"As a man is interested in his roses, and doesn't think of the thorns," so he studied language. That was Professor Wilson's answer to my query when I expressed amazement at the range of his linguistic explorations, covering some forty-five languages and dialects. His answer helped me to understand.
And as we sat by the fire in his study at Princeton, with the signs of his labor all around us, on shelves, and tables, and desk – yes, and on the floor, I came to understand still better the stories I had heard of his learning, and of his masterly methods in the defense of the Scriptures.
When he was a little chap, four years old, son of a leading merchant in the town of Indiana Pa., he could read. He began to go to school at five, and at eight he had read, among other books, Rawlinson's "Ancient Monarchies."
That merchant father was a man of sound culture and good sense. He was president of the board of trade of his county, and president of the local school board – with ten children in his own home.
When Robert was nine years old he and a brother were taken by their father on a journey to Philadelphia. One of the exciting and memorable experiences of the trip was the visit to a bookstore on Chestnut Street, where the father left the boys for a little while, so that they might select a number of books of their own choosing. When he returned they had gathered about fifty volumes, including Prescott, Robertson, J. S. C. Abbot, and similar standard works – examples of the "light reading" that these children enjoyed.
Robert prepared for college in the Indiana public school, and was ready for the sophomore class at Princeton when he was fourteen years old. However, he did not enter his class – the class of 1876 – until he was at the advanced age of seventeen, for as he naively and rather apologetically remarked: "I had a good deal of headache between my fourteenth and twentieth years, and then typhoid. After that my headache disappeared. I really couldn't half do my work before that."
In college young Wilson specialized in language, psychology, and mathematics. In such Bible courses as he then studied he says he got "a very low grade of 90, which pulled down my average."
To him language was the gateway into alluring fields that drew him strongly. He prepared himself for college in French, German, and Greek, learned Hebrew by himself, and took a hundred-dollar prize in Hebrew when he entered the seminary.
"But how did
you ever do it?" I asked. The professor's eyes twinkled,
and he smiled at my surprise.
"Well you see," he replied, "I used my spare time. When I went out for a walk I would take a grammar with me, and when I sat down to rest, I would take out the book and study it a little, and learn what I could. I made up my mind that I wanted to read the great classics in the originals, so I just learned the languages in order to do that.
"I would read a grammar through, look up the examples, making notes as I went along, and I wouldn't pass by anything until I could explain it. I never learned long lists of words, but I would read a page through, recall the words I didn't know, and then look them up. I read anything that I thought would be interesting to me if it were in English. I got so interested in the story that I was unconscious of the labor – as a man is interested in his roses, and doesn't think of the thorns. So I learned Greek, Latin, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Biblical Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, and so on."
Now Robert Dick Wilson in all these crowded years was not clear concerning his true calling in life. Before he went to the seminary, he and a brother of his gave much time to evangelism. At Indiana they were in such work for a year and a half, and with ample evidence of God's blessings upon their labors, in great numbers of souls led to Christ. That work was particularly attractive to young Wilson, on fire as he was, and is today , for the furtherance of the Gospel.
But his seminary studies caused him to feel that there was a great need for a type of Bible scholarship that was not so subjective as much of the teaching he heard, but objective and thorough in dealing with facts that could be known only by exhaustive research over the whole range of ancient languages related to the Bible. He faced the question seriously – should he go on in the highly attractive and necessary work of preaching in which he had been so greatly blessed, or was God calling him to years of toil in comparative obscurity and seclusion, in order to let his life count for the defense of the Scriptures on the basis of linguistic and historical facts, which only arduous and patient toil could reveal? He chose under God's guiding hand the life of a scholar, and thousands have thanked God, and other thousands will yet thank him, that this servant of His said, "Here am I; send me"
What Robert Dick Wilson then believed, and now believes with all his heart is this: that textual and historical Biblical controversies should be taken out of the region of subjective personal opinion, into the region of objective, clearly attested fact. It was to this task that he set himself, and no labor was to be too long or tedious or exacting to enable him to reach that goal.
He could not at that time learn Babylonian in America, so he went to Heidelberg, determined to learn every language that would enable him the better to understand the Scriptures, and to make his investigations in original documents.
So to Babylonian he added Ethiopic, Phoenician, all the Aramaic dialects, and Egyptian, Coptic, Persian, and Armenian. He studied in Berlin with Schrader, who was Delitzsch's teacher, called the father of Assyriology. He studied his Arabic and Syriac under Sachau, and Arabic under Jahn and Dieterichi; Hebrew under Dillmann and Strack, and Egyptian under Brugsch. He became conversant with some twenty-six languages in these years devoted to language acquisition.
For Professor Wilson had a plan, carefully worked out during his student days in Germany, under which he proposed to spend fifteen years in language study, fifteen years in Biblical textual study in the light of the findings of his studies in philology, and then, God willing, fifteen years of writing out his findings, so that others might share them with him. And now it is our privilege in this booklet to read, in terms that we can all understand, some of the gloriously reassuring facts that he has found in his long pilgrimage through ancient days.
Just a single glimpse of how long it has been startles the superficial and the scholarly student as well, when either learn that in order to answer a single sentence of a noted destructive critic, Professor Wilson read all the extant ancient literature of the period under discussion in numerous languages, and collated no less than one hundred thousand citations from that literature in order to get at the basic facts, which when found showed that the critic was wrong. It was largely a case of superior scholarship – in accordance with a good definition of the scholarly temperament – "that rare combination of profound insight, sustained attention, microscopic accuracy, iron tenacity, and disinterested pursuit of truth, which characterizes the great scientific discoverer or the great historian."
Professor Wilson's productive work has been presented hitherto almost entirely to his students, some two thousand of whom have been his seminary classes through the years; in scholarly journals of restricted circulation; and in a few books, one of the most remarkable of which is his "Studies in the Book of Daniel.""Professor," I asked, "what do you try to do for your students?"
Instantly he replied, with quiet earnestness, "I try to give them such an intelligent faith in the Old Testament Scriptures that they will never doubt them as long as they live. I try to give them evidence. I try to show them that there is a reasonable ground for belief in the history of the Old Testament. [He has not specialized on the New Testament.]
"I've seen the day," he went on, "when I've just trembled at undertaking a new investigation, but I've gotten over that. I have come now to the conviction that no man knows enough to assail the truthfulness of the Old Testament. Whenever there is sufficient documentary evidence to make an investigation, the statements of the Bible, in the original texts, have stood the test."
That is a significant statement from one who does not have to trust to hearsay in matters of criticism, and who has worked for so many years in a devout self-denying study of the sources and the text of the Old Testament. "When a man says to me, ‘I don't believe in the Old Testament,'" exclaimed Dr. Wilson, "he makes no impression upon me. When he points out something there that he doesn't believe, he makes no impression upon me. But if he comes to me and says, ‘I've got the evidence here to show that the Old Testament is wrong as this or that point' – then that's where my work begins! I'm ready for him!" And the Professor laughed in his hearty way, in evident enjoyment of the prospect of such an encounter.
I think one reason why I have been so stirred by my talks with this stalwart scholar is the habit he has of putting proof before you as he goes, and not standing on his dignity as though no one had the right to ask questions of him about his findings. But when a scholar challenges him, then the professor is a roused lion – no an aroused attorney for the defense, massing his facts so overwhelmingly, proving them, driving them home, and disclosing the weakness of his opponent's case so convincingly, that I should think the attorney for the plaintiff in the attack on the Old Testament would wish for the sake of his reputation that he had not ventured on ground where his own ignorance would be so manifest to the court. For it is made very evident by a study of any of Professor Wilson's keen critiques of the destructive critics' work that much of the material often called by the critics "the assured results of modern scholarship" is nothing more than the quicksand footsteps of a really inexcusable, downright ignorance. "Criticism," says Dr. Wilson, "is not a matter of brains, but a matter of knowledge."
Professor Wilson lay before you his findings. He is concerned
only with evidence, and it will gladden your heart to know even a
of what he has found, as he unfolds some of his experiences in the
Philip E. Howard,
The attempt to show this may be made along two lines. We may take the purely defensive line and endeavor to show that the general and particular attacks upon the truthfulness of the Old Testament narratives are unsupported by facts. Or, we may take the offensive and show that the Old Testament narratives are in harmony with all that is really known of the history of the world in the time described in the Old Testament records, and that these records themselves contain the ineffaceable evidence that the time and place of their origin agree with the facts recorded. The best method, perhaps, will be to make an offensive-defensive, showing not merely that the attacks are futile, but that the events recorded and the persons and things described are true to history – that is, that they harmonize in general with what we learn from the contemporaneous documents of other nations.
This is true of
the very earliest narratives of the Old Testament. Even
when we look at the two great events occurring before the time of
– the Creation and the Flood – we find that these events are the same
are emphasized among the Babylonians, from the midst of whom Abraham
out. For it is certain, that, however we may account for the difference
between the Babylonian and Hebrew accounts of the Creation and of the
there is sufficient resemblance between them to point to a common
antedating the time of Abraham's departure from Ur of the Chaldees.
But not only do
we know that there was a script in which to write; we
know, also, that the Hebrew language was used in Palestine before the
of Moses. This is clear not merely from more that a hundred common
embedded in the Amarna letters but from the fact that the names of the
places mentioned in them are largely Hebrew. In the geographical lists
of the Egyptian king, Thothmes III, and of other kings of Egypt we find
more than thirty good Hebrew words as names of the cities of Palestine
and Syria that they conquered. From these facts we conclude that books
may have been written in Hebrew at that early period. Further, we see
the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have been called by Hebrew
as the Biblical record assures us.
In the next period, from 1000 to 625 B. C., Assyria has become the chief power among the nations in the neighborhood of Palestine, with Babylon of only secondary importance. Egypt has lost the first rank and is at times subject to Cush or dominated by Assyria. Media appears on the scene, but as a subject of Assyria. Between the Euphrates and Egypt, the Hittites are prominent in the earlier part, and next to them Hamath, Damascus, Tyre, Ammon, Moab, and Edom. Further, the distinction between Samaria and Judah is clearly recognized in the monuments.
In the last
period, from 625 to 400 B. C., Babylon has become the leading
power until its hegemony is taken over by Persia under Cyrus. Egypt as
a world power disappears from history with the conquests by
and Cambyses. The Hittites, Damascus, Hamath, Israel, Judah, and all
tribes and cities between Babylon and Egypt have ceased to exist as
Again we find
that the Assyrian documents that mention the kings of
Israel and Judah name them in the same order in which they appear in
chronicles of Israel and Judah. And not only this. We find, also, that
the statements made with regard to the kings of all these countries
as closely as different documents ever correspond in reference to their
relative power, importance, and characteristics and deeds. Especially
are the close resemblances in this respect between the accounts of
Tiglath-Pileser, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus; but the whole
fabric of the historic structure of the Old Testament harmonizes
in general outline and often in detain with the background of the
history of the world as revealed in the documents form the nations
the framework for our history, let us look next at the
doorways of language which let us inside the structure. These doorways
are the passages through which converse with the outer world was
on by the people of Israel. On their thresholds will be seen the
of the nations who introduced their ideas and their products to the
who dwelt within.
It may be known
to the reader that one verse in Jeremiah and about half
of the books of Ezra and Daniel are written in Aramaic. This is what we
may have expected at a time when as the Egyptian papyri and the
indorsements show, the Aramaic language had become the common language
of Western Asia and in particular of the Jews, at least in all matters
of business and commerce. That the Hebrew parts of Daniel and Ezra
have a large number of Aramaic words would, therefore, be expected;
also they would naturally be found in Chronicles and Nehemiah and other
documents coming from the later part of the sixth century (when Aramaic
was the lingua franca of the Persian empire) and in other works down to
the latest composition of the Old Testament. In later Hebrew this
of absorbing foreign words may be illustrated by numerous examples.
the tract Yoma, written about A. D. 200, has about twenty Greek words
it, and Pesahim, about fourteen, while hundreds of them are found in
dictionary of New Hebrew. Many terms of Latin origin also appear in the
Hebrew literature of Roman times.
have all left their mark, but the great directing, predominating,
language and nation were the English, as shown not merely in our
and laws, but also in such names as New Hampshire, Boston, New York,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, and the names of most of our
counties, and statesmen. But that the English received their laws
from the Romans and Normans is evident in any law book or courtroom;
they received their religion from the Hebrews through the Greek and
churches is evident from the words we use everyday such as amen,
priest, baptism, cathedral, bishop, chant, cross, resurrection, glory,
and countless others.
That the presence of Babylonian terms in the first chapter of Genesis points to a time when Babylonian influence was predominant, no one will dispute; but the same influence is manifest in the second chapter and also in Daniel. This influence can easily be accounted for in all three instances on the supposition that the contents of Genesis 1 and 2 were brought by Abraham from Babylon and that the book of Daniel was written at Babylon in the sixth century B. C. While it might be accounted for in Genesis 1 if it were composed at Babylon during or after the exile, how can it have influenced Genesis 2, if, as the critics asset, it were written somewhere between 800 and 750 B. C.? How can we account for the Babylonian influence in Daniel if as the same critics assure us, it were written in Palestine in 164 B. C.?
So of the Persian words. They are found especially in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel, all ostensibly from the Persian period of world domination. According to analogy, this Persian domination accounts for their presence in these books. But how about their absence from Jonah, Joel, Job, the Psalms, the Song of Songs, the so-called Priest-Code of the Pentateuch and other writings which the critics place in the Persian period? Why especially should the Priest-Code have no Persian, and probably no Aramaic, words, if it were written between 500 and 300 B. C., in the very age and, as some affirm, by the very author of the book of Ezra? And why should the only demonstrably Babylonian words in this part of the Pentateuch be found in the accounts of the Creation and the Flood, which may so well have come with Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees? And how could the word for "kind" (min), an Egyptian word, have come to be used by the man who is supposed to have written this latest part of the Pentateuch in Babylon in the fifth century B. C.?
These and other similar questions that ought to be asked we may leave to the critics of the Old Testament to attempt to answer. They dare not deny the facts without laying themselves open to the charge of ignorance. They dare not ignore them without submitting to the charge of willful suppression of the facts in evidence.
will say: How about the Greek words in Daniel? No one claims
that there are any Greek words in the Hebrew of Daniel. In the Aramaic
parts of Daniel there are three words, all names of musical
which are alleged, not proved, to be Greek. It is more likely than not,
I think, that they are of Greek origin, though no one of them is
transliterated. Assuming, however, that they are Greek, and waiving the
question as to weather this part of the book was originally written in
Hebrew, or Babylonian, and afterwards translated into Aramaic, there is
no good reason for supposing that Greek musical instruments, retaining
their original names though in a somewhat perverted form, may not have
been used at the court of Nebuchadnezzar.
It is known for a certainty that from the earliest times the kings and peoples of Babylon and Nineveh delighted in music. Now the Greeks, according to all their traditions and habits, both in war and worship, had practiced music at all periods of their history and far excelled all ancient peoples in their attainments in the art of music. We all know how readily musical instruments and their native names travel from land to land. We might instance the ukelele, the guitar, the organ, and the trumpet. The Greeks themselves imported many foreign musical instruments which retained their foreign names. From at least 1000 B. C. there was an active commerce between the Greeks and the Semites. Cyprus and Cilicia were subdued by the Assyrian kings; and Sennacherib about 700 B. C. conquered a Greek fleet and carried many prisoners captive to Nineveh. Assurbanipal received the homage of Gyges, king of Lydia, the neighbor and overlord of many Greek cities in Asia Minor.
Greeks had been
settled in Egypt since long before the time of Assurbanipal
and Nebuchadnezzar and served as mercenaries in the armies of the
kings of Nineveh and Babylon, and also in the army of Nebuchadnezzar
Thousands, perhaps, tens of thousands, of captive Greek soldiers would,
according to the custom of those days, be settled in the cities of the
Euphrates and Tigris valleys. And these valleys were filled with people
who spoke Aramaic. The Greeks would mingle with them and, as in the
of the Jews at Babylon, the natives would ask of them a song; and they
would sing their strange songs to the accompaniment of their native
This is one way in which the instruments and their names could get into
Aramaic long before the time when the Aramaic of Daniel was written.
was through the slaves, both men and girls, who would certainly be
from all lands to minister to the pleasures of the luxurious court of
That Daniel may have used the so-called Persian words in a document dating from the latter part of the sixth century B. C. is manifest when we remember that the children of Israel from the kingdom of Samaria had been captive among the Medes for two hundred years before the time of the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, and that the Jews had been carried to the banks of the Chebar and other localities where Aramaic was spoken nearly two generations before Daniel died. The Medes spoke a dialect of the Persian, and, having overthrown Nineveh in 606 B. C., had ruled over large numbers of Aramæan tribes on the upper Tigris ever since that time. Such Medo-Persian terms are found in Daniel, being mostly official titles like governor and names of persons, are the ones which would most readily be adopted by the subject nations, including the Aramæans and Jews. That the words satrap and Xerxes were taken directly from the Medo-Persian and not from the Greek is shown by the fact that the Hebrew and Aramaic spelling of these names in Daniel is exactly the equivalent of that in the original language and not such as it must have been if these words had been taken over indirectly through the Greek historians.
this subject of language, attention must be called to
two matters that the critics have made of supreme importance in their
to settle the dates of the documents of the Old Testament. The first
is that of the value, as evidence of date of occurrence, of Aramaic
in a Hebrew document; and the second is the value, as evidence of date,
of Hebrew words that occur but once, or at most a few times, in the Old
Testament and that reoccur in the Hebrew of the Talmud.
As to the first of these, the so-called Aramaisms, the number of these has been grossly exaggerated. Many of the words and roots formerly called Aramaisms have been found in Babylonian records as early as Abraham. As to the remainder, many of them occur in the Old Testament but once. In view of the fact that there are about 1500 words used but once in the Old Testament, it is impossible to select some of these and call them Aramaisms, simply because they are used in Aramaic also. Hundreds of words in both Aramaic and Hebrew, and also in Babylonian and Arabic, have the same meaning irrespective of the number of times or the document in which they occur. According to the laws of consonantal change existing among the Semitic languages, not more than five or six Aramaic roots can be shown to have been adopted by the Hebrew form the Aramaic. These roots are found in what the critics class as early documents as well as in the later. Besides a large proportion of the words designated as Aramaisms do not occur in any Aramaic dialect except those that were spoken by the Jews. In all such cases the probability is that instead of the words being an Aramaism in Hebrew, it is a Hebraism in Aramaic. For the Hebrew documents in all such cases antedate the Aramaic by hundreds of years; and it is evident that the earlier cannot have been derived from the later.
critics find words which they call Aramaisms not merely in
the books which they assert to be late, but in those that according to
their own dating, are the earliest. In this case without any evidence
their own theory of how it ought to be, they charge that the original
has been changed and the Aramaic word inserted. Such procedure is
to all the laws of evidence, fairness, and common sense. For there is
reason why the early documents of the Hebrews should not have contained
linguistic marks of Aramaic influence. According to Genesis 31, Laban
Aramaic. David conquered Damascus and other cities where Aramaic was
and the Israelites have certainly been in continuous contact with
tribes from that time to the present. Sporadic cases of the use of
words would, therefore, prove nothing as to the date of a Hebrew
In the second
place, critics who are attempting to prove the late date
of a certain document are wont to cite the words in that document which
occur nowhere else except possibly in another work claimed as being
and in the Hebrew of the Talmud. Such evidence is worthy of being
in order to show the peculiarities of an author, but it does not
have anything to do with proving the date. For there are three thousand
words in the Old Testament that occur five times only or under, and
hundred that occur but once. Besides, such words occurring elsewhere in
the Talmud are found in every book of the Old Testament and in almost
chapter. If such words were proof of the lateness of a document, all
would be late; a conclusion so absurd as to be held by nobody.
language of the Old Testament we naturally turn to the literature,
in order to see if the literary forms in which the documents are
are such as we would expect to find in existence when the documents lay
claim to have been written. Our only evidence here must be derived from
comparative literature and contemporary history. Turning, then, to the
vast body of the literatures of the Babylonians and Egyptians we find
in one, or both, of them is to be found every type of literary form
is met with in the literature of the Old Testament; except perhaps the
discourses of the prophets. As no serious dispute of the date, or
of the works of the prophets is made on the ground of mere literary
the general statement will stand unimpeached; for poetry, history,
and biographies are all amply duplicated in form and style in the many
productions of the great nations that surrounded Israel.
With regard to the laws it may be said that, not merely in the form in which the individual laws are stated, but also in the manner in which they are collected together in a kind of code, there was a pattern for the Israelites already existing at least from the time of Hammurapi, a contemporary of Abraham. This code of Hammurapi, it is true, deals almost entirely with criminal and civil laws such as we find in parts of Deuteronomy. But the plan of the tabernacle in Exodus 25-29 may be likened to the plans of the Babylonian temples which were placed in their foundation stones, to which Nebuchadnezzar Nabunaid so often refer. Laws similar to those concerning leprosy and other diseases have also come down from the old Sumerians. It is almost certain, also, that the elaborate ceremonies of the Egyptian and Babylonian temples must have been regulated by written laws, though thus far we have discovered no complete code treating of such matters.
That Moses with
his education in all the wisdom of the Egyptians at
1500 B. C. might have produced the laws of the Pentateuch under the
guidance seems beyond dispute. Lycurgus, Mohammed, Charlemagne, Peter
Great, and Napoleon have preformed similar feats without any special
help. It does not follow that systems of law and constitutions were not
written, or inaugurated, because they were never carried out nor
established. Theodoric and Alfred the Great and even Charlemagne
governments which scarcely survived their demise. The critics are in
habit of stressing the fact that so little mention of the law is made
the period before Hezekiah, or even Josiah, and assert that the law of
the Priest- code was not fully established before Ezra.
This is an argument from silence which proves nothing absolutely. There is a history of the United States called Scribners by William Cullen Bryant and others. It has 53 pages, double column, of Index. The word Presbyterian does not occur in this Index; the word Christian only in the phrase Christian Commission; the word church only twice. And yet, this is a history of a republic founded by Christians, observing the Sabbath, devoted to foreign missions, and full of Christian churches and activities. Thirty-five hundred pages quarto and no mention of Thanksgiving Day, nor of the days of fasting and prayer during the Civil War, nor of the Bible except in the relation of the Bible Society to slavery!
Nor does it prove that the law did not exist, to show that it was not completely observed, or that things forbidden in it were done. Does the crime wave that has been sweeping the world since the close of the war prove that the Gospel does not exist? In one week of December, 1920, the front page of one of our great New York dailies had scarcely space for anything except reports of murders, burglaries, and other crimes. Are the Ten Commandments unknown in New York City?
But the critics
assert that a long period of development was necessary
before such a system of laws could have been formulated, accepted, and
enforced. I agree readily to this; but I claim that all the development
necessary for the formulation may have taken place before the time of
and that its hearty acceptance by the people and its enforcement
upon moral rather than intellectual condition. As far as intellectual
are concerned, there is nothing in the law that might not have been
either in Babylon or Egypt centuries before Moses. Then as now it was
power and moral inclination that was wanted rather than intellectual
in order to do the right and abhor the wrong. In each successive
of Israelitish men each individual of the nation had to be converted
to submit his soul and conduct to the teachings of the divine law. The
ancient Jewish church had its ups and downs, its times of strenuous
and of declension and decay, just as the Christian church has had.
It is claimed by the critics that signs of progress or change are to be observed in some of the laws as given in Exodus 20-24, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. This may be admitted. It is, however, a sufficient answer to this claim that in the forty years from the arrival at Sinai to the final address of Moses at Shittim, there was plenty of time for Moses to apply these laws to suit all probable variety of circumstances awaiting the people of God. Consider the changes in forty years in the fish laws of Pennsylvania, or in the tariff or railroad legislation of the United States! Besides many of these seemingly variant legislations with regard to the same thing are, as Mr. Wiener has so clearly shown in his "Studies in Biblical Law," really laws affecting different relations of the same thing. Some, also, like the Income Tax Laws upon our yearly declaration sheet, are general laws for the whole people; while others, like the detailed statements of the Income Tax Law that are meant to guide the tax officials, are meant for the Priests and Levites who officiated at the sanctuary.
That there should be repetitions of the laws affecting the Sabbath, festivals, idolatry, and so forth, does not argue against the unity of authorship. The central facts of a new system are frequently emphasized by such repetition, as is manifest in almost every chapter of the Koran, and in almost every epistle of the apostle Paul. Why they thus repeat is not always clear to us; but it is to be supposed that it was clear to the authors of the repetitions. That is a question of motive and not of text or evidence. What the Peace Treaty says is evident; why the treaty-makers said thus and so is not always apparent, and cannot be produced in evidence.
should be alleged contradictions among so many laws was inevitable.
Some of them appear contradictory, but really relate to different
or circumstances. If they were truly contradictory as the critics
why were the contradictions not removed by one of the numerous editors
and disakeuasts (revisers), who are unknown to history but assumed by
critics to have existed and to have labored for centuries upon the
of these laws? Surely, these alleged contradictions cannot have escaped
their notice. Surely, they cannot have seemed incongruous to the
of the second temple and to the Scribes and Pharisees who put them into
execution. Surely, if real contradictions exist in the laws [and I do
believe they do] it is more likely that they were not in the ancient
and that they arose in the process of transmission through the
of many centuries, than that they should have been inserted in the time
of Jeremiah, or of Ezra, that ready scribe in the law of Moses.
Before leaving the matter of the law, it may be well to propose for the consideration of the objectors to the Biblical account of the origin of the laws of Moses a few questions that, it seems to me, require an answer before we can accept their theory of its origin, unsupported as it is by any direct evidence.
First, if Exodus 20-24 and Deuteronomy were written in the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, how can we account for the fact that the king is referred to but once (Deuteronomy 16), and that in a passage difficult to read and explain and claiming to be anticipatory? And why should this passage make no reference to the house of David, and place its emphasis on a warning against a return to Egypt?
Second, why should the law never mention Zion, or Jerusalem, as the place where men ought to worship, if these laws were written hundreds of years after the temple had been built?
should the temple itself receive no consideration, but be
set aside for a "mythical" tabernacle whose plan to the minutest
has been elaborated with so much care? And why, if this plan were
in Babylon in the fifth century B. C., should it in its form and
show more resemblance to an Egyptian than to a Babylonian house of God?
Fourth, if the
laws of the priest-code were made at Babylon, how does
it come about that the main emphasis in these laws is upon the shedding
of blood and that the principle offerings are bloody offerings;
in the Babylonian religion it is doubtful if any reference is ever made
to the importance of the blood and no word corresponding to the Hebrew
word for altar (misbeach) has ever yet been found in the Babylonian
How is it, also, that almost the entire vocabulary bearing upon the
observances is different in the Babylonian from what it is in the
The Hebrew name for the various articles of clothing worn by the
for the stones of the breastplate, for the sacrifices, for the altar
the many spoons and other implements used in its service, for the
for the ark and the multifarious articles used in its construction, for
sins and removal of sins, and for nearly all the gracious acts of God
redemption, differ almost altogether from the Babylonian. How do we
for all this, if the ceremonies of the second temple were first
by the rivers of Babylon under the shadow of the tower of Bel?
Fifth, if the ceremonial law were written between 500 and 300 B. C., at a time when the Persian power was supreme, how do we account for the entire absence of Persian words and customs from the priestly document? Why should Ezra and his contemporaries have used so many Persian words in their other compositions and have utterly eschewed in the lengthiest of their works? Not one Persian word, forsooth! How careful they must have been in this endeavor to camouflage their attempt to foist their work on Moses! They should have spent more of their time and energy on the removal of alleged incongruities in the subject matter.
Sixth, if the Israelitish religion is a natural development like that of the nations that surrounded them, how does it happen that the Phoenicians who spoke substantially the same language have an almost entirely different nomenclature for their ceremonial acts, for sacrifices and the material of sacrifice; and that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians and their colonies remained polytheistic to the last?
Seventh, if the ceremonial law were written after the exile, when all the Jews, from Elephantine in Egypt on the west to Babylon on the east, were speaking and writing Aramaic, how did it come to pass that the law was written in a Hebrew so different from anything found in any Aramaic dialect that almost every word used in it required to be translated in order to make it understood by the Aramaic speaking Jews? Are we to suppose that the exiled Hebrews invented their religious vocabulary arbitrarily after their language had ceased to be spoken by any great body of living men? Are we to suppose that they invented, or borrowed, the names of the stones of the breastplate, and then forgot so completely their Aramaic equivalents that scarcely any two of the Aramaic targums, or versions, should afterwards be able to agree as to the meaning in Aramaic of more than two or three of them at most? Why, also, should the articles of dress, the names of the sacrifice, the materials of the tabernacle, the verbs to denote the ceremonial acts, and the fact that the general coloring and the particular shades of the coloring of the whole fabric be so different?
Eighth, how is
it to be explained that the Aramaic of the Targum and
Talmud has taken over so many roots and vocables from the Hebrew of the
Old Testament? For a comparison of the Old Testament Hebrew with the
of the Targums and of both of these with the Syriac shows that about
hundred roots and words found in the two former do not appear in
nor in any other Aramaic dialect not written by the Jews. The critics
in the habit of charging that such words are Aramaisms in Hebrew; but
is manifest that, while it is possible for the Jews who wrote Aramaic
hundred years after Christ to have taken over Hebrew words from the Old
Testament into their translations and commentaries, it would have been
impossible for Hebrew authors living from two hundred to five hundred
before Christ to have taken over into their vocabulary Aramaic words
in use until A. D. 200, or later. All of the "Introductions" to the Old
Testament need to be revised along this line.
That a word
occurs in the Old Testament but once and then reappears
five hundred or a thousand years later in an Aramaic document written
Jews is to be expected. To say that such a word may have been in the
Aramaic before ever the Hebrew document was written, but it did not
in writing till A. D. 200, may be met by affirming that it may have
in the spoken Hebrew for a thousand years before it was written. When
once attempt to argue on the basis of what is not contained in
one man's conjecture is just about as good as another's. I am willing
leave all such cases to the written testimony found in the documents we
possess, and I demand that the assailants of the Scriptures confine
in like manner to that which has been written. To the text and to the
By these let us stand or fall.
Leaving the consideration of the Law of Moses, I pass on next to the regulations which David is said to have formulated for the guidance of the priests in the service of the sanctuary and especially for the for the musical accompaniments of worship. It will be necessary in the course of this discussion to examine the reasons why the critics reject the historical character of the books of Chronicles, which refer so often to the music of the first temple. Since the Chronicler refers only to regulations made by David for the divisions of the priests and of singers, and the like, it is to be presumed that regulations with regard to other matters connected with the service were already in use.
That a temple was actually built by David and Solomon on Mount Zion at Jerusalem no man surely would deny. The whole after history of both Israel and Judah turns upon this fact. The analogy of all other ancient nations and the whole literature of the Israelites proves beyond question that such a temple must have been constructed.
Now when this temple was first built, all that would be necessary would be to take over the priests and the ritual already in existence and vary them only in so far as was required to meet the new conditions of an enlarged and more dignified place of worship. The old priesthood of the temple at Shiloh and the old laws of the tabernacle with reference to sacrifices and festivals would be found sufficient; but to make the service more efficient and suitable to the great glory of the magnificent house that had been erected for the God of Israel, certain new regulations as to the time and manner of the services were instituted by David. Whatever is not referred to as having originated with him must be presumed to have been already in existence.
Since David and
Solomon built the temple, it is common sense to suppose
that they organized the priests into regular orders for the orderly
of the sanctuary. These priests had already had their clothing
by Moses after the analogy of the Egyptian and all other orders of
the world over. He also had prescribed the kind the kinds and times of
offerings and the purpose for which they were offered. The Israelites,
also, like the Egyptians and Babylonians, had for their festive
such regulations as are attributed to David for the observance of these
festivals, so as to avoid confusion and preserve decency in the house
Is it to be supposed that on these festive occasions no music was to be employed and no hymns of praise to God be sung? Even the most savage tribes have music at their festivals and we know that the ancient Egyptians had numerous hymns to Amon and other gods, and that the Assyrians and Babylonians, and even the Sumerians before them, delighted in singing psalms of praise and penitence as a part of their ritual of worship. These hymns in all cases were accompanied by instrumental music. Some of the Babylonian and Egyptian hymns were current in writing for hundreds, or even thousands, of years before the time of Solomon; and some musical instruments had existed for the same length of time. Are we to suppose that the Hebrews alone among the nations of antiquity had no vocal and instrumental music in their temple services? The critics maintain that poetry is the earliest form of expression of a people's thoughts and history. Many of them asset that the song of Deborah antedates all other literary productions of the Bible. Most of them will admit that David composed the lament over Saul and Jonathan.
But they draw
the line at his psalms of praise and penitence. Why? Because
it suits their theory that the Psalms were prepared for use in the
temple. They hold at the same time that certain poems, like the songs
Deborah and Miriam and the blessings of Jacob and Moses, antedate by
the historical narratives in which they are found, but the Psalms were
all, or nearly all, composed after the captivity. What grounds have
for holding such seemingly inconsistent theories? Absolutely none that
is based on any evidence, unless the wish to have it so, in order to
up their conception of the history of Israel's religion, be called
We all know into what condition the German conception that the "will to
power" is the same as the power itself has brought the world today. Let
us remember that it is the German conception that the will to have the
text of the Old Testament what they want to have it is considered by
the same as having the text the same as they will it to be. The
the power has destroyed what power there really was; the "willing" the
text has destroyed the text itself.
Of course it is obvious that music is mentioned in the books of Kings; but it is made prominent in Chronicles, and the headings of many of the Psalms attribute them to David and in three cases to Moses and Solomon. It is hardly to be supposed that the writer would have made his work absurd by making statements that his contemporaries would have known to be untrue. Weather the headings are all trustworthy, or not, it absurd to suppose that the writers of them would have attributed so many of the Psalms to pre-captivity authors, when their contemporaries must have known that the whole body of Psalms had arisen after the fall of the first temple, had such been actually the case. The most natural supposition would be that David either made or collected a sufficient number of Psalms to meet the requirements of the temple worship.
Common sense and universal analogy compel us to believe, also, that an orderly worship conducted by priests in accordance with prescribed regulations and a service of song commensurate with the dignity and decency becoming the house of God must have existed among the Hebrews, certainly from the time that the first temple was constructed and probably from the time that the tabernacle was erected and the annual festivals established. Historians of royal courts, of diplomacy and war, like the author of the books of kings, may not mention such things; but we may be sure that they existed. The temple itself proves this. Universal experience proves it. The weeping stone at the foundation of the temple, where the Jews today congregate to bewail the long departed glories of Mount Zion and the glorious house of Israel's God, testifies that the traditions about the sweet Psalmist of Israel were not all figments of the imagination, nor mythical creations of later times.
should the critics treat the books of Chronicles as if
their statements, additional to those in Kings, were not to be
They assert that the genealogical list in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24 would
down the date of the composition of Chronicles to about 300 B. C., and
that we cannot rely upon the statements of a work written so long after
the events recorded. But, at the same time, they claim that the text of
this passage has not been correctly transmitted and that its
admits of the sixth generation after Zerubbable as the period of its
As the word son in all such genealogies means successor, whether it be
a real son, an adopted son, or an official successor, it is fair,
by the analogy of other similar lists, to suppose that from fifteen to
twenty years would be amply sufficient for each generation of priests,
or kings. Since Zerubbable lived about 520 B. C., such a calculation
bring the date of Chronicles to about 400 B. C.
That the mention of Jaddua as high priest renders this date impossible, cannot be maintained for the following reasons: First it is supposed that the Jaddua mentioned in Nehemiah 12:11, 12 is the same Jaddua mentioned by Josephus as having been high priest when Alexander came up to Jerusalem in 336 B. C. But the critics themselves assert that this account of Alexander's visit is utterly unreliable. Why then should they consider the name and the time of the high priesthood of Jaddua to be the only valid date of the account given by Josephus and that they alone are reliable enough to overthrow the accepted date of Chronicles?
may have been two high priests of the name of Jaddua,
just as, between 300 and 100 B. C., there were two or three of the name
of Simon and six of the name Onias. Or the same Jaddua may have been
priest at 400 B. C. and also in 336 B. C. Josephus says he was very
and men in such positions not infrequently reach ninety, or more, years
of age. I, myself, had a great-grandfather and a great-uncle who lived
to be over a hundred, a great-grandmother who was ninety-nine, one
ninety-four, another ninety-two. Besides, my mother died at eighty, and
half a dozen uncles and aunts between eighty and ninety years of age.
one of these was old enough and active enough to have been high priest
for sixty five years, and several of them for eighty years, had they
in the times of the Chronicles, and been eligible to the office.
critics affirm that Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles were
put together in their present form by the same redactor [reviser] and
this redactor must have lived in the Greek period, because he calls the
kings of Persia by the title "king of Persia." The great German critic,
Ewald, said it was "unnecessary and contrary to contemporary usage" to
call the kings of Persia by the title "king of Persia" during the time
that the kings of Persia actually ruled; and that consequently the
of this title in a document shows that the document must have been
after the Persian empire had ceased to exist. The present writer has
by a complete induction of all the titles of the kings of Egypt,
Assyria, Greece, and all other nations of that part of the world
the Hebrews themselves, from 4000 B. C. down to Augustus, that it was
custom in all times, languages, and kingdoms to use titles similar to
Further, he has shown that the title "king of Persia" was given by
king of Babylon, to Cyrus in 546 B. C., seven years before the first
of it in the Bible, and that it is used by Xenophon in 365 B.C.,
forty years after it is used for the last time in the Bible. Further,
has shown that, between 546 and 365 B. C., it was used thirty-eight
times by eighteen different authors, in nineteen different documents,
six different languages, and in five or six different countries; and
it is used in letters and dates in Scripture just as it is used in the
extra-Biblical documents. Lastly he has shown that it was not unusual
the Greek authors after the Persian period to employ the title.
Thus, with regard to this title, by a mass of incontestable evidence, the writers of Chronicles and Ezra, and of Daniel, also, are shown to be in harmony with the contemporaneous usage of documents written in the Persian period and to be out of harmony with the common usage in Greek times. The Bible is right, and professor Ewald of Gottingen, the greatest German Old Testament scholar of his time, and Professors Driver and Gray of Oxford, the writers of many books and of many articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Hastings, and the expository Times, are proved to be wrong. They all might have read that part of the evidence which is found in Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Xenophon, and other Greek authors. Drs. Driver and Gray ought, also to have read for themselves, or to have had Professor Sayce, or Dr. King, or Dr. Budge, read or gather from them the evidence on the subject to be found in the Babylonian, Persian, Susian, and Egyptian. Unless on has sufficiently mastered the languages in which the texts containing the evidence on such subjects as the titles of the kings of Persia are written, he cannot be called an expert witness and should be ruled out of court.
carefully and repeatedly what these critics have to say
on this title, I have failed to find any hint indicating that they have
ever appealed for their information to any original sources outside of
Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic; and as to these, they pay no attention to
great Greek writers mentioned above. If they are so careless and
where their assertions can be investigated, what ground have they for
us to rely upon them where their assertions cannot be tested? If the
of the Biblical writers are found to be confirmed when they can be
by outside evidence, is it right to presume that they are correct when
no evidence for, or against, their statements is within our knowledge?
The other objections to the trustworthiness of the records of Chronicles are mostly purely subjective in character, utterly devoid of any objective evidence in their favor; or they are based upon interpretations which are impossible to prove. Are we driven to conclude, for example, that a thousand of thousands means exactly one million, neither more nor less? May it not mean many, or countless, thousands, just as a generation of generations means many generations? And are the critics who find the account that the Chronicler gives of the conspiracy against Athaliah inconsistent with that given in Kings quite sure that the captain and the guard of Kings cannot have been priests and Levites? Besides, how can we expect to explain satisfactorily all seeming incongruities in documents that are thousands of years old?
As to the variations in numbers in the different sources, they are probably due to different readings of the original signs. But we do not know what signs the Hebrews used; and so we cannot at present discuss intelligently the reasons for the variations, and never shall until the system of numerical signs used by the Israelites has been discovered. And everybody knows how difficult it is to copy numerical signs correctly. There is nothing usually in the context to help us determine just how many men were in an army, or how many were killed in a given battle. The important thing is, who won the fight.
I once inquired
what was the population of a certain Southern city.
One told me 40,000; another, 120,000. When I asked for an
of the discrepancy, I was told that there were 40,000 whites and 80,000
Negroes. Both estimates were true; but had they been written down in
different documents what charges of inconsistency might not have been
by future scientific historians!
Again, in their criticism of Chronicles, the critics proceed on the presumption that, in the portions that are parallel to kings, the author has merely copied from Kings, and that he has no further sources of reliable information. The author of Chronicles himself states that he had a number of such sources. Can the critics give any good reason to show that he did not have these sources? Since the critics admit that the Chronicles of the kings of Israel were not destroyed by Sargon when Samaria was overthrown, and Hosea, Amos, the so-called Jehovist and Elohistic parts of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy, and other works of the Hebrews were not destroyed at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, why should we suppose that the records of the kings of Israel and Judah were not in existence when the writers of Kings and Chronicles composed their works?
And why since many hundreds of works of the ancient Greeks, such as those mentioned by Pliny, have since utterly disappeared, are we to suppose that the Jews of Ezra's time did not also possess many works that have long since been obliterated? The Aramaic recension of the Behistun Inscription of Darius Hystaspis and the Aramaic work of Ahikar were buried at Elephantine for twenty-three hundred years, but now have been unearthed and show that the Aramaic-speaking Jews of the sixth and fifth centuries B. C. had produced some literary documents at least in addition to the Aramaic portions of Ezra and Daniel. How many more of such works may have been possessed by them both in Hebrew and Aramaic we cannot say, but the probability is that they were numerous. We cannot see that there is sufficient reason for doubting the claim of the Chronicler to have had access to sources extending from the time of David down to his own time. He says that he did have such sources. How can the critics know that he did not?
One of the most unjustifiable of the assaults upon the Old Testament Scriptures lies in the assumption that the larger part of the great poetical and legal productions and some of the finest prophesies were produced during the period of Judah's political and linguistic decay, which followed the year 500 B. C. The only time after the end of the captivity at which we might naturally have expected a recrudescence of such literary activity was the period from 200 B. C. to the time of Pompey. And here in fact are to be placed the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works of Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First Maccabees, Jubilees, parts of Enoch, and many other works of greater or less value.
The only one of these that has been preserved in Hebrew is Ecclesiasticus; and its Hebrew has no word that is certainly Greek, and not one of Persian origin that is not found in the Old Testament.
Many traces of Persian influence are visible in the Chronicles, Ester, Ezra, and Nehemiah. When, however, we come to the Hebrew of the Psalms, of which so many are placed by the critics in this period, of Ecclesiastes, and of the Hebrew part of Daniel, we find that the language differs markedly from Ecclesiasticus both in vocabulary and forms.
The use of the conjunction "and" with the perfect, which is said to be the mark of the lateness of Ecclesiastes, is not found in Ecclesiasticus. Ecclesiastes is devoid of any words that are certainly Babylonian, Persian, or Aramaic. The so-called Maccabean Psalms have no Persian or Greek words and few if any that are certainly Babylonian; and only a few that are even alleged to have Aramaic vocables or forms.
between 500 and 164 B. C. was one in which the Israelites
were subservient to the government of Persia and the Greeks. The only
information from this time about a revival of national feeling and
among the Jews is that to be found in Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles. As
we would expect, they are all characterized by Persian, Babylonian, and
Aramaic words, and Ezra is nearly half composed in Aramaic.
But how about Jonah, Joel, Isaiah 24-27, the Priest Codex, the Song of Songs, and the multitude of Psalms, which the critics arbitrarily place in this period? There is not in them one certainly Persian word, nor a single Greek word. Not a Babylonian word, not already found in earlier literature, appears in any one of them, and scarcely a word that the critics can even allege to be an Aramaism. In language, style, and thought, no greater contrast can be found in the whole literature of the Old Testament than there is between the books that purport to have been written and those which the critics allege to have been written in this period.
It is to be
hoped that the reader appreciates the value and the bearing
of these facts. The Higher Criticism, as Dr. Driver affirms in the
to his "Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament," is based
upon "a comparative study of the writings." No one will object to this
method of investigation. Only, let us abide by the results. Let us not
bring in our subjective views and make them outweigh the obvious facts.
Last of all we must cast a glance at the history of the religion of Israel. It must be admitted that, before we can attempt such a history, we must determine two great facts; the dates of the documents on which the history is based; and, secondly, the attitude we are going to take with regard to miracle and prophesy. As to the first of these facts, I have already given a number of the reasons for holding that there is no sufficient ground for believing that the Pentateuch did not originate with Moses, or that David did not write many of the Psalms; and there is every reason in language and history for supposing that all but a few of the books were written before 500 B. C. I have not attempted to fix the exact dates of composition, or final redaction, of the books composed before that time, preferring rather to show that there is nothing in the history of the world from 2000 to 164 B. C. that militates against the possibility, nor even against the probability, of the trustworthiness of the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. Nor, in spite of some alleged inconsistencies and of many passages difficult to explain satisfactorily, owing to our ignorance of all the facts, is there anything in the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament that makes it appear unbelievable or untrue. No one knows enough to affirm with confidence that any one of the prophetic books was not written by the man whose name it bears. No one knows enough to assert that the kings and others mentioned did not do and say what is ascribed to them.
If, then, we
can accept the documents of the Old Testament as substantially
correct, we come to the further question of weather the presentment of
the Israelitish religion, as we find it described in the Old Testament,
is true. But there is no use of discussing this subject until at least
the possibility of God's making known His will to man is admitted.
admits this possibility is in a fair way to become a Christian. So long
as one denies this, he cannot possibly become a Christian nor even a
For those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus and what it implies
as to the person and work of the Son of God and of His apostles under
guidance of the Holy Ghost, the question of the history of the religion
of Israel assumes an entirely different character and purpose. It
part of the plan of God for the world's redemption. They who accept the
statements of the New Testament writers and of the Lord as true will
what they say about the Old Testament as true. And if the Old Testament
is shown not to agree with what Christ and the apostles say, it will be
presumed that the text has not been rightly transmitted or correctly
The attitude of one who believes that God spoke to man through the prophets to whom He gave a message for His people is also fundamentally different from that of one who disbelieves this hundred times repeated statement of the Old Testament. A believer in Theism can accept the statements of the Old Testament books, especially in the light of the New, as being what they appear on the face of them to be. For he is convinced that the Bible is the revelation of the divine plan for the redemption of humanity from sin unto holiness and everlasting life. All that he wants, or needs, to have established, is that this plan has been handed down to us in a sufficiently reliable form to insure the purpose of the divine author. The reasonable Christian can rejoice and believe that the Bible has thus been handed down. The plan is there in the documents of the Old Testament and of the New, as clear as day. The purpose is there. The Jewish people existed and exist, according to the Scripture, as an ever-present evidence that the plan and purpose were of God.
church in like manner exists as an evidence that the Gospel
of salvation was really meant for the whole world. This gospel has met
and satisfied the need and the hope of human nature for pardon and
with God, and it is meeting them today. Millions exalt in their present
faith and die in peace and in hope of a blessed and everlasting life.
Bible and the church are the foundation of this faith and peace and
The history of Israel is continued in the history of the Christian
He who attacks one attacks both. United they stand; divided they fall.
Unitedly they present a reasonable foundation for the belief that God
never left Himself without a witness that He loves mankind and will
all men to believe and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Looked at
the light of the whole world's history from the beginning until now,
history of the religion of the Old Testament as given in the books
unrevised and fairly interpreted, is rational and worthy of trust. In
faith we live; in this faith let us die.
this evident plan and purpose of a divine redemption
which runs through the Scriptures, there are today many professedly
writers who treat the Israelitish religion as if it were a purely
development. They diligently pick out every instance of a superstitious
observance, or of a departure from the law, or of a disobedience to the
divine commands, as if these represented the true religion of ancient
The cut up the books and doctor the documents and change the text and
the meaning, to suit the perverted view of their own fancy. They seem
think that they know better what the Scriptures ought to have been than
the prophets and apostles and even the Lord Himself! They tell us when
revelations must have been made, and how and where they must have been
given, and what their contents could have been, as if they knew more
such matters than God himself. Imagine a man's writing the history of
last eighteen hundred years and denying that the New Testament had been
in existence during all that time, denying that the Christian church
all its saving doctrines and benevolent institutions and beneficent
system derived from the New Testament had been active and, in a sense,
triumphant for at least fifteen hundred years, simply because he could
select thousands of examples of superstitious customs, and hellish
and impious words, and avowed agnostics, and heaven-defying atheists,
have disgraced the pages of history during this time!