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favor of the early use of letters in such variety of form, and in opposition to such conflicting objections, as perhaps no other mode would have secured ; while it has arrayed on our side a weight of authority which must greatly commend the view here taken to general acceptance.
If what has been already advanced be considered in the spirit of candor, and apart from all preconceived partialities, it must at least appear very probable that the early generations of mankind, and perhaps even our first parents, were acquainted with alphabetic writing.
The opinion which has been advanced concerning the early use of letters, if well-founded, may reasonably lead us to expect that some traditions of an early literature,
,--some notices of books and writings,will be found in the works of ancient authors; and perhaps some fragments of those early productions may be expected to have survived the ravages of time, and to be preserved even to the present day.
Admitting the reasonableness of these expectations, and that they afford means, to a certain extent, of testing the soundness of the arguments which have been given, it is necessary to guard against carrying our hopes in this respect too far. The perishable nature of writing materials, the ruinous effects of the civil and political convulsions to which the ancient world was specially liable, as well as a variety of other causes of decay and destruction, must be taken into the account. We are taught a lesson on this subject, by the fact, that Assyria and Babylon, Persia and Egypt, Phenicia, Tyre, and Carthage, were all mighty empires : were all possessed of alphabetical characters, literature, and science; and all continued for centuries after the period with which we have to do in the investigation of this subject; and yet all the authenticated literary remains of these nations have been recently published in two languages, and the whole contained in a small octavo volume.
Now, admitting that the world, from the creation, possessed letters and literary means as abundant as any of these renowned empires, what portion could we expect would survive the flood, and the thousands of years which have since passed away ? and what evidence of the existence of this literature and science could we hope to find preserved to the present time? A careful examination of the subject may, however, afford sufficient evidence that letters and science were known in the earliest ages of the world.
It is very generally admitted, that the Pentateuch and the Book of Job are the most ancient writings now in existence. What references do we find in them to the subject under consideration ?
The first mention of writing in Scripture is found in Exodus xvii, 14:
-“ And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book; and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out
the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” This command was given immediately after the defeat of the Amalekites near Horeb, and before the arrival of the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The Hebrew word here translated “write,” is the same as is afterward and generally used to signify, drawing letters or literal characters.
There is not the least hint that writing was then newly invented : on the contrary, we may conclude, that Moses understood what was meant by" writing in a book ;" for he certainly would not have been commanded to write in a book had he been ignorant of the art of writing, and had he not known what was meant by “a book." This previous acquaintance of Moses, and also of the Israelitish people, with writing and books, is further proved by the manner in which Moses speaks in many passages.
In Exodus xxviii, 21, we read: “And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, TWELVE, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.” And again, in verse 36: “And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, Holiness to the Lord.”
the Lord.” Can language be more expressive ? Is it not evident that this sentence must have been in words and letters ? And is it not equally evident, that the people to whom they were addressed were well acquainted with writing ? Other passages of the same sacred writer confirm this opinion. The Book of Job also refers to writing and books, as is proved by the following well-known passage: "O that my words were now written! O that they were printed in a book ! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!" Job xix, 23, 24. Thus it appears, that, about the period of the exodus, the Israelites were well acquainted with writing and books.
It will now be important to search out any notices of such knowledge in the earlier ages. The first case to which we direct attention is the purchase by Abraham of the field and cave of Machpelah. No mention is here made of any writing; yet the manner in which the terms of the purchase are recorded is calculated to produce an impression that some. thing like a written contract. was drawn up between the parties : “And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure.” Gen, xxii, 17. Here it may be asked, Is not this the abstract of a titledeed? Observe, how orderly and distinctly the several particulars are stated :-1, " And the field of Ephron," 2, "which was in Machpelah," 3, “which was before Mamre," 4, “even the field,” 5, "and the cave which was therein,” 6, “and all the trees that were in the field,” 7, " also the trees which were in all the borders round about,” 8, "were
made sure unto Abraham for a possession in the presence" (literally “ before the eyes "*) “of the children of Heth.” From the accuracy and minuteness of these provisions, as recorded by Moses, and considering that this occurred about four hundred years before his time, and that the ground in question was held as the only land which Abraham or his descendants possessed in Canaan until the exodus—it having been retained for a burying-place, and Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, baving been interred there—it does appear highly probable that the text is only a a copy of the contract written on the occasion. This opinion derives support from the fact, that when Joshua invaded Canaan, one of the cities spoken of is called Kirjath-sepher, which means, “the city of the book :" it is rendered by the Septuagint, “the city of letters.”
We now ascend to the time of Enoch, who, the Scriptures inform us, delivered prophecies; whether they were written, or preserved by tradition, can be made matter of argument only on the ground of probability. Jude, an inspired apostle, says: “And Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude 14, 15. Those who have maintained that this prophecy was written, have generally associated it with a book ascribed to Enoch, which has been preserved to modern times. But this connection does not appear at all necessary; the book, though written by Enoch, might have been lost, and replaced by a fictitious production; or it might have been so much altered as to be of no authority. The plain fact is, that an inspired writer attributes to this antediluvian patriarch the words we have given ; and the inquiry arises, Is it probable that these words would have been preserved five thousand years, if they had not been written? We think not.
In the speech of Lamech, recorded by Moses, (Gen. iv, 23, 24,) we have another such instance. This patriarch was cotemporary with Enoch, each being the seventh from Adam; and this fragment, of which the following is given as a literal translation, is pronounced by Bishop Lowth (Hebrew Poetry, p. 44) to be an indubitable specimen of ancient poetry :
" And Lamech said unto his wives,
Also Lamech seventy and seven."
in the early ages
Surely, such instances afford some reason for believing, that letters were known, learning cultivated, and books written, even at that carly period. And if this has any foundation in fact; if, as Josephus asserts, and as the preceding cases appear to confirm, records of what transpired
were noted down at the time, and preserved,” even to the days of Moses; then we might expect that the Jewish lawgiver would have used such helps in his various writings. We find that other sacred writers did so, not only in the books of Joshua, Kings, and Chronicles, but also in the prophets. Nor can this possibly affect the inspired character of the Holy Scriptures. We have, for instance, these words in Numbers xxi, 28, 29: “ There is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon: it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon. Wo to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh.” The inspired writer here ascribes the passage to "them that speak in proverbs," proving that the terms had been previously in use: the author's name is not given. Yet Jeremiah (xlviii, 45, 46) uses the same words in his prediction against Moab, with scarcely a shadow of variation. Surely the passage in Numbers, or in the prophet, is not less a part of inspired truth, because it had been previously written!
The expectations to which we have alluded are confirmed by a careful examination of the Book of Genesis. No person can attentively read the first ten chapters, without perceiving breaks and repetitions in the narrative, and other internal evidence, that the inspired writer did really use records of a preceding age which had been preserved to his own time. Beginning at the first chapter, if we read to chapter ii, 3, we have a continuous narrative of the creation, and of the appointment of the sabbath. In this part the name of the Creator is in the original Elohim, rendered in our translation "God," which is repeated thirtyfive times. From the end of this section, and with chapter ii, 4, begins a separate and distinct account, the first words of which are, “ These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created," &e. From this place to the end of chapter iii, we have another and shorter account of the creation, followed by a history of the fall. In this part the name of the divine Being, except in the address of the serpent to Eve, is invariably Jehovah Elohim, and translated “ LORD God,” which is repeated twenty times. In chapter iv, which contains a history of Cain and Abel, and of the descendants of the former, the sacred name is Jehovah, with only one exception. The use of these terms, as here described, appears to be a peculiarity which could scarcely have happened in the original and entire composition of one age, one country, and one man. For, however the mysterious meaning of the terms themselves may be discriminated, yet Elohim in the first
chapter, and Jehovah Elohim in the second and third, are evidently used in a synonymous sense, and precisely the same operations are ascribed to them. Chapter v begins with an appropriate title, which more particularly indicates a distinct and independent composition : “This is the book” (or record) “ of the generations of Adam.” Here, again, the history of the creation of man is briefly recited, as an introduction to this separate book, which is complete in its kind; for it begins from the creation, and concludes with the birth of the sons of Noah. May it not be regarded as a transcript from an authentic genealogical table or pedigree, which had been regularly kept in the family of this patriarch? We have afterward, “These are the generations of Noah,” and, “These are the generations of the sons of Noah."-(See Davies's Celtic Researches, pp. 40, 41.)
It may be urged, that this is not the manner in which a continuous narrative would be written by one person, and that Moses did not adopt it in other parts of his history; but is it not precisely what might be expected, if accounts of the creation written by some of the early patriarchs had been preserved to the time of Moses?
These views are not new : many learned men on the continent and in our own country have advocated them, and have attempted to show, that several historical documents, handed down from the early patriarchs, were preserved in an uncorrupted state, to the time of the Jewish lawgiver, by whom they were copied nearly in their original form, except that they were interwoven by him into one continuous narrative. This inference they chiefly derive from the following considerations :
1. The Book of Genesis contains several repetitions, or double narratives, of the same events.
2. If these duplicate narratives are compared with each other, they may be distinguished by characteristic differences of style.
3. The repetitions are too extensive, and the characteristic differences too distinctly marked, to admit of any other explanation than that which this hypothesis assigns.
As a specimen of this analysis, a part of Eichhorn's comparison of the two histories of the deluge is subjoined. It will be observed, that the passages placed opposite to each other contain two complete and continued narratives. In one of these the Deity is distinguished by the term “ Elohim,” in the other by “Jehovah ;" and there is only one exception to this remark. The style differs in other respects. The record in which the word “Elohim” is used is more prosaic and circumstantial ; the other is expressed more briefly, and in more striking and poetical phraseology.