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which might the easier keep out idolatry.” Part I. $35. On Ex. 19: 6, where the Israelites are called a kingdom of priests, he remarks, " This mode of speaking appears to have come from Egypt, where the priests had great privileges, owned their own lands tax-free, and were besides supported by the king.' How can he who has so little conception of the Israelites as God's people, have any just conception of the God who really dwelt among them. The difference between the Old Testament religion and heathenism, is, as he understands it, the most superficial possible—that of Monotheism and Polytheism. The grand object of the law is according to him the negative one, the prevention of idolatry :—the positive design, that of producing a living practical religious feeling, he entirely loses sight of. With such a low view of religion, it is therefore very natural that he should feel dislike when it advances any claims. Thus, in his additions to his Commentaries, in Ammon und Bertholdt's Journal, Th. 4. S. 356, he shows that some of Abraham's servants must have been circumcised before, because otherwise (at the first circumcision) all work must have been suspended for eight days, and the cattle could not have been fed. He thus zealously labors to find out for all severe and burdensome ceremonies, dietetical, medicinal, municipal and other objects, in order to show that while the Levites did not as servants of religion earn the revenue they enjoyed, yet that as physicians, surveyors, and learned men they well deserved it.
It is remarkable that Michaelis, thus standing as he did on the ground of mere natural causes in explaining the biblical history, yet left the miracles of the Pentateuch generally untouched, and sought an explanation from natural causes only where Clericus had done so before him. See especially Ex. xiv. This however is easily accounted for from the fact that in this respect he departed less from the older views than in most others. Had he departed here also, he must have denied the miracles and the genuineness of the Pentateuch altogether; and this, on account of education, and perhaps a remnant of early pious feeling, he could not do. Also the spirit of the age, at the time that he was in the vigor of his faculties, had still its influence over him.
Historical Skepticism. But however close may have been the connection between the degenerate exegesis we have just described, and the denial of the genuineness of the Pentateuch, yet there must have been some powerful causes in the last quarter of the last century, to have produced the transition from the former to the latter just at that time—a transition which from that time became more and more predominant. Without some such causes, either this dangerous but natural step would have been prevented by the mere power of orthodox habit, or a reaction would have taken place in exegesis itself. The very degeneration of exegesis shows the existence of such causes-causes which had been long silently preparing. For if that degeneration was not merely accidental—if it had its origin in the continually extending spirit of the times—a spirit which formed itself more and more into a conscious hostility to what was old, then the denial of the genuineness must not be regarded simply as a consequence of the perversion of exegesis, but is to be derived immediately from the spirit of the age itself.
The preceding ages had had a great reverence for the past, and so, for all historical accounts. This reverence was for the most part, the result of humility. To be hostile to the past, was, they believed, to be enemies to themselves. They did not wish to be cast entirely upon themselves. But here also, as always, that which was in principle good, was abused and carried to extremes. Although individuals were by no means wanting who practised historical criticism with unprejudiced minds, yet there was in general a too extravagant respect for every thing that gave itself out for history. There was a dread of beginning the work of historical criticism through a secret fear of the end to which it might lead.
In the latter part of the seventeenth century this reverence for history began gradually to disappear; at first in England, Holland and France (it is sufficient to mention the names of Bayle and Harduin), and then, after the accession of Frederick II. to the throne, also in Germany, where the love of contradiction, once worked up by that spirit of investigation which is peculiar to the nation, put on a very dangerous shape. The higher the age, in proud self-importance, regarded itself as standing above those that were past, so much the more did it feel itself allowed to do as it pleased with their monyments. It thought that at any rate there was little to lose by doing so. Its opinion of its own strength rose higher when it bad succeeded in overthrowing that on which the blinded past had rested. A cry of triumph was raised, whenever an old structure fell to the
ground. In addition to this, the proud temper of the age lost more and more the spirit of love, which enables one to open himself to what is good in others, and thus improves the power of the understanding. What was not understood it was considered perfectly right to reject.
This universal change in the position of the times in regard to history must not be passed over when we are investigating the causes of the change in their position in regard to the sacred books and especially the Pentateuch. How every thing of a special character rests here upon something general, how the attacks on Homer for instance had in one point of view the same origin as those against the biblical books, has been already shown by others. Thus Schubarth remarks (Ideen ueber Homer und sein Zeitalter, S. 236): “Since the middle of the last century there has prevailed a young and vigorous spirit, which has led men to believe that the human mind is able to draw all its nutriment and sustenance from itself. Of course the productions of past ages, which had till now been the only resort for counsel, light, culture and edification, lost at once much of their former estimation and importance. There appeared more and more an active, bold, rash, nay insolent spirit of contradiction against the past. And accordingly we see that after men had endeavored to rid themselves of a burdensome restraint in regard to the Bible, the same spirit of disruption spread itself upon every thing received from former ages, with the effort rather to throw it off altogether, than to ascertain and defend its true worth and importance.
Still the general explanation is altogether insufficient to account for the course of opinions in regard to the Pentateuch. It can, considering the strong proofs of genuineness, account at most only for the denial of that genuineness by individuals, and as a temporary thing—not for the obstinacy with which this denial has been maintained, and the wide prevalence it has found. In profane literature, the period of this levity of skepticism came soon to an end; and if single cases of it now still appear, and show that this perverse spirit has not yet wholly died out, yet it exists only in individuals, and can never again become general. External proofs are granted more of their just weight, and there is less levity in handling the internal. There is some effort to understand before condemning. Where there is no stronger motive, there pride at least urges, by way of change, to build up again that which pride had pulled down. Every (ancient) wri
ter who had unjustly lost what belonged to him is in process of being restored in due time in integrum. The turn which the investigations on Homer have of late taken, is known. Even those who still continue to doubt differ materially from their predecessors. Where these saw nothing but confusion and chance, there their followers discover profound unity and organic connection-very different from what is the case in regard to the Pentateuch, where the absurd assertion of a fragmentary compilation is continually repeated. The orations of Cicero which were rejected by Wolf are again acknowledged to be genuine. Socher's rash judgment on some dialogues of Plato was received with dissatisfaction, and even the rejection of some smaller and less important ones by Ast, is now admitted to have been too strong. Instead of rejecting them at once and entirely upon the assertion of their external spuriousness, men are satisfied that they are immature products of the Platonic spirit. See Richter, Geschichte d. Philosophie, Th. 2. S. 170 ff. and Ackermann, Das Christliche im Plato, S. 21. The eighth book of Thucydides was denied to be his, on account of its differing from the rest in mode of representation. Niebuhr regards this inference as a cutting of the knot, as stupid capricious
“I think I see,” says he, in his klein Schriften, Th. I. S. 409, “in this very difference, this great master's just sense of propriety :—that as the solemnity and dignity of the style rise higher and higher until the catastrophe in Sicily, so after the importance of the events ceases, the narration itself assumes another tone. An inferior writer would have thought it necessary to maintain the same pathos to the end. For the history of events toward the end of the war, Thucydides would have returned to his loftiness of style. But the period of long distress and torture during the undecided contest required a simpler narrative.” How much more obvious than this is the reason of the difference of manner between Deuteronomy and the other books of the Pentateuch—how much less tact of observation is necessary in order to discover it than Niebuhr here shows. It occurs of itself to every unprejudiced mind; and that it is nevertheless so disdainfully rejected, that we constantly hear the assertion, the difference of style proves unanswerably a different author, shows very manifestly that here interests come into play from the influence of which profane literature is free. When we consider the universal disapprobation with which even a moderate tendency to historical skepticism was regarded even in
men of such standing as O. Müller, we think we may confidently assert that if such ridiculously arbitrary criticism as that of De Wette had been directed to disprove the genuineness of a profane writer or against any part of profane history, it would be already forgotten, and would have only served to obtain for its author the sorry celebrity of a Harduin. But even if De Wette excited some attention at first, a book like that of Vatke* would, if he had chosen to employ his acuteness on Herodotus for instance, instead of the Pentateuch, bave been carried immediately from the womb to the grave. It would have been looked upon as lying beyond the limits of the field of science.
How little the universal tendency of the age to historical skepticism.can satisfactorily explain our problem, is seen from the fact, that many who decidedly deny the genuineness of the Pentateuch, and the credibility of what it contains, show in other cases an utter want of historical criticism, and are more ready to admit the genuineness and credibility of ancient writings than any inquirer of note in earlier times. The same Volney for example who with true Voltaire-audacity, denies all historic foundation for the Pentateuch, who heads the fourteenth chapter of his Recherches sur l'histoire ancienne,' with du personage appellé Abraham' (concerning the personage called Abraham,) appeals as to an unexceptionable witness to Sanchoniathon, whose false pretensions to antiquity even the criticism of the unenlightened times had long before exposed, and uses him as a lapis Lydius by which to try the pretensions of others. “Let us hear (says he, t. I. p. 166, Brussels,) Sanchoniathon, who wrote about 1300 years before the Christian era.” Late writers such as Nicol. Damascenus, Alex. Polyhistor, and Artapanus, whose accounts on these matters are evidently only the echo of Jewish tradition, and who have therefore no independent weight as historians, are according to him important in the highest degree, and capable of affording weapons against the truth of the sacred history. And it is not a mere accident, , that that very German critic who has succeeded best in concealing the theological bias which influences him, and who could therefore venture with a good hope of producing effect, to designate as naif the charge of doctrinal predilections that Ge
* Vatke is professor at Berlin-a colleague of Hengstenberg and professes to be a follower of Schleiermacher. See an extended critique on his . Biblische Theologie,' infra, p. 24 seq.-TR.