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ascertain what was meant by the frequent references to the promises made to the patriarchs; and they must have been entirely in the dark, as to the number and nature of those wonderful works, which are so frequently mentioned in the remaining books of Moses. On all these subjects, oral tradition must, by the general lapse into idolatry, have become exceedingly depraved, if not totally obliterated, in the course of ages. The same writer, therefore, who, in his care for the information of the Hebrews even of remote periods, committed the Pentateuch to writing, would not have left instruction so necessary for that people, especially those of them who lived in later ages, as that contained in the book of Genesis and the former part of Exodus, to be supplied by oral tradition ; neither is it credible that he did.
But if the book of Genesis were written by Moses, agreeably to all ancient tradition and scriptural reference, inasmuch as the work contains narrations of events which took place long before the time of the author, the question arises, whence did he obtain his information? He must have derived his knowledge of the facts recorded either from immediate divine revelation, or from oral tradition, or from written documents or other monuments. The nature of many of the facts and the minuteness of the narration, render it quite improbable that such detailed accounts were communicated by immediate revelation. That all his knowledge should have been derived from oral tradition, appears morally impossible, when we consider the great number of names, of ages, of dates, and of minute events, which are recorded. It remains, then, that he must have obtained some information from written documents, coeval, or nearly so, with the events which they recorded, and composed by persons intimately acquainted with the subjects to which they relate. That these were few in number, appears
moval to Egvations of the Hebrewaltivated habits and
probable from the simple and uncultivated habits and the humble occupations of the Hebrews previously to their removal to Egypt, and from their oppressed and degraded state while there, all of which are unfavourable alike to literary pursuits and historical research. It is probable, therefore, that the history given by Moses in Genesis is derived principally from short memoranda and genealogical tables written by the patriarchs, or under their superintendence, and preserved by their posterity until the time of Moses, who made use of them, with additions from authentic tradition or existing monuments, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and thus prepared his work. Indeed, it is not improbable that the Hebrew legislator introduced some patriarchal narrations into his book with little or no alteration. The existence of written documents anterior to the time of Moses is unquestionable.* The authority of the book of Job, (xix. 23, 24,) and the late Egyptian disclosures, place this beyond a doubt. And it is difficult to think that documents were not used in preparing such narratives as that of Joseph, and some parts of the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is remarked by Ewald, in his work on the composition of Genesis, respecting the
* The subject of the early use of writing in reference to its bearing on the antiquity and genuineness of the Pentateuch, is carefully investigated by Dr. E. W. HENGSTENBERG, in his work on the authenticity of the Pentateuch (Die Authentie des Pentateuches,) vol. I. p. 415-502, Berlin, 1836. As I shall hereafter refer to this work, it may be well to state, that it is the second part of the author's contributions towards an introduction to the Old Testament, of which his work on the Authenticity of Daniel and the Integrity of Zechariah constitute the first, and was published at Berlin, 1831. His Christology of the Old Testament has been translated by Professor Keith of Alexandria, and was published in three 8vo. volumes, the first at Alexandria, D. C. in 1836, and the remaining two at Washington, D. C. in 1839. This work ought to be in the hands of every student of theology.
narrative of the flood,* that, although indeed it might have been abbreviated and some collateral circumstances omitted, yet the writer evidently intends to show the divine agency even in the details, that he is under the influence of strong feeling, and describes the tragic event with minuteness and particularity, as if he had himself been an eye-witness. This is, as he adds, strikingly characteristic of Hebrew history, and is by no means confined to the account of the flood, but pervades the whole book of Genesis. The artist draws from the life, and delineates the vivid scene with all the freshness of nature and reality. It is not to be questioned, that this might be done by a writer who lived long after the facts related ; but the opinion, that Moses employed certain patriarchal accounts composed by some one who had himself beheld the scene related, or else had heard it from an eye-witness, is probable, to say the least. On such a theory, the credibility, historic accuracy, and inspired authority of the book, derive additional strength: for the original author becomes an eye-witness, or either contemporaneous or nearly so with the facts related; and some of the facts are of such a nature that they could have been derived only from immediate revelation; and the whole being compiled by an inspired writer, have received the sanction of the Holy Spirit in an equal degree with his original productions.t
* Die Komposition der Genesis kritisch untersucht, von Dr. H. A. Ewald. Braunschweig, 1823, p. 85.
† The reader will perhaps observe a striking verbal correspondence between some portions of this paragraph and parts of pages xxxiii and *xxiv of Professor Bush's Introduction to his Notes on the Book of Genesis. As I do not wish it to be supposed that I would quote the Professor's language without the ordinary marks of acknowledgment, I think proper to state that the corresponding portions were written by me, and published as notes to Jahn's Introduction, translated by Professor Whittingham and myself. See p. 204, 205. The notes of Mr. Bush were published in 1839, Jahn's Introduction in 1827.
The book of Genesis then appears as the work of Moses, in preparing which, he was assisted by divine inspiration, suggesting what could not otherwise be known ; by documents previously written ; by standing monuments raised to commemorate historical or domestic facts; and by oral tradition handed down from early ages. On this last mentioned mode of conveying truth, the more reliance will be placed in proportion as we rightly consider the longevity of human life at the period in question, the vast importance of the topics transmitted, and the deep interest felt in their preservation.
The theory of pre-existent documents was first cautiously advanced by VITRINGA, who speaks of " scrolls and documents of the patriarchs preserved among the Israelites, and collected, digested, and arranged by Moses, and filled up wherein they were defective."* It was soon after proposed again by Le Cenet, and to a moderate extent, adopted by Calmet, † and Bishop Gleig.Ş Astruc was the first who attempted to mark out the various documents of which the book of Genesis consists. In his work on this subject,|| he supposed them to be twelve in number. He contended also
* “Has vero schedas et scrinia patrum, apud Israelitas conservala, Mosem opinamur collegisse, digessisse, ornasse, et ubi deficiebant complesse, atque ex iis primum librorum suorum confecisse.” Observationes Sacræ, Lib. 1. cap. iv. § 2, p. 36 ss. Ed. Francq. 1712.
+ Bible de Le Cene, Tom. I. p. ix. Col. 2, and p. x. Col. 1 and 2, which, however, was not printed until 1741. See an able dissertation in La Bible de Vence, Tom. I. p. 286 ss. ed. 2.
| Commentaire Litterale, Tom. I. P. I. p. xiii.
§ Introduction to Stackhouse's. History of the Bible. See also Horne’s Introduction, vol. I. p. 54, 55, 6th edition. A list of writers by whom this opinion has been supported may be seen, with accurate references, in HOLDEN on the Fall, chap. II. p. 32, 33.
Il Conjectures sur les memoires originaux dont il paroit que Moyse s'est servi pour composer le livre de Genese. Paris, 1753, 8vo.
that the first chapters of Exodus were likewise derived from them. This, however, no judicious person will allow. Eichhorn, in his Introduction,* modified this hypothesis so as to limit the number of primitive documents to two, the one remarkable for using the term Jehovah as the name of God, while the other employs Elohim. Whatever is not derived from these two, he considers as original with the author. Ilgent makes the distinction of three documents, two of which employ the word Elohim, and the other Jehovah; one of the former approximating both in language and character to the latter. These hypotheses are all ingeniously devised, but not one of them has received universal approbation. Each system rests upon far-fetched and arbitrary assumptions, and supposes the collector of the documents to resemble its framer in views and dispositions. Other theories of the same sort might be contrived, and, in fact, a new one was proposed by KELLE,I in 1811–12, and yet none will be universally acceptable; and after all, if any one were capable of being established by more ingenious arguments than all the rest, the only advantage to be derived would be, that then the documents employed in preparing the book of Genesis might be enumerated. But such a designa- . tion of original documents incorporated into the book cannot
* Einleitung ins A. T. Theil 11. § 416-427.
I In his Vorurtheilsfreye Würdigung der Mosaischen Schriften. The author afterwards retracted his views, in his work entitled, Die heiligen Schriften in ihrer Urgestalt, Deutsch und mit neuen Anmerkungen, von K. G. KELLE, Freyberg, 1817, where he maintains that Genesis consists of a single genuine work of Moses, much interpolated by the priests of the race of Ithamar, and takes great pains to separate the supposed interpolations from the original work. A refutation of his hypothesis may be seen in ROSENMUELLER’S Scholia, p. 52 ss.
§ Jahn, p. 204, 205.