Page images

angels had associated with the daughters of men, and engaged in sexual connection with them. St. Augustin* goes so far as to charge the Manicheans with teaching, as a part of their religious persuasion, that beautiful young persons appeared in a state of nature before the princes of darkness, or evil angels, and deprived them of the vital substance which that father calls the nature of God. Herodiust is still more explicit, and says that the divine majesty escaped through the productive organs of demons.

It is true that all these fathers believed angels to be corporeal. I But, after the works of Plato bad established the idea of their spirituality, the ancient opinion of a corporeal union between angels and women was explained by the supposition, that the same angel who, in a woman's form, had received the embraces of a man, in turn held communication with a woman, in the character of man. Divines, by the terms incubus and succubus, designate the different parts thus performed by angels. Those who are curious on the subject of these offensive and revolting reveries may see further details in “ Various Readings of the Book of Genesis," by Otho Gualter; “Magical Disquisitions,” by Delvis, and the “ Discourses on Witchcraft," by Henry Boguet.


No genealogy, even although reprinted in Moreri, approaches that of Mahomet or Mohammed, the son of Abdallah, the son of Abd'all Montaleb, the son of Ashem ; which Mohammed was, in his younger days, groom of the widow Cadisha, then her factor, then her husband, then a prophet of God, then condemned to be hanged, then conqueror and king of Arabia; and who finally died an enviable death, satiated with glory and with love.

The German barons do not trace back their origin

* Book xx. against Faustus, 44.
† Chap. xviii. Of Faith.

Tertulliani against Prax. chap. vii.

beyond Witikind; and our modern French marquisses can scarcely, any of them, show deeds and patents of an earlier date than Charlemagne. But the race of Mahomet, or Mohammed, which still subsists, has always exhibited a genealogical tree, of which the trunk is Adam, and of which the branches reach from Ishmael down to the nobility and gentry who at the present day bear the high title of cousins of Mahomet.

There is no difficulty about this genealogy, no dispute among the learned, no false calculations to be rectified, no contradictions to palliate, no impossibilities to be made possible.

Your pride cavils against the authenticity of these titles. You tell me that you are descended from Adam as well as the greatest prophet, if Adam was the common father of our race; but that this same Adam was never known by any person, not even by the ancient Arabs themselves; that the name has never been cited except in the books of the Jews; and that consequently, you take the liberty of writing down false against the high and noble claims of Mahomet or Mohammed.

You add that, in any case, if there has been a first man, whatever his name might be, you are a descendant from him as decidedly as Cadisha's illustrious groom; and that, if there has been no first man, if the human race always existed, as so many of the learned pretend, then you are clearly a gentleman from all eternity.

In answer to this you are told, that you are a plebeian (roturier) from all eternity, unless you can produce a regular and complete set of parchments.

You reply that men are equal; that one race cannot be more ancient than another; that parchments, with bits of wax dangling to them, are a recent invention; that there is no reason that compels you to yield to the family of Mahomet, or to that of Confucius, or to that of the emperors of Japan, or to the royal secretaries of the grand college. Nor can I oppose your opinion by arguments, physical, metaphysical or moral. You think yourself equal to the dairo of Japan,

2 B


and I entirely agree with you. All that I would advise you is, that if ever you meet with him, you take good care to be the strongest.


The sacred writer having conformed himself to the idea generally received, and being indeed obliged not to deviate from them, as without such condescension to the weakness and ignorance of those whom he addressed, he would not have been understood, it only remains for us to make some observations on the natural philosophy prevailing in those early periods; for, with respect to theology, we reverence it, we believe in it, and never either dispute or discuss it.

“ In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Thus has the original passage been translated, but the translation is not correct. There is no one, however slightly informed upon the subject, who is not aware that the real meaning of the words is, “In the beginning the gods made (firent or fit) the heaven and the earth.” This reading, moreover, perfectly corresponds with the ancient idea of the Phenicians, who imagined that, in reducing the chaos (chautereb) into order, God employed the agency of inferior deities.

The Phenicians had been long a powerful people, having a theogony of their own, before the Hebrews became possessed of a few captons of land near their territory. It is extremely natural to suppose that, when the Hebrews had at length formed a small establishment near Phenicia, they began to acquire its language. At that time their writers might, and probably did, borrow the ancient philosophy of their masters. Such is the 'regular march of the human mind.

At the time in which Moses is supposed to have lived, were the Phenician philosophers sufficiently enlightened to regard the earth as a mere point in comparison with the infinite multitude of orbs placed by God in the immensity of space, commonly called heaven? The idea so very ancient, and at the same time so utterly false, that heaven was made for earth, almost always prevailed in the minds of the great mass of the people. It would certainly be just as correct and judi. cious for any person to suppose, if told that God created all the mountains and a single grain of sand, that the mountains were created for that grain of sand. It is scarcely possible that the Phenicians, who were such excellent navigators, should not have had some good astronomers; but the old prejudices generally prevailed, and those old prejudices were very properly spared and indulged by the author of the book of Genesis, who wrote to instruct men in the ways of God, and not in natural philosophy.

“ The earth was without form (tohu bohu) and void; darkness résted upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the surface of the waters."

Tohu bohu means precisely chaos, disorder. It is one of those imitative words which are to be found in all languages; as, for example, in the French we have sens, dessus, dessous, tintamarre, trictrac, tonnerre, bombe. The earth was not as yet formed in its present state: the matter existed, but the divine power had not yet arranged it. The spirit of God means literally the breath, the wind, which agitated the waters. The same idea occurs in the Fragments of the Phenician author Sanconiathon. The Phenicians, like every other people, believed matter to be eternal. There is not a single author of antiquity who ever represented something to have been produced from nothing. Even throughout the whole Bible, no passage is to be found in which matter is said to have been created out of nothing. Not, however, that we mean to controvert the truth of such creation. It was, nevertheless, a truth not known by the carnal Jews.

On the question of the eternity of the world, mankind have been always divided, but never on that of the eternity of matter. From nothing, nothing can proceed, nor into nothing can aught existent return. De nibilo nihilum, et in nihilum nil posse gigni reverti.

PERSIUS, Sat. iii.

Such was the opinion of all antiquity.

“ God said let there be light, and there was light; and he saw that the light was good, and he divided the light from the darkness; and he called the light day, and the darkness night; and the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said also, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day, &c. And he saw that it was good.”.

We begin with examining whether Huet bishop of Avranches, Le Clerc, and some other commentators, are not in the right in opposing the idea of those who consider this passage as exhibiting the most sublime eloquence.

Eloquence is not aimed at in any history written by the Jews. The style of the passage in question, like that of all the rest of the work, possesses the most perfect simplicity. If an orator, intending to give some idea of the power of God, employed for that purpose the short and simple expression we are considering, " He said, let there be light, and there was light;" it would then be sublime. Exactly similar is the passage in one of the psalms, Dixit, et facta sunt,” “ He spake, and they were made.” It is a trait which, being unique in this place, and introduced purposely in order to create a majestic image, elevates and transports the mind. But, in the instance under examination, the narrative is of the most simple character. The Jewish writer is speaking of light just in the same unambitious manner as of other objects of creation, he expresses himself equally and regularly after every article, “and God saw that it was good.” Everything is sublime in the course or act of creation, unquestionably, but the creation of light is no more so than that of the herbs of the field; the sublime is something which soars far above the rest, whereas all is equal throughout the chapter.

« PreviousContinue »