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under the influence of early education, and cannot be viewed without prejudice, or thoroughly understood except by those beyond their pale; and the Hebrew nation, whose whole literature was early stamped as divine, and transferred as such to Christianity, has been far from escaping the ordinary consequences; the whole of their history has, in fact, been utterly perverted and completely misunderstood, because the mythic element has been raised, in the progress of time, to the rank of the historical, and mistaken zeal for the interests of religion has in consequence fettered for centuries the spirit of philosophical inquiry.
It is true that, since the classic authors have been subjected to so severe a scrutiny, a somewhat freer range has been allowed, and that similar principles of criticism have been applied with like success to the writings even of the Hebrews, but the struggle with antiquated prejudice has not yet terminated in any settled compromise.
One party, while they willingly admit the mythic colouring of primæval history, insist nevertheless that the Pentateuch is still to hold its place among historical writings; and Bertholdt so little understands the investigations of De Wette, that he actually fears that they may terminate in reducing the whole Hebrew people, as they appear on the theatre of antiquity, to a mere empty phantom?. Hence we are justified in saying that a philosophical history of the Israelites, drawn up on proper principles, is still wanted ; Leo has been the first to sketch the true outline in his Lectures?.
On the other side, we have to encounter, even down to 1 Introduction, (Einleitung) p. 778.
Lectures on Hebrew History (Vorlesungen über hebr. Geschichte), 1829.
the present day, that simple and primitive belief, which considers the Pentateuch as entitled to full historical credence, and which supposes that Moses was its author; so that every new inquirer is compelled to commence afresh with the settlement of the arguments still adduced in support of these opinions, instead of being able to devote the whole attention they deserve to the poetical beauties, and the æsthetic and religious import of these venerable writings.
ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST THE SUPPOSITION THAT
MOSES WAS THE AUTHOR OF THE PENTATEUCH.
As early as the second century the authenticity of the Pentateuch was questioned by the bolder among the Christian heretics, and particularly by the sect of the Essenes called the Ebionites, although their doubts were founded for the most part merely on matters of doctrine. The Deity was degraded, as they alleged, by the sacrifices which were offered to him; he was represented as jealous of the tree of knowledge, as limited in his power, and as not even gifted with omniscience, since he was obliged to descend to Sodom in order to witness the wickedness of that city. The Ebionites also asserted, that the plundering of the Egyptians could as little proceed from the Deity as the extermination of the Canaanites; that the account of Lot's daughters, and subsequently that of Dinah, was utterly unworthy of any sacred writing? Thus a few individuals, under the impulse of religious controversy, had already pronounced the same decision at which philosophical criticism has since arrived by an entirely different path,—namely, “ That the Law was not written by Moses,
i See Credner in Winer's Journal, (Zeitschrift für wissenschaft. Theol.) part ii. p. 286. Rosenmüller, Scholia, Proleg. p. 4, not. Comp. Joan. Damasc. de Hæres. $ 19. Faustus in Augustin. vi. 20; xxii, 1,4,5,
THE PENTATEUCH AND MOSES.
but transmitted by tradition, and not committed to writing until many centuries later?.”
Even among the learned Jews, Aben Ezra, in the twelfth century, had ventured to hint that Moses was not the author of the Pentateuch; while others went so far as to admit that the account of his death could hardly have been written by himself. They felt that it savoured of polytheism to represent the world as created by the Elohim, instead of the most holy Jehovah, and enumerated eighteen passages which seemed to them particularly opposed to the authorship of Moses. These early objections were supported by a later tradition of the Talmuds, “ that Ezra had rescued the ancient fragments of the Pentateuch at the burning of Jerusalem, and that he had compiled a restoration of the Law from these fragments." St. Jerome himself betrays no surprise at this statement"; and it derives confirmation from the fact that even in contemporary documents great praise is bestowed on Ezra as sophers (that is, according to the language of the day, learned in the law”) for his labours in this department,-admissions
i Clementine, Homilies, ii. 38, 40 ; iii. 47. ? In which St. Jerome, Carlstadt and Hobbes have agreed with them.
3 Pirke, Ab. c. 1. Bababathr. fol. 15. [" This tradition, which the author inadvertently attributes to the Talmud, is derived from the fourth book of Ezra, xiv. 21.” Jahrbuch der wissensch. Kritik. 1838.]
4 Ep. ad Helvid. c. 3. “Sive Mosen dicere volueris auctorem Pen. tateuchi, sive Esdram ejusdem instauratorem operis, non recuso.”
5“ This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given : and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.”-Ezra vii. 6. Again : “Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel.”—Ezra vii. 11. “I Artaxerxes, the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatso
EZRA THE SCRIBE.
which evidently imply that the collection of the laws could not have been finally completed till after the time of Ezra. Notwithstanding all this, the claims of Moses were maintained by the Rabbis and the older Christian writers, until Spinoza at length followed up this ancient tradition of the Talmud, and ascribed to Ezra, if not the composition, at least the present form of the Pentateuchd. Rich. Simon, in his remarkable work, the worthy precursor of a higher style of criticism, and Antony van Dale, who distinguishes the code of laws from the Pentateuch', adopted the same theory, and endeavoured to support it with very respectable arguments.
Since that period, more works have perhaps been written, and controversies maintained, on the age and author of the Pentateuch, than on any one book of the Old Testament, so that we should far exceed the limits of this introductory summary, were we to attempt a complete review of all the literature connected with this most fertile subject4. Some critics have merely modified the date assigned by Spinoza ever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily."--Ezra vii. 21. [In the common version Sopher is translated Scribe.]
“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man, into the street, that was before the water-gate ; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.”—Neh. viii. 1. “And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood.”—Neh. viii. 4.
1 Tractatus theolog. politicus, cap. 8, 1670. übers. von Conz, Tubingen, 1806.
2 Histoire critique du V.T. (Paris, 1678.) chap. 5, 6,
3 De Origine et Progressu Idolol., p. 71, 685. Compare also Herbst. in Rosenmüller, Comm. Theol. vol. i.
4 A critical summary, as complete as could well be desired, will be found in A. Th. Hartmann, Inquiries on the Formation, Age and Plan of the Five Books of Moses. (Histor. Krit. Forschungen über die Bildung, das Zeitalter, und den Plan der fünf Bücher Mosis) Rostock, 1831.