon it; and the insistence of
his visitors awakes in him a fierce indignation, and leads him to charge
God with injustice and cruelty. They are shocked and scandalized at his
almost blasphemous outcries against God; but he maintains his
righteousness, and drives his critics and censors from the field.
Finally Jehovah himself is represented as answering Job out of the
whirlwind, in one of the most sublime passages in all
literature,--silencing the arguments of his friends, sweeping away all
the reasonings which have preceded, explaining nothing, but only
affirming his own infinite power and wisdom. Before this august
manifestation Job bows with submission; the mystery of evil is not
explained; he is only convinced that it cannot be explained, and is
content to be silent and wait. The teaching of the book is well
summarized in these words of Dr. Raymond:--

"The current notion that calamity is always the punishment of crime and
prosperity always the reward of piety is not true. Neither is it true
that the distress of a righteous man is an indication of God's anger.
There are other purposes in the Divine mind of which we know nothing.
For instance, a good man may be afflicted, by permission of God, and
through the agency of Satan, to prove the genuine character of his
goodness. But whether this or some other reason, involved in the
administration of the universe, underlies the dispensation of temporal
blessings and afflictions, one thing is certain: the plans of God are
not, will not be, cannot be revealed; and the resignation of faith, not
of fatalism, is the only wisdom of man." [Footnote: _The Book of
Job_, p. 49.]

I have reserved for the last the most precious of all the Hebrew
writings, the _Book of Psalms_. The Hebrews called it "Tehillim,"
praise-book or hymn-book, and the title exactly describes it; in the
form in which we have it, it was a hymn-book prepared for the service
of the later temple.

If the question "Who wrote the Psalms?" were to be propounded in any
meeting of Sunday-school teachers, nine tenths of them would
unhesitatingly answer, "David." If the same question were put to an
assembly of modern Biblical scholars some would answer that David wrote
very few and perhaps not any of the psalms; that they were written
during the Maccabean dynasty, only one or two hundred years before
Christ. Both these views are extreme. We may believe that David did
write several of the psalms, but it is more than probable that the great
majority of them are from other writers.

Seventy-three psalms of the book seem to be ascribed to David in their
titles. "A Psalm of David," "Maschil of David," "Michtam of David," or
something similar is written over seventy-three different psalms.
Concerning these titles there has been much discussion. It has been
maintained that they are found in the ancient Hebrew text as constituent
parts of the Psalms, and are therefore entitled to full credit. But this
theory does not seem to be held by the majority of modern scholars. "The
variations of the inscriptions," says a late conservative writer, "in
the Septuagint and the other versions sufficiently prove that they were
not regarded as fixed portions of the canon, and that they were open to
conjectural emendations." [Footnote: _Speaker's Commentary_, iv.
151.] Dr. Moll, the learned author of the monograph on the Psalms in
Lange's "Commentary," says in his introduction: "The assumption that all
the inscriptions originated with the authors of the Psalms, and are
therefore inseparable from the text, cannot be consistently maintained.
It can at most be held only of a few.... There is now a disposition to
admit that some of them may have originated with the authors

The probability is that most of these inscriptions were added by editors
and transcribers of the Psalms. You open your hymn-book, and find over
one hymn the name of Watts, and over another the name of Wesley, and
over another the name of Montgomery. Who inserted these names? Not the
authors, of course, but the editor or compiler of the collection.
Compilers in these days are careful and accurate, but they do make
mistakes, and you find the same hymn ascribed to different authors in
different books, while hymns that are anonymous in one book are credited
in another, rightly or wrongly, to the name of some author. The men who
collected the hymn-book of the Jews made similar mistakes, and the old
copies do not agree in all their titles.

But while the inscriptions over the psalms do not, generally, belong to
the psalms themselves, and are not in all cases accurate, most of them
were, no doubt, suffixed to the psalms at a very early day. "On the
whole," says Dr. Moll, "an opinion favorable to the antiquity and value
of these superscriptions has again been wrought out, which ascribes them
for the most part to tradition, and indeed a very ancient one."

Even if the titles were rightly translated, then, they would not give us
conclusive proof of the authorship of the Psalms. But some of the best
scholars assert that they are not rightly translated. The late Professor
Murray of Johns Hopkins University, whose little book on the Psalms is
vouched for as one of the most admirable productions of Biblical
scholarship which has yet appeared in this country, says that "whenever
we have an inscription in our version stating that the psalm is 'of
David' it is almost invariably a mistranslation of the original." It
should be written "to David," and it signifies that the compilers
ascribed the psalm to a more ancient collection to which the name of
David had been appended, not because he wrote all the poems in it, but
because he originated the collection and wrote many of its songs. This
older collection was called "The Psalms of David" something as a popular
hymn-book of these times is called Robinson's "Laudes Domini," because
Dr. Robinson compiled the book, and wrote some of the hymns. This old
Davidic collection is not in existence, but many of the psalms in our
book were taken from it, and the titles in our version are attempts to
credit to this old book such of them as were thus borrowed.

This method of crediting is not altogether unknown in this critical age.
In the various eclectic commentaries on the Sunday-school lessons I
often find sentences and paragraphs credited to "William Smith" which
were taken from Dr. Smith's "Bible Dictionary," the articles from which
they are taken being signed in all cases by the initials of the men who
wrote them. I find, also, quotations from the "Speaker's Commentary," of
which Canon Cook is the editor, ascribed to "F. C. Cook," or to "Cook,"
though the table of contents in the volume from which the quotation was
taken bears in capital letters the name of the writer of the commentary
on this particular book. In like manner "Lange" gets the credit of all
that is written in his famous "Bibelwerk," though he wrote very little
of it himself. The power to distinguish between editorship and
authorship was not, probably, possessed by ancient compilers in any
greater degree than by modern ones; and the inscriptions over the psalms
must be estimated with this fact in view.

I have spoken of the present collection of the Psalms as one book, but
it is in reality five books. It is so divided in the Revised Version.
The concluding verse of the Forty-first Psalm is as follows: "Blessed be
the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen."
This doxology marks the close of the first hymn-book prepared by the
Jews for the worship of the second temple. It was probably formed soon
after the first return from the Exile. All the Psalms except the first,
the tenth, and the thirty-third are credited to the old Davidic Psalm
Book. The title of the thirty-third has probably been omitted by some
copyist; the ninth and tenth in some old Hebrew copies are written as
one psalm, and there is an acrostical arrangement which shows that they
really belong together. The psalm may have been divided for liturgical
purposes, or by accident in copying. The title of the ninth, therefore,
covers the tenth. The first and second are, then, the only psalms that
are not ascribed to the old book of which this book was simply an

At the end of the Seventy-second Psalm is the doxology which marks the
close of the second of these hymn-books. After a while the psalms of the
first book grew stale and familiar, and a new book was wanted. "Gospel
Hymns No. 1," of the Moody and Sankey psalmody, had to be followed after
a year or two by "Gospel Hymns No. 2," and then by "No. 3" and "No. 4"
and "No. 5," and finally they were all bound up together. I may be
pardoned for associating things sacred with things not very sacred, and
poetry with something that is not always poetry, but the illustration,
familiar to all, shows exactly how these five hymn-books of the Jews
first came to be, and how they were at length combined in one.

The last verse of the Seventy-second Psalm has puzzled many readers:
"The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." After this you find
in our collection several psalms ascribed to David, some of which he
undoubtedly wrote. The probable explanation is that the Seventy-second
Psalm was the last psalm of the old Davidic hymn-book; the compiler made
it the last one of this second book, and carelessly copied into this
psalm the inscription with which the old book ended.

The second of these hymn-books begins, therefore, with Psalm xlii., and
ends with Psalm lxxii., a collection of thirty-one songs of praise.

Number three of the temple-service contains eighteen psalms, and ends
with Psalm lxxxix; this book, as well as the one that precedes it, is
ascribed by a probable tradition to Nehemiah as its compiler.

The last verse of Psalm cvi. indicates the close of the fourth book. It
contains but seventeen psalms, and is the shortest book of the five. The
fifth book includes the remaining forty-four psalms, among them the
"Songs of David," or Pilgrim Songs, sung by the people on their journeys
to Jerusalem to keep the solemn feasts. It is probable that this fifth
book was compiled by the authorities in charge of the temple worship,
and that they at the same time collected the other four books and put
them all together, completing in this way the greater book of sacred
lyrics which has been so precious to many generations not only of Jews,
but also of Christians.

Various unsuccessful attempts have been made to classify these books
according to their subject-matter. It is plain that the first two are
composed chiefly of the oldest psalms and of those adapted to the
general purposes of worship; the third book reflects the grief of the
nation in the Captivity; the fourth, the joy of the returning exiles;
the fifth contains a more miscellaneous collection.  The Jewish scholars
recognize and sometimes attempt to explain this arrangement of the
Psalms into five books. The Hebrew Midrash on Psalm i. I., says: "Moses
gave the five books of the law to the Israelites, and as a counterpart
of them, David gave the Psalms consisting of five books." This is, of
course, erroneous; the present collection of Psalms was made long after
the time of David; but it is not unlikely that some notion of a
symmetrical arrangement of the Psalms, to correspond to the five-fold
division of the Law, influenced the compilers of this Praise Book.

Of the contents of this book, of the peculiar structure of Hebrew
poetry, and of the historic references in many of the psalms, much might
be said, but this investigation would lead us somewhat aside from our
present purpose.

It may, however, be well to add a word or two respecting some of the
inscriptions and notations borne by the Psalms in our translation. Many
of them are composed of Hebrew words, transliterated into
English,--spelled out with English letters. King James' translators did
not know what they meant, so they reproduced them in this way. There has
been much discussion as to the meaning of several of them, and the
scholars are by no means agreed; the interpretations which follow are
mainly those given by Professor Murray:--

First is the famous "Selah," which we used to hear pronounced with great
solemnity when the Psalms were read. It is a musical term, meaning,
perhaps, something like our "Da Capo" or, possibly, "Forte"--a mark of
expression like those Italian words which you find over the staff on
your sheet music.

"Michtam" and "Maschil" are also musical notes, indicating the time of
the melody,--metronome-marks, so to speak; and "Gittith" and "Shiggaion"
are marks that indicate the kind of melody to which the psalm is to be

"Negiloth" means stringed instruments; it indicates the kind of
accompaniment with which the psalm was to be sung. "Nehiloth" signifies
pipes or flutes, perhaps wind instruments in general.

The inscription "To the Chief Musician" means, probably, "For the Leader
of the Choir," and indicates that the original copy of the psalm thus
inserted in the book was one that had belonged to the chorister in the
old temple. "Upon Shemimith" means "set for bass voices;" "Upon
Alamoth," "set for female voices." "Upon Muthlabben," a curious
transliteration, means "arranged for training the soprano voices."
Professor Murray supposes that this particular psalm was used for
rehearsal by the women singers.

Some of these inscriptions designate the airs to which the psalms were
set, part of which seem to be sacred, and part secular. Such is "Shushan
Eduth," over Psalm lx., meaning "Fair as lilies is thy law," apparently
the name of a popular religious air. Another, probably secular, is over
Psalm xxii., "Aijeleth Shahar," "The stag at dawn," and another, over
Psalm 1vi., "Jonathelem Rechokim," which is, being interpreted, "O
silent dove, what bringest thou us from out the distance?"

These inscriptions and many other features of this ancient Hebrew poetry
have furnished puzzles for the unlearned and problems for the scholars,
but the meaning of the psalms themselves is for the most part clear
enough. The humble disciple pauses with some bewilderment over
"Neginoth" or "Michtam;" he classes them perhaps among the mysteries
which the angels desire to look into; but when he reads a little farther
on, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want;" or "God is our refuge
and strength, a very present help in trouble;" or "Create in me a clean
heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me," he knows full well
what these words mean. There is no life so lofty that these psalms do
not lift up a standard before it; there is no life so lowly that it does
not find in them words that utter its deepest humility and its faintest
trust. Wherever we are these psalms find us; they search the deep things
of our hearts; they bring to us the great things of God. Of how many
heroic characters have these old temple songs been the inspiration!
Jewish saints and patriots chanted them in the synagogue and on the
battle-field; apostles and evangelists sung them among perils of the
wilderness, as they traversed the rugged paths of Syria and Galatia and
Macedonia; martyrs in Rome softly hummed them when the lions near at
hand were crouching for their prey: in German forests, in Highland
glens, Lutherans and Covenanters breathed their lives out through their
cadences; in every land penitent souls have found in them words to tell
the story of their sorrow, and victorious souls the voices of their
triumph; mothers watching their babes by night have cheered the vigil by
singing them; mourners walking in lonely ways have been lighted by the
great hopes that shine through them, and pilgrims going down into the
valley of the shadow of death have found in their firm assurances a
strong staff to lean upon. Lyrics like these, into which so much of the
divine truth was breathed when they were written, and which a hundred
generations of the children of men have saturated with tears and
praises, with battle shouts and sobs of pain, with all the highest and
deepest experiences of the human soul, will live as long as joy lives
and long after sorrow ceases; will live beyond this life, and be sung by
pure voices in that land from which the silent dove, coming from afar,
brings us now and then upon her shining wings some glimpses of a glory
that eye hath never seen.

NOTE. The reference on pages 200 and 201 to the Gospel Hymns is not
strictly accurate. "Number Five" has not been bound up with the other



The books of the New Testament are now before us. Our task is not
without its difficulties; questions will confront us which have never
yet been answered, and probably will never be; nevertheless, compared
with the Old Testament writings, the books of the New Testament are
well-known documents; we are on firm ground of history when we talk
about them; of but few of the famous books of Greek and Latin authors
can we speak so confidently as to their date and their authorship as we
can concerning most of them.

We have in the New Testament a collection of twenty-seven books, by nine
different authors. Of these books thirteen are ascribed to the Apostle
Paul; five to John the son of Zebedee; two to Peter; two to Luke; one
each to Matthew, Mark, James, and Jude, and the authorship of one is

Of these books it must be first remarked that they were not only written
separately but that there is no trace in any of them of the
consciousness on the part of the author that he was contributing to a
collection of sacred writings. Of the various epistles it is especially
evident that they were written on special occasions, with a certain
audience immediately in view; the thought that they were to be preserved
and gathered into a book, which was to be handed down through the coming
centuries as an inspired volume, does not appear to have entered the
mind of the writer. But this fact need not detract from their value;
often the highest truth to which a man gives utterance is truth of whose
value he is imperfectly aware.

It must also be remembered that these books of the New Testament were
nearly all written by apostles. The only clear exceptions are the Gospel
of Mark, the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistle
to the Hebrews; and the authors of these books, though not apostles,
were undoubtedly in the closest relations with apostolic men, and
reflected their thought. These apostolic men had received a special
training and a definite commission to bear witness of their Master, to
tell the story of his life and death, and to build up his kingdom in the

We must admit that they possessed unusual qualifications for this work.
Those who had been for three years in constant and loving intercourse
with Jesus Christ ought to have been inspired men. And he promised them,
before he parted from them, that the Spirit of truth should come to them
and abide with them to lead them into all truth.

Now although we may find it difficult to give a satisfactory definition
of inspiration; though we may be utterly unable to express, in any
formularies of our own, the influence of the Infinite Spirit upon human
minds, yet we can easily believe that these apostolic men were
exceptionally qualified to teach religious truth. No prophet of the
olden time had any such preparation for his mission as that which was
vouchsafed to them. No school of the prophets, from the days of Samuel
downward, could be compared to that sacred college of apostles,--that
group of divine peripatetics, who followed their master through Galilee
and Perea, and sat down with him day by day, for three memorable years,
on the mountain top and by the lake side, to listen to the words of life
from the lips of One who spake as never man spake.

To say that this training made them infallible is to speak beyond the
record. There is no promise of infallibility, and the history makes it
plain enough that no such gift was bestowed. The Spirit of all truth was
promised; but it was promised for their guidance in all their work, in
their preaching, their administration, their daily conduct of life.
There is no hint anywhere that any special illumination or protection
would be given to them when they took the pen into their hands to write;
they were then inspired just as much as they were when they stood up to
speak, or sat down to plan their missionary campaigns,--just as much and
no more.

Now it is certain that the inspiration vouchsafed them did not make them
infallible in their ordinary teaching, or in their administration of the
church. They made mistakes of a very serious nature. It is beyond
question that the majority of the apostles took at the beginning an
erroneous view of the relation of the Gentiles to the Christian church.
They insisted that Gentiles must first become Jews before they could
become Christians; that the only way into the Christian church was
through the synagogue and the temple. It was a grievous and radical
error; it struck at the foundations of Christian faith. And this error
was entertained by these inspired apostles after the day of Pentecost;
it influenced their teaching; it led them to proclaim a defective
gospel. This is not the assertion of a skeptic, it is the clear
testimony of the Apostle Paul. If you will read the second chapter of
his Epistle to the Galatians you will learn from the mouth of an
unimpeachable witness that the very leaders of the apostolic band, Peter
and James and John, were greatly in error with respect to a most
important subject of the Christian teaching. In his account of that
famous council at Antioch, Paul says that Peter and James and John were
wholly in the wrong, and that Peter, for his part, had been acting

"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he
stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he did eat
with the Gentiles: but when they came, he drew back and separated
himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the
Jews [the Jewish Christians] dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that
even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw
that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I
said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the
Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to
live as do the Jews?"

Now it is evident that one or the other of these opposing parties in the
apostolic college must have been in error, if not greatly at fault, with
respect to this most vital question of Christian faith and doctrine.
When one apostle resists another to the face because he stands
condemned, and tells him that he walks not uprightly, according to the
truth of the gospel, it must be that one or the other of them has, for
the time being, ceased to be infallible in his administration of the
truth of the gospel. And if these apostolic men, sitting in their
councils, teaching in their congregations, can make such mistakes as
these, how can we be sure that they never make a mistake when they sit
down to write, that then their words are always the very word of God? We
can have no such assurance. Indeed we are expressly told that their
words are not, in some cases, the very word of God; for the Apostle Paul
plainly tells us over and over, in his epistles to the Corinthians (1
Cor. vii.; 2 Cor. xi.), that upon certain questions he is giving his own
opinion,--that he has no commandment of the Lord. With respect to one
matter he says that he is speaking after his own judgment, but that he
"thinks" he has the Spirit of the Lord; two or three times he distinctly
declares that it is he, Paul, and not the Lord, that is speaking.

All of these facts, and others of the same nature clearly brought before
us by the New Testament itself, must be held firmly in our minds when we
make up our theory of what these writings are. That these books were
written by inspired men is, indeed, indubitable; that these men
possessed a degree of inspiration far exceeding that vouchsafed to any
other religious teachers who have lived on the earth is to my mind
plain; that this degree of inspiration enabled them to bear witness
clearly to the great facts of the gospel of Christ, and to present to us
with sufficient fullness and with substantial verity the doctrines of
the kingdom of heaven I am very sure; but that they were absolutely
protected against error, not one word in the record affirms, and they
themselves have taken the utmost pains to disabuse our minds of any such
impression. That is a theory about them which men made up out of their
own heads hundreds of years after they were dead. We shall certainly
find that they were not infallible; but we shall also find that, in all
the great matters which pertain to Christian faith and practice, when
their final testimony is collected and digested, it is clear,
harmonious, consistent, convincing; that they have been guided by the
Spirit of the Lord to tell us the truth which we need to know respecting
the life that now is and that which is to come.

Furthermore, it is a matter of rejoicing when we take up these books of
the New Testament to find their substantial integrity unimpeached. There
is no reason to suspect that any important changes have been made in any
of these books since they came from the hands of their writers. Whatever
may be said about the first three Gospels (and we shall come to that
question in our next chapter), the remaining books of the New Testament
have come down to us, unaltered, from the men who first wrote them.
There is none of that process of redaction, and accretion, and
reconstruction whose traces we have found in many of the Old Testament
books. There may be, here and there, a word or two or a verse or two
which has been interpolated by some officious copyist, but these
alterations are very slight. The books in our hands are the very same
books which were in the hands of the contemporaries and successors of
the apostles.

I shall not attempt any elaborate discussion of these twenty-seven
books. I only propose to go rapidly over them, indicating, with the
utmost brevity, the salient facts, so far as we know them, respecting
their authorship, the date and the place at which they were written, and
the circumstances which attended the production of them.

From the fact that the Gospels stand first in the New Testament
collection it is generally assumed that they are the earliest of the New
Testament books, but this is an error. Several of the Epistles were
certainly written before any of the Gospels; and one of the Gospels,
that of John, was written later than any of the Epistles, except the
three brief ones by the same author.

The first of these New Testament books that saw the light was, as is
generally supposed, the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. It was in
the year 48 of our era that St. Paul set out on his first missionary
journey from Antioch through Cyprus and Eastern Asia Minor, a journey
which occupied about a year. Two years afterward, his second journey
took him through the eastern part of Asia Minor and across the Ægean Sea
to Europe, where he preached in Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens,
and Corinth. His stay in Thessalonica was interrupted, as you will
remember, by the hostility of the Jews, and he remained but a short time
in that place; long enough, however, to gather a vigorous church.
Afterward, while he was in Corinth, he learned from one of his helpers
that the people of Thessalonica had misunderstood portions of his
teaching, and were in painful doubt on certain important subjects. To
set them right on these matters he wrote his first epistle, which was
forwarded to them from Corinth, probably about the year 52.

This explanation was also misunderstood by the Thessalonians, and it
became necessary during the next year to write to them again. These two
letters are in all probability the first of the Christian writings that
we possess. They contain instruction and counsel of which the Christians
of Thessalonica were just then in need. The question which had most
disturbed them had relation to the second coming of Christ. They
expected him to return very soon; they were impatient of delay; they
thought that those who died before his coming would miss the glorious
spectacle; and therefore they deplored the hard fate of some of their
number who had been snatched away by death before this sublime event. In
his first epistle the apostle assures them that the dead in Christ would
be raised to participate in their rejoicing. "We who are alive when the
Lord returns," he says, "will have no advantage over those who have been
called to their reward before us; for they will be raised from their
graves to take part with us in this great triumph." It is manifest that
Paul, when he wrote this, expected that Christ would return to earth
while he was alive. Alford and other conservative commentators say that
he here definitely expresses that expectation; others deny that these
words can be so interpreted, but concede that he did entertain some such
expectation. "It does not seem improper to admit," says Bishop Ellicott,
"that in their ignorance of the day of the Lord the apostles might have
imagined that he who was coming would come speedily." [Footnote: _Com.
in loc._] "It is unmistakably clear from this," says Olshausen, "that
Paul deemed it possible that he and his contemporaries might live to see
the coming again of Christ." "The early church, and even the apostles
themselves," say Conybeare and Howson, "expected their Lord to come
again in that very generation. St. Paul himself shared in that
expectation, but being under the guidance of the Spirit of truth, he did
not deduce any erroneous conclusions from this mistaken premise."
[Footnote: _Life and Epistles of St. Paul_, i. 401.] It is evident,
then, that St. Paul and the rest of the apostles were mistaken on this
point; this is one of the evidences which they themselves have taken
pains to point out to us of the fact that though they were inspired men
they were not infallible.

Paul's first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica was interpreted by
them, very naturally, as teaching that the return of the Lord was
imminent; and they began to neglect their daily duties and to behave in
the same foolish way that men have behaved in all the later ages, when
they have got their heads full of this notion. His second letter was
written chiefly to rebuke this fanaticism, and to bid them go right on
with their work making ready for the Lord's coming by a faithful
discharge of the duties of the present hour. St. Paul might have been
mistaken in his theories about the return of his Master, but his
practical wisdom was not at fault; it was his spirit that survived in
Abraham Davenport, the Connecticut legislator, who, in the "dark day" of
1780 when his colleagues thought that the end of the world had come,
refused to vote for the adjournment of the House, but insisted on
calling up the next bill; saying as Whittier has phrased it:--

  "'This well may be
   The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
   But be it so or not, I only know
   My present duty, and my Lord's command
   To occupy till he come. So at the post
   Where he hath set me in his providence,
   I choose, for one, to meet him face to face,--
   No faithless servant frightened from my task,
   But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls;
   And therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
   Let God do his work, we will see to ours.
   Bring in the candles.' And they brought them in."

These two letters are, then, the earliest of the New Testament writings.
Like most of the other Epistles of Paul they begin with a salutation.
The common salutation with which the Greeks began their letters was
"Live well!" that of the Roman was "Health to you!" But Paul almost
always began with a Christian greeting, "Grace, mercy, and peace to
you." In these letters he associates with himself in this greeting his
two companions, Timothy and Silas.

The last words of his epistles are almost always personal messages to
individuals known to him in the several churches,--to men and women who
had "labored with him in the gospel,"--casual yet significant words,
which "show a heart within blood-tinctured, of a veined humanity." The
letters were written by an amanuensis,--all save these concluding words
which Paul added in his own chirography. He seems to desire to put more
of himself into these personal messages than into the didactic and
doctrinal parts of his epistles. At the end of the second of the letters
to the Thessalonians we find these words: "The salutation of me Paul
with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write;"
better, perhaps, "This is my handwriting." This signature and this
concluding greeting are to be proof to them of the genuineness of the
letter. It appears from other references in the same epistle (ch. ii. 2)
that some busybody had been writing a letter to the Thessalonians, which
purported to be a message from Paul; he puts them on their guard against
these supposititious documents. At the end of the letter to the
Galatians you find in the old version: "Ye see how large a letter I have
written unto you with my own hand;" but the right rendering is in the
new version: "See with how large letters [what a bold chirography] I
have written unto you with my own hand." "These last coarse characters
are my own handwriting." It is almost universally assumed that Paul was
a sufferer from some affection of the eyes; the large letters are thus
explained. Mr. Conybeare, in a foot-note on this passage, speaks of
receiving a letter from the venerable Neander a few months before his
death, which illustrates this point in a striking manner: "His letter,"
says Mr. Conybeare, "is written in the fair and flowing hand of an
amanuensis, but it ends with a few irregular lines in large and rugged
characters, written by himself and explaining the cause of his needing
the services of an amanuensis, namely the weakness of his eyes (probably
the very malady of St. Paul). It was impossible to read this autograph
without thinking of the present passage, and observing that he might
have expressed himself in the very words of St. Paul: 'Behold the size
of the characters in which I have written to you with my own hand.'"
[Footnote: _Life and Epistles of St. Paul_, ii. 149.]

There is another touching sentence at the end of Paul's letter to the
Colossians which was written from Rome when he was prisoner there: "The
salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. Remember my bonds. Grace be
with you. Amen." This seems to say: "There is a manacle, you remember,
on my wrist. I cannot write very well. Grace be with you." I will only
add that the subscriptions which follow the epistles in the old version
are no part of the epistles, and in several cases they are erroneous.
They embody conjectures of later copyists, or traditions which are
without foundation. These letters to the Thessalonians, for example, are
said to have been written from Athens; but we know that they were
written from Corinth. For Paul expressly says (iii. 6) that the letter
was written immediately after the return of Timothy from Thessalonica,
and we are told, in Acts xviii. 5, that Silas and Timothy joined him at
Corinth after he had left Athens and had gone to Corinth. Besides, he
associates Silas and Timothy with himself in his greetings, and they
were not with him at Athens. The evidence is therefore conclusive, that
the subscription is incorrect. You will not find any of these
subscriptions in the new version. Some of them are undoubtedly correct,
but some of them are not; and in no case is the subscription an integral
part of the epistle. The excision of these traditional addenda was one
of the first results of what is called the "Higher Criticism," and
admirably illustrates the uses of this kind of criticism, which, to some
of our devout brethren, is such a frightful thing. Why should it be
regarded as a dangerous, almost a diabolical proceeding, to let the
Bible tell its own story about its origin, instead of trusting to
rabbinical traditions and mediæval guesses and _a priori_ theories
of seventeenth century theologians?

These two letters were, no doubt, read in the assemblies of the
Thessalonian Christians more than once, and were sacredly treasured by
them. They were the only Christian documents possessed by them; and
there was, at this time, no other church so rich as they were. The
Gospels, as we have them now, were not then in the possession of any
Christian church. The story of the gospel had been repeated to them by
Paul and Silas and Timothy, and had been diligently impressed upon their
memories; but it was only an oral gospel that had been delivered to
them; the written record of Christ's life and sayings was not in their
hands. They remembered, therefore, the things which had been told them
concerning the life and death of Jesus Christ; they repeated them over
one to another, and they explained and supplemented these remembered
words by the two letters which they had received from the great apostle.

The next year after Paul wrote these letters to the Thessalonians from
Corinth, he returned to Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts xviii. 18-23), and
the year following, probably 54, he set out on his third missionary
journey, which took him through Galatia and Phrygia in Asia Minor to
Ephesus, where his home was for two or three years. While there, perhaps
in the year 57, he wrote the first of his letters to the Christians in
Corinth. Shortly after writing it he went on to Macedonia, whence the
second of his letters to the Corinthians was written; presently he
followed his letters to Corinth, and while there, probably in 58, he
wrote his letter to the Galatians. Galatia was a province rather than a
city; there may have been several churches, which had been established
by Paul, in the province; and this may have been a circular letter, to
be handed about among them, copies of it to be made, perhaps, for the
use of each of the churches. It was in the spring of the next year,
while he was still in Corinth, that he wrote his letter to the Romans,
the longest, and from some points of view, the most important of his
epistles. He had never, at the time of this writing, been in Rome (ch.
i. 13), but he had met Roman Christians in many of the cities of the
East where he had lived and taught; and, doubtless, since all roads led
to Rome, and the metropolis of the world was constantly drawing to
itself men of every nation and province, many of Paul's converts in Asia
and Macedonia and Achaia had made their way to the Eternal City, and had
joined themselves there to the Christian community. The long list of
personal greetings with which the epistle closes shows how large was his
acquaintance in the Roman church, and, doubtless, by his correspondence,
he had become fully informed concerning the needs of these disciples. He
tells the Romans, in this letter, that he hopes to visit them by and by;
he did not, however, at that time, expect to appear among them as a
prisoner. This was the fate awaiting him. Shortly after writing this
epistle he returned from Corinth to Jerusalem, bearing a collection
which had been gathered in Europe for the poor Christians of the mother
church; at Jerusalem he was arrested; in that city and in Cæsarea he
was for a long time imprisoned; finally, probably in the spring of 61,
he was sent as a prisoner to Rome, because he had appealed to the
imperial court; and here, for at least two years, he dwelt a prisoner,
in lodgings of his own, chained by day and night to a Roman soldier.
During this imprisonment, probably in 62, he wrote the letters to the
Colossians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, and Philemon. From the first
imprisonment he seems to have been released; and to have gone westward
as far as Spain, and eastward as far as Asia Minor, preaching the
gospel. During this journey he is supposed to have written the first
letter to Timothy and the letter to Titus. At length he was re-arrested,
and brought to Rome where, in the spring of 68, just before his death,
he wrote the second letter to Timothy, the last of his thirteen

Much of this account of the late years of Paul's life, following the
close of his first two years at Rome, where the narrative in the Acts of
the Apostles abruptly leaves him, is traditional and conjectural; I do
not give it to you as indubitable history; it furnishes the most
reasonable explanation that has been suggested of that productive
activity of his which finds its chief expression in the letters that
bear his name.

Of these letters it is impossible to give any adequate account in this
place. Let it suffice to say that the principal theme of the two
epistles to the Thessalonians is the expected return of Christ to earth;
that those to the Corinthians are largely occupied with questions of
Christian casuistry; that those to the Galatians and the Romans are the
great doctrinal epistles unfolding the relation of Christianity to
Judaism, and discussing the philosophy of the new creed; that the
Epistle to the Philippians is a luminous exposition of Christianity as a
personal experience; that those to the Colossians and the Ephesians are
the defense of Christianity against the insidious errors of the
Gnostics, and a wonderful revelation of the immanent Christ; that the
Epistle to Philemon is a letter of personal friendship, embodying a
great principle of practical religion; and that the letters to Timothy
and Titus are the counsel of an aged apostle to younger men in the

"May we go farther," with Archdeacon Farrar, "and attempt, in one or two
words, a description of each separate epistle, necessarily imperfect
from the very brevity, and yet perhaps expressive of some one main
characteristic. If so we might perhaps say that the First Epistle to the
Thessalonians is the epistle of consolation in the hope of Christ's
return; and the second of the immediate hindrances to that return, and
our duties with regard to it. The First Epistle to the Corinthians is
the solution of practical problems in the light of eternal principles;
the second, an impassioned defense of the apostle's impugned authority,
his _Apologia pro vita sua_. The Epistle to the Galatians is the
epistle of freedom from the bondage of the law; that to the Romans of
justification by faith. The Epistle to the Philippians is the epistle of
Christian gratitude and of Christian joy in sorrow; that to the
Colossians the epistle of Christ the universal Lord; that to the
Ephesians, so rich and many-sided, is the epistle of the 'heavenlies,'
the epistle of grace, the epistle of ascension with the ascended Christ,
the epistle of Christ in his one and universal church; that to Philemon
the Magna Charta of Emancipation. The First Epistle to Timothy and that
to Titus are the manuals of a Christian pastor; the Second Epistle to
Timothy is the last message of a Christian ere his death." [Footnote:
_The Life and Work of St. Paul_, chap. xlvi.]

The genuineness of several of these books has been assailed by modern
criticism. The authorship of Paul has been disputed in the cases of nine
out of the thirteen epistles. The Epistle to the Galatians, that to the
Romans, and the two to the Corinthians are undisputed; all the rest have
been spoken against. I have attended to these criticisms; but the
reasons urged for denying the Pauline authorship of these epistles seem
to me in many cases far-fetched and fanciful in the extreme. Respecting
the pastoral epistles, those to Timothy and Titus, it may be admitted
that there are some difficulties. It is not easy for us to understand
how there could have been developed in the churches at that early day so
much of an ecclesiasticism as these letters assume; and there is force
in the suggestion that the peculiar errors against which some of these
counsels are directed belong to a later day rather than to the apostolic
age. To this it may be replied that ecclesiasticism is a weed which
grows rapidly when once it has taken root, and that the germs of
Gnosticism were in the church from the earliest day. And although the
vocabulary of these epistles differs in rather a striking way, as Dr.
Harnack has pointed out, [Footnote: _Encyc. Brit._, art. "Pastoral
Epistles." ] from that of Paul's other epistles, I can easily imagine
that in familiar letters to his pupils he would drop into a different
style from that in which he wrote his more elaborate theological
treatises. One could find in the letters of Macaulay or Charles Kingsley
many words that he would not find in the history of the one or the
sermons of the other. Putting all these objections together, I do not
find in them any adequate reason for denying that these epistles were
written by St. Paul. Indeed, it seems to me incredible that the Second
Epistle of Timothy should have been written by any other hand than that
which wrote the undoubted letters to the Corinthians and the Romans.

When we come to the other disputed epistles, those to the Thessalonians,
the Ephesians, the Philippians, and the Colossians, I confess that the
doubts of their genuineness seem to me the outcome of a willful
dogmatism. What Archdeacon Farrar says of the cavils respecting the
epistles to the Philippians applies to much of this theoretic criticism:
"The Tübingen school, in its earlier stages, attacked it with the
monotonous arguments of their credulous skepticism. With those critics,
if an epistle touches on points which make it accord with the narrative
of the Acts it was forged to suit them; if it seems to disagree with
them the discrepancy shows that it is spurious. If the diction is
Pauline it stands forth as a proved imitation; if it is un-Pauline it
could not have proceeded from the apostle." [Footnote: _Life and Work
of St. Paul_, chap, xlvi] One grows weary with this reckless and
carping skepticism, much of which springs from a theory of a permanent
schism in the early church,--a theory which was mainly evolved from the
inner consciousness of some mystical German philosopher, and which has
been utterly exploded.

We may, then, receive as genuine the thirteen epistles ascribed to St.
Paul; and we have good reason for believing that we have them in their
integrity, substantially as he wrote them.

The title of one of these epistles, that to the Ephesians, is, however,
undoubtedly erroneous. As Mr. Conybeare says, the least disputable fact
about the letter is that it was not addressed to the Ephesians. For it
is incredible that Paul should have described a church in whose
fellowship he had lived and labored for two years as one of whose
religious life he knew only by report (ch. i. 15); and it is strange
that he should not have a single word of greeting to any of these
Ephesian Christians. Several of the early Christian fathers testify that
the words "at Ephesus" are omitted from the first verse of the
manuscript known to them. The two oldest manuscripts now in existence,
that of the Vatican and that known as the Sinaitic manuscript, both omit
these words. The destination of the epistle is not indicated. The place
filled by the words "at Ephesus" is left blank. Thus it reads: "Paul, an
apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints which are
            and the faithful in Christ Jesus." Some of the old fathers
expatiate on this title, drawing distinctions between the saints which
_are_ and the saints which _seem to be_,--an amusing example of
exegetical thoroughness. Undoubtedly the letter was designed as a
circular letter to several churches in Western Asia,--Laodicea among the
number; and a blank was left in each copy made, in which the name of the
church to which it was delivered might be entered. Some knowing copyist
at a later day wrote the words "at Ephesus" into one of these copies;
and it is from this that the manuscript descended from which our
translation was made.

That these letters of Paul were highly prized and carefully preserved by
the churches to which they were written we cannot doubt; and as from
time to time messengers passed back and forth between the churches,
copies were made of the letters for exchange. The church at Thessalonica
would send a copy of its letter to the church at Philippi and to the
church at Corinth and to the church at Ephesus, and would receive in
return copies of their letters; and thus the writings of Paul early
obtained a considerable distribution. We have an illustration of these
exchanges in the closing words of the Epistle to the Colossians (iv.
16): "And when this epistle hath been read among you, cause that it be
read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that you also read the
epistle from Laodicea." It is probable that the last-named epistle was
the one of which we have just been speaking, called in our version, the
Epistle to the Ephesians.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is ascribed in its title to "Paul the
Apostle." But the title was added at a late date; the Greek Testaments
contain only the brief title "To the Hebrews," leaving the question of
authorship unsettled. Of all the other epistles ascribed to Paul his
name is the first word; this epistle does not announce its author. In
the early church there was much controversy about it; the Eastern
Christians generally ascribed it to Paul, while the Western church,
until the fourth century, refused to recognize his authorship. One
sentence in the epistle (ch. ii. 3) is supposed to signify that the
writer was of the number of those who had received the gospel at second
hand, and this was an admission that Paul always refused to make; he
steadily contended that his knowledge of the gospel was as direct and
immediate and copious as that of any of the apostles. For these and
other reasons it has been contended that the letter was written by some
one not an apostle, but an associate and pupil of apostolic men; the
most plausible conjecture ascribes it to Apollos. The date of it is not
easily fixed; it was probably written before the destruction of
Jerusalem; such an elaborate discussion of the Jewish ritual would
scarcely have been made after the temple was destroyed, without any
reference to the fact of its destruction.

Following the letter to the Hebrews in our New Testament are seven
epistles ascribed to four different authors, James, Peter, John, and
Jude. These are commonly called the "Catholic Epistles,"--catholic
meaning general or universal,--since they are not addressed to any one
congregation, but to the whole church, to Christians in general. Two of
them, however, the Second and Third of John, hardly deserve the
designation, for they are addressed to individuals.

The author of the Epistle of James is not easily identified. There are
numerous Jameses in the New Testament history; we do not readily
distinguish them. It was not James the son of Zebedee, for he was put to
death by Herod only six or seven years after the death of our Lord (Acts
xii. 2). Probably this was the one named James the Lord's brother, who
was a near relative of Jesus, brother or cousin, and who was the leading
man--perhaps they called him bishop--of the church at Jerusalem. He may,
also, be identical with that James the son of Alpheus, who was one of
the apostles. The letter was issued at an early day, probably before the
year 60. It was addressed to the "twelve tribes which are of the
Dispersion,"--that was the name by which the Jews scattered through Asia
and Europe were generally known. To Christians who had been Jews,
therefore, this letter was written; in this respect it is to be classed
with the letter to the Hebrews; but in the tenor of its teaching it is
wholly unlike that letter; instead of putting emphasis on the ritual and
symbolical elements of religion, it leaves these wholly on one side, and
makes the ethical contents of the Christian teaching the matter of
supreme concern. There is more of applied Christianity in this than in
any other of the epistles; and both in style and in substance we are
reminded by it of the teaching of our Lord more strongly than by any
other portion of the New Testament.

The First Epistle of Peter is addressed to the same class of persons,--to
"the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion" in various provinces
of Asia Minor. The only intimation of tha locality of the writing is
contained in one of the concluding verses: "She that is in Babylon,
elect together with you, saluteth you." What Babylon is this? Is it the
famous capital of the Euphrates? So some have supposed, for there is a
tradition that Peter journeyed to the distant East and founded Christian
churches among the Jews, who, in large numbers, were dwelling there.
Others take it to be the mystical Babylon,--Rome upon her seven hills.
This theory helps to support the contention, for which there is small
evidence, that Peter was the first bishop of Rome. The first conjecture
has a firmer basis. But who is "she" that sends her salutations to these
Asian saints? Was it the church or the wife of the apostle? Either
interpretation is difficult; I cannot choose between them. Of the origin
of this letter we know little; but there is nothing in it inconsistent
with the unbroken tradition which ascribes it to the impetuous leader of
the apostolic band. Like the Epistle of James it is full of a strenuous
morality; while it does not disregard the essentials of Christian
doctrine it puts the emphasis on Christian conduct.

The Second Epistle of Peter is the one book of the New Testament
concerning whose genuineness there is most doubt. From the earliest days
the canonicity of this book has been disputed. It is not mentioned by
any early Christian writer before the third century; and Origen, who is
the first to allude to the book, testifies that its genuineness has been
doubted. The early versions do not contain it; Eusebius marks it
doubtful; Erasmus and Calvin, in later times, regarded it as a dubious
document. It seems almost incredible, with such witnesses against it,
that the book should be genuine; but if it is not the work of St. Peter
it is a fraudulent writing, for it openly announces him as its author
and refers to his first epistle. There is a remarkable similarity
between this letter and the short Epistle of Jude; it would appear that
this must be an imitation and enlargement of that, or that a
condensation of this. There are some passages in this book with which we
could ill afford to part,--with which, indeed, we never shall part; for
whether they were written by Peter or by another they express clear and
indubitable verities; and even though the author, like that Balaam whom
he quotes, may have been no true prophet, he was constrained, even as
Balaam was, to utter some wholesome and stimulating truth.

The three epistles of John are the last words of the disciple that Jesus
loved. The evidence of their genuineness, particularly of the first of
them, is abundant and convincing; Polycarp, who was John's pupil and
friend, quotes from this book, and there is an unbroken chain of
testimony from the early fathers respecting it. Of course those who have
determined, for dogmatic reasons, to reject the Fourth Gospel, are bound
to reject these epistles also; but that procedure is wholly unwarranted,
as we shall see in the next chapter. These epistles were probably
written from Ephesus during the last years of the first century. The
first is a meditation on the great fact of the incarnation and its
mystic relation to the life of men; it sounds the very depths of that
wonderful revelation which was made to the world in the person and work
of Jesus Christ. The other two are personal letters, wherein the
fragrance of a gracious friendship still lingers, and in which we see
how the spirit of Christ was beginning, even then, to transfigure with
its benignant gentleness the courtesies of life.

The Book of Jude, the last of the epistles, is one of whose author we
have little knowledge. He styles himself "the brother of James," but
that, as we have seen, is a vague description. Of the close relation
between this letter and Second Peter I have spoken. It is not in the
early Syriac version; Eusebius and Origen question it, and Chrysostom
does not mention it; we may fairly doubt whether it came from the hand
of any apostolic witness. One feature of this short letter deserves
mention; the writer quotes from one of the old apocryphal books, the
Book of Enoch, treating it as Scripture. If a New Testament citation
authenticates an ancient writing, Enoch must be regarded as an inspired
book. We must either reject Jude or accept Enoch, or abandon the rule
that makes a New Testament citation the proof of Old Testament
canonicity. The abandonment of the rule is the simplest and the most
rational solution of the difficulty.

I have now run rapidly over the history of twenty-one of the twenty-seven
books of the New Testament,--all of the Epistles of the inspired
book. The end of the first century found these books scattered through
Europe and Asia, each probably in possession of the church to which it
had been sent; those addressed to individuals probably in the hands of
their children or children's children. Some exchanges, such as I have
suggested, had taken place; and some churches might have possessed
several of these apostolic letters, but there was yet no collection of
them. Of the beginning of this collection of the New Testament writings
I shall speak in the chapter upon the canon.

I said at the beginning that these writers probably had no thought when
they composed these letters that they were contributing to a volume that
would outlast empires, and be a manual of study and a guide of conduct
in lands to the world then unknown, and in generations farther from them
than they were from Abraham. But each of them uttered in sincerity the
word that to him seemed the word of the hour; and God who gives life to
the seed gave vitality to these true words, so that they are as full of
divine energy to-day as ever they were. It is easy to cavil at a
sentence here and there, or to pick flaws in their logic; but the
question always returns, What kind of fruit have they borne? "By their
fruits ye shall know them." One of the most precious gifts of God to men
is contained in these twenty-one brief letters. It is not in equal
measure in all of them, but there is none among them that does not
contain some portion of it. The treasure is in earthen vessels; it was
so when the apostles were alive and speaking; it is so now; it always
was and always will be so; but the treasure is there, and he who with
open mind and reverent spirit seeks for it will find it there, and will
know that the excellency of the power is of God, and not of men.



We have arrived in our study of the Sacred Scriptures at the threshold
of the most interesting and the most momentous topic which is presented
to the student of the Biblical literature,--the question of the origin
of the Gospels. These Gospels contain the record of the life and the
death of Jesus Christ, that marvelous Personality in whom the histories,
the prophecies, the liturgies of the Old Testament are fulfilled, and
from whom the growing light and freedom and happiness of eighteen
Christian centuries are seen to flow. Most certain it is that the
history of the most enlightened lands of earth during these Christian
centuries could not be understood without constant reference to the
power which came into the world when Jesus Christ was born. Some
tremendous social force made its appearance just then by which the whole
life of mankind has been affected ever since that day. The most powerful
institutions, the most benign influences which are at work in the world
to-day, can be followed back to that period as surely as any great river
can be followed up to the springs from which it takes its rise. If we
had not these four Gospels we should be compelled to seek for an
explanation of the chief phenomena of modern history. "We trace," says
Mr. Horton, "this astonishing influence back to that life, and if we
knew nothing at all about it, but had to construct it out of the
creative imagination, we should have to figure to ourselves facts,
sayings, and impressions which would account for what has flowed from
it. Thus, if the place where this biography comes were actually a blank,
we should be able to surmise something of what ought to be there, just
as astronomers surmised the existence of a new planet, and knew in what
quarter of the heavens to look for it by observing and registering the
influences which retarded or deflected the movements of the other
planets." [Footnote: _Inspiration and the Bible,_ p. 65.]

That place is not a blank; it is filled with the fourfold record of the
Life from which all these mighty influences have flowed. Must not this
record prove to be the most inspiring theme open to human investigation?
Is it any wonder that more study has been expended upon this theme than
upon any other which has ever claimed the attention of men?

What do we know of the origin of this four-fold record? Origin it must
have had like every other book, an origin in time and space. That there
are divine elements in it the most of us believe; but the form in which
we have it is a purely human form, and it would be worthless to us if it
were not in purely human form. The sentences of which it is composed
were constructed by human minds, and were written down by human hands on
parchment or papyrus leaves. When, and where, and by whom? These are the
questions now before us.

Let us go back to the last half of the second century and see what
traces of these books we can find.

Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, in France, who died about 200, speaks
distinctly of these four Gospels, which, he declares, are equal in
authority to the Old Testament Scriptures, and which he ascribes to the
four authors whose names they now bear. With the fanciful reasoning then
common among Christian writers, he finds a reason in the four quarters
of the globe why there should have been four Gospels and no more.

Clement of Alexandria was living at the samq time. He also quotes
liberally in his writings from all these four books, of which he speaks
as "the four Gospels that have been handed down to us."

Tertullian, who was born in Carthage about 160, also quotes all these
Gospels as authoritative Christian writings.

It is clear, therefore, that in the West, the East, and the South,--in
all quarters where Christianity was then established,--the four Gospels
were recognized and read in the churches in the latter half of the
second century. Let us go back a little farther.

Justin Martyr was born at Rome about the year 100, and was writing most
abundantly from his fortieth to his forty-fifth year. In one of the
books which he has left us, in describing the customs of the Christians,
he uses the following language: "On the day which is called Sunday there
is an assembly in the same place of all who live in cities or in country
districts, and the records of the apostles or the writings of the
prophets are read as long as we have time. Then the reader concludes,
and the president verbally instructs and exhorts us to the imitation of
these excellent things. Then we all rise up together and offer our
prayers." In another place he speaks of something commanded by "the
apostles in the records which they made, and which are called Gospels."
Justin does not say how many of these Gospels the church in his day
possessed, but we find in his writings unmistakable quotations from at
least three of them. Dr. Edwin Abbott, of London, whom Mrs. Humphry Ward
refers to as master of all the German learning on this subject, says
that it would be possible "to reconstruct from his (Justin's) quotations
a fairly connected narrative of the incarnation, birth, teaching,
crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord;" that this
narrative is all found in the three Synoptic Gospels, and that Justin
quotes no words of Christ and refers to no incidents that are not found
in these Gospels. [Footnote: _Encyc. Brit.,_ vol. x. p. 817.]

We may fully accept Dr. Abbott's testimony so far as the quotations of
Justin from the first three Gospels are concerned; but his arguments,
which are intended to prove that there is no certain reference to the
fourth Gospel in Justin's works, appear to me inconclusive. When Justin
says: "For indeed Christ also said, 'except ye be born again, ye shall
not enter into the kingdom of heaven,' but that it is impossible for
those who were once born to enter into their mother's womb is plain to
all," he is quoting words that are found in the fourth Gospel, and not
in any of the other three. The attempt to show that he found these and
similar citations in the same sources from which the author of the
fourth Gospel derived them is not successful.

Several indirect lines of evidence tend to confirm the belief that
Justin possessed all four of our Gospels. This, then, carries us back to
the first half of the second century. Between 100 and 150 Papias of
Hierapolis, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp of Smyrna were writing.
Papias, who wrote about 130-140 A. D., composed five books or
commentaries on what he calls "The Oracles of the Lord." He gives us
some account of the origin of at least two of these Gospels. "Mark," he
says, "was the interpreter of Peter;" "Matthew wrote his scriptures
(_logia_) in Hebrew, and each man interpreted them as best he
could." "Interpreted" here evidently means translated. Elsewhere he
repeats a tradition of "the elder," by which word he apparently means
the Apostle John, whom he may have known, in these words: "Mark, having
become Peter's interpreter, wrote down accurately all that he
remembered,--not, however, in order,--both the words and the deeds of
Christ. For he never heard the Lord, nor attached himself to him, but
later on, as I said, attached himself to Peter, who used to adapt his
lessons to the needs of the occasion, but not as though he was composing
a connected treatise of the discourses of our Lord; so that Mark
committed no error in writing down some matters just as he remembered
them. For one object was in his thoughts, to make no omissions and no
false statements in what he heard." [Footnote: Quoted by Abbott, as
above.] This is a perfect description of the Gospel of Mark as we have
it in our hands to-day. And the testimony of Papias to its authorship,
and to the spirit and purpose of the author, is significant and
memorable. Evidence of this nature would be regarded as decisive in any
other case of literary criticism.

Polycarp, who was the friend and pupil of John the Apostle, was born
about the year 69, and suffered martyrdom about 155. In his writings we
find no express mention of the Gospels, but we do find verbally accurate
quotations from them. It is clear that he was acquainted with the books.
Polycarp was the teacher of Irenæus of Lyons whom I first quoted, and
he was the pupil and friend of St. John and the other apostles; and
Irenæus, who quotes all these Gospels so freely, bears this testimony
respecting Polycarp, in a letter which he wrote to Florinus.

"I saw you, when I was yet a boy, in Lower Asia with Polycarp.... I
could even point out now the place where the blessed Polycarp sat and
spoke, and describe his going out and coming in, his manner of life, his
personal appearance, the addresses he delivered to the multitude, how he
spoke of his intercourse with John, and with the others who had seen the
Lord, and how he recalled their words, and everything that he had heard
about the Lord, about his miracles and his teaching. Polycarp told us,
as one who had received it from those who had seen the Word of Life with
their own eyes, and all this in complete harmony with the Scriptures. To
this I then listened, through the mercy of God vouchsafed to me, with
all eagerness, and wrote it not on paper, but in my heart, and still by
the grace of God I ever bring it into fresh remembrance."

These living witnesses give us solid ground for our statement that the
Gospels--the first three of them at any rate--were in existence during
the last years of the first century. Indeed, not to prolong this search
for the origin of the books, it is now freely admitted, by many of the
most radical critics, that the first three Gospels were written before
the year 80, and that Mark must have been written before 70.

It is interesting to contrast the course of New Testament criticism with
that engaged upon the Old Testament. In the study of the origin of the
Pentateuch the gravitation of opinion has been steadily downward, toward
a later date, so that the great majority of scholars are now certain
that the books must have been put into their present form long after the
time of Moses. In the study of the origin of the Gospels the date has
been steadily pushed upward, to the very age of the apostles. The
earlier critics, Strauss and Baur, insisted that they must have appeared
much later, far on in the second century; but the more recent and more
scientific criticism has demolished or badly discredited their theories,
and has carried the Gospels back to the last part of the first century.

Are we entitled, then, to say that these Gospels were written by
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? We should be cautious, no doubt, in
making such a statement. The Gospels themselves are not so explicit on
this point as we could desire. Their titles do not warrant this
assertion. It is not "The Gospel of St. Matthew" or "The Gospel of St.
Mark;" it is the "Gospel according to St. Matthew" or St. Mark. The
import of the title would be fully satisfied with the explanation that
this is the story as Matthew or Mark was wont to tell it, put into form
by some person or friend of his, in his last days, or even after his
death. But the testimony of Papias, to which I have referred, is to my
own mind good evidence that these Gospels were written by the men who
bear their names. In the case of Luke, as we shall presently see, the
evidence is much stronger. And after going over the evidence as
carefully as I am able, the theory that the four Gospels were written by
the men whose names they bear, all of whom were the contemporaries of
our Lord, and two of whom were his apostles, seems to me, on the whole,
the best supported by the whole volume of evidence. The case is not
absolutely clear; perhaps it was left somewhat obscure for the very
purpose of stimulating study. At all events, the study which has been
given to the subject has confirmed rather than weakened the belief that
the Gospels are contemporary records of the life of Christ. Mr. Norton,
a distinguished Unitarian scholar, sums up the evidence as follows: "It
consists in the indisputable fact that throughout a community of
millions of individuals, scattered over Europe, Asia, and Africa, the
Gospels were regarded with the highest reverence, as the works of those
to whom they are ascribed, at so early a period that there could be no
difficulty in determining whether they were genuine or not, and when
every intelligent Christian must have been deeply interested to
ascertain the truth.... This fact is itself a phenomenon admitting of no
explanation except that the four Gospels had all been handed down as
genuine from the apostolic age, and had everywhere accompanied our
religion as it spread throughout the world."

When we turn from the external or historical evidence for the
genuineness of the Gospels to study their internal structure and their
relations to one another, we come upon some curious facts. These
Gospels, in the form in which we possess them, are written in the Greek
language. But the Greek language was not the vernacular of the Jews in
Palestine when our Lord was on the earth; the language which was then
spoken by them, as I have before explained, was the Aramaic. It is true
that Palestine was, to some extent, a bilingual country,--like Wales,
one writer suggests, where the English and the Welsh languages are now
freely spoken,--that Aramaic and Greek were used indifferently. I can
hardly imagine that a people as tenacious of their own institutions as
the Jews could have adopted Greek as generally as the Welsh have adopted
the English tongue. Even in Wales, if a Welshman were speaking to a
congregation of his countrymen on any important topic, he would be
likely to speak the Welsh language. And much more probable does it seem
to me that the discourses and the common conversation of Jesus must have
been spoken in the vernacular. The discourses and sayings of our Lord,
as reported for us in these Gospels, are not therefore given us in the
words that he used. We have a translation of his words from the Aramaic
into the Greek, made either by the writers of the Gospels, or by some
one in their day. We have quoted the testimony of Papias, that the
Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew (by which he
undoubtedly means Aramaic), and that each one interpreted it as best he
could; and if this be true, then that copy first made by Matthew did
contain many of our Lord's very words. But that Aramaic copy has never
been seen since that day; we have no manuscript of any New Testament
book except in the Greek language. There are a few cases in which the
writers of the Gospels have preserved for us the very words used by
Christ. Thus in the healing of the deaf man in the neighborhood of
Decapolis, of which Mark tells us (vii. 34), Jesus touched his ears, and
said unto him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." The Evangelist gives
us the Aramaic word which Jesus used, and translates it for his readers
into Greek. Likewise in the healing of the ruler's daughter (Mark v. 41)
he took her by the hand, and said unto her, "Talitha cumi, which is,
being interpreted," the Evangelist explains, "Damsel, I say unto thee,
Arise." Doubtless most readers get the impression that our Lord used
here some cabalistic words in a foreign tongue; the fact is that these
are the words of the common speech of the people; only the Evangelist
seems to have thought them especially memorable, and he has given us not
merely, as he generally does, a translation into the Greek of our Lord's
words, but the Aramaic words themselves, with their meaning appended in
a Greek phrase. The same is true of our Lord's words on the cross: "Eli,
Eli, lama sabachthani?" These are Aramaic words, the very words that
Jesus uttered. The Roman soldiers who stood near might not know what he
meant; but every Jew who distinctly heard him must have understood him,
for he was speaking in no foreign tongue, but in the language of his own

When we speak, therefore, of the Greek as the original language of the
Gospels, we do not speak with entire accuracy. The Greek does not give
us our Lord's original words. These we have not, except in the cases I
have named, and a few others less important. No man on earth knows or
ever will know what were the precise words that our Lord used in his
Sermon on the Mount, in his conversation with the woman at the well, in
his last discourses with his disciples. We have every reason to believe
that the substance of what he said is faithfully preserved for us; the
fourfold record, so marvelously accordant in its report of his
teachings, makes this perfectly clear. But his very words we have not,
and this fact itself is the most convincing dis-proof of the dogma of
verbal inspiration. If our Lord had thought it important that we should
have his very words he would have seen to it that his very words were
preserved and recorded for us, instead of that Greek translation of his
words, made by his followers, which we now possess. These evangelists
could have written Aramaic, doubtless did write Aramaic; and they would
certainly have kept our Lord's discourses and sayings in the Aramaic
original if they had been instructed to do so. The fact that they were
not instructed to do so, but were permitted to give his teachings to the
world in other words than those in which they were spoken, shows how
little there was of modern literalism in Christ's conception of the work
of revelation.

The first three of these Gospels exhibit many striking similarities;
they appear to give, from somewhat different standpoints, a condensed
and complete synopsis of the events of our Lord's life; therefore they
are called the Synoptic Gospels. The fourth Gospel differs widely from
them in matter and form. It will be more convenient, therefore, to speak
first of the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The singular fact respecting these Gospels is the combination in them of
likeness and difference. A considerable portion of each one of them is
to be found, word for word, in one or both of the others; other
considerable portions of each are not found in either of the others;
some passages are nearly alike, but slightly different in two or in all
of them. Did these three authors write independently each of the other?
If so, how does it happen that their phraseology is so often identical?
Did they copy one from another? If so, why did they copy so little? Why,
for example, did each one of them omit so much that the others had
written? And why are there so many slight differences in passages that
are nearly identical? If we accepted the theory of verbal inspiration,
we might offer some sort of explanation of this phenomenon. We might say
that the Holy Ghost dictated these words, and that that is the end of
it; since no explanation can be offered of the reason why the Holy Ghost
chose one form of expression rather than another. But the Gospels
themselves contain abundant proof that the Holy Ghost did not dictate
the words employed by these writers.

The two genealogies of our Lord, one in Matthew and the other in Luke,
are widely different. From Abraham to David they substantially agree;
from David to Christ, Matthew makes twenty-eight generations, and Luke
thirty-eight; only two of the intermediate names in the one table are
found in the other; the one list makes Jacob the father of Joseph, and
the other declares that the name of Joseph's father was Heli. All sorts
of explanations, some plausible and others preposterous, have been
offered of this difficulty; the one explanation that cannot be allowed
is that these words were dictated by Omniscience. In the story of the
healing of the blind near Jericho, Matthew and Mark expressly say that
the healing took place as Christ was departing from the city; Luke that
it was before he entered it. Matthew says that there were two blind men;
Mark and Luke that there was but one. About these details of the
transaction there is some mistake,--that is the only thing to be said
about it. The various explanations offered are weak and inadmissible.
But what difference does it make to anybody whether the healing took
place before or after Jesus entered the city, or whether there was one
man healed or two? The moral and spiritual lessons of the story are just
as distinct in the one case as in the other; and it is these moral and
spiritual values only that inspiration is intended to secure.

Similarly, Luke (iv. 38-39) expressly tells us that the healing of
Peter's wife's mother took place before the calling of Simon and Andrew;
while Matthew and Mark tell us with equal explicitness that the calling
took place before the healing. No reconciliation is possible here;
either Luke or Matthew and Mark must have misplaced these events.

So in Matthew xxvii. 9, certain words are said to have been spoken by
Jeremiah the prophet. These words are not in Jeremiah; they are in
Zechariah xi. 13. It is simply a slip of the Evangelist's memory.

So in the record of the inscription on the cross when Jesus was
crucified. Each of the four Evangelists copies it for us in a different
form. The meaning is the same in all the cases, but the copy was not
exactly made by some of them, perhaps not by any of them. If the Holy
Ghost had dictated the words, they must, in a case like this, have been
exactly alike in all the Evangelists. The substance is given, but the
inexactness of the copy shows that the words could not have been
dictated by Omniscience. It is sometimes explained that this inscription
was in three languages, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and that we may have
the exact translations of the different inscriptions. This might account
for three of them, but not for four.

From these and many other similar facts, we know that the theory of
verbal inspiration is not true; but that these Evangelists were allowed
to state each in his own language the facts known by him concerning our
Lord, and that nothing like infallible accuracy was so much as
attempted. The only inspiration that can be claimed for them is that
which brought the important facts to their remembrance, and guarded them
against serious errors of history or doctrine.

But now the question returns, if they wrote these Gospels in their own
language and independently of one another, how happens it that they use
so often the very same words and phrases and sentences? Take, for
example, the following verses from parallel narratives in Matthew and in
Mark, concerning the calling of the first apostles:--

MATTHEW iv. 18-22.

And walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brethren, Simon who is
called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for
they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Come ye after me, and I will
make you fishers of men. And they straightway left the nets, and
followed him. And going on from thence he saw two other brethren, James
the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their
father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they straightway
left the boat and their father, and followed him.

MARK i. 16-20.

And passing along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the
brother of Simon casting a net in the sea: for they were fishers. And
Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become
fishers of men. And straightway they left the nets, and followed him.
And going on a little further, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John
his brother, who also were in the boat mending the nets. And straightway
he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the
hired servants, and went after him.

There are slight verbal variations, but in general the words are the
same, and the corresponding sentences are in precisely the same order in
both narratives. Now, as Archbishop Thomson says, in Smith's "Bible
Dictionary," "The verbal and material agreement of the first three
Evangelists is such as does not occur in any other authors who have
written independently of each other."

Besides many such passages which are substantially alike but verbally or
syntactically different, there are quite a number which are identical,
word for word, and phrase for phrase. These verbal agreements occur most
frequently, as is natural, in the reports of our Lord's discourses and
sayings; but they also occur in the descriptive and narrative portions
of the gospel. This is the fact which is so difficult to reconcile with
the theory that the books were produced by independent writers.

Suppose three competent and truthful reporters are employed by you to
write an exact and unvarnished report of some single transaction which
has occurred, and which each of them has witnessed. Each is required to
do his work without any conference with the others. When these reports
are brought to you, if they are very faithful and accurate for
substance, you will not be surprised to find some circumstances
mentioned by each that are not mentioned by either of the others, and it
will be strange if there are not some important discrepancies. But if on
reading them, you find that the reports, taken sentence by sentence, are
almost identical,--that there is only an occasional difference in a word
or in the order of a phrase,--then you at once say, "These reporters
must have been copying from some other reporter's note-book, or else
they must have been comparing notes; they could not have written with
such verbal agreement if they had written independently." Suppose, for
example, that each of the three reports began in just these words: "The
first object that attracted my notice on entering the door was a chair."
Now it is extremely improbable that all these writers, writing
independent reports of a transaction, should begin in the same way by
mentioning the first object that attracted the attention of each. And
even if they should so begin, it is wholly beyond the range of
possibilities that they should all select from all the multitude of the
words in the English language the very same words in which to make this
statement; and should put these words in the very same order, out of the
multitude of different orders into which they could grammatically be
put. There is not one chance in a million that such a coincidence would
occur. But such coincidences occur very often in the first three
Gospels. How can we account for it? We say that they wrote
independently, that their words were not dictated to them; how does it
happen that there is so much verbal agreement?

We may get some hint of the manner in which these biographies were
produced if we turn to the beginning of Luke's Gospel:--

"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning
those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as they delivered
them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers
of the word, it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all
things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most
excellent Theophilus; that thou mightest know the certainty concerning
the things wherein thou wast instructed." The marginal reading of this
last phrase is, "which thou wast taught by word of mouth." This is the
more exact meaning of the Greek. The passage contains these statements:--

1. Theophilus had been orally taught the Gospels.

2. Many persons, not apostles, had undertaken to write out parts of the
gospel story, as they had heard it from eyewitnesses and ministers of
the word.

3. Luke also, as one who had full and accurate information, had
determined to reduce his knowledge to an orderly written narrative, for
the benefit of his friend Theophilus.

It appears from this clear statement that written memoranda of the
discourses of our Lord and of the incidents of his life had been made by
many persons. Numbers of these had undertaken to combine their memoranda
with their recollections in an orderly statement. This fact itself shows
how powerful an impression had been made by our Lord's life and death
upon the people of Palestine. Everything relating to him was treasured
with the utmost care; Luke, for his part, believing that he had gained
by careful investigation sufficient knowledge to warrant the
undertaking, sets out to collect the facts and present them in a
consecutive and intelligible literary form. Yet Luke, in this
announcement of his purpose, betrays no consciousness that he is using
any different powers from those employed by the many others of whom he
speaks. Rather does he most clearly rank himself with them, as one of
many gleaners in this fruitful field. He does claim thoroughness and
painstaking accuracy; I believe that every honest man will concede his

This, then, was the way in which Luke went to work to write his Gospel.
This is not guesswork; it is the explicit statement of the author
himself. Have we not good reason for believing that the Gospels of
Matthew and Mark were composed in much the same way?

In addition to the written memoranda of Christ's life which were in the
hands of the apostles, and of many others, there was another source from
which the Evangelists must have drawn. Luke alludes to it when he speaks
of the fact that Theophilus had received much of his narrative "by word
of mouth." There was, unquestionably, an oral gospel, covering the
larger part of the deeds and the words of Jesus, which had been widely
circulated in Palestine and in the whole missionary field. When it is
said (Acts viii. 1-4; xi. 19) that they which were scattered abroad by
the early persecutions went everywhere preaching the word, it must be
understood that they went about simply telling the story of Jesus, his
birth, his life, his deeds, his words, his death upon the cross.
Sometimes, when preaching to Jews, they would show the correspondence
between his life and the Old Testament prophecies, to prove that he was
the Messiah; but the substance of their preaching was the telling over
and over again of the story of Jesus. It was upon this oral gospel that
the apostles and the first missionaries mainly relied. What they desired
to do was to make known as speedily and as rapidly as possible the words
of his lips and the facts of his life. And it is highly probable that
before they set out on these missionary tours, they took great pains to
rehearse to one another the story which they were going forth to tell.
"The apostles," says Professor Westcott, "guided by the promised Spirit
of truth, remained together in Jerusalem in close communion for a period
long enough to shape a common narrative, and to fix it with requisite

It was these concerted recollections and rehearsals that gave to so many
passages of the gospel its identity in form. Some of the sentences often
and devoutly repeated were remembered by all, word for word; in some of
them there were verbal differences and discrepancies, as they were
repeated by one and another. The verbal resemblances as well as the
verbal differences are thus explained by this theory of an oral gospel,
prepared at first for preaching by the apostles, and held only in their

The preservation of so many passages in words and sentences nearly or
exactly similar is nothing miraculous. Even in our own time there are,
as we are told, secret societies whose ritual has never been written,
but has been handed down with nearly verbal accuracy, from generation to
generation. For the Hebrews, who were a people at this time greatly
disinclined to write, and thoroughly practiced in remembering and
repeating the sayings of their wise men, this task would not be

The apostles and the early evangelists, as Westcott suggests, were
preachers, not historians, not pamphleteers. They believed in living
witnesses more than in transmitted documents. They did not write out the
record at first, partly because they were naturally disinclined to
write, and partly, no doubt, because they expected the immediate return
of our Lord to earth. Their gospel was therefore for many years a spoken
and not a written word. As they went on repeating it, changes would
occur in the repetition of the words; to the remembrance of one and
another of them the Spirit of truth would bring facts and circumstances
that they did not think of at first; words, phrases, gestures of our
Lord would reappear in the memory of each, and thus the narrative became
varied and shaded with the personal peculiarities of the several

Years passed, and the expected return of the Lord to earth did not take
place. The churches were spreading over Asia and Europe, and the
apostles were unable personally to instruct those who were preaching the
gospel in other lands. Thus the need of a written record began to make
itself felt; and the apostles themselves wrote out the story which they
had been telling, or it was written for them by their companions and
fellow-helpers in the gospel. The oral gospel as it lived in their
memories would form, no doubt, the substance of it, and the written
memoranda of the discourses and incidents, to which Luke refers, would
be drawn upon in completing the biography. The oral gospel thus
carefully prepared and transmitted by memory would be substantially the
same, yet many differences in arrangement of words and phrases would
naturally have crept in; the written memoranda would in many cases be
verbally identical. And each Evangelist, gleaning from this wide field,
would collect some facts and sayings omitted by the others.

There are other explanations of the origin of the Synoptic Gospels, some
of which are ingenious and plausible, but I shall not burden your minds
with them, since the theory which I have presented appears to me the
simplest, the most natural, and the most comprehensive of them all.

The Fourth Gospel, it is evident, must have had a different origin.
Beyond question it is a consecutive narrative, composed by a single
writer, and not, like the Synoptics, a compilation of memoranda, oral or
written. It appears to be, in part at least, a supplementary narrative,
omitting much that is contained in the other Gospels, supplying some
omissions, and correcting, possibly, certain unimportant errors. Mr.
Horton illustrates the supplementary work of this Evangelist by several
instances. "The communion of the Lord's Supper," he says, "was so
universally known and observed when he wrote that he actually does not
mention its institution, but he records a wonderful discourse concerning
the Bread of Life which is an indispensable commentary on the unnamed
institution, and by filling in with great detail the circumstances of
the last evening, he furnished a framework for the ordinance which is
among our most precious possessions. On the other hand, because the
common tradition was very vague in its date he gave precision to the
event which they had recorded by fixing the time of its occurrence....
In Matt, iv. 12 and Mark i. 14, the temptation, immediately following
Christ's baptism, is immediately followed by the statement, 'When he
heard that John was delivered up, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving
Nazareth he came and dwelt in Capernaum.' But this summary narrative had
excluded one of the most interesting features of the early ministry of
Jesus. Accordingly the Fourth Gospel enlarges the story and emphasizes
the marks of time. After the Baptism, according to this authority, Jesus
'went down to Capernaum, he and his mother and his brethren and his
disciples, and there they abode not many days' (ii. 12). Then he went up
to the Passover at Jerusalem, where he had the interview with Nicodemus.
After that he went into the country districts of Judea, where John was
baptizing in Ænon, and then the writer adds, as if his eye were on the
condensed and misleading narrative of the common tradition, 'For John
was not yet cast into prison.' The two great teachers, the Forerunner,
and the Greater-than-he, were actually baptizing side by side, and it
was because Jesus saw his reputation overshadowing John's that he
voluntarily withdrew into Galilee, passing through Samaria. So that
while there had been two journeys to Galilee before John was imprisoned,
and that early period of the life was full of unique and wonderful
interest, all had been compressed and crushed into the brief statement
of Matt. iv. 12 and Mark i. 14. In this case we seem to see the
Evangelist deliberately loosening and breaking up the current history in
order that he might insert into the cramped and lifeless framework some
of the most valuable episodes of the Lord's life. If the fourth
Evangelist had treated the triple narrative in the way that many of us
have treated it, regarding it as a sin against the Holy Spirit to
suggest that there was any incompleteness or any misleading
abbreviations in it, we should have lost the wonderful accounts of the
conversation with Nicodemus and with the woman at the well." [Footnote:
_Inspiration and the Bible,_ pp. 95-99.]

If such is the relation of the Fourth Gospel to the Synoptics, it
follows that it must have been the work of one who was thoroughly
familiar with the events recorded. That the narrative bears evidence of
having been written by an eyewitness is to my own mind clear. That the
writer intends to convey the impression that he is the beloved disciple
is also manifest. Either it was written by John the Apostle, or else the
writer was a deliberate deceiver. There can be no such explanation of
his personation of John as that which satisfies our minds in the case of
Daniel and Ecclesiastes; the book is either the work of John, or it is a
cunning and conscienceless fraud. And it seems to me that any one who
will read the book will find it impossible to believe that it is an
imposture. If any book of the ages bears in itself the witness to the
truth it is the Fourth Gospel. It shines by its own light. Any of us
could tell the difference between the sun in the heavens and a brass
disk suspended in the sky reflecting the sun's rays; and in much the
same way the fact is apparent that the book is not a counterfeit gospel.

It is true that historical criticism has raised difficulties about it;
the battle of the critics has been raging around it for half a century;
but one after another of the positions taken by men like Strauss and
Baur have been shown to be untenable; and it can truthfully be said, in
the words of Professor Ladd, "that the vigorous and determined attacks
upon the genuineness of the Fourth Gospel have greatly increased instead
of impairing our confidence in the traditional view." [Footnote: _What
is the Bible?_ p. 327.] And I am ready to go farther with the same
brave but reverent scholar, and say, "Having thus grounded in historical
and critical researches the genuineness of the Fourth Gospel, we have no
hesitation in affirming what position it must take in Sacred Scripture.
It is the heart of Jesus Christ with which we here come in contact.
Inspiration and reflection uniting upon the choicest and most undoubted
material of history, and fusing all the material with the holy
characteristics of revelation, are nowhere else so apparent as in the
Gospel of the Apostle John." [Footnote: _Doctrine of Sacred
Scripture_, i. 573]

Such, then, is the fourfold biography of Jesus the Christ preserved for
us in the New Testament. If this study has removed something of the
mystery with which the origin of these writings has been shrouded, it
has, I trust, at the same time, made them appear more real and more
human; and it has shown the providential oversight by which their
artless record, many-sided, manifold, yet simple and clear as the
daylight, has been preserved for us. Of these four Gospels we are
certainly entitled to say as much as this, that whatever verbal
discrepancies may be detected in them, and however difficult it may be
satisfactorily to explain all the phenomena of their structure and
relations, in one thing they marvelously agree, and that is in the
picture which they give us of the life and character of Jesus Christ. In
this each one of them is self-consistent, and they are all consistent
with one another. And this, if we will reflect upon it, is a marvelous,
not to say a miraculous fact. That four such men as these Evangelists
incontestably were should have succeeded in giving us four portraitures
of the Divine Man, without contradicting themselves, and without
contradicting one another,--four distinct views of this wonderful
Person, which show us different sides of his character, and which we yet
instantly recognize as the same person, is a very great wonder. No such
task was ever laid on any other human biographer as that which
confronted these men; no character so difficult to comprehend and
describe ever existed; for one man to preserve all the unities of art in
describing him would be notable; for four men to give us, independently,
four narratives, from the simple pages of which the same lineaments
shine out, so that no one ever thinks of saying that the Jesus of
Matthew is a different person from the Jesus of Mark or Luke or
John,--this, I say, is marvelous.

And it is this character, majestic in its simplicity, glorious in its
humility, the Ideal of Humanity, the Mystery of Godliness, that these
Gospels are meant to show us. If they only bring him clearly before us,
make his personality real and familiar and vivid before our eyes, so
that we may know him and love him, that is all we want of them.
Infallibility in details would be worthless if this were wanting; any
small discrepancies are beneath notice if this is here. And this is
here. Read for yourselves. From the page of Matthew, illuminated with
the words of prophecy that tell of the Messiah's coming; from the vivid
and rapid record of Mark, in which the Wonder-worker displays his power;
from the tender story of Luke, speaking the word of grace to those that
are lowest down and farthest off; from the mystical Gospel of the
beloved disciple opening to us the deep things that only love can see,
the same divine form appears, the same divine face shines, the same
divine voice is speaking. Behold the man!



The Acts of the Apostles contains the history of the Christian church
from the time of the ascension of our Lord to the end of the second year
of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome. The period covered by the history
is therefore only about thirty years. The principal events recorded in
it are the great Pentecostal Revival, the Martyrdom of Stephen, the
first persecution of the church and the dispersion of the disciples, the
conversion and the missionary work of Paul, with the circumstances of
his arrest at Jerusalem, his journey as a prisoner to Rome, and a brief
account of his residence in that city. In the first part of the book
Peter, the leader of the apostolic band, is the central figure; the last
part is occupied with the life and work of Paul.

Who is the writer? Irenæus, about 182, names Luke as the author of the
book, and speaks as though the fact were undisputed. He calls him "a
follower and disciple of apostles," and declares that "he was
inseparable from Paul and was his fellow-helper in the gospel." This is
the earliest distinct reference to the book in any ancient Christian
writing. After this, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and
Eusebius bear the same testimony. But these are late witnesses. The
earliest of them testified a hundred years after the death of Luke. The
direct testimony to the existence of this book in the first two cenuries
is not, therefore, altogether satisfactory. The indirect testimony is,
however, clear and strong.

That the Acts was written by the author of the Third Gospel is scarcely
doubted by any critical scholar. The fact of the identity of authorship
is stated with the utmost explicitness in the introduction of the Acts.
"The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus
began both to do and to teach" (Luke i. I, 2). The author of the Acts of
the Apostles certainly intends to say that he is the writer of the Third
Gospel. If he is not the author of the Third Gospel he is an artful and
shameless deceiver. But the whole atmosphere of the book forbids the
theory that it is a cunning imposition. And the internal evidence that
the two books were written by the same author is ample and convincing.
The style and the method of the treatment of the two books are
unmistakably identical. Every page bears witness to the fact that the
author of the Third Gospel and the author of the Acts are one and the
same person. Now we know, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the Gospel
of Luke was written certainly as early as the year 80 A. D. And there is
as good reason, as we have seen already, for accepting the ancient and
universal tradition of the church that Luke was its author. If Luke
wrote the two books, the date of both of them is carried back to the
last part of the first century. But the concluding portion of the Acts
of the Apostles seems to fix the date of that book much more precisely.
The author, after narrating Paul's journey to Rome, his arrival there,
and his first unsatisfactory interview with the Jewish leaders, closes
his book with this compendious statement:--

"And he abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling, and received
all that went in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching
all things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none
forbidding him."

This is the last word in the New Testament history respecting the
Apostle Paul. Now it is evident that this writer was Paul's friend and
traveling companion. It is true that he keeps himself out of sight in
the history. We only know when he joined Paul by the fact that the
narrative changes from the third person singular to the first person
plural; he ceases to say "he," and begins to say "we." Thus we are made
aware that he joined Paul at Troas on his second missionary journey, and
went with him as far as Philippi; rejoined him at the same place on his
third missionary tour, and accompanied him to Jerusalem; was his
fellow-voyager on that memorable journey to Rome, and there abode with
him for two years. The Epistle to the Colossians and the Epistle to
Philemon were written during this imprisonment at Rome, and in both of
these Epistles Paul speaks of the fact that Luke is near him. In the
second letter to Timothy, which is supposed to have been written during
the second imprisonment at Rome, and near the close of his life, he says
again, "Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him unto me, for he
is useful to me for ministering." If the common opinion concerning the
date of this letter is correct, then Luke must have remained with Paul
at Rome until the close of his life. But the narrative in Luke does not
give any account of the closing years of Paul's life. It breaks off
abruptly at the end of his two years' residence in Rome. Why is this?
Evidently because there is no more to tell at this time. The writer
continues the history up to the date of his writing and stops there. If
he had been writing after the death of Paul, he would certainly have
told us of the circumstances of his death. There is no rational
explanation of this abrupt ending, except that the book was written at
about the time when the story closes. This was certainly about 63 A. D.
And if the Book of Acts was written as early as this, the Gospel of
Luke, the "former treatise" by the same author, must have been written
earlier than this. Thus the Book of Acts not only furnishes strong
evidence of its own early date, but helps to establish the early date of
the third Gospel.

These conclusions, to my own mind, are irresistible. No theory which
consists with the common honesty of the writer can bring these books
down to a later date. And I cannot doubt the honesty of the writer. His
writings prove him to be a careful, painstaking, veracious historian. In
many slight matters this accuracy appears. The political structure of
the Roman Empire at this time was somewhat complicated. The provinces
were divided between the Emperor and the Senate; those heads of
provinces who were directly responsible to the Emperor and the military
authorities were called proprætors; those who were under the
jurisdiction of the Senate were called proconsuls. In mentioning these
officers Luke never makes a mistake; he gets the precise title every
time. Once, indeed, the critics thought they had caught him in an error.
Sergius Paulus, the Roman ruler of Cyprus, he calls proconsul. "Wrong!"
said the critics, "Cyprus was an imperial province; the title of this
officer must have been proprætor." But when the critics studied a little
more, they found out that Augustus put this province back under the
Senate, so that Luke's title is exactly right. And to clinch the matter,
old coins of this very date have been found in Cyprus, giving to the
chief magistrate of the island the title of proconsul. Such evidences of
the accuracy of the writer are not wanting. It is needless to insist
that he never makes a mistake; doubtless he does, in some small matters,
and we have learned to take such a view of the inspiration of the
Scriptures that the discovery of some small error does not trouble us in
the least; but the admission that he is not infallible is perfectly
consistent with the belief that he is an honest, competent, faithful
witness. This is all that he claims for himself, this is all that we
claim for him, but this we do claim. We do not believe that he was a
conscienceless impostor. We do not believe that the man who told the
story of Ananias and Sapphira was himself a monumental liar. We believe
that he meant to tell the truth, and the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth. Therefore, we believe that he lived in the times of the
apostles, and received from them, as he says that he did, the facts that
he recorded in his Gospel; that he was the traveling companion and
missionary helper of Paul, as he intimates that he was, and that he has
given us a true account of the life and work of that great apostle.

The constant and undesigned coincidences between the Acts of the
Apostles and the Epistles of Paul--the many ways in which the personal
and historical references of the latter support the statements of the
former--are also strong evidence of the genuineness of the Acts. Putting
all these indirect and incidental proofs together the historical verity
of the Acts seems to me very firmly established. That there are critical
difficulties may be admitted; some passages of this ancient writing are
not easily explained; there are discrepancies, for example, between the
story of the resurrection and ascension of Christ as told in Luke and
the same story as related in the Acts; possibly the writer obtained
fuller information in the interval between the publication of these two
books by which he corrected the earlier narrative. In the different
accounts of the conversion of Paul there are also disagreements which we
cannot reconcile; nevertheless, in the words of Dr. Donaldson, "Even
these very accounts contain evidence in them that they were written by
the same writer, and they do not destroy the force of the rest of the
evidence." [Footnote: _Encyc. Brit._, i. 124. ]

The theory of Baur that this book was written in the last part of the
second century by a disciple of St. Paul, and that it is mainly a work
of fiction, intended to bring about a reconciliation between two
bitterly hostile parties in the church, the Pauline and the Petrine
sects, need not detain us long. Baur contends that the church in the
first two centuries was split in twain, the followers of Peter insisting
that no man could become a Christian without first becoming a Jew, the
followers of Paul maintaining that the Jewish ritual was abolished, and
that the Gentiles ought to have immediate access to the Christian
fellowship. Their antagonism was so radical and far-reaching that at the
end of the apostolic age the two parties had no dealings with each
other. "Then," in the words of Professor Fisher, who is here summarizing
the theory of Baur, "followed attempts to reconcile the difference, and
to bridge the gulf that separated Gentile from Jewish, Pauline from
Petrine Christianity. To this end various irenical and compromising
books were written in the name of the apostles and their helpers. The
most important monument of this pacifying effort is the Book of Acts,
written in the earlier part of the second century by a Pauline Christian
who, by making Paul something of a Judaizer, and then representing Peter
as agreeing with him in the recognition of the rights of the Gentiles,
hoped, not in vain, to produce a mutual friendliness between the
respective partisans of the rival apostles. The Acts is a fiction
founded on facts, and written for a specific doctrinal purpose. The
narrative of the council or conference of the Apostles, for example
(Acts xx.), is pronounced a pure invention of the writer, and such a
representation of the condition of things as is inconsistent with Paul's
own statements, and for this and other reasons plainly false. The same
ground is taken in respect to the conversion of Cornelius, and the
vision of Peter concerning it." [Footnote: _The Supernatural Origin of
Christianity,_ pp. 211,212.]

For this theory there is, of course, some slight historical basis. It is
true, as we have seen, that Peter and Paul did have a sharp disagreement
on this very question at Antioch. It is also true that both these great
apostles behaved quite inconsistently, Peter at Antioch, and Paul
afterwards at Jerusalem, when he consented to the propositions of the
Judaizers, and burdened himself with certain Jewish observances in a
vain attempt to conciliate some of the weaker brethren. That the story
of the Acts unflinchingly shows us the weaknesses and errors of the
great apostles is good evidence of its veracity. But the notion that it
is a work of fiction fabricated for such purposes as are outlined above
is utterly incredible. Those Epistles of Paul which Baur admits to be
genuine contain abundant disproof of his theory. There never was any
such schism as he fancies. Paul spends a good part of his time in his
last missionary journey in collecting funds for the relief of those poor
"saints," for so he calls them, at Jerusalem; and every reference that
he makes to them is of the most affectionate character. Paul recognizes
in the most emphatic way the authority of the other apostles, and the
fellowship of labor and suffering by which he is united to them. All
this and much more of the same import we find in those epistles which
Baur admits to be the genuine writings of Paul. In short, it may be said
that after the thorough discussion to which his theory has been
subjected for the last twenty-five years, it has scarcely a sound leg
left to stand on. It may be admitted to be one of the most brilliant
works of the historical imagination which the century has produced. It
is supported by vast learning, and it has thrown much light on certain
movements of the early church; but, taken as a whole it is unscientific
and contradictory; it raises two difficulties, where it disposes of one,
and it ignores more facts than it includes.

We return from this excursion through the fields of destructive
criticism with a strong conviction that this narrative of the Acts of
the Apostles was written by Luke the Evangelist, the companion and
fellow-worker of Paul, and that it gives us a veracious history of the
earliest years of the Christian church.

The last of the New Testament books does not belong chronologically at
the end of the collection. There was a tradition, to which Irenæus gives
currency, that it was written during the reign of Domitian, about 97 or
98 A. D. But this tradition is now almost universally discredited.
Critics of all classes date the book as early as 75-79 A. D., while the
best authorities put it nearly ten years earlier, in the autumn of 68 or
the spring of 69. As Archdeacon Farrar suggests, it would be vastly
better if these books of the New Testament were arranged in true
chronological order; they could be more easily understood. The fact that
this weird production stands at the end of the collection has made upon
many minds a wrong impression as to its meaning, and has given it a kind
of significance to which it is not entitled.

The authorship of the book is quite generally ascribed to John the son
of Zebedee, brother of James, and one of the apostles of our Lord. Even
the destructive critics agree to this; some among them say that there is
less doubt about the date and the authorship of this book than about
almost any other New Testament writing. In making this concession they
intend, however, to discredit the Johannine authorship of the Fourth
Gospel. The more certain we are that John wrote the Revelation, they
argue, the more certain are we that he did not write the Gospel which
bears his name; for the style of the two writings is so glaringly
contrasted that it is simply impossible that both could have come from
the same writer. This does not seem nearly so clear to me as it does to
some of these learned and perspicacious critics. A great contrast there
is, indeed, between the style of the Revelation and that of the Gospel;
but this contrast may be explained. It is said, in the first place, that
the Greek of the Apocalypse is very bad Greek, full of ungrammatical
sentences, abounding in Hebraisms, while that of the Gospel is good
Greek, accurate and rhetorical in its structure. But this is by no means
an unaccountable phenomenon. The first book was written by the apostle
very soon, probably, after his removal to Ephesus. He had never, I
suppose, been accustomed to use the Greek familiarly in his own country;
had never written in it at all, and it is not strange that he should
express himself awkwardly when he first began to write Greek; that the
Aramaic idioms should constantly reproduce themselves in his Greek
sentences. After he had been living for twenty-five years in the
cultivated Greek city of Ephesus, using the Greek language continually,
it is probable that he would write it more elegantly.

But it is said that the rhetorical style of the one book differs
radically from that of the other. Doubtless. The one book is an
apocalypse, the other is a biography. John may not have been a practiced
_litterateur,_ but he certainly had literary sense and feeling
enough to know how to put a very different color and atmosphere into an
apocalyptical writing from that which he would employ in a report of the
life and words of Jesus. Without any reflection, indeed, he would
instinctively use the apocalyptic imagery; his pages would flare and
resound with the lurid symbolism peculiar to the apocalypses. How
definite a type of literature this was we shall presently see; no
writer, while using it, would clearly manifest his own personality. And
if through all this disguise we do discern symptoms of a temper more
fervid and a spirit more Judaic than that which finds expression in the
Fourth Gospel, let us remember that the ripened wisdom of the old man
speaks in the latter, and the intense enthusiasm of conscious strength
in the former. This John, let us not forget, was not in his youth a
paragon of mildness; it was he and his brother James who earned the
sobriquet of Boanerges, "Sons of thunder;" it was they who wanted to
call down fire from heaven to consume an inhospitable Samaritan village.
Moreover, we shall see as we go on that the times in which this
apocalypse was written were times in which the mildest, mannered men
would be apt to forget their decorum, and speak with unwonted intensity.
A man with any blood in him, who undertook to write in the year 68 of
the themes with which the soul of this apostle was then on fire, would
be likely to show, no matter in what vehicle of speech his thought might
be conveyed, some sign of the tumult then raging within him.

All these circumstances, taken together, enable me to explain the
difference between the literary form of the Revelation and that of the
Gospel. But when we come to look a little more deeply into the meaning
of the two books, we shall find that beneath all this dissimilarity
there are some remarkable points of agreement. Quite a number of the
leading ideas and conceptions of the one book reappear in the other; the
idea of Christ as the _Word_ or _Logos_ of God, the representation
of Christ as the Lamb, as the Good Shepherd, as the Light, are peculiar to
John; we find them emphasized in the Gospel and in the Revelation. The
unity of the two books in fundamental conceptions has been admirably
brought out by Dr. Sears, in his volume entitled "The Heart of Christ."
And after weighing the evidence, I find neither historical nor
psychological reasons sufficient to overthrow my belief that the Fourth
Gospel, as well as the Revelation, was written by John the Apostle.

The Greek name of the book means an uncovering or unveiling, and is
fairly interpreted, therefore, by our word Revelation. It belongs to a
class of books which were produced in great numbers during the two
centuries preceding the birth of Christ and the two centuries following;
and no one can understand it or interpret it who does not know something
of this species of literature, of the forms of expression peculiar to
it, and of the purposes which it was intended to serve.

We have in the Old Testament one Apocalyptic book, that of Daniel, and
there are apocalyptical elements in two or three of the prophecies. The
fact that the Book of Daniel bears this character is a strong argument
for the lateness of its origin; for it was in the last years of the
Jewish nationality that this kind of writing became popular. We have six
or seven books of this kind, which are written mainly from the
standpoint of the old dispensation, part of which appeared just before
and part shortly after the beginning of our era; and there are nearly a
dozen volumes of Christian apocalypses, all of which employ similar
forms of expression, and are directed towards similar ends. Doubtless
these are only a few of the great number of apocalyptical books which
those ages produced. Their characteristics are well set forth by Dr.

"This branch of later Jewish literature took its rise after the older
prophecy had ceased, when Israel suffered sorely from Syrian and Roman
oppression. Its object was to encourage and comfort the people by
holding forth the speedy restoration of the Davidic Kingdom of Messiah.
Attaching itself to the national hope, it proclaimed the impending of a
glorious future, in which Israel freed from her enemies should enjoy a
peaceful and prosperous life under her long-wished-for deliverer. The
old prophets became the vehicle of these utterances. Revelations,
sketching the history of Israel and of heathenism, are put into their
mouths. The prophecies take the form of symbolical images and marvelous
visions.... Working in this fashion upon the basis of well-known
writings, imitating their style, and artificially reproducing their
substance, the authors naturally adopted the anonymous. The difficulty
was increased by their having to paint as future, events actually near,
and to fit the manifestation of a personal Messiah into the history of
the times. Many apocalyptists employed obscure symbols and mysterious
pictures, veiling the meaning that it might not be readily seen.
[Footnote: _Encyc. Brit._, i. 174. ]

"Every time," says Dr. Harnack, "the political situation culminated in a
crisis for the people of God, the apocalypses appeared stirring up the
believers; in spirit, form, plan, and execution they closely resembled
each other.... They all spoke in riddles; that is, by means of images,
symbols, mystic numbers, forms of animals, etc., they half concealed
what they meant to reveal. The reasons for this procedure are not far to
seek: (1.) Clearness and distinctness would have been too profane; only
the mysterious appears divine. (2.) It was often dangerous to be too
distinct." [Footnote: _Encyc. Brit._, xx. 496. ]

That these writings appeared in troublous times, and that they dealt
with affairs of the present and of the immediate future, must always be
borne in mind. Certain symbolical conceptions are common to them;
earthquakes denote revolutions; stars falling from heaven typify the
downfall of kings and dynasties; a beast is often the emblem of a
tyrant; the turning of the sun into darkness and the moon into blood
signify carnage and destruction upon the earth. We have these symbolisms
in several of the Old Testament writings as well as in many of the
apocalyptical books which are not in our canon; and the interpretation
of such passages is not at all difficult when we understand the usage of
the writers.

Of these apocalyptic books one of the most remarkable is the Book of
Enoch, which appears to have been written a century or two before
Christ. It purports to be a revelation made to and through the patriarch
Enoch; it contains an account of the fall of the angels, and of a
progeny of giants that sprung from the union of these exiled celestials
with the daughters of men; it takes Enoch on a tour of observation
through heaven and earth under the guidance of angels, who explain to
him many things supernal and mundane; it deals in astronomical and
meteorological mysteries of various sorts, and in a series of symbolical
visions seeks to disclose the events of the future. It is a grotesque
production; one does not find much spiritual nutriment in it, but Jude
makes a quotation from it, in his epistle, as if he considered it Holy

"The Fourth Book of Esdras" is another Jewish book of the same kind,
which may have been written about the hundredth year of our era. It
purports to be the work of Ezra, whom it misplaces, chronologically,
putting him in the thirtieth year of the Captivity. The problem of the
writer is the restoration of the nation, destroyed and scattered by the
Roman power. He makes the ancient scribe and law-giver of Israel his
mouthpiece, but he is dealing with the events of his own time.
Nevertheless, his allusions are veiled and obscure; he speaks in
riddles, yet he speaks to a people who understand his riddles, and know
how to take his symbolic visions. This book is in our English Apocrypha,
under the title 2 Esdras.

"The Book of Jubilees," which assumes to be a revelation made to Moses
on Mount Sinai, "The Ascension of Moses," "The Apocalypse of Moses," and
the "Apocalypse of Baruch," are other similar books of the Jewish

Of apocalyptical Christian writings, I may mention "The Sibylline
Books," "The Apocalypse of Paul," "The Apocalypse of Peter," "The
Revelation of Bartholomew," and "The Ascension of Isaiah," and there is
also another "Apocalypse of John," a feeble imitation of the one with
which our canon closes. These books appeared in the second, third, and
fourth centuries of our era; they generally look forward to the second
coming of Christ, and set forth in various figures and symbols the
conflicts and persecutions which his saints must encounter, the
destruction of his foes, and the establishment of his kingdom.

It will be seen, therefore, that the Revelation of St. John is not
unique; and the inference will not be rash that much light may be thrown
upon its dark sayings by a careful study of kindred books.

It may be answered that the writer of this book is inspired, and that
nothing can be learned of the meaning of an inspired book by studying
uninspired books. I reply that no inspired book can be understood at all
without a careful study of uninspired books. The Greek grammar and the
Greek lexicon are uninspired books, and no man can understand a single
one of the books of the New Testament without carefully studying both of
them, or else availing himself of the labor of some one else who has
diligently studied them. An inspired writer uses language,--the same
language that uninspired writers use; the meaning of language is fixed
not by inspiration, but by usage; you must study the grammar and the
lexicon to learn about the usage. And the case is precisely similar when
an inspired writer uses a peculiar form of literature like the
apocalyptical writings. He knows when he uses symbolisms of this class
that they will be interpreted according to the common usage; he expects
and desires that they shall be so understood; and, therefore, in order
to understand them, we must know what the usage is.

When our Lord, speaking of the calamities which were about to fall upon
the Jewish people, said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those
days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens
shall be shaken," he was speaking to people who were perfectly familiar
with language of this sort, because the same expressions occur over and
over again in their prophets, and are there distinctly declared to mean
great political overturnings. He used the apocalyptic phraseology, and
he expected them to give it the apocalyptic signification. If we wish to
understand the Scripture, we must understand the language of Scripture,
and this means not only the grammatical forms, but also the symbolic
usages of the language.

We have seen that the apocalypses are apt to appear in times of great
calamity, and we have accepted the verdict of later scholarship, that
this Apocalypse of St. John appeared about 68 or 69 A.D. Was this a time
of trouble in that Eastern world? Verily it was; the most appalling hour
perhaps in the world's history. The unspeakable Nero was either still
upon the throne of the Roman Empire, or had just reeled from that
eminence to the doom of a craven suicide. The last years of his life
were gorged with horror. The murder of his brother, the burning of Rome,
probably by his connivance, if not by his command, in order that he
might sate his appetite for sensations upon this horrid spectacle;
following this the fiendish scheme to charge this incendiarism upon the
Christians, and slaughter them by tens of thousands in all the cities of
the Empire,--these are only instances of a career which words are too
feeble to portray. Those who succeeded him in this supreme power were
not much less ferocious; the very name of pity seemed to have been
blotted from the Roman speech; the whole Empire reeked with cruelty and
perfidy. While such men ruled at Rome it could not be supposed that the
imperial representatives in the provinces would be temperate and just.
Some of them, at any rate, had learned the lesson of the hour, and were
as perfidious, as truculent, as base as their master could have wished.
Such a one was that Gessius Floras who was the procurator of Judea, and
who seemed to have exhausted the ingenuity of a malignant nature in
stirring up the Jews to insurrection. By every species of indignity and
cruelty he finally stung the long-suffering people into a perfect fury,
and the rebellion which broke out in Palestine in the year 66 was one of
the most fearful eruptions of human nature that the world has ever seen.
Florus had raised the demon; now the legions of Rome must be called in
to exorcise it. It was a terrible struggle. All the energies of Jewish
fanaticisms were enlisted; the Zealots, the fiercest party among them,
not content with slaughtering their Roman enemies, turned their hands
against every man of their own nation who ventured to question the
wisdom of their desperate resistance. In Jerusalem itself a reign of
terror raged which makes the French Revolution seem in comparison a calm
and orderly procedure.

At the beginning of the outbreak Nero had sent one of his trusted
generals, Vespasian, and Vespasian's son Titus, to put down the
insurrection. Neither of these soldiers was a sentimentalist; both
believed as heartily as did Wentworth in later years that the word of
the hour was Thorough. They started with their armies from Antioch in
March, 67, resolved on sweeping Palestine with the besom of destruction.
Cities and villages, one by one, were besieged, captured, destroyed;
men, women, and children were indiscriminately massacred. The Jewish
army fought every inch of the ground like tigers; but they were
overpowered and beaten in detail, and steadily forced southward.
Blackened walls, pools of blood, and putrefying corpses were all that
the Romans left in their rear; ruthlessly they drove the doomed people
before them toward their stronghold of Jerusalem. In the autumn of that
year Vespasian withdrew his army into winter-quarters, and left the
Zealots in Jerusalem to their orgy of brigandage and butchery. He could
well afford to rest and let them do his deadly work.

In the spring of the following year, the siege of Jerusalem began. The
Christians of the city had fled to Pella, east of the Jordan; the
remnant of the Jews held their sacred heights with the courage of

It is at this very juncture that this book of the Revelation was
written. John testifies that it was written on Patmos, a desolate islet
of the Ægean Sea, west of Asia Minor, to which he had either been
banished by some tool of Nero, or else had betaken himself for solitude
and reflection. To him, in this retreat, the awful tidings had come of
the scourge that had fallen on the land of his fathers; added to this,
the conflagration at Rome, the Neronian persecution, all the horrors of
the past decade were fresh in his memory. May we not say that the time
was ripe for an apocalyptic message?

It is in these events, then, that we must find the explanation of much
of this symbolical language. Such is the law of the apocalypse, and this
apocalypse may be expected to conform to the law. St. John is instructed
by the angel to write "the things which thou sawest, and the things
which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter,"--"the
things which must _shortly_ come to pass," the first verse more
explicitly states. It is the past which he has seen, the present, and
the immediate future with which his visions are concerned. It is not any
attempt to outline the whole course of human history; it is the picture,
in mystic symbols, of the present crisis and of the deliverance which is
to follow it. There is no room here for a commentary on the Apocalypse;
I will only indicate, in a rapid glance, the outline of the book.

The first three chapters are occupied with the epistles to the seven
churches which are in Asia, administering reproof, exhortation, comfort,
and counsel to the Christians in these churches,--faithful, stirring,
persuasive appeals, whose meaning can be easily understood, and whose
truth is often sorely needed by the churches of our own time.

Then begins the proper Apocalypse, with the first vision of the throne
in heaven, and sitting thereon the Lamb that was slain, who is also the
Lion of the tribe of Judah. The book sealed with seven seals is given to
him to open, and the opening of each seal discloses a new vision. The
first seal opened shows a white horse bearing a rider who carries a bow
and wears a crown, and who goes forth conquering and to conquer. This is
the emblem of the Messiah whose conquest of the world is represented as
beginning. But the Messiah once said, "I came not to bring peace, but a
sword," and the consequences of his coming must often be strife and
sorrow because of the malignity of men. And therefore the three seals
which are opened next disclose a fiery horse, the symbol of War, a black
horse, whose rider is Famine, a pale horse in whose saddle is Death. The
opening of the fifth seal shows the martyred multitude before the throne
of God. The sixth discloses the desolation and the ruin taking place
upon the earth. Thus the mighty panorama passes constantly before our
eyes; the confusion, the devastation, the woes, the scourges of mankind
through which Messiah's Kingdom is advancing to its triumph. The seals,
the trumpets, the vials bring before us representations of the
retributions and calamities which are falling upon mankind. Sometimes we
seem to be able to fix upon a historical event which the vision clearly
symbolizes; sometimes the meaning to us is vague; perhaps if we had
lived in that day the allusion would have been more intelligible.

There is, however, one great central group of these visions round about
which the others seem to be arrayed as scenic accessories, whose
interpretation the writer has taken great pains to indicate. These are
the visions found in chapters xii., xiii., xvi., and xvii. The woman,
sun-clad, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon
her head (chap, xii.), is beyond all question the ancient Jewish church;
the child which is born to the woman is the Christian church; the great
red dragon that seeks to devour the child is the Satanic power, the
Prince of this world. The Dragon is here on the earth because he has
been expelled from heaven. The war of the Dragon against the woman
indicates the persecutions of the church; the flight of the woman to the
wilderness may symbolize the recent escape of the mother church from
Jerusalem to Pella.

The next vision shows a Beast, coming up out of the sea, with seven
heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten diadems, and on his heads
names of blasphemy. Here we have an instance of that confounding of
symbols, the merging of one in another, which is very common in the
apocalyptic writings. The beast is, primarily, Nero, or the Roman
Empire, as represented by--Nero. The ten horns are the ten chief
provinces; the seven heads are seven emperors. "It is a symbol," says
Dr. Farrar, "interchangeably of the Roman Empire and of the Emperor. In
fact, to a greater degree than at any period of history, the two were
one. Roman history had dwindled down into a personal drama. The Roman
Emperor could say with literal truth, _'L'Etat c'est moi'_. And a
wild beast was a Jew's natural symbol either for a Pagan Kingdom or for
its autocrat." [Footnote: _The Early Days of Christianity_, p.
463.] I can do no better than to repeat to you a small part of Dr.
Farrar's further comment upon this vision.

"This wild beast of Heathen Rome has ten horns, which represent the ten
main provinces of Imperial Rome. It has the power of the Dragon, that
is, it possesses the Satanic dominion of the 'Prince of the power of the

"On each of its heads is the name of blasphemy. Every one of the seven
Kings, however counted, had borne the (to Jewish ears) blasphemous
surname of Augustus (Sebastos, one to be adored); had received
apotheosis, and been spoken of as _Divine_ after his death; had
been crowned with statues, adorned with divine attributes, had been
saluted with divine titles, and, in some instances, had been absolutely
worshiped, and that in his lifetime....

"The diadems are on the horns, because the Roman _Proconsuls_, as
delegates of the Emperor, enjoy no little share of the Cæsarean
autocracy and splendor, but the name of blasphemy is only on the heads,
because the Emperor alone receives divine honors and alone bears the
daring title of Augustus." [Footnote: _Ibid_., p. 464.]

One of the heads of this Beast was wounded to death, but the deadly
wound was healed. It was the universal belief among Pagans and
Christians that the world had not yet seen the last of Nero. Either his
suicide was feigned and ineffectual, and he was in hiding, or else he
would come to life and resume his savage splendors and his gilded
villainies. To make it certain that the writer here refers to this
expectation, we find, in chapter xvii., another reference to the Beast,
which seems at first a riddle, but which is easily interpreted. "The
five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come"; "The Beast that
thou sawest was and is not, and is about to come out of the abyss." "The
Beast that was and is not, even he is an eighth, and is of the seven."
The head and the Beast are here identified. The meaning is that five
Roman Emperors are dead, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero;
"one is,"--Galba is now reigning; "the other" (Otho) "is not yet come;"
but he must come soon for Galba is an old man and cannot long survive,
and "the Beast that was and is not,"--Nero,--who is "about to come out
of the abyss,"--to return to life,--"even he is an eighth, and is of
the seven." He is one of the seven, for he was the fifth, and he will be
the eighth. It was the universal Christian belief that Nero, raised from
the dead, would be the future Antichrist, and it is this belief which
the vision reflects. To make the case still clearer the writer gives us,
by the current Hebrew Kabbalistic method, the number of the Beast, that
is to say, the numerical value of his name. Each letter of the old
alphabets has a numerical value. Thus the writer of the Sibyllines
points out the Greek name of Jesus--Ιησους,--by saying that its whole
number is equivalent to eight units, eight tens, and eight hundreds.
This is the exact numerical value of the six Greek letters composing
the Saviour's name, 10+8+200+70+400+200=888. Precisely so John here
tells us what is the numerical value of the letters in the name of
the Beast. If we tried the Latin or the Greek names of Nero the clue
would not be found; but John was writing mainly for Hebrews, and the
Hebrew letters of _Kesar Neron_, the name by which every Jew knew
this Emperor, amount to exactly 666.

Many other of the features of this veiled description tally perfectly
with the character of this infamous ruler; and when the evidence is all
brought together it seems as though the apostle could scarcely have made
his meaning more obvious if he had written Nero's name in capital

This is the central vision of the Apocalypse, as I have said; round
about this the whole cyclorama revolves; and it has been the standing
enigma of the interpreters in all the ages. The early church generally
divined its meaning; but in later years the high-soaring exegesis which
has spread this Apocalypse all over the centuries and found in it
prophetic symbols of almost all the events that have happened in
mediæval and modern history, has identified the Beast with countless
characters, among them Genseric, King of the Vandals, Benedict, Trajan,
Paul V., Calvin, Luther, Mohammed, Napoleon. All this wild guessing
arises from ignorance of the essential character and purpose of the
apocalyptical writings.

I can follow this enticing theme no further. Let it suffice to call the
attention of all who desire to reach some sober conclusions upon the
meaning of the book to Archdeacon Farrar's "Early Days of Christianity,"
in which the whole subject is treated with the amplest learning and the
soundest literary judgment.

The Book of Revelation has been, as I have intimated, the favorite
tramping ground of all the hosts of theological visionaries; men who
possessed not the slightest knowledge of the history or the nature of
apocalyptic literature, and whose appetite for the mysterious and the
monstrous was insatiable, have expatiated here with boundless license.
To find in these visions descriptions of events now passing and
characters now upon the stage is a sore temptation. To use these hard
words, the Beast, the Dragon, the False Prophet, as missiles wherewith
to assail those who belong to a school or a party with which you are at
variance, is a chance that no properly constituted partisan could
willingly fore-go. Thus we have seen this book dragged into the
controversies and applied to the events of all the centuries, and the
history of its interpretation is, as one of its interpreters confesses,
the opprobrium of exegesis. But if one ceases to look among these
symbols for a predictive outline of modern history, "a sort of
anticipated Gibbon," and begins to read it in the light of the
apocalyptic method, it may have rich and large meanings for him. He will
not be able, indeed, to explain it all; to some of these riddles the
clue has been lost; but, in the words of Dr. Farrar, "he will find that
the Apocalypse is what it professes to be,--an inspired outline of
contemporary history, and of the events to which the sixth decade of the
first century gave immediate rise. He will read in it the tremendous
manifesto of a Christian seer against the blood-stained triumph of
imperial heathenism; a pæan and a prophecy over the ashes of the
martyrs; the thundering reverberations of a mighty spirit struck by the
fierce plectrum of the Neronian persecution, and answering in
impassioned music which, like many of David's Psalms, dies away into the
language of rapturous hope." [Footnote: _Early Days of Christianity_,
p. 429. ]

For we must not forget that this is a song of triumph. This seer is no
pessimist. The strife is hot, the carnage is fearful, they that rise up
against our Lord and his Messiah are many and mighty, but there is no
misgiving as to the event. For all these woes there is solace, after all
these conflicts peace. Even in the midst of the raging wars and
persecutions, the door is opened now and again into the upper realm of
endless joy and unfading light. And he "whose name is called The Word of
God," upon whose garment and whose thigh the name is written, "King of
Kings and Lord of Lords," will prevail at last over all his foes. The
Beast and the Dragon, and the False Prophet and the Scarlet Woman (the
harlot city upon her seven hills whose mystic name is Babylon) will all
be cast into the lake of fire; then to the purified earth the New
Jerusalem shall come down out of heaven from God. This is the emblem and
the prophecy, not of the city beyond the stars, but of the purified
society which shall yet exist upon the earth,--the fruition of his work
who came, not to judge the world, but to save the world. It is on these
plains, along these rivers, by these fair shores that the New Jerusalem
is to stand; it is not heaven; it is a city that comes down out of
heaven from God. No statement could be more explicit. The glorious
visions which fill the last chapters of this wonderful book are the
promise of that "All hail Hereafter," for which every Christian patriot,
every lover of mankind, is always looking and longing and fighting and
waiting. And he who, by the mouth of this seer, testifieth the words
of the prophecy of this book saith, "Yea, I come quickly. Even so, come,
Lord Jesus."



We have studied with what care we were able tee historical problem of
the origin and authorship of the several books of the Old and New
Testament; we now come to a deeply interesting question,--the question
of the canon.

This word, as used in this connection, means simply an authoritative
list or catalogue. The canon of the Bible is the determined and official
table of contents. The settlement of the canon is the process of
determining what and how many books the Bible shall contain. In the Old
Testament are thirty-nine books, in the New Testament twenty-seven; and
it is a fixed principle with Protestants that these books and no others
constitute the Sacred Scriptures,--that no more can be added and none
taken away.

The popular belief respecting this matter has been largely founded upon
the words with which the Book of Revelation concludes:--

"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of
this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the
plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his
part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written
in this book."

The common notion is that the "book" here referred to is the Bible; and
that these sentences, therefore, are the divine authorization of the
present contents of the Bible, a solemn testimony from the Lord himself
to the integrity of the canon. But this is a misapprehension. The book
referred to is the Revelation of St. John,--not the Bible, not even the
New Testament. When these words were written, says Dr. Barnes in his
"Commentary," "the books that now constitute what we call the Bible were
not collected into a single volume. That passage, therefore, should not
be adduced as referring to the whole of the Sacred Scriptures." In fact,
when these words of the Revelation were written, several of the books of
the New Testament were not yet in existence; for this is by no means the
last of the New Testament writings, though it stands at the end of the
collection. The Gospel and the Epistles of John were added after this;
and we may trust that no plagues were "added" to the beloved disciple
for writing them.

Nevertheless, as I said, it is assumed that the contents of the Bible
are fixed; that the collection is and for a long time has been complete
and perfect; that it admits neither of subtractions nor of additions;
that nothing is in the book which ought not to be there, and that there
is nothing outside of its covers which ought to be within them; that the
canon is settled, inflexibly and infallibly and finally.

The questions now to be considered are these: Who settled it? When was
it settled? On what grounds was it determined? Was any question ever
raised concerning the sacredness or authority of any of the books now
included in the canon? Did any other books, not now included in the
canon, ever claim a place in it? If so, why were these rejected and
those retained?

This is, as will be seen, a simple question of history. We can trace
with tolerable certainty the steps by which this collection of sacred
writings was made; we know pretty well who did it, and when and how it
was done. And there is nothing profane or irreverent in this inquiry,
for the work of collecting these writings and fixing this canon has been
done mainly, if not wholly, by men who were not inspired and did not
claim to be. There is nothing mysterious or miraculous about their
doings any more than there is about the acts of the framers of the
Westminster Confession, or the American Constitution. They were dealing
with sacred matters, no doubt, when they were trying to determine what
books should be received and used as Scriptures, but they were dealing
with them in exactly the same way that we do, by using the best lights
they had.

As we have learned in previous chapters, the beginning of our canon was
made by Ezra the scribe, who, in the fifth century before Christ, newly
published and consecrated the Pentateuch, or Five Books of Moses, as the
Holy Book of the Jewish people.

After Ezra came Nehemiah, to whom the beginning of the second collection
of Jewish Scriptures, called the Prophets, is ascribed in one of the
apocryphal books. But this collection was not apparently finished and
closed by Nehemiah. The histories of Joshua and Judges, of Samuel and
Kings, and the principal books of the Prophets were undoubtedly gathered
by him; but it would seem that the collection was left open for future

About the same time the third group of the Old Testament Scriptures,
"The Hagiographa," or "Writings," began to be collected. No book of the
Bible contains any information concerning the making of these two later
collections, the Prophets and the Hagiographa; and we are obliged to
rely wholly upon Jewish tradition, and upon references which we find in
Jewish writers. Professor Westcott, who is one of the most conservative
of Biblical scholars, says that "the combined evidence of tradition and
of the general course of Jewish history leads to the conclusion that the
canon in its present shape was formed gradually during a lengthened
interval, beginning with Ezra and extending through a part, or even the
whole of the Persian period," or from B.C. 458 to 332. Without adopting
this conclusion, we may remark that this last date, 332, was nearly a
century after Nehemiah and Malachi, the last of the prophets; so that if
the canon was closed at a date so late as this, it must have been closed
by men who were certainly not known to have been inspired. If it was
forming, through all this period, then it must have been formed in part
by men in behalf of whom no claim of inspiration has ever been set up.

According to Jewish tradition the work of collecting, editing, and
authorizing the sacred writings was done by a certain "Great Synagogue,"
founded by Ezra, presided over by Nehemiah, after him, and continuing in
existence down to about the year 200 B.C. This is wholly a tradition,
and has been proved to be baseless. There never was such a synagogue;
the Scriptures know nothing about it; the apocryphal writers, so
numerous and widely dispersed, have never heard of it; Philo and
Josephus are ignorant concerning it. None of the Jewish authors of the
period who freely discuss the Scriptures and their authority makes
mention of this Great Synagogue. The story of its existence is first
heard from some Jewish rabbin hundreds of years after Christ.

We have proof enough in the New Testament that the Jews had certain
Sacred Scriptures; the New Testament writers often quote them and refer
to them; but there is no conclusive proof that they had been gathered at
this time into a complete collection. Jesus tells the Jews that they
search the Scriptures, but he does not say how many of these Scriptures
there were in his day; Paul reminds Timothy that from a child he had
known the Holy Scriptures, but he gives no list of their titles. If we
found all the books of the Old Testament quoted or referred to by the
New Testament writers, then we should know that they possessed the same
books that we have. Most of these books are thus referred to; but there
are seven Old Testament books whose names the New Testament never
quotes, and at least five to which it makes no reference whatever:
Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. To Judges,
Chronicles, and Ezekiel it refers only in the same way that it refers to
a number of the apocryphal books. Some of these omissions appear to be
significant. The New Testament gives us therefore no definite
information by which we can determine whether the Old Testament canon
was closed at the time of Christ, nor does it tell us of what books it
was composed.

We have seen already that two different collections of Old Testament
writings were in existence, one in Hebrew, and the other a translation
into the Greek, made by Jews in Alexandria, and called the Septuagint.
The latter collection was the one most used by our Lord and the
apostles; much the greater number of quotations from the Old Testament
found in the Gospels and the Epistles are taken from the Septuagint.
This Greek Bible contained quite a number of books which are not in the
Hebrew Bible: they were later in their origin than any of the Old
Testament books; most of them were originally written in Greek; and
while they were regarded by some of the more conservative of the Jews in
Egypt as inferior to the Law and the Prophets, they were generally
ranked with the books of the Hagiographa as sacred writings. This is
evident from the fact that they were mingled indiscriminately with these
books of the older Scriptures. You know that I am speaking now of the
apocryphal books which you find in some of your old Bibles, between the
Old and New Testaments. These were the later books contained in the
Septuagint, and not in the Hebrew Bible. But they were not sorted out by
themselves in the Septuagint; they were interspersed through the other
books, as of equal value. Thus in the Vatican Bible, of which we shall
learn more by and by, Esdras First and Second succeed the Chronicles;
Tobit and Judith are between Nehemiah and Esther; the Wisdom of Solomon
and Sirach follow Solomon's Song; Baruch is next to Jeremiah; Daniel is
followed by Susanna and Bel and the Dragon, and the collection closes
with the three books of Maccabees.

All the old manuscripts of the Bible which we possess--those which are
regarded as above all others sacred and authoritative--contain these
apocryphal writings thus intermingled with the books of our own canon.
It is clear, therefore, that to the Alexandrian Jews these later books
were Sacred Scriptures; and it is certain also that our Lord and his
apostles used the collection which contained these books. It is said
that they do not refer to them, and it is true that they do not mention
them by name; but they do use them occasionally. Let me read you a few
passages which will illustrate their familiarity with the apocryphal

James i.19: "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak." Sirach v.
11; iv. 29: "Be swift to hear." "Be not hasty in thy tongue."

Hebrews i. 3: "Who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image
of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power."
Wisdom vii. 26: "For she (Wisdom) is the brightness of the everlasting
light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his

Rom. ix. 21: "Hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same
lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?"
Wisdom xv. 7: "For the potter, tempering soft earth, fashioneth every
vessel with much labor for our service; yea, of the same clay he maketh
both the vessels that serve for clean uses, and likewise also such as
serve to the contrary: but what is the use of either sort, the potter
himself is the judge."

I Cor. ii. 10, 11: "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep
things of God. For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the
spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none
knoweth save the Spirit of God." Judith viii. 14: "For ye cannot find
the depth of the heart of man, neither can ye perceive the things that
he thinketh: then how can ye search out God, that hath made all these
things, and know his mind, or comprehend his purpose?"

Several similar indications of the familiarity of the New Testament
writers with these apocryphal books might be pointed out. These are not
express citations, but they are clear appropriations of the thought and
the language of the apocryphal writers. We have, then, the most
indubitable proof that the apocryphal books were in the hands of the New
Testament writers; and so far as New Testament use authenticates an Old
Testament writing, several of the apocryphal books stand on much better
footing than do five of our Old Testament books.

It is true that the Hebrew or Palestinian canon differed from the Greek
or Alexandrian canon; the books which were written in Greek had never
been translated into the Hebrew, and could not, of course, be
incorporated into the Hebrew canon; and there was undoubtedly a strong
feeling among the stricter Jews against recognizing any of these later
books as Sacred Scriptures; nevertheless, the Greek Bible, with all its
additions, had large currency among the Jews even in Palestine, and the
assertion that our Lord and his apostles measured the Alexandrian Bible
by the Palestinian canon, and accepted all the books of the latter while
declining to recognize any of the additions of the former, is sheer
assumption, for which there is not a particle of evidence, and against
which the facts already adduced bear convincingly. Paul, in his letter
to Timothy, refers to the "Scriptures" as having been in the hands of
Timothy from his childhood; and we have every reason to believe that the
Scriptures to which he refers was this Greek collection containing the
Apocrypha. Whatever Paul says about the inspiration of the Scriptures
must be interpreted with this fact in mind. To find in these words of
Paul the guarantee of the inspiration and infallibility of the books of
the collection which are translated from the Hebrew, and not those which
are written in Greek, is a freak of exegesis not more violent than
fantastic. We know that Paul read and used some of these apocryphal
books, and there are several of the books in our Hebrew Bible that he
never quotes or refers to in the remotest way. The attempt which is
often made to show that the New Testament writers have established, by
their testimony, the Old Testament canon, as containing just those books
which are in our Old Testament, and no more, is a most unwarrantable
distortion of the facts.

It is true that at the time of Christ the Palestinian Jews had not, for
a century or so, added any new books to their collection, and were not
inclined to add any more. Their canon was practically closed to this
extent, that no new books were likely to get in. But it was not yet
settled that some later books, which had been trying to maintain a
footing in the canon, should not be put out. Esther, Ecclesiastes, and
Solomon's Song were regarded by some of the Palestinian Jews as sacred
books, but their right to this distinction was hotly disputed by others.
This question was not settled at the time of our Lord.

"The canon," says Davidson, "was not considered to be closed in the
first century before and the first after Christ. There were doubts about
some portions. The Book of Ezekiel gave offense, because some of its
statements seemed to contradict the Law. Doubts about some of the others
were of a more serious nature--about Ecclesiastes, the Canticles,
Esther, and the Proverbs. The first was impugned because it had
contradictory passages and a heretical tendency; the second because of
its worldly and sensual tone; Esther for its want of religiousness; and
Proverbs on account of inconsistencies. This skepticism went far to
procure the exclusion of the suspected works from the canon and their
relegation to the class of the _genuzim_. But it did not prevail.
Hananiah, son of Hezekiah, son of Garon, about 32 B.C., is said to have
reconciled the contradictions and allayed the doubts. But these traces
of resistance to the fixity of the canon were not the last. They
reappeared about 65 A. D., as we learn from the Talmud, when the
controversy turned mainly upon the canonicity of Ecclesiastes, which the
school of Schammai, which had the majority, opposed; so that that book
was probably excluded. The question emerged again at a later synod in
Jabneh or Jamnia, when R. Eleaser ben Asaria was chosen patriarch, and
Gamaliel the Second, deposed. Here it was decided, not unanimously,
however, but by a majority of Hillelites, that Ecclesiastes and the Song
of Songs 'pollute the hands,' _i. e._, belong properly to the
Hagiographa. This was about 90 A. D. Thus the question of the canonicity
of certain books was discussed by two synods." [Footnote: _Encyc.
Brit_., v. 3.]

By such a plain tale do we put down the fiction, so widely disseminated,
that the canon of the Old Testament was "fixed" long before the time of
Christ, and, presumably, by inspired men. It was not "fixed," even in
Palestine, until sixty years after our Lord's death; several of the
books were in dispute during the whole apostolic period, and these are
the very books which are not referred to in the New Testament. Whether
the men who finally "fixed" it were exceptionally qualified to judge of
the ethical and spiritual values of the writings in question may be
doubted. They were the kind of men who slew our Lord and persecuted his
followers. When we are asked what are our historical reasons for
believing that Esther and Ecclesiastes and Solomon's Song are sacred
books and ought to be in the Old Testament canon, let us answer: It is
not because any prophet or inspired person adjudged them to be sacred,
for no such person had anything to say about them; it is not because our
Lord and his apostles indorsed them, for they do not even mention them;
it is not because they held a place in a collection of Sacred Scriptures
used by our Lord and his apostles, for their position in that collection
was in dispute at that time; it is because the chief priests and scribes
who rejected Christ pronounced them sacred. The external authority for
these books reduces to exactly this. Those who insist that all parts of
the Old Testament are of equal value and authority, and that a
questioning of the sacredness of one book casts doubts upon the whole
collection, ought to look these facts in the face and see on what a
slender thread they suspend the Bible which they so highly value. These
later books, says one, "have been delivered to us; they have their use
and value, which is to be ascertained by a frank and reverent study of
the texts themselves; but those who insist on placing them on the same
footing of undisputed authority with the Law, the Prophets, and the
Psalms, to which our Lord bears direct testimony, and so make the whole
doctrine of the canon depend on its weakest part, sacrifice the true
strength of the evidence on which the Old Testament is received by
Christians." [Footnote: _The Old Testament in the Jewish Church_,
p. 175.]

Such, then, is the statement with respect to the Old Testament canon in
the apostolic age. The Palestinian canon, which was identical with our
Old Testament, was practically settled at the synod of Jamnia about 90
A. D., though doubts were still entertained by devout Jews concerning
Esther. The Alexandrian collection, containing our apocryphal books,
was, however, widely circulated; and as it was the Greek version which
had been most used by the apostles, so it was the Greek version which
the early Christian fathers universally studied and quoted. Very few if
any of these Christian fathers of the first two centuries understood the
Hebrew; they could not, therefore, use the Palestinian manuscripts; the
Greek Bible was their only treasury of inspired truth, and the Greek
Bible contained the Apocrypha. Accordingly we find them quoting freely
as Sacred Scripture all the apocryphal books. Westcott gives us a table,
in Smith's "Bible Dictionary," of citations made from these apocryphal
books by fifteen of the Greek fathers, beginning with Clement of Rome
and ending with Chrysostom, and by eight Latin writers, beginning with
Tertullian and ending with Augustine. Every one of these apocryphal
books is thus quoted with some such formula as "The Scripture saith," or
"It is written," by one or more of these writers; the Book of Wisdom is
quoted by all of them except Polycarp and Cyril; Baruch and the
Additions to Daniel are quoted by the great majority of them; Origen
quotes them all, Clement of Alexandria all but one, Cyprian all but two.
It will therefore be seen that these books must have had wide acceptance
as Sacred Scriptures during the first centuries of the Christian church.
In the face of these facts, which may be found in sources as
unassailable as Smith's "Bible Dictionary," we have such statements as
the following, put forth by teachers of the people, and indorsed by
eminent theological professors:--

"We may say of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament that, while
some who were not Jews and who were unacquainted with Hebrew used them
to some extent, yet they never gained wide acceptance, and soon dropped
out altogether."

"Certain apocryphal writings have since been bound up with the
Septuagint, but _there is no reason to think that they made any part
of it in the days of our Saviour_"!

"These books were not received as canonical by the Christian fathers,
but were expressly declared to be apocryphal"!

The last statements are copied from a volume on the Bible, prepared for
popular circulation by the president of a theological seminary!

It is true that some of the most inquisitive and critical of the
Christian fathers entertained doubts about these apocryphal books;
Melito of Sardis traveled to Palestine on purpose to inquire into the
matter, and came back, of course, with the Palestinian canon to which,
however, he did not adhere. Origen made a similar investigation, and
seems to have been convinced that the later books ought to be regarded
as uncanonical; nevertheless, he keeps on quoting them; Jerome was the
first strenuously to challenge the canonicity of these later Greek books
and to maintain a tolerably consistent opposition to them. While,
therefore, several of these early fathers were led by their
investigations in Palestine to believe that the narrower canon was the
more correct one, their opinions had but little weight with the people
at large; and even these fathers themselves freely and constantly quoted
as Sacred Scripture the questionable writings.

In 393 the African bishops held a council at Hippo, in which the canon
was discussed. The list agreed upon includes all the Old Testament
Scriptures of our canon, and, in addition to them, Wisdom,
Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith, and the two books of Maccabees. In 397
another council at Carthage reaffirmed the list of its predecessor.
Augustine was the leader of both councils.

In spite of the protests of Jerome and of other scholars in all the
centuries, this list, for substance, was regarded as authoritative,
until the Council of Trent, in 1546, when the long debate was finally
settled, so far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, by the
adoption of the Augustinian canon, embracing the apocryphal books, the
list concluding with the following anathema. "If any one will not
receive as sacred and authoritative the whole books with all their
parts, let him be accursed." This determines the matter for all good
Catholics. Since 1546, they have known exactly how many books their
Bible contains. And if usage and tradition are and ought to be
authoritative, they have the strongest reasons for receiving as sacred
the books of their Bible; for it is beyond question that the books which
they accept and which we reject have been received and used as Sacred
Scriptures in all the ages of the church. Most of us who do not accept
usage and tradition as authoritative will continue, no doubt, to think
our own thoughts about the matter.

The Council of Trent marks the definite separation of the Roman Catholic
Church from the Protestant reformers. Up to this time there had been
among the reformers some differences of opinion respecting the Old
Testament books; when they were excluded from the Holy Church and were
compelled to fall back upon the authority of the Bible, the present
limits of the canon at once became an important question. They did not
settle it all at once. Luther, in making his German version of the
Bible, translated Judith, Wisdom, Tobit, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2
Maccabees, the Greek additions to Esther and Daniel, with the Prayer of
Manasseh. Each of these books he prefaces with comments of his own.
First Maccabees he regards as almost equal to the other books of Holy
Scripture, and not unworthy to be reckoned among them. He had doubted
long whether Wisdom should not be admitted to the canon, and he truly
says of Sirach that it is a right good book, the work of a wise man.
Baruch and 2 Maccabees he finds fault with; but of none of these
apocryphal books does he speak so severely as of Esther, which he is
more than willing to cast out of the canon. The fact that Luther
translated these apocryphal books is good evidence that he thought them
of value to the church; nevertheless, he considered the books of the
Hebrew canon, with the exception of Esther, as occupying a higher plane
than those of the Apocrypha. Gradually this opinion gained acceptance
among the Protestants; the apocryphal books were separated from the
rest, and although by some of the Reformed churches, as by the Anglican
church, they were commended to be read "for example of life and
instruction of manners," they ceased to be regarded as authoritative
sources of Christian doctrine. Since the sixteenth century, there has
been little question among Protestants as to the extent of the canon.
The books which now compose our Old Testament, and no others, have been
found in the Bible of the Protestants for the past three hundred years.
The apocryphal books have sometimes been printed between the Old and the
New Testaments, but they have not been used in the churches, [Footnote:
The English Church uses some portions of them.] nor have they been
regarded as part of the Sacred Scripture.

The history of the New Testament canon is much less obscure, and may be
more briefly treated. The Bible of the early Christians was the Old
Testament. They relied wholly upon this for religious instruction; they
had no thought of any other Sacred Scripture.

I have explained in a former chapter how the Epistles and the Gospels
originated; but when these writings first came into the hands of the
disciples there was not, it is probable, any conception in their minds
that these were sacred writings, to be ranked along with the books of
the Old Testament. They read them for instruction and suggestion; they
did not at first think of them as holy. But their conviction of the
value and sacredness of these writings soon began to strengthen; we find
them quoting Gospels and Epistles with the same formula that they apply
to the Old Testament books; and thus they began to feel the need of
making a collection of this apostolic literature for use in the
churches. It is not until the second half of the second century that any
such collection comes into view. It consisted at first of two parts, The
Gospel and The Apostle; the first part contained the four Gospels, and
the second the Acts, thirteen Epistles of Paul, one of Peter, one of
John, and the Revelation. It will be seen that this twofold Testament
omitted several of our books,--the Epistle to the Hebrews, two of
John's Epistles, one of Peter's, and the Epistles of James and Jude.

About this time there was also in circulation certain writings which are
not now in our canon, but which were sometimes included by the
authorities of that time among the apostolic writings, and were quoted
as Scripture by the early fathers. There was a book called "The Gospel
according to the Egyptians," and another entitled "The Preaching of
Peter," and another called "The Acts of Paul," and another called "The
Shepherd of Hermas," and an epistle attributed to Barnabas, and several
others, all claiming to be sacred and apostolic writings. It became,
therefore, a delicate and important question for these early Christians
to decide which of these writings were sacred, and which were not; and
they began to make lists of those which they regarded as canonical. The
earliest of these lists is a fragmentary anonymous canon, which was made
about 170. It mentions all the books in our New Testament but
four,--Hebrews, First and Second Peter, and James.

Irenæus, who died about 200, had a canon which included all the books of
our New Testament except Hebrews, Jude, James, Second Peter, and Third
John. First Peter, Second John, and "The Shepherd of Hermas" he put by
themselves in a second class of writings, which he thought excellent but
not inspired.

Clement of Alexandria (180) puts into his list most of our canonical
books, but regards several of them as of inferior value, among them
Hebrews, Second John, and Jude. In the same list of inferior writings he
includes "The Shepherd of Hermas," the "Epistle of Barnabas," and the
"Apocalypse of Peter."

Tertullian (200) omits entirely James, Second Peter, and Third John, but
includes among useful though not inspired books, Hebrews, Jude, "The
Shepherd of Hermas," Second John, and Second Peter.

These are the greatest authorities of the first two centuries. No
Christian teachers of that day were better informed or more trustworthy
than these, and it will be seen that they were far from agreeing with
one another or with our canon; that each one of them received as sacred
some books which we do not possess, and rejected some which we receive.

Coming down into the third century, we find Origen (250), one of the
great scholars, wrestling with the problem. He seems to have made three
classes of the New Testament writings, the authentic, the non-authentic,
and the doubtful. The authentic books are the Gospels, the Acts, the
thirteen Epistles of Paul, and the Apocalypse; the non-authentic ones
are "The Shepherd of Hermas," "The Epistle of Barnabas," and several
other books not in our canon; and the doubtful ones are James, Jude,
Second and Third John, and Second Peter. It will be seen that Origen
admits none that are not in our collection, but that he is in doubt
respecting some that are in it.

Facts like these are writ large over every page of the history of the
early church. And yet we have eminent theological professors asserting
that the canon of the New Testament was finally settled "during the
first half of the second century, within fifty years after the death of
the Apostle John." A more baseless statement could not be fabricated. It
is from teachers of this class that we hear the most vehement outcries
against the "Higher Criticism."

Eusebius, who died in 340, has a list agreeing substantially with that
of Origen.

Cyril of Jerusalem (386) includes all of our books except the
Apocalypse, and no others.

Athanasius (365) and Augustine (430) have lists identical with ours.
This indicates a steady progress toward unanimity, and when the two
great councils of Hippo and Carthage confirmed this judgment of the two
great fathers last named, the question of the New Testament canon was
practically settled. [Footnote: It is noted, however, that the reception
of the doubtful books into the canon does not imply a recognition of
their equality with the other books. The distinct admission of their
inferiority was made by all the ecclesiastical authorities of that
period. None of the early fathers believed that all these writings were
equally inspired and equally authoritative.] Nevertheless, considerable
independent judgment on the subject still seems to have been tolerated,
and writings which we do not now receive were long included in the New
Testament collection. The three oldest manuscripts of the Bible now in
existence are the Sinaitic, the Vatican, and the Alexandrian Bibles,
dating from the fourth and the fifth centuries. Of these the Sinaitic
and the Alexandrian Bibles both include some of these doubtful books in
the New Testament collection; the Sinai Bible has "The Epistle of
Barnabas" and "The Shepherd of Hermas;" the Alexandrian Bible the
Epistle of Clement and one of Athanasius. These old Bibles are clear
witnesses to the fact that the contents of the New Testament were not
clearly defined even so late as the fifth century. Indeed, there was
always some freedom of opinion concerning this matter until the
Reformation era. Then, of course, the Council of Trent fixed the canon
of the New Testament as well as of the Old for all good Catholics; and
the New Testament of the Catholics, unlike their Old Testament, is
identical with our own.

The Protestants of that time were still in doubt about certain of the
New Testament books. Luther, as every one knows, was inclined to reject
the Epistle of James; he called it "a right strawy epistle." The letter
to the Hebrews was a good book, but not apostolic; he put it in a
subordinate class. Jude was a poor transcript of Second Peter, and he
assigned that also to a lower place. "The Apocalypse," says Davidson,
"he considered neither apostolic nor prophetic, but put it almost on a
level with the Fourth Book of Esdras, which he spoke elsewhere of
tossing into the Elbe." Luther's principle of judgment in many of these
cases was quite too subjective; he carried the Protestant principle of
private judgment to an extreme; I only quote his opinions to show with
what freedom the strong men of the Reformation handled these questions
of Biblical criticism.

Zwingli rejected the Apocalypse. Œcolampadius placed James, Jude,
Second Peter, Second and Third John and the Apocalypse along with the
Apocryphal books, on a lower level than the other New Testament

The great majority of the Reformers, however, speedily fixed upon that
canon which we now receive, and their decision has not been seriously
called in question since the sixteenth century.

I have now answered most of the questions proposed at the beginning of
this chapter. We have seen that while the great majority of the books in
both Testaments have been universally received, questions have been
raised at various times concerning the canonicity of several of the
books in either Testament; that many good men, from the second century
before Christ until the sixteenth century after Christ, have disputed
the authority of some of these books. We have seen also that quite a
number of other books have at one time and another been regarded as
sacred and numbered among the Holy Scriptures; we have seen that the
final judgment respecting these doubtful books is different in different
branches of the church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Catholic
Church admitting into their canons several books that the Reformed
churches exclude from theirs.

We have seen that the decision which has been reached by the several
branches of the church respecting this matter has been reached as the
result of discussion and argument; that the canonicity of the disputed
books was freely canvassed by the church fathers in their writings, by
the church councils in their assemblies, by the Reformers in their
inquiries; that no supernatural methods have been employed to determine
the canonicity of these several books; but that the enlightened reason
of the church has been the arbiter of the whole matter.

The grounds upon which the Jews acted in admitting or rejecting books
into their Scriptures it might be difficult for us to determine. In some
cases we know that they were fanciful and absurd. But the grounds on
which the Christians proceeded in making up their canon we know pretty

The first question respecting each one of the Christian writings seems
to have been: "Was it written by an apostle?" If this question could be
answered in the affirmative, the book was admitted. And in deciding this
question, the Christians of later times made appeal to the opinions of
those of earlier times; authority and tradition had much to do in
determining it. "Was it the general opinion of the early church that
this book was written by an apostle?" they asked. And if this seemed to
be the case, they were inclined to admit it. Besides, they compared
Scripture with Scripture: certain books were unquestionably written by
Paul or Luke or John; other books which were doubted were also ascribed
to them; if they found the language of the disputed book corresponding
to that of the undisputed book, in style and in forms of expression,
they judged that it must have been written by the same man. Upon such
grounds of external and internal evidence, it finally came to be
believed that all of the New Testament books except four were written by
apostles, and that these four, Mark, Luke, The Acts of the Apostles, and
the Epistle to the Hebrews, were written by men under the immediate
direction of apostles.

But, it may be said, there have been great differences of opinion on
this matter through all the ages, down to the sixteenth century; how do
we know but that those good and holy men, like Ignatius and Clement and
Tertullian and Origen in the early church, and Luther and Zwingli and
Œcolampadius in the Reformed church, were right in rejecting some books
that we receive and in receiving some that we reject?

If you were a good Catholic, that question would not trouble you. For
the fundamental article of your creed would then be, The Holy Catholic
Church, when she is represented by her bishops in a general council, can
never make a mistake. And the Holy Catholic Church in a general council
at Trent, in 1546, said that such and such books belonged to the Bible,
and that no others do; and the council of the Vatican, in 1870, said the
same thing over again, making it doubly sure; so, that, as a good
Catholic, you would have no right to any doubts or questions about it.

But, being a Protestant, you cannot help knowing that all general
councils have made grave and terrible mistakes; that no one of them ever
was infallible; and so you could not rest satisfied with the decisions
of Trent and the Vatican, even if they gave you the same Bible that you
now possess, which, of course, they do not. What certainty has the
Protestant, then, that his canon is the correct one? He has no absolute
certainty. There is no such thing as absolute certainty with respect to
historical religious truth. But this discussion has made one or two
things plain to the dullest apprehension.

The first is that the books of this Bible are not all of equal rank and
sacredness. If there is one truth which all the ages, with all their
voices, join to declare, it is that the Bible is made up of many
different kinds of books, with very different degrees of sacredness and
authority. For one, I do not wish to part with any of them; I find
instruction in all of them, though in some of them, as in Esther and
Ecclesiastes, it is rather as records of savagery and of skepticism,
from which every Christian ought to recoil, that I can see any value in
them. As powerful delineations of the kind of sentiments that the
Christian ought not to cherish, and the kind of doubts that he cannot
entertain without imperilling his soul, they may be useful. It is not,
therefore, at all desirable that these ancient records should be torn
asunder and portions of them flung away. That process of mutilation none
of us is wise enough to attempt. Let the Bible stand; there are good
uses for every part of it. But let us remember the lesson which this
survey has brought home to us, that these books are not all alike, and
that the message of divine wisdom is spoken to us in some of them far
more clearly than in others,

Richard Baxter is an authority in religion for whose opinion all
conservative people ought to entertain respect. He cannot be suspected
of being a "New Departure" man; he was a stanch Presbyterian, and he
passed to the "Saints' Rest" nearly two hundred years ago. With a few
words of his upon the question now before us, this chapter may fitly

"And here I must tell you a great and needful truth, which Christians,
fearing to confess, by overdoing, tempt men to infidelity. The Scripture
is like a man's body, where some parts are but for the preservation of
the rest, and may be maimed without death. The sense is the soul of the
Scripture, and the letters but the body or vehicle. The doctrine of the
Creed, Lord's Prayer and Decalogue, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, is
the vital part and Christianity itself. The Old Testament letter
(written as we have it about Ezra's time) is that vehicle which is as
imperfect as the revelation of those times was. But as, after Christ's
incarnation and ascension, the Spirit was more abundantly given, and the
revelation more perfect and sealed, so the doctrine is more full, and
the vehicle or body, that is the words, are less imperfect and more sure
to us; so that he which doubteth of the truth of some words in the Old
Testament or of some circumstances in the New, hath no reason therefore
to doubt of the Christian religion of which these writings are but the
vehicle or body, sufficient to ascertain us of the truth of the History
and Doctrine." [Footnote: _The Catechizing of Christian Families_,
p. 36.]



The books of the Old Testament were originally written upon skins of
some sort. The Talmud provided that the law might be inscribed on the
skins of clean animals, tame or wild, or even of clean birds. These
skins were usually cut into strips, the ends of which were neatly joined
together, making a continuous belt of parchment or vellum which was
rolled upon two sticks and fastened by a thread. They were commonly
written on one side only, with an iron pen which was dipped in ink
composed of lampblack dissolved in gall juice.

The Hebrew is a language quite unlike our own in form and appearance.
Not only do we read it from right to left, instead of from left to
right, but the consonants only of the several words are written in
distinct characters on the line; the vowels being little dots or dashes
standing under the consonants, or within their curves. These vowel
points were not used in the original Hebrew; they are a modern invention,
originating some centuries after Christ. It is true that it was the
belief of the Jews in former times that these vowel points were an
original part of the language; their scholars made this claim with great
confidence, which shows how little reliance is to be placed on Jewish
tradition. The evidence is abundant that the Hebrew was originally
written without vowels, precisely as stenographers often write in these
days. We know from the testimony of old students and interpreters of the
Hebrew that they constantly encountered this difficulty in reading the
language. Write a paragraph of our own language without vowels and look
at it. Or, better, ask some one else to treat for you in the same way a
paragraph with which you are not familiar, and see if you can decipher
it. Undoubtedly, you could with some difficulty make out the sense of
most passages. It would puzzle you at first, but after you had had some
practice in supplying the vowels you would learn to read quite readily.
Stenographers, as I have said, have a somewhat similar task.
Nevertheless, you would sometimes be in uncertainty as to the words.
Suppose you have the three consonants _brd_, how would you know
whether the word was bard, or bird, or bread, or board, or brad, or
broad, or bride, or braid, or brood, or breed? It might be any one of
them. You could usually tell what it was by a glance at the connection,
but you could not tell infallibly, for there might be sentences in which
more than one of these words would make sense, and it would be
impossible to determine which the writer meant to use. Now the old
Hebrew as it came from the hands of the original writers was all in this
form; while, therefore, the meaning of the writer can generally be
gained with sufficient accuracy, you see at a glance that absolute
certainty is out of the question; that the Jewish scholars who supplied
these vowel points a thousand years or more after the original
manuscripts were written may sometimes have got the wrong word.

Jerome gives numerous illustrations of this uncertainty. In Jer. ix. 21,
"Death is come up into our windows," he says that we have for the first
word the three Hebrew consonants corresponding to our _dbr_; the
word may be _dabar_, signifying death, or _deber_, signifying
pestilence; it is impossible to tell which it is. In Habakkuk iii. 5, we
have the same consonants, and there the word is written pestilence.
Either word will made good sense in either place; and we are perfectly
helpless in our choice between them. Again, in Isaiah xxvi. 14, we have
a prediction concerning the wicked, "Therefore hast thou visited and
destroyed them and made all their memory to perish." The Hebrew word
here translated "memory" consists of three consonants represented by our
English _zkr_; it may be the word _zeker_, which signifies memory,
or the word _zakar_, which signifies a male person. And Jerome says
that it is believed that Saul was deceived, perhaps willingly, by the
difference in these words (I Sam. xv.); having been commanded to cut
off every _zeker_--memorial or vestige--of Amaiek, he took the word
to be _zakar_, instead of zeker, and contented himself with
destroying the males of the army and keeping for himself the spoil.
Jerome's conjecture in this case is sufficiently fanciful; nevertheless
he illustrates the impossibility of determining the exact meaning of many
Hebrew sentences. This impossibility is abundantly demonstrated by the
Septuagint, for we find many undoubted errors in that translation from
the Hebrew into the Greek, which have arisen from this lack of precision
in the Hebrew language.

When, therefore, we know that the Bible was written in such a
language--a language without vowels--and that it was not until six
hundred years after Christ that the vowel points were invented and the
words were written out in full, the theory of the verbal inerrancy of the
text as we now have it becomes incredible. Unless the men who supplied the
vowel points were gifted with supernatural knowledge they must have made
mistakes in spelling out some of these words. I do not believe that
these mistakes were serious, or that they affect in any important way
the meaning of the Scripture, but the assumption that in this stupendous
game of guess-work no wrong guesses were made is in the highest degree
gratuitous. The substantial truthfulness of the record is not impeached
by this discovery, but the verbal inerrancy of the document can never be
maintained by any honest man who knows these facts.

It is unsafe and mischievous to indulge in _a priori_ reasonings
about inspiration; we have had too much of that; but the following
proposition is unassailable: If the Divine Wisdom had proposed to
deliver to man an infallible book, he would not have had it recorded in
a language whose written words consist only of consonants, leaving
readers a thousand years after to fill in the vowels by conjecture. The
very fact that such a language was chosen is the conclusive and
unanswerable evidence that God never designed to give us an infallible

We are familiar with the fact that the Old Testament writings in general
use among the early churches were those of the Septuagint. The
Christians from the second to the sixteenth centuries knew very little
Hebrew. But during all these ages the Palestinian Jews and their
successors in other lands were preserving their own Scriptures; it was
they who added at a late day--probably as late as the sixth century--the
vowel points, which were invented in Syria; and when, at length, under
the impulse of Biblical study which led to the Reformation, Christian
scholars began to think of going back to the original Hebrew, they were
obliged to obtain from the Jews the copies which they studied. It is
somewhat remarkable that the Jews, who were the exclusive custodians of
the Hebrew writings up to the sixteenth century, had not been careful to
preserve their old manuscripts. After the vowel points had been
introduced into the text, they seem to have been willing that copies not
written in this manner should pass out of existence. Accordingly we have
few Hebrew manuscripts that are even supposed to be more than six or
seven hundred years old. There is one copy of the Pentateuch which may
have been made as early as 580 A. D., but this is extremely doubtful;
aside from this I do not know that there are any Hebrew Bibles which
claim to be older than the ninth century. Of these Hebrew manuscripts
nearly six hundred are now known to be in existence, but the greater
part of these are only fragmentary copies of the Pentateuch or of single
books. There are two classes of these--synagogue rolls, prepared for
reading in the way that I have described, and manuscripts in the book
form, some on parchment and some on paper.

The variations in these manuscripts are few. Compared with the Greek
manuscripts of the New Testament, the accuracy of these Hebrew codices
is remarkable. It is evident that the care of the Scribes to guard their
Scriptures against error has been scrupulous and vigilant. Doubtless
this intense devotion to the very letter of the sacred books has been
exercised for many centuries. We know that in the earliest days this
precision was not sought; for the Septuagint translation, made during
the second and third centuries before Christ, gives us indubitable
proof, when we compare it with the Hebrew text, that changes, some of
them radical and sweeping, have been made in the text of the Hebrew
books since that translation was finished. But it is evident that the
Scribes at an early day, certainly as early as the beginning of the
Christian era, determined to have a uniform and an unchangeable text.
For this purpose they chose some manuscript copy of the Scriptures,
doubtless the one which seemed to them most accurate, and made that the
standard; all the copies made since that time have been religiously
conformed to that. Consequently, all the Hebrew manuscripts now in
existence are remarkably uniform. The Old Testament contains more than
three times as many pages as the New Testament; but while we have more
than one hundred and fifty thousand "various readings" in the Greek
manuscripts and versions of the New Testament, we have less than ten
thousand such variations in those of the Old Testament. It must be
remembered, however, that this uniformity has its source in some copy
chosen to be the standard hundreds of years after most of the Old
Testament books were written; and it does not guarantee the close
correspondence between this copy and the autographs of the original
writers. [Footnote: For an interesting discussion of the preservation
and transmission of the Hebrew text, the reader is referred to Mr.
Robertson Smith's _The Old Testament in the Jewish Church_,
Lectures ii. and iii.]

Our chief interest centres, however, in the Greek manuscripts of the
Bible preserved and transmitted by Christians, and including both
Testaments. All the oldest and most precious documents that we possess
belong to this class.

The original New Testament writings which came from the hands of the
apostles and their amanuenses we do not possess. These were probably
written, not on skins, but upon the papyrus paper commonly used at that
day, which was a frail and flimsy fabric, and under ordinary
circumstances would soon perish. Fragments of this papyrus have come
down to us, but only those which were preserved with exceptional care.
Jerome tells us of a library in Cassarea that was partly destroyed,
owing to the crumbling of its paper, though it was only a hundred years
old. Parchment was sometimes used by the apostles; Paul requests
Timothy, in his second letter, to bring with him, when he comes, certain
parchments that belong to him. But these materials were costly, and it
is not likely that the apostles used them to any extent in the
preparation of the books of the New Testament. At any rate the
autographic copies of these books disappeared at an early date. This
seems strange to us. Placing the estimate that we do upon these
writings, we should have taken the greatest care to preserve them. It is
clear that the Christians into whose hands they fell did not value them
as highly as we do. As Westcott says, "They were given as a heritage to
man, and it was some time before men felt the full value of the gift."

At the close of the second century there were disputes concerning the
correct reading of certain passages, but neither party appeals to the
apostolic originals,--showing that they must before that time have
perished. In after years legends were told about the preservation of
these originals, but these are contradictory and incredible.

No manuscript is now in existence which was written during the first
three centuries. But we have one or two that date back to the fourth
century; and from that time through all the ages to the invention of
printing many copies were made of the Sacred Scriptures, in whole or in
part, which are still in the hands of scholars. It is from these old
Greek manuscripts that our received text of the New Testament is
derived; by a comparison of them the scholars of the seventeenth century
made up a Greek New Testament which they regarded as approximately
accurate, and from that our English version was made.

The number of these old manuscripts is large, and the first general
division of them is into "uncials" or "cursives," as they are called;
the uncial manuscripts being written in capital letters, the cursives in
small letters more or less connected, as in our written hand. The
uncials are the oldest, as they are the fewest; there are only one
hundred and twenty-seven of them in all; while of the cursives there are
about fifteen hundred.

Yet most of these manuscripts are fragmentary. Some of them contain only
the Gospels or portions of them; some of them contain the Acts and the
Catholic Epistles; some of them the Epistles of Paul or a single
epistle; some are selections from the Gospels or the Epistles, prepared
to be read in church, and called lectionaries.

Professor Ezra Abbot gives us a classification of these manuscripts
which will be found instructive.

"For the New Testament,...we have manuscripts more or less complete,
written in uncial or capital letters, and ranging from the fourth to the
tenth century; of the Gospels twenty-seven, besides thirty small
fragments; of the Acts and Catholic Epistles ten, besides six small
fragments; of the Pauline Epistles eleven, besides nine small fragments,
and of the Revelation five. All of these have been most thoroughly
collated, and the text of the most important of them has been published.
One of these manuscripts, the Sinaitic, containing the whole of the New
Testament, and another, the Vatican, containing much the larger part of
it, were written probably as early as the middle of the fourth century;
two others, the Alexandrian and the Ephraem, belong to about the middle
of the fifth, of which date are two more, containing considerable
portions of the Gospels. A very remarkable manuscript of the Gospels and
Acts--the Cambridge manuscript, or Codex Bezæ--belongs to the sixth
century.... I pass by a number of small but valuable fragments of the
fifth and sixth centuries. As to the cursive manuscripts ranging from
the tenth century to the sixteenth, we have of the Gospels more than six
hundred; of the Acts over two hundred; of the Pauline Epistles nearly
three hundred; of the Revelation about one hundred,--not reckoning the
lectionaries, or manuscripts containing the lessons from the Gospels,
Acts, and Epistles, read in the service of the church, of which there
are more than four hundred." [Footnote: _Anglo-American Bible
Revision_, p. 95.]

Out of all this vast mass of extant manuscripts, only twenty-seven
contain the New Testament entire.

The three oldest and most valuable manuscripts among those named by
Professor Abbot, in the passage above, are the Sinaitic, the Vatican,
and the Alexandrian manuscripts.

Of these old Bibles perhaps the oldest is the one in the Vatican Library
at Rome. It was enrolled in that library as late as the year 1475; what
its history was before that time is unknown. By whose hands or at what
place it was written, no one can tell. Some have supposed that it was
brought from Constantinople to Rome, in the fifteenth century, by John
Bessarion, a learned patriarch; some that it was written in Alexandria,
when that city was the metropolis of the world's culture; some that it
was produced in Southern Italy when that region was celebrated for its
learning. The signs favor the latter theory. The form of the letters is
like those found on papyri in Herculaneum; and other manuscripts of the
Bible found in southern Italy agree remarkably with this one in many
peculiar readings. But this is all guess-work. Nobody knows where the
old Bible came from or who brought it to Rome.

Some things, however, the old book plainly tells us about its own
history. It bears the unmistakable marks of great antiquity. The scholar
who is familiar with old Greek manuscripts can judge by looking at a
document something about its probable age. By the form of the letters,
by the presence or absence of certain marks of punctuation, by the
general style of the manuscript, he can determine within a century or so
the date at which it was written.

This old Bible is written in the uncial or capital letters; this would
make it tolerably certain that it must be older than the tenth century.
We have scarcely any uncial manuscripts later than the tenth century.
But other unmistakable marks take it back much farther than this. The
words are written continuously, with no breaks or spaces between them;
there are no accents, no rough or smooth breathings, no punctuation
marks of any sort. These are signs of great age. Another peculiarity is
the manner of the division of the books into sections. I cannot stop to
describe to you the various methods of division adopted in antiquity.
The present separation into chapters and verses was, as you know, a
quite modern device. But the divisions of this old Bible follow a method
that we know to have been in use at a very early day; and the conclusion
of all the scholars is that it must have been written as early as the
year 350, possibly as early as 300.

It is not, however, a roll, but a book in form like those we handle
every day. Before this date manuscripts were generally prepared in this
way. Martial, the Latin poet, who died about 100, mentions as a novelty
in his day books with square leaves, bound together at the edges.

The Vatican Bible is a heavy quarto, the covers are red morocco
discolored with age, the leaves, of which there are 759, are of fine and
delicate vellum. It contains the Septuagint translation of the Old
Testament, except the first forty-five chapters in Genesis and a few of
the Psalms, which have been torn out and lost. Of the New Testament
writings, the last five chapters of Hebrews, First and Second Timothy,
Titus, Philemon, and the Apocalypse are wanting. Otherwise both
Testaments are complete.

We may recall another fact, to which allusion has been made, that this
old Bible contains among the Old Testament books those books which we
now call apocryphal, and that these apocryphal books, instead of being
divided from the rest in a separate group, are mingled with them, the
_order_ of the books being quite unlike that of our Bibles or of
the Hebrew canon. The apocryphal First Book of Esdras _precedes_
our Book of Ezra; while our Book of Ezra is united with Nehemiah,
forming the Second Book of Esdras. Judith and Tobit follow Esther, and
next comes the twelve minor prophets, and so on.

The same thing is true of all these oldest Bibles; they all contain the
apocryphal books, and these books are mingled with the other books,
either promiscuously, or by some system of classification which accepts
them as equal in value with the other Old Testament writings. There is
no indication in these old Bibles that the apocryphal books are any less
sacred or authoritative than the others.

Another manuscript Bible, scarcely less venerable and no less precious
than the Vatican Bible, is the one known as the Sinaitic manuscript This
was discovered by Constantine Tischendorf, a German scholar, in an
ancient convent at the base of Mount Sinai. The first journey of
Tischendorf to the Sinaitic peninsula was undertaken in 1844, for the
express purpose of searching in the old monasteries of this neighborhood
for ancient copies of the Scriptures that might be preserved in them.
The monks of this old convent admitted him to their ancient library,--a
place not greatly frequented by them,--and there in the middle of the
room he found a waste basket, filled with leaves and torn pieces of old
parchment gathered to be burned. In looking them over he discovered one
hundred and twenty leaves of a Bible that seemed to him of great
antiquity. He asked for these leaves, but when they found that he wanted
them, the monks began to suspect their value, and permitted him to take
only forty-three of them. In 1853 he returned again, but this time could
not find the rest of the precious manuscript. He feared that it had been
destroyed long before, but this was not the case. Stimulated by his
desire to possess the loose leaves, the monks had made search for the
rest of the volume, and, using as samples the leaves they had refused to
give him, they had found them all and secreted them. Upon his second
visit they did not show him the book, however, nor reveal to him in any
way its existence.

Six years later, in 1859, he returned again, this time fortified with a
letter from the Emperor of Russia, the head of the Greek Church; and
this mighty document made the monks open their treasures for his
inspection. He obtained permission, first, to carry the old Bible to
Cairo to be copied, and finally, under the imperial influence, the monks
surrendered it, and suffered it to be removed to St. Petersburg, where
since 1859 it has been sacredly kept.

"The Sinai Bible," says Dr. F. P. Woodbury, "contains the New Testament,
the Epistle of Barnabas, a portion of the Shepherd of Hennas, and
twenty-two books of the Old Testament. The whole is written on fine
vellum made from antelope skins into the largest pages known in our
ancient manuscripts. While most of the oldest manuscripts have only
three columns to the page, and the Vatican Bible has three, the Sinai
Bible alone shows four. The letters are somewhat larger than those of
the Vatican and much more roughly written. The book contains many
blunders in copying, and there are a few cases of willful omission. Its
remote age is attested by many of the same proofs that have been
mentioned in the description of the Vatican Bible." [Footnote: From an
interesting sketch of "Three Old Bibles," in _Sunday Afternoon_,
vol. i pp. 65-71.]

It is known that the Emperor Constantine, in the year 331, authorized
the preparation of fifty costly and beautiful copies of the Holy
Scriptures under the care of Eusebius of Cæsarea. Tischendorf himself
thinks--and his conjecture is accepted by other scholars--that this is
one of those fifty Bibles, and that it was sent from Byzantium to the
monks of this convent by the Emperor Justinian, who was its founder. At
all events, it is incontestably a manuscript of great age, certainly of
the fourth century, and probably of the first half of that century.

The other great Bible is the one known as the Alexandrian, which was
presented, in 1628, to King Charles I of England by Cyril Lucar,
patriarch of Constantinople, who had brought it from Alexandria. It was
transferred in 1753 from the king's private library to the British
Museum, where it is now preserved. It is bound in four folio volumes,
three of which contain the text of the Old and one of the New Testament.
The portion which contains the Old Testament is more perfect than that
which contains the New, quite a number of leaves having been lost from
the latter. "The material of which this volume is composed is thin
vellum, the page being about thirteen inches high by ten broad,
containing from fifty to fifty-two lines on each page, each line
consisting of about twenty letters. The number of pages is 773, of which
640 are occupied with the text of the Old Testament and 133 with the
New. The characters are uncial, but larger than the Vatican manuscript.
There are no accents or breathings, no spaces between the letters or
words save at the end of a paragraph, and the contractions, which are
not numerous, are only such as are found in the oldest manuscripts. The
punctuation consists of a point placed at the end of a sentence, usually
on a level with the top of the preceding letter." [Footnote: _Encyc.
Brit._, i. p. 496.] The general verdict of scholars is that this
manuscript belongs to about the middle of the fifth century.

The contents of this old Bible are curious, and they are curiously
arranged. The first volume contains the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges,
Ruth, the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, and the two books
of Chronicles. The second contains, first, the twelve minor prophets
(from Hosea to Malachi), then Isaiah, Jeremiah, _Baruch_, Lamentations,
_The Epistle of Jeremiah_, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, _Tobit_, _Judith_,
_Esdras I._ (the apocryphal Esdras), Esdras II. (including our
Nehemiah and part of our Ezra), and _the four books of the Maccabees_.
The third volume contains An Epistle of Athanasius to Marcellenus on
the Psalms; The Hypothesis of Eusebius on the Psalms; then the Book of
the Psalms, of which there are one hundred and fifty-one, and fifteen
Hymns; then Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Wisdom of Solomon,
and Ecclesiasticus, or Sirach. The fourth volume contains the four
Gospels, the Acts, the seven Catholic Epistles (one of James, two of
Peter, three of John, and one of Jude), fourteen Epistles of Paul
(including the one to the Hebrews), The Revelation of John, two Epistles
of Clement to the Corinthians, and eight Psalms of Solomon.

This, it will be admitted, is a generous Bible. It contains most of the
apocryphal books, and several others that we do not find in the other
collections. It is probable that the works of Athanasius and Eusebius on
the Psalms were admitted rather as introduction or commentary than as
text; but the rest, judging from the positions in which they stand, must
have been regarded as Sacred Scriptures.

These, then, are the three oldest, most complete, and most trustworthy
copies of the Sacred Scriptures now in existence. By all scholars they
are regarded as precious beyond price; and any reading in which they
agree would probably be regarded as the right reading, if all the other
manuscripts in the world were against them.

I have suggested that these old manuscripts do not always agree. The
fact is that no two of them are exactly alike, and that there are a
great many slight differences between those which are most closely
assimilated. Of these differences Professor Westcott says that "there
cannot be less than 120,000,--though of these a very large proportion
consists of differences of spelling and isolated aberrations of
scribes." It is not generally difficult for the student on comparing
them to tell which is the right reading. A word may be misspelled, for
example, in several different ways; the student knows the right way to
spell it, and is not in doubt concerning the word. "Probably," says Mr.
Westcott, "there are not more than from sixteen hundred to two thousand
places in which the true reading is a matter of uncertainty, even if we
include in this questions of order, inflection, and orthography; the
doubtful readings by which the sense is in any way affected are very
much fewer, and those of dogmatic importance can be easily numbered."

The ways in which these errors and variations arose are easily
explained. The men who copied these manuscripts were careful men, many
of them, but all of them were fallible. Sometimes they would mistake a
letter for another letter much like it, and change the form of a word in
that way; sometimes there would be two clauses of a sentence ending with
the same word, and the eye of the copyist, glancing back to the
manuscript after writing the first of these words, would alight upon the
second one, and go on from that; so that the clause preceding it would
be omitted. Sometimes in copying the continuous writing of the uncial
manuscripts, mistakes would be made in dividing words. For example, if a
number of English words, written in close order, with no spaces between
them, were given you to copy, and you found "infancy," you might make
two words of it or one; and if you were a little careless you might
write it "in fancy" when it should be "infancy," or _vice versa_. A
case might arise in which it would be difficult for you to tell whether
it should be "in fancy" or "infancy." Such uncertainties the copyists
encountered, and such mistakes they sometimes made.

Mistakes of memory they also made in copying, just as I sometimes do
when I undertake to copy a passage from Mr. Westcott or Mr. Davidson
into one of these chapters. I look upon the book, and take a sentence in
my mind, but perhaps while I am writing it down I will change slightly
the order of the words, or it may be put a word of my own in the place
of another that much resembles it, as "but" for "though," or "from" for
"out of," or "doubtless" for "without doubt." I try to copy very
exactly, but there are, unquestionably, now and then such slips as these
in my quotations. And such mistakes were made by the copyists of the Old

There are some instances of intentional changes. Sometimes a copyist
evidently substituted a word that he thought was plainer for one that
was more obscure; a more elegant word for one less elegant; a
grammatical construction for one that was not grammatical.

Other differences have arisen from the habit of some of the copyists or
owners of manuscripts of writing glosses, or brief explanatory notes, on
the margin. Some of these marginalia were copied by subsequent scribes
into the text, where, in our version, they still remain. Some of them,
however, were removed in the late revision.

The great majority of these errors are, however, as I have said,
extremely unimportant; and nearly all of them seem to have arisen in the
ways I have suggested--through simple carelessness, and not with any
intent of corrupting the text.

The translations of the Bible which were made in early days into other
languages than our own must be dismissed with the briefest mention. The
most important version of the Old Testament was the Septuagint, of which
nothing more needs to be said.

You will remember that the Hebrew was a dead language while our Lord was
on the earth, the Jews of Palestine speaking the Aramaic. For their use,
translations of the Hebrew into the Aramaic, called Targums, were made.
There is a great variety of these, and there are many opinions about
their age; but it is not likely that the oldest of them was committed to
writing before the second century A. D. They are curious specimens of
the translator's work, combining text and commentary in a remarkable
manner. Additions and changes are freely made; the simple sentences of
the old record are greatly expanded; not only is a spade generally
called a useful ligneous and ferruginous agricultural implement, but
many things are said concerning the aforesaid spade which Moses or David
or Isaiah never dreamed of saying.

For example, in Judges v. 10, the Hebrew is literally translated in our
English Bible thus: "Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in
judgment and walk by the way." The Targum of Jonathan expatiates thereon
as follows: "Those who had interrupted their occupations are riding on
asses covered with many colored caparisons, and they ride about freely
in all the territory of Israel, and congregate to sit in judgment. They
walk in their old ways, and are speaking of the power Thou hast shown in
the land of Israel," etc. This may be pronounced a remarkably free
translation; and the Targums generally evince a similar liberality of
sentiment and phraseology.

Besides these, the ancient translations of the Bible, which must be
mentioned, are the Old Latin, made in the second century, out of which,
by many revisions, grew that Latin Vulgate which is now used in the
Catholic ritual; an ancient Syriac version of about the same age; two
Egyptian versions, in different dialects, made in the third century; the
Peshito-Syriac, the Gothic, and the Ethiopic in the fourth, and the
Armenian in the fifth; besides several later translations, including the
Arabic and the Slavonic. These ancient translations are all of value to
modern scholars in helping them to reach more certain conclusions
respecting the nature of the Sacred Scriptures and the right reading in
disputed passages.

The ages which we have been traversing in this chapter--when the Bible
was a manuscript--were ages of great darkness. The copies of the book
were few, and the common people could neither possess them nor read
them. It is hard for us who have had the book in our hands from our
infancy, who have gone to it so freely for light in darkness, for
comfort in sorrow, for wisdom to work with, for weapons to fight with,
to understand how men could have lived the life of faith without it; how
a godly seed could have been nourished in the earth without the sincere
milk of the word for them to feed on.

It was indeed a great privation that they suffered, but we must not
suppose that they were left without witness. For there is another and
even a clearer revelation than the written word, and that is a godly
life. Godly lives there were in all these dark times; and it was at
their fires that the torch of gospel truth was kindled and kept burning.
There may be reason for a question whether we have not come to trust in
these times too much in a word that is written, and to undervalue that
other revelation which God is making of his truth and love in the
characters of his children. For it is only in the light that Christ is
constantly manifesting to the world in the lives of men that we can see
any meaning in the words of the book. "The Christian," says Dr.
Christlieb, "is the world's Bible." This is the word that is known and
read of men. Let it be our care to make it, not an infallible, but a
clear, an adequate, and a safe revelation of the truth and love of God
to men.



Of the Bible as a book among books, of the human elements which enter
into its composition, some account has been given in the preceding
chapters. But in these studies the whole story of the Bible has not been
told. There is need, therefore, that we should enlarge our view
somewhat, and take more directly into account certain elements with
which we have not hitherto been chiefly concerned.

Our study has, indeed, made a few things plain. Among them is the
certainty that the Bible is not an infallible Book, in the sense in
which it is popularly supposed to be infallible. When we study the
history of the several books, the history of the canon, the history of
the distribution and reproduction of the manuscript copies, and the
history of the versions,--when we discover that the "various readings"
of the differing manuscripts amount to one hundred and fifty thousand,
the impossibility of maintaining the verbal inerrancy of the Bible
becomes evident. We see how human ignorance and error have been suffered
to mingle with this stream of living water throughout all its course; if
our assurance of salvation were made to depend upon our knowledge that
every word of the Bible was of divine origin, our hopes of eternal life
would be altogether insecure.

The book is not infallible historically. It is a veracious record; we
may depend upon the truthfulness of the outline which it gives us of the
history of the Jewish people; but the discrepancies and contradictions
which appear here and there upon its pages show that its writers were
not miraculously protected from mistakes in dates and numbers and the
order of events.

It is not infallible scientifically. It is idle to try to force the
narrative of Genesis into an exact correspondence with geological
science. It is a hymn of creation, wonderfully beautiful and pure; the
central truths of monotheistic religion and of modern science are
involved in it; but it is not intended to give us the scientific history
of creation, and the attempt to make it bear this construction is highly

It is not infallible morally. By this I mean that portions of this
revelation involve an imperfect morality. Many things are here commanded
which it would be wrong for us to do. This is not saying that these
commands were not divinely wise for the people to whom they were given;
nor is it denying that the morality of the New Testament, which is the
fulfillment and consummation of the moral progress which the book
records, is a perfect morality; it is simply asserting that the stages
of this progress from a lower to a higher morality are here clearly
marked; that the standards of the earlier time are therefore inadequate
and misleading in these later times; and that any man who accepts the
Bible as a code of moral rules, all of which are equally binding, will
be led into the gravest errors. It is no more true that the ceremonial
legislation of the Old Testament is obsolete than that large portions of
the moral legislation are obsolete. The notions of the writers of these
books concerning their duties to God were dim and imperfect; so were
their notions concerning their duties to man. All the truth that they
could receive was given to them; but there were many truths which they
could not receive, which to us are as plain as the daylight.

Not to recognize the partialness and imperfection of this record in all
these respects is to be guilty of a grave disloyalty to the kingdom of
the truth. With all these facts staring him in the face, the attempt of
any intelligent man to maintain the theoretical and ideal infallibility
of all parts of these writings is a criminal blunder. Nor is there any
use in loudly asserting the inerrancy of these books, with vehement
denunciations of all who call it in question, and then in a breath
admitting that there may be some errors and discrepancies and
interpolations. Perfection is perfection. To stoutly affirm that a thing
is perfect, and then admit that it may be in some respects imperfect, is
an insensate procedure. Infallibility is infallibility. The Scriptures
are, or they are not, infallible. The admission that there may be a few
errors gives every man the right, nay it lays upon him the duty, of
finding what those errors are. Our friends who so sturdily assert the
traditional theory can hardly be aware of the extent to which they
stultify themselves when their sweeping and reiterated assertion that
the Bible can _never_ contain a mistake is followed, as it always
must be, by their timid and deprecatory, "hardly ever." The old
rabbinical theory, as adopted and extended by some of the post-Reformation
theologians, that the Bible was verbally dictated by God and
is absolutely accurate in every word, letter, and vowel-point, and that
it is therefore blasphemy to raise a question concerning any part of it,
is a consistent theory. Between this and a free but reverent inquiry
into the Bible itself, to discover what human elements it contains and
how it is affected by them, there is no middle ground. That it is
useless and mischievous to make for the Bible claims that it nowhere
makes for itself,--to hold and teach a theory concerning it which at
once breaks down when an intelligent man begins to study it with open
mind--is beginning to be very plain. The quibbling, the concealment, the
disingenuousness which this method of using the Bible involves are not
conducive to Christian integrity. This kind of "lying for God" has
driven hundreds of thousands already into irreconcilable alienation from
the Christian church. It is time to stop it.

How did this theory of the infallibility of the Bible arise? Those who
have followed these discussions to this point know that it has not
always been held by the Christian church. The history of the canon, told
with any measure of truthfulness, will make this plain. The history of
the variations between the Septuagint and the Hebrew shows, beyond the
shadow of a doubt, that this theory of the unchangeable and absolute
divinity of the words of the Scripture had no practical hold upon
transcribers and copyists in the early Jewish church. The New Testament
writers could not have consistently held such a theory respecting the
Old Testament books, else they would not have quoted them, as they did,
with small care for verbal accuracy. They believed them to be
substantially true, and therefore they give the substance of them in
their quotations; but there is no such slavish attention to the letter
as there must have been if they had regarded them as verbally dictated
by God himself. The Christian Fathers were inclined, no doubt, to accept
the rabbinical theories of inspiration respecting the Old Testament; but
they sometimes avoid the difficulties growing out of manifest errors in
the text by a theory of an inner sense which is faultless, frankly
admitting that the natural meaning cannot always be defended. As to the
early Reformers, we have seen how freely they handled the Sacred
Writings, submitting them to a scrutiny which they would not have
ventured upon if they had believed concerning them what we have been
taught. It was not until the period succeeding the Reformation that this
dogma of Biblical Infallibility was clearly formulated and imposed upon
the Protestant churches. As taught by Quenstedt and Voetius and
Calovius, the dogma asserts that "not only the substance of truth and
the views proposed in their minutest detail, but even the identical
words, all and in particular, were supplied and dictated by the Holy
Ghost. Not a word is contained in the Holy Scriptures which is not in
the strictest sense inspired, the very interpunctuation not excepted....
Errors of any sort whatever, even verbal or grammatical, as well as all
inelegancies of style, are to be denied as unworthy of the Divine Spirit
who is throughout the primary author of the Bible." [Footnote: _The
Doctrine of Sacred Scripture_, ii. p. 209.] This view was long
maintained with all strictness, and many a man has been made a heretic
for denying it. Within the last century the form of the doctrine has
been somewhat modified by theologians, yet the substance of it is still
regarded as essential orthodoxy. Dr. Charles Hodge, in his "Theology,"
vol. i. p. 152, says, "Protestants hold that the Scriptures of the Old
and New Testaments are the word of God, written under the inspiration of
God the Holy Ghost, and are therefore infallible, and consequently free
from all error, whether of doctrine, of fact, or of precept." And again
(p. 163), "All the books of Scripture are equally inspired. All alike
are infallible in what they teach." Such is the doctrine now held by the
great majority of Christians. Intelligent pastors do not hold it, but
the body of the laity have no other conception.

Whence is it derived? Where do the teachers quoted above get their
authority for their affirmations?

Not, as we have seen, from any statements of the Bible itself. There is
not one word in the Bible which affirms or implies that this character
of inerrancy attaches to the entire collection of writings, or to any
one of them.

The doctrine arose, as I have said, in the seventeenth century, and it
was in part, no doubt, a reflection of the teaching of the later
rabbins, whose fantastic notions about the origin of their sacred books
I have before alluded to. It was also developed, as a polemical
necessity, in the exigencies of that conflict with the Roman Catholic
theologians which followed the Reformation. The eminent German scholar
and saint, Professor Tholuck, gives the following account of its origin:

"In proportion as controversy, sharpened by Jesuitism, made the
Protestant party sensible of an externally fortified ground of combat,
in that same proportion did Protestantism seek, by the exaltation of the
outward authoritative character of the Sacred Writings, to recover that
infallible authority which it had lost through its rejection of
infallible councils and the infallible authority of the Pope. In this
manner arose, _not earlier than the seventeenth century_, those
sentiments which regarded the Holy Scripture as the infallible
production of the Divine Spirit--in its entire contents and its very
form--so that not only the sense but also the words, the letters, the
Hebrew vowel points, and the very punctuation were regarded as
proceeding from the Spirit of God." [Footnote: _Theological
Essays_, collected by George R. Noyes.] The fact that the doctrine
had this origin is itself suspicious. A theory which is framed in the
heat of a great controversy, by one party in the church, is apt to be
somewhat extreme.

The strength of the doctrine lies, however, in the fact that it is a
theological inference from the doctrine of God. "God is the author of
the Bible," men have said; "God is omniscient; he can make no mistakes;
therefore the Book must be infallible. To deny that it is infallible is
to deny that it is God's book; if it is not his book it is worthless."
Or, putting it in another form, they have said, "The Bible is an
inspired book. God is the source of inspiration. He cannot inspire men
to write error. Therefore every word of the inspired book must be true."
This is what the logicians call an _a priori_ argument. The view of
what inspiration is, and of what the Bible is, are deduced from our
theory of God. It amounts to just this: If God is what we think him to
be, he must do what seems wise to us. This is hardly a safe argument.
Doubtless we would have said beforehand that if God, who is all-wise and
all-powerful, should create a world, he would make one free from
suffering and every form of evil. We find, however, that he has not made
such a world. And it may be wiser for us, instead of making up our minds
beforehand what God must do, to try and find out what he has done. It
might seem to us, doubtless, that if he has given us a revelation, it
must be a faultless revelation. But has he? That is the question. We can
only know by studying the revelation itself. We have no right to
determine beforehand what it must be. We might have said with equal
confidence, that if God wished to have his truth taught in the world, he
would certainly send infallible teachers. He has not done so. The
treasure of his truth is in earthen vessels, to-day. Has it not always
been so?

The trouble in this whole matter arises from the fact that men have made
up their theories of the Bible out of their ideas about God, and have
then gone to work to fit the facts of the Bible to their preconceived
theories. This has required a great deal of stretching and twisting and
lopping off here and there; the truth has been badly distorted,
sometimes mutilated. The changed view of the Bible, which greatly alarms
some good people, arises from the fact that certain honest men have
determined to go directly to the Bible itself and find out by studying
it what manner of book it is. They have discovered that it is not
precisely such a book as it has been believed to be, and the answer that
they make to those who hold the old theory about it is simply this: "We
cannot believe what you have told us about the Bible, because the Bible
contradicts you. It is because we believe the Bible itself that we
reject your theory. We believe that the Bible is an inspired book, nay,
that it is by eminence The Inspired Book; but when you ask us 'What is
an inspired book?' instead of making up a definition of inspiration out
of our own heads, we only say, 'It is such a book as the Bible is,' and
then we proceed to frame our definition of inspiration by the study of
the Bible. Therefore, when you say that inspiration must imply
infallibility, we answer, No; it does not; for here is The Inspired Book
and it is not infallible."

In what sense the book is inspired we may be able, after a little, to
see more clearly. For the present I only desire to point out the sources
of the traditional doctrine of the Bible, and the sources of the new
doctrine. The one is the result of the speculations of men about what
the Bible must be; the other is the result of a careful and reverent
study of the Bible itself.

What, then, do we find the Bible to be?

I. It is the book of righteousness. No other book in the world fixes our
thoughts so steadily upon the great interest of character. Whatever else
the Bible may show us or may fail to show us, it does keep always before
us the fact that the one great concern of every man is to be right in
heart and in life. Righteousness tendeth to life; righteousness is
salvation; Jehovah is He who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity,
and in his favor is life; these are the truths which form the very
substance of this revelation. It is quite true that in the application
of this principle to the affairs of every day, the early records show us
much confusion and uncertainty; the definitions of righteousness which
sufficed for the people of that time would not suffice for us at all;
but the fact remains that the only interest of this Book in the
individuals and the races which it brings before us is in their loyalty
or disloyalty to that ideal of conduct which it always lifts up before
us. Righteousness is life; righteousness is salvation; this is the one
message of the Bible to men. There are rites and ceremonies, but these
are not the principal thing; "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to
hearken than the fat of rams." "He hath showed thee, O man, what is
good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to
love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" This great truth of the
Bible has been but imperfectly apprehended, even among modern
Christians; there is always a tendency to make the belief in sound
dogma, or the performance of decorous rites, or the experience of
emotional raptures the principal thing; but the testimony of the Bible
to the supremacy of character and conduct is clear and convincing, and
the world is coming to understand it.

Now for any man who cares for the right, to whom character is more
precious than anything else in the world, this book is worth more than
any other book can be. Even the Old Testament narratives, indistinctly
as they reveal the real nature of true conduct to us in this day, show
us plainly the fact that nothing else in the world is to be compared
with it; and the struggles and temptations of the heroes of that old
book are full of instruction for us; their failures and follies and sins
admonish and warn us; their steadfastness and fidelity inspire and
hearten us.

II. The Bible is the record of the development of the kingdom of
righteousness in the world. Man knows intuitively that he ought to do
right; his notion of what is right is continually being purified and
enlarged. The Bible is the record of this moral progress in the one
nation of the earth to which morality has been the great concern. We
have seen, clearly enough, the imperfection of the ethical standards to
which the early Hebrew legislation was made to conform; we have also
seen that this legislation was always a little in advance of the popular
morality, leading it on to purer conceptions and better practices. The
legislation concerning divorce, the legislation regulating
blood-vengeance, recognizes the evils with which it deals and accommodates
itself to them, but always with the purpose and the result of giving to
men a larger thought and a better standard. Laws which conformed to our
moral ideal would have been powerless to control such a semi-barbarous
people as the Hebrews were when they came out of Egypt. The higher
morality must be imparted little by little; one principle after another
must be drilled into their apprehension; they could not well be learning
more than one or two simple lessons at a time, and while they were
learning these, other coarse and cruel and savage practices of theirs
must be "winked at," as Paul says. Against any rule more strict at this
early time the Hebrews would have revolted; the divine wisdom of this
legislation is seen in this method which takes men as they are, and does
for them the thing that is feasible, patiently leading them on and up to
higher ground. If you would seize a running horse by the rein and stop
him, you had better run with him for a little. This homely parable
illustrates much of the Old Testament legislation which we find so
defective, when judged by our standards.

It is in this larger sense that we see the signs of divinity in this old
Book. It is a book of inspiration because it is the record of an
inspired or divinely guided development; because the life it shows as
unfolding is divine; because the goal to which we see the people
steadily conducted in its vivid chapters is the goal which God has
marked for human progress; because it gives us the origin and growth of
the kingdom of God in the world.

"Whence came," asks one, "and of what manner of spirit is this
_anti-historic_ power in Israel and the Bible? Some inner principle of
development struggles against the outward historical environment, and
will not rest until it prevails. What was it which selected Israel, and
in one narrow land, while all the surrounding country was sinking,
lifted man up in spite of himself? which along the course of one
national history carried on a progressive development of religious life
and truth, while other peoples, though taught by many wise men and
seers, and not without their truths, still can show no one connected and
progressive revelation like this?" [Footnote: _Old Faiths in New
Light_, p. 81.]

What is the power that has wrought all this but the divine Power? If you
ask for a proof of the existence of God, I point you to the life of the
Jewish people as the Bible records it. _That history is the revelation
of God._ In the record of this nation's life, in its privileges and
its vicissitudes, its captivities and its restorations, its blessings
and its chastenings, its institutions and its laws, its teachers and its
legislators, its seers and its lawgivers, in all the forces that combine
to make up the great movement of the national life, I see God present
all the while, shaping the ends of this nation, no matter how perversely
it may rough-hew them, till at last it stands on an elevation far above
the other nations, breathing a better atmosphere, thinking worthier and
more spiritual thoughts of God, obeying a far purer moral law, holding
fast a nobler ideal of righteousness,--polytheism gradually and finally
rooted out of the national consciousness; the family established and
honored as in no other nation; woman lifted up to a dignity and purity
known nowhere else in the world; the Sabbath of rest sanctified; the
principles of the decalogue fastened in the convictions of the people,
the sure foundations laid of the kingdom of God in the world.

We are quite too apt unduly to disparage Judaism. Doubtless the
formalism that our Lord found in it needed rebuke; its worship and its
morality were yet far away from the ideal when Jesus came to earth;
nevertheless, compared with all the peoples round about them even
then--compared with classic Greeks and noble Romans--the ethical and
spiritual development of the Jews had reached a higher stage. It is not
extravagant to claim for this race the moral leadership of the world.
Hear Ernest Renan, no champion of orthodoxy, as you know: "I am eager,
gentlemen,"--I quote from a lecture of his on "The Share of the Semitic
People in the History of Civilization,"--"to come at the prime service
which the Semitic race has rendered to the world; its peculiar work, its
providential mission, if I may so express myself. We owe to the Semitic
race neither political life, art, poetry, philosophy, nor science. _We
owe to them religion._ The whole world--we except India, China,
Japan, and tribes altogether savage--_has adopted the Semitic
religions."_ Speaking then of the gradual decay of the various pagan
faiths of the Aryan races, Renan continues: "It is precisely at this
epoch that the civilized world finds itself face to face with the Jewish
faith. Based upon the clear and simple dogma of the divine unity,
discarding naturalism and pantheism by the marvelously terse phrase, 'In
the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,' possessing a law,
a book, the depository of grand moral precepts and of an elevated
religious poetry, Judaism had an incontestable superiority, and it might
have been foreseen then that some day the world would become Jewish,
that is to say, would forsake the old mythology for monotheism."
[Footnote: _Religious History and Criticism,_ pp. 159, 160.]

Here is the testimony of a man who can be suspected of no undue leanings
toward the religion of the Bible, to the fact that the world is indebted
for its great thoughts of religion to the Semitic races, and chiefly to
the Hebrew race; that the religion of Judaism, brought into comparison
with the other religions, is incontestably superior. Now any man who
believes in religion and in God must believe that the people to whom
such a task was committed must have been trained by God to perform it.
The history of this nation will then be the history of this training.
That is exactly what the Old Testament is. No disputes over the nature
of inspiration must be suffered to obscure this great fact. The Old
Testament Scriptures do contain in biography and history, in statute and
story and song and sermon, the records of the life of the nation to
which God at sundry times and in divers manners was revealing himself;
which he was preparing to be the bearer of the torch of his own truth
into all the world. And now I ask whether anybody needs to be told that
these records are precious, precious above all price? Are there any
authentic portions of them that any man can afford to despise? Is not
every step in the progress of this people out of savagery into a
spiritual faith, matter of the profoundest interest to every human soul?
Even the dullness and ignorance and crudity of this people,--even the
crookedness and blindness of their leaders and teachers, are full of
instruction for us; they show us with what materials and what
instruments the divine wisdom and patience wrought out this great
result. What other book is there that can compare in value with this
book, which tells us the way of God with the people whom he chose, as
Renan declares, to teach the world religion? And when one has firmly
grasped this great fact, that the Bible contains the history of the
religious development of the Jewish people under providential care and
tuition, how little is he troubled by the small difficulties which grow
out of theories of inspiration! "We can listen," says Dr. Newman Smyth,
"with incurious complacency while small disputants discuss vehemently
the story of the ark or Jonah's strange adventure.... After all the work
of the critics, the Bible still remains, the great, sublime, enduring
work of the Eternal who loves righteousness and hates iniquity."
[Footnote: _Old Faiths in New Light_, pp. 60, 61.]

But what have I been vindicating? The Bible? Nay, I have carefully
restricted my argument to the Old Testament. It is in behalf of the Old
Testament writings alone that I have sought to establish this exalted
claim. What I have shown you is only the pedestal on which the beauty
and strength of the Bible rests, the enduring portals which open into
the glory that excelleth. The Old Testament shows us the progressive
revelation of God to the Jewish people; the New Testament gives us the
consummation of that work, the perfect flower of that growth of
centuries. After shadows and hints and refracted lights of prophecy,
breaks at last upon the world the Light that lighteth every man! When
the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son. It was for this
that the age-long discipline of this people had been preparing them.
True, "He came to his own, and they received him not," but where else in
the world would the seed of his kingdom have found any lodgment at all?
The multitude rejected him, but there was a remnant who did receive him,
and to whom he gave power to become the sons of God. So the word of God,
that had been painfully and dimly communicated to the ancient people in
laws and ordinances and prophecies, in providential mercies and
chastenings, in lives of saints and prophets and martyrs, was now made
flesh, and dwelt among men full of grace and truth, and they beheld his

It is here that we find the real meaning of the Bible. "The end," as
Canon Mozley has so strongly shown, "is the test of a progressive
revelation." Jesus Christ, who is himself the Word, toward whom these
laws and prophecies point, and in whom they culminate, is indeed the
perfect Revelation of God. From his judgment there is no appeal; at his
feet the wisest of us must sit and learn the way of life. With his words
all these old Scriptures must be compared; so far as they agree with his
teachings we may take them as eternal truth; those portions of them
which fall below this standard, we may pass by as a partial revelation
upon us no longer binding. He himself has given us, in the Sermon on the
Mount, the method by which we are to test the older Scriptures. When we
refuse to apply his method and go on to declare every portion of those
old records authoritative, we are not honoring him. The mischief and
bane of the traditional theory is that it equalizes things which are
utterly unlike. When it says that "all the books of the Scripture are
equally inspired; all alike are infallible in what they teach," it puts
the Gospels on the same level with Deuteronomy and Ecclesiastes and
Esther. The effect of this is not to lift the latter up, but to drag the
former down. They are not on the same level; it is treason to our Master
Christ to say that they are alike; the one is as much higher than the
other as the heavens are higher than the earth.

It is here, then, in the simple veracious records that bring before us
the life of Christ, that we have the very Word of God. Whatever else the
four Gospels may or may not be, they certainly do contain the story of
the Life that has been for many centuries the light and the hope of the
world. It is the same unique Person who stands before us in every one of
these narratives,--

  "So meek, forgiving, godlike, high,
   So glorious in humility."

What fault has criticism to find with this Life? What word or deed is
here ascribed to him that is not worthy of him, that is not like him? Is
it any wonder to us when we read this record through, that the guileless
Nathanael cried out as he communed with him, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of
God, thou art the King of Israel."

If, then, the New Testament gives us the artless record of the life and
words of this divine Person, the Son of God and the Saviour of the
world; if it brings Him before us and manifests to us, so far as words
can do it, his power and his glory; if it shows us how, by bearing
witness to the truth in his life and in his death, he established in the
world the kingdom which for long ages had been preparing; if it makes
known to us the messages he brought of pardon and salvation; if it gives
us the record of the planting and training of his church in the early
ages, is there any need that I should go about to praise and magnify its
worth to the children of men? If light is worth anything to those who
sit in darkness, or hope to those who are oppressed with tormenting
doubt; if wisdom is to be desired by those who are in perplexity, and
comfort by those who are in trouble, and peace by those whose hearts are
full of strife, and forgiveness by those who bear the burden of sin; if
strength is a good gift to the weak, and rest to the weary, and heaven
to the dying, and the eternal life of God to the fainting soul of man,
then the book that tells us of Jesus Christ and his salvation is not to
be compared with any other book on earth for preciousness; it is the one
book that every one of us ought to know by heart.

The value of the Bible, the greatness of the Bible, are in this Life
that it discloses to us. "It is upon Jesus," says a modern rationalist,
"that the whole Bible turns. In this lies the value, not only of the New
Testament, a great part of which refers to him directly, but of the Old
Testament as well." Rationalist though he is, no man could have stated
the truth more clearly. "It is upon Jesus that the whole Bible turns."
The Old Testament shows us the way preparing by which the swift feet of
the messengers approach that tell us of his coming; the New Testament
lifts the veil and bids us, Behold the man! The Bible is of value to us,
just in proportion as it helps us to see him, to know him, to trust him.
You may have a cast-iron theory of inspiration with every joint riveted;
you may believe in the infallible accuracy of every vowel point and
every punctuation mark; but if the Bible does not bring you into a vital
union with Jesus Christ, so that you have his mind and follow in his
footsteps, it profiteth you nothing. And if, by your study of it, you
are brought into this saving fellowship, your theories of inspiration
will take care of themselves.

I fear that we do not always comprehend the fact that it is this divine
Life shining out of its pages that makes the Bible glorious. We strain
our eyes so much in verifying commas, and in trying to prove that the
dot of a certain i is not a fly-speck, that we fail to get much
impression of the meaning or the beauty of the Saviour's life. See those
two critics, with their eyes close to the wonderful "Ecce Homo" of
Correggio, disputing whether there is or is not a visible stitch in the
garment of Christ that ought to be seamless. How red their faces; how
hot their words! Stand back a little, brothers! look away, for a moment,
from the garment's seam; let the infinite pain and the infinite pity and
the infinite yearning of that Face dawn on you for a moment, and you
will cease your quarreling. So, not seldom, do the idolaters of the
letter wholly miss the meaning of the sacred book, and remain in
mournful ignorance of him who himself is the Word.

There are those to whom the view of the Bible presented in these
chapters seems not only inadequate but destructive. "If the Bible is not
infallible," they say, "it is no more than any other book; we have no
further use for it." In one of the leading church reviews I find these
words, the joint utterance of two eminent American theologians: "A
proved error in Scripture contradicts not only our doctrine but the
Scripture's claims, and therefore its inspiration in making those
claims." [Footnote: _Presbyterian Review_, vol. ii. p. 245.] A
proved error in Scripture stamps the book as fraudulent and worthless!
Worthless it is then! Proved errors there are, scores of them. It is
fatuity, it is imbecility, to deny it. And every man who can find an
error in these old writings has the warrant of these teachers for
throwing the book away. Tens of thousands of ingenuous and fair-minded
men have taken the word of such teachers, and have thrown the book away.
May God forgive the folly of these blind guides!

But what stupid reasoning is this! "If the Bible is not infallible, it
is worthless." Your watch is not infallible; is it therefore worthless?
Your physician is not infallible; are his services therefore worthless?
Your father is not infallible; are his counsels worthless? Will you say
that the moment you discover in him an error concerning any subject in
heaven or on earth, that moment you will refuse to listen to his
counsel? The church of God is not infallible, and never was, whatever
infatuated ecclesiastics may have claimed for it; are its solemn
services and its inspiring labors and its uplifting fellowships

"A ship on a lee shore," says one, "in the midst of a driving storm,
throws up signal rockets or fires a gun for a pilot. A white sail
emerges from the mist; it is the pilot boat. A man climbs on board, and
the captain gives to him the command of the ship. All his orders are
obeyed implicitly. The ship, laden with a precious cargo and hundreds of
human lives, is confided to a rough-looking man whom no one ever saw
before, who is to guide them through a narrow channel, where to vary a
few fathoms to the right or left will be utter destruction. The pilot is
invested with absolute authority as regards bringing the vessel into
port." [Footnote: _Orthodoxy; its Truths and Errors_, by James
Freeman Clarke, p. 114.] Is this because the man is infallible, because
he has never been detected in holding an erroneous opinion? Doubtless
any of these intelligent passengers could find out, by half an hour's
conversation with him, that his mind was full of crass ignorance and
misconception. And nobody supposes that he is infallible, even as a
pilot. He may make a mistake. What then? Will these passengers gather
around the captain, and demand that he be ordered down from the bridge
and thrown overboard if he disobeys? Will they say, "A pilot who is not
on all subjects infallible is one whom we will not trust?" No; they
believe him to be, not omniscient, but competent and trustworthy, and a
great burden is lifted from their hearts when they see him take command
of the ship. On all other subjects besides religion, people are able to
exercise their common sense; why can they not use a modicum of the same
common sense when they come to deal with religious truth?

It is not true, as a matter of fact, that the Bible no longer has any
value for those who have ceased to hold the traditional view of it. Not
seldom, indeed, those who have been compelled by overwhelming evidence
to relinquish the traditional view have been driven by the natural
reaction against it to undervalue the Bible, and even to treat it with
contempt and bitterness; but even some of these have come back to it
again and have found in it, when they studied it with open mind, more
truth than they ever before had known. Let me cite an extreme case. I
could take you to a society of free-thinkers, consisting of people who
have long been outspoken in their rejection of all the doctrines of
historical Christianity, many of whom formerly flouted the Bible as a
book of fables, but who are now studying it diligently week by week, in
the most sympathetic spirit. They do not now accept its supernaturalism;
but they believe that as a manual of conduct, as a guide to life, it
excels all other books. The young people of their Sunday-school are told
that the Bible is not like other books; that the men who wrote it knew
more about the human soul and its struggles and its aspirations after
good than any other men who ever lived; and they are besought to attend,
most carefully, to the lessons of life which this ancient book teaches.
I should like to take some of our ultra orthodox friends, who are
pettishly crying out that the Bible, if not infallible, is good for
nothing, and set them down for a Sunday or two in the midst of this
free-thinking Sunday-school; they might learn some things about its
value that they never knew before.

This incident ought to be of service, also, to those who, having
discovered that the Bible contains human elements, have rushed to the
conclusion that it is no more than any other book, and who, although
they do not cast it from them, hold it off, at arm's length, as it were,
and maintain toward it an attitude of critical superiority. Even these
free-thinkers treat it more fairly. They are learning to approach it
with open mind; they sit down before it with reverent expectancy. The
Bible has a right to this sympathetic treatment. It is not just like
other books. Do not take my word for this; listen rather to the
testimony of one who was known, while he was alive, as the arch-heretic
of New England:--

"This collection of books has taken such a hold on the world as no
other. The literature of Greece, which goes up like incense from that
land of temples and heroic deeds, has not half the influence of this
book, from a nation alike despised in ancient and in modern times. It is
read of a Sabbath in all the ten thousand pulpits of our land. In all
the temples of religion is its voice lifted up week by week. The sun
never sets on its gleaming page. It goes equally to the cottage of the
plain man and the palace of the king. It is woven into the literature of
the scholar, and colors the talk of the street. The bark of the merchant
cannot sail the sea without it; no ships of war go to the conflict, but
the Bible is there. It enters men's closets; mingles in all their grief
and cheerfulness of life. The affianced maiden prays God in Scripture
for strength in her new duties; men are married by Scripture. The Bible
attends them in their sickness, when the fever of the world is on them.
The aching head finds a softer pillow when the Bible lies underneath.
The mariner escaping from shipwreck clutches this first of his treasures
and keeps it sacred to God. It goes with the peddler in his crowded
pack; cheers him at eventide when he sits down dusty and fatigued;
brightens the freshness of his morning face. It blesses us when we are
born, gives names to half Christendom; rejoices with us; has sympathy
for our mourning; tempers our grief to finer issues. It is the better
part of our sermons. It lifts man above himself; our best of uttered
prayers are in its storied speech, wherewith our fathers and the
patriarchs prayed. The timid man, about awaking from this dream of life,
looks through the glass of Scripture and his eye grows bright; he does
not fear to stand alone, to tread the way unknown and distant, to take
the death angel by the hand and bid farewell to wife and babes and home.
Men rest on this their dearest hopes; it tells them of God and of his
blessed Son, of earthly duties and of heavenly rest." [Footnote:
Theodore Parker, _Discourses on Religion_.]

This is not mere rhetoric; it is simplest truth of human experience. How
is it possible for any man to treat this book just as he would any other
book? He ought to come to its perusal with the expectation of finding in
it wisdom and light and life. He must not stultify his reason and stifle
his moral sense when he reads it; he must keep his mind awake and his
conscience active; but there is treasure here if he will search for it;
search he must, yet the only right attitude before it is one of
reverence and trust. Any man of ripe wisdom and high character, who has
been known to you all your life, whose judgment you have verified, whose
goodness you have witnessed and experienced, commands your respectful
attention the moment he begins to speak. You do not believe him to be
infallible, but you listen to what he says with trustfulness; you expect
to find it true. To say that you listen to him as you do to every other
man is not the fact; the posture of your mind in his presence is
different from that in which you stand before most other men. It ought
to be. He has gained, by his probity, the power to speak to you with
authority. The Bible has gained the same power. You do not use it fairly
when you use it as you do every other book.

There is the nation's flag proudly flying from the summit of the
Capitol. It may be a banner that was borne upon the battlefield,
decorated now with well-mended rents, and with stains of carnage.
"Behold it!" cries the idolater. "It is absolutely faultless in
perfection and beauty! There is not a blemish on its folds, there is not
an imperfection in its web; every thread in warp and woof is flawless;
every seam is absolutely straight; every star is geometrically accurate;
every proportion is exact; the man who denies it is a traitor!"

"Absurd!" replies the iconoclast. "See the holes and the stains; there
is not one straight seam; there is not a star that is in perfect form;
ravel it, and you will find no thread in warp or woof that is flawless;
nay, you may even discover shreds of shoddy mixed with the fine fibre.
Your flag is nothing more than any other old piece of bunting, and if
you think it is, you are a fool."

Nay, good friends, you are both wrong. The blemishes are there; it would
be fanaticism to deny them; and he who says that no man can be loyal to
the nation who will not profess that this banner is immaculate is
setting up a fantastic standard of patriotism. But, on the other hand,
this flag is something more than any other old piece of bunting, and he
who thinks it something more is not a fool. It is the symbol of liberty;
it is the emblem of sovereignty; it is the pledge of protection; it is
the sign and guarantee of justice and order and peace. What memories
cluster round it, of dauntless heroism, and holy sacrifice, and noble
consecration! What hopes are gleaming from its stars and fluttering in
its shining folds--hopes of a day when wars shall be no more and all
mankind shall be one brotherhood! The man to whom the flag of his
country is no more than any other piece of weather-beaten bunting is a
man without a country.

Is not my parable already interpreted? Are not the idolaters who make it
treason to disbelieve a single word of the Bible, and the iconoclasts
who treat it as nothing better than any other book, equally far from the
truth? Is it not the part of wisdom to use the book rationally, but
reverently; to refrain from worshiping the letter, but to rejoice in the
gifts of the Spirit which it proffers? The same divine influence which
illumines and sanctifies its pages is waiting to enlighten our minds
that we may comprehend its words, and to prepare our hearts that we may
receive its messages. Some things hard to understand are here, but the
Spirit of truth can make plain to us all that we need to know. No man
wisely opens the book who does not first lift up his heart for help to
find in it the way of life, and to him who studies it in this spirit it
will show the salvation of God.

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