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MANY EDITIONS AND EMENDATIONS.
a doubt by the silent submission and repentance of the people when the contents of the book were made known to them by command of the king. The genuineness and value of this book of the law therefore rested solely upon the credit of Hilkiah the priest, who said that he had “ found” it! This was in a dark age, but we know how Joe Smith, the Mormon prophet, has succeeded, in this age of printing presses, in imposing his Golden Book upon his willing disciples, with the same simple statement, that he had found it. From this we can judge how much reason we have to trust in the genuineness of the Pentateuch.
So little has there ever been certainly known regarding the origin of these books, that many Jewish writers, firm believers in the truth of their religion and the inspiration of the scriptures, have been of opinion that the holy writings were completely lost during the Babylonish captivity, and that Ezra was divinely inspired to restore them about 400 years before Christ, The Christian fathers-Irenæus, Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus, Basil, Jerome, Chrysostom, and Augustine-all held this opinion, founding it principally upon the apocryphal second book of Esdras, where it is said that Ezra dictated the Holy Scriptures to five scribes for forty days without ceasing.* The Apocrypha is declared to be canonical by the Roman and Greek churches, but its authority is denied by Protestants. The Samaritan Jews and the Sadducees rejected all the Old Testament except the five books of Moses, and the most contradictory opinions on these points, and on the extent and nature of inspiration, have existed among learned men in every age of the Jewish and Christian churches. We read in the Talmud, a book of authority among the Jews to this day, that the canon of their scriptures was not finally fixed until an assembly of Rabbis under the Maccabees, about 200 years before Christ; and on that occasion the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Ezekiel were very nearly being rejected, as containing opinions contrary to the law, when a certain Rabbi having undertaken to alter and reconcile them, they were eventually declared to be canonical! So much for the genuineness and inspiration of the Old Testament.
* Prideaux's Connection, vol. ii., p. 473, 8vo. edition. 1725.
NO SIGNS OF SUPERHUMAN WISDOM,
The Old Testament must be judged on its own merits; and I think that any one who will read it in a calm, unprejudiced manner, without that very usual determination to find no difficulty and no doubt, and to consider every word as sacred and inviolable, will soon rise convinced that it is in no way superior to the ages in which it appeared, and that none of its writers manifest any. thing superhuman in either their knowledge, wisdom, or opinions on moral subjects. Moses (or the writer of the Pentateuch) will be found to speak of the phenomena of nature in the ignorant language of his time; barbarous customs and manners will be found to have been permitted and ordered by him in the name of God, and his moral doctrines, and his judicial, political, and penal law to be in no way superior to what might be expected from a human legislator of a dark and uncivilised period, and a savage and superstitious race.
The book of Genesis commences with an account of the crtation of the world, just as vague, with just such omissions, and just such a display of ignorance as would be made by a writer who, agreeably to the rude notions of his age and country, believed this earth to be the most important object in the universe, and the sun, moon, and stars to be mere satellites created for the convenience of mankind, or, in his own inane language,“ to be for signs and seasons and years,”
,” “the sun to rule the day, and the moon and stars the night.” We find the darkness, which is called night, carefully divided by God from the light, which is called day; and the distinct morning and evening before the sun was made. We find the apparent blue vault above us converted into the firmament of the ancients ; the waters above the firmament, where God keeps the rain, the supply of which he regulates by opening and shutting the windows,* separated from the waters below the firmament which are called seas; and lights set in the firmament of heaven to illuminate the earth beneath. This ridiculous description was the best one that it was in the power of the writer to invent, who knew pot that the rain descended only
* 16 And the windows of heaven were opened " Gen., chap. vii., verse 11.
" And the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained ” chap. viii., verse 2.
a few thousand feet from the clouds, and that the celestial vault was an optical illusion caused by the infinity of space.
And what says the “divinely inspired” Moses, speaking the words of God himself, what language does he employ in announcing to the human race the origin of those uncounted myriads of kindred worlds which have in all ages excited their curiosity and admiration ? “ He made the stars also,” Gen. i., verse 16. They are only the stars to him; only “for signs and seasons and years,” merely for human convenience. Why a mother prattling to her child in these days would use language more worthy of this magnificent yet simple theme, and an intelligent child of ten years of age would be far from satisfied with such a bare and spiritless statement! But we cannot be surprised at this, for Moses, or the writer of these Hebrew legends, knew not as much of the motions and constitution of the heavenly bodies as a schoolboy of this time can gather from the first pages of his geography book.
The creation is stated in as clear and plain language as possible to have occupied six days, and God is represented as resting on the seventh, which he appointed in commemoration to be a day of rest for mankind; and according to the biblical chronology the world has existed for scarcely six thousand years. Geological facts, and arguments which are open to the world and need not be repeated here, prove beyond a doubt that countless ages have left the traces of their operations upon the surface of the globe. Religious geologists have tried to reconcile this contradiction by considering each day of the creation as a geological period; but if the first six days were ages, what do they think of the seventh day on which their “God rested himself ?” Nothing can display more clearly the intention of the writer than the expression," and the evening and the morning were the first day.”
But it is objected by Christians that Moses addressed his countrymen the Jews in language to which they were accustomed, and was inspired to treat the great subject of creation in a general way, suited to their limited knowledge of the phenomena of nature; and that, although his account is not fully explanatory, there is nothing in it that is absolutely untrue, and the intention
VALUE OF ANCIENT LEGENDS.
of the Bible is not that of teaching astronomy or physical science, Would it have done the Jews a great deal of harm, would it have given them a very degraded idea of the majesty of their God, if he had revealed to them a rational account, a glimpse of the truth, however simple and general, instead of the mean, meagre, and undignified story we have just examined ? Was it absolutely necessary for the preservation of their faith that they should be studiously kept by God in utter ignorance of those sublime facts which bave since been gradually discovered by man's unaided reason? Does it seem wise, or does it seem necessary that the Bible (intended, as all Christians believe, for all ages and for all nations, and not for the ignorant Jews of that time only) should commence with a tale of creation so devoid of the sublimity of truth, so manifestly opposed to facts, that every great discovery in physical science has on its first appearance been greeted with a cry of atheism and opposition to scripture, until elaborately forced and tortured into a sophistical agreement with Moses, or until the facts became placed so high above all doubt that reli. gionists were compelled and frightened into silence, and forced to wrap themselves in their sullen and obstinate faith? In short, does this Hebrew account of the creation look like the production of a writer inspired with supernatural wisdom and knowledge, or does it look like the very ordinary fiction of an ignorant barbarian pontiff?
In the narrative books of the Old Testament there is a large amount of that legendary trash which is to be found in all ancient books of history; the foul and foolish nature of many of these stories renders them in this decent age and country unfit for detailed notice. Their filth defends them from any close attack. The entire history of Lot, the story of Judah, Tamar, and their near relatives, of the Levite and his concubine, and many others, only serve to expose the brutal, barbarous patriarchal age in which it is pretended that God talked with man.
In all legends, however, there is doubtless a groundwork and admixture of truth, and the most satisfactory view of the cumparative moral and intellectual enlightenment of a people will always be derived from their national annals, which will show us
THE BIBLE HEROES,
who have been from time to time their favourite exemplars and heroes. Divine inspiration and superhuman wisdom are claimed for the writers of the Old Testament, and yet the lives of the heroes, who are in that book extolled and honoured as the possessors of a large share of the spirit of the Lord, are stained with the meanest and most disgraceful vices, and their most conspicuous and celebrated deeds are crimes of violence and cruelty.
Noab is said to have been a great favourite of the Hebrew divinity, and was selected to be the founder of a new population after the general destruction of mankind in the deluge. He is said to have discovered the process of making wine; and, having one day become intoxicated with his own liquor, he was so enraged with one of his sons for his disrespect or inattention to him in this beastly and then novel state that he cursed him and his children and Christians would persuade us that this illtempered old drunkard's curse is fulfilled in the degradation and slavery of the Africans. In fact, one of the strongest arguments of the American slave-owners in favour of their infamous "domes. tic institution” is founded upon this pretended prophecy.
Abraham, who familiarly converses and bargains with the Mosaic deity, exhibits the cowardly vice of lying on two particular occasions; and the innocent Pharoah and Abimelech are severely punished by God in consequence of the patriarch's deceit. Isaac, unwarned and untaught by his father, commits the very same offence on a similar occasion, and, as before, apparently without the least cause. Deceit and falsehood, unless for malignant purposes, are hardly looked upon as immoral among Asiatic nations even in the present time; we cap therefore feel do surprise in finding that equally lax principles were held by the Jews in a much more barbarous age.
The life of Jacob, a most favoured servant of God, presents us with a disgusting scene of heartless deceit and knavery; he cheats his aged father and his generous brother, and flies from the vengeance of the latter to the honse of Laban, his maternal uncle, Deceived and cheated by his relative, he cheats him in return; and his dishonest, if practicable, plan for influencing the breeding cattle is approved by an Angel of God, while God himself in