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Did Moses write the Pentateuch after all? online

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Did Moses write the
Pentateuch after all?

y BY



' Ti{. iih' yap dXrjOti Travra (Tvvdcei ra inrdpxovTn
' With the truth all facts and realities agree."






We live in an age when much that has been
held sacred is feared to be uncertain. The
stories that were the hght and safeguard of
our childhood seem to grow dim in their in-
struction for our manhood. But is not this
because we never laid the foundations deep
enough ? Our minds are full of so many things
that few of us have time to verify the greatest
of them. And so to hear of doubt is almost to
embrace it.

That sentence of Bacon is true in many appli-
cations : ' A little philosophy inclineth man's
mind to atheism ; but depth in philosophy
bringeth men's minds about to religion.' We
have no need to fear that knowledge that
grasps principles will shake what is great and
high within us.

It may seem a strange statement at first sight,
but upon reflection it may be observed to be a
true one, that in every department of enquiry
we, in this nineteenth century, need a good
deal to be withdrawn from the worship of

vi Preface.

authority to the study of fact. That ' man is
the measure of all things ' is no truer now than
ever it was. One fact is stronger than many
great names. It is not alone in the physical
sciences that authority has hindered the progress
of real knowledge. To estimate facts for our-
selves is the highest call of a liberal education.
To live in an atmosphere of fact is its highest

Great writers in Church and State are but
guides. The teaching of the Church is but to
produce in us the knowledge of the living

The following historical suggestions — made
in the midst of other work and therefore not so
full as might be wished — are offered in the hope
that, as they were felt to be of use to the writer,
so they may be of use to others. It is trusted
that they are an honest endeavour to come by
the truth, and, if necessary, to defend it.

The writer is firmly of opinion that Moses is
not played out. He feels rather that to restore
him is one of the greatest needs of the age.
Where he has found himself under the necessity
to speak strongly, he hopes that the indulgent
reader will not interpret it as a want of charity.
Where he may be judged to have failed, he
prays that others may be found to succeed.

TJie Feast of St. Luke,


'Nous connaissons la verite, non seulement par la
raison, mais encore par le cceur.' — Pascal.




I. The attitude of scientific inquiry.— 2. The problem
stated. The importance and meaning of literary
tradition. — 3. The critical hypothesis in its latest
development. — 4. Its need of scientific verifica-
tion. — 5. An impossible task given to certain
unknown supposed writers or sources by the
critical theory . . . • • i

Notes.— A. Upon the value of Wellhausen's

judgment as a guide to scientific history . 47

B. The critical ipse dixit . . .52

C. The unreahty ofthe supposed documents or
sources. The character and phraseology of P 57

D. The historical colour and accuracy of the
Pentateuch . . . • -97

vlli Contents.



I. The character of legislation, {a) based upon the
customs and institutions of the past ; {b) guided
by the genius and inspiration of the lawgiver, to
a new departure ; {c) with a view to the order
and stability of future ages. — 2. In accord with
these principles the Mosaic legislation (i) em-
bodies in itself pre-existing customs and insti-
tutions which descend from the earliest times,
or have grown up during the four hundred years'
sojourn of Israel in Egypt ; (2) and tries to
break with other bad customs which have grown
up under the same conditions. Many of these
sanctioned customs and interdicted customs
have quite lost their meaning in the later times
of the history of Israel. They therefore remain
monuments of the time to which the legislation
which treats of them belongs. A legislation
later than the Mosaic age would have legislated
differently, for difference of environment would
have called for difference of treatment. Also,
throughout the legislation, camp surroundings
are implied. (3) The same consideration applies
to the Egyptian mediation of much of the Penta-
teuchal institutions. They are natural to the
facts of the education of Moses, and not to
after-times.— 3. The three principles of the
Mosaic new departure. They would have been
under the conditions of their origin absolutely

Contents. ix


unintelligible and forceless, without being clothed
and upheld by institutions and symbols. This
clothing must have been contemporary with
their enunciation.— 4. The forward look of the
Mosaic legislation. Its character wholly incon-
sistent with times later than Moses himself. —
5. The eminently ideal characteristics of the
Hebrew legislation imply its origin in the
Mosaic age. Contemporary revelation the
only impulse adequate to give ideal type to the
legislation. The very imperfect realisation of
the ideal in after-times confirms this observation.
^6. The conclusion as to the authorship of the
Pentateuch indicated by the facts . • 115

Notes. — A. On the supposed invalidity of liter-
ary tradition in Hebrew history . .168

B. The authorship of Deuteronomy . . 178

C. Spencer 'De Legibus Hebreeorum ' . 197

D. The phraseology of H . . .203



That difficulties in an account of past events do
not necessarily involve that that account is either
late or untrustworthy. — 2. That in any account of
the past the national style of writing must be
taken into consideration, when critically esiimat-


ing its meaning and bearing. — 3. That in study-
ing the Hebrew records regard must be had to
the extreme and distinctive importance attributed
by the Hebrew mind to the significance of names.
— 4. That the historical analogy of the English
Bible ofters an undeniable criterion of the kind
of archaism to be expected in an ancient national
document which has set the style of a nation's
language. The Pentateuch — how far in an analo-
gous position. — 5. That historical analogy, again,
is the true and the only safe test of the extent to
which the silence of authors, or the inconsist-
ency of customs and events, is evidence against
the pre-existence of any history or legislation
The subject illustrated

Notes.— A. Ezekiel and P

B. The Samaritan Pentateuch .

C. Professor F. A. Wolf and Homer .




' Suppose all the members of any common family to be
thrown together in one place, amidst strangers or savages,
and there immediately becomes a common life, an unity
of action, interest, and purpose, distinct from others
around them, which renders them at once a fit subject
of history.' — Arnold's 'Lectures on Modern History,'
page 4.




I. The attitude of scientific inquiry — 2. The problem
stated. The importance and meaning of literary
tradition — 3. The critical hypothesis in its latest
development — 4. Its need of scientific verification —
5. An impossible task given to certain unknown sup-
posed writers or sources by the critical theory.
Notes.— A. Upon the value of Wellhausen's judgment
as a guide to scientific history — B. The critical ipse
dixit — C. The unreality of the supposed documents
or sources — D. The historical colour and accuracy
of the Pentateuch.

I. We may count ourselves fortunate that the
call to investigate the Pentateuch anew comes
from a school of British critics of so fair and
so reverent a spirit. To take them at their
own valuation, it is no longer the citadel that



2 Did Moses zvrife

is attacked.* It is a question of defences
within it. We are freed from the odium Theolo-
giaun. It is a question of science. But in the
name of science therefore, the enquiry must be
carried on without panic or prejudice, upon
strictly inductive principles. We must try to
get rid alike of the idola specns and of the idola
theatri. Nor may we start with the opinion
that any of the problems that open out before
us are insoluble. That is not the temper of
science. Insoluble questions emerge from the
crucible of experiment. And at the outset we
may hold up certain, as it were, lamps and
guiding lights of criticism without much fear
of being controverted. First, in this investiga-
tion facts and not consequences are to be
regarded. We may not shrink from accepting
well-ascertained facts, because they shake to
their foundations old established opinions.
Secondly, inductions, not ideas or authorities,
are to be followed. In the treatment of very
ancient historical records we may well fear
mere theorising, however clever and however
learned. And, thirdly, we have nothing to do
with a ' traditional ' party as such, nor with a
* critical ' party as such, except in so far as

* Though the importance of the real issues at stake
will, it may be conjectured, become increasingly mani-

The PentatetLch after all? 3

the history and conditions of these several
parties demonstrate that their help towards
the solution of the problem is vitiated by pre-

And we should like to point out that, if, as
their antagonists assert, the 'traditional'
school sometimes plays to the gallery, and
sometimes has an incomplete, sometimes an
inaccurate grasp of the facts, there is still more
reason for inferring the possibility of a pre-
judice in the case of the 'critical' school.
The British school of critics leans, and leans
too much, upon a German authority which at
its source is tainted with prejudices, of which
the existence is unquestioned. These are two-
fold ; and at the root and fountain-head of the
system, first, there is the a priori refusal of the
miraculous; secondly, there is the expressed
desire to bring Old Testament research into
line with progressive thought. Development
from a few types or germs, evolution by the
continuous action of simple laws, as they are
presumed to be the master key of physical
science, are presumed to be also the master key
of historical science.

It is also considered essential to make the
history of Israel fall into line with the progress
of thought with regard to the history of all
other nations, and to account for it on the

I — 2

4 Did Moses %vrite

same principles of pure naturalism. Who
does not see that all this, however seductive to
the thinker, is but to beg the question at issue?
The most ancient history in the world, and the
authorship and date of the chronicle of it, must
yield up the principle of its birth and value to
strict examination alone.*

There is something else also much to be
deprecated, and that is the intellectual terror-
ism which is sometimes put in the forefront of
the resistless advance of the ' critical ' army.
'Almost every younger scholar of mark is on
the side of Vatke and Reuss, Lagarde and
Graf, Kuenen and Wellhausen,'-|- we are told
by Mr. Robertson Smith. The inference is
immediate, but it is not consoling in the
interests of truth.

We are led to infer that the older scholars
are fossils, and that anyone daring to differ
from the new Hght in the present must be a
fool. There is, perhaps, a constitutional ten-
dency in men, who have gone far to wipe out
Moses and Abraham, to wipe out other less
respectable people also.

* It would even defeat the object of the comparative
inquiry so ably carried on in the 'Golden Bough,' and
Tylor's 'Early History of Mankind,' and 'Primitive Cul-
ture,' if one myth were allowed to run into another.
Each must be separately examined.

\ Preface to Wellhausen's ' Prolegomena.'

The Pentateuch after all? 5

And the word ' critical ' itself is open to
the same objection, as it is sometimes used.
' This is the ipse dixit of the critical school,' we
are often told. And yet the unsatisfied mind
of the steadfast inquirer cannot fail to see that
the very question in debate is whether such
and such a conclusion is or is not a conclusion
of a just criticism.

2. Turning then with these postulates to the
inquiry as to the date and authorship of the
Pentateuch as it is at present being carried on,
we are met, we think, in limine, by a very serious
misconception, which takes its rise almost un-
consciously from the latent ambiguity of the
words 'traditional,' 'traditional view.' The
expression ' tradition ' may be taken to mean
the view traditionally held amongst ourselves.
The word ' traditional ' would so become what
Archbishop VVhately called a ' question-begging
epithet.' It would imply the opposite of critical.
And this sense tends to involve it with the
mistakes of a long line of Biblical scholars who
lived before the birth of criticism in its modern
sense, and with the mistakes of present-day
literal inspirationists. But really the true
scientific value of ' tradition ' we suppose to be
this. It means tradition presumptively con-
temporaneous with and derived from the times
of the writings we examine. And undoubtedly

6 Did Moses zurite

there is certain and confirmed scientific reason
for giving a definite, not uncritical, but im-
portant place to historical tradition, as a fact
of historical investigation, which cannot with-
out a reason be set aside, and of which an
account must in any case be given. 'I have
laid it down as an invariable maxim,' sa3'S
F. von Schlegel, 'constantly to follow historical
tradition and to hold fast by that clue, even
when many things in the testimony and de-
clarations of tradition appear strange and
almost inexplicable, or at least enigmatical :
for so soon as in the investigation of ancient
history we let slip that thread of Ariadne,
we can find no outlet from the labyrinth of
fanciful theories, and the chaos of clashing
opinions.'* And the force of historical tradi-
tion seems to us to reside as much in con-
firmed implication, as in direct statement,
whether contemporaneous or later. We mean,
for instance, that the historical handing on
from remote ages of such a fixed idea as ' the
law of Aloses,' and the uncontradicted identifi-
cation of the law of Moses with our present
Pentateuch, raises in the mind a strong pre-
sumption that Moses had a principal hand in
the origination and codification of that law.
After inquiry may modify the conclusion sug-

■^ Schlegel's 'Philosophy of History,' Lecture I., page
8i (Bohn).

The Pe7itateuch after all? y

gested, or may even render it untenable, but
this kind of evidence must, it seems, always
on sound principles of historical criticism be
treated with respect.

And it would be the most fallacious of all
fallacies to lead anyone to imagine that this
is a property pleaded for with regard to the
history of the Hebrew records in any way as
something peculiar to them. All history hangs
upon it. To undermine this principle is to
make all history doubtful. Indeed, the pro-
bable veracity of literary traditions has been
so strongly received as an axiom of historical
investigation, that very little has been done to
establish the reasons which tend to make it
axiomatic. Literary tradition carries with it
at once two strong presumptions : first, that
it is contemporaneous, for it always remains
to be shown how certain works have been
attributed to a certain wTiter, if not by him-
self and by his contemporaries ; and secondly,
that it is authentic, for there generally is an
absence of motive to fraud.

Let anyone ponder, for instance, why we
accept the sayings of Confucius as his, coming
as they do from the remote times of the
Chinese empire. If any man should attribute
the sword song to Lamech,* or the poem in
Judges V. to Deborah, why does he do so ?
■^ Gen. \v. 23, 24.

8 Did Moses W7^ite

Surely because of the strong presumption,
amounting almost to certainty, of a contempo-
raneous tradition. A few instances, taken
almost at random, will tend, it is hoped, to
make this universal principle clearer. The
* Commentaries on the Gallic War,' attributed
to Julius Caesar {circa B.C. 50) are written in
the third person throughout. Nothing but the
title indicates the author. So much so is this,
that Sidonius and Orosius, in the fifth century
A.D., know the work only by its title, and
mistake it to be ' Commentaries on Caesar's
Gallic War,' written by Suetonius. The in-
ternal evidence is the air of an eyewitness
and one implicated in the transactions — the
Celtic names, and similarity to what we other-
wise know of Caesar. Hirtius, a friend of
Caesar's, speaks of ' Caesaris nostri Commen-
tarios.' Cicero, a contemporary, mentions
them as his. Suetonius {circa a.d. 70) speaks
of them as his also. It is evident that the
strongest evidence for us, that we have in the
book that is come down to us, the ' Commen-
taries of Julius Caesar,' is the title of the
MS., which is a register of contemporaneous
tradition. Yet, no sane man will doubt we
have the authentic work of Julius Caesar.*

* Teuffel's ' History of Koman Literature,' vol. i., page

The Pentateuch after all? 9

Again, there is a book of Tacitus {circa a.d.
68) ' Dialogus de Oratoribus.' It differs in style
and mood from his other writings. Its style is
' Ciceronian.' It is characterised by an absence
of his later 'bitterness,' and even by 'artistic
serenity.' There is only an indirect allusion to
it in one of Pliny's letters to Tacitus. But
' undue importance,' says Professor Teuffel,
* has been attached to the deviation of the
style of this work from the later style of
Tacitus ; and the entire neglect of the causes
of this discrepancy, and also of the agreement,
which is almost as striking, have since the time
of J. Lipsius, caused many to consider the work
as not Tacitean, and to guess all manner of
authors, e.g., Pliny the Younger, Suetonius,
Quintihan. In the whole period there is ab-
solutel}^ nobody whom we might credit with
sufBcient talent and character to be the author
of the Dialogus.'"^ Hence Professor Teuffel
asserts there is now a general agreement that
Tacitus wrote the book. Here, again, it will
be observed, that the title of the MS. is for us
the strongest part of the evidence, as being
considered a register of contemporaneous

We may imagine in 3000 a.d. a school of

* Teuffel's 'History of Roman Literature,' vol ii., page

lo Did Mose^ zvrite

critics who shall have directed their attention
to the writings of Milton, and who shall have
come to the conclusion that the same hand is
not seen in the ' Paradise Lost,' the ' Lycidas,'
and the ' Paradise Regained.' Where, they
might say, in the ' Paradise Regained ' is to be
found the dramatic force and creative imagina-
tion of the ' Paradise Lost ' ? How different
the tone of the ' Lycidas ' ? And yet one would
feel that the name on the title-page, showing an
unbroken confirmed if implicit tradition, would
outweigh all such opinions, for variety and
variableness are the distinctive feature of genius.
Again, what conclusion might a critic of the
same period draw from the earliest and the
latest styles of Carlyle ? And yet the evidence
of tradition would be quite decisive here.
Again, to take another instance still, there is
an excellent recent work by Archdeacon, then
Canon Farrar, called ' Eternal Hope.' The
style of the preface is quiet, scholarly, and
scientific. The rest of the book is popular and
efflorescent. Imagine the conclusion of your
critic of 3000 A.D. ' The book on the face of it
was not written by an Archdeacon of this period.
It is the work of a distinguished Nonconformist,
as is shown from its point of view. The preface
is the work of a learned Redactor.' And yet
the implicit tradition of the title-page would

The Pentateuch aftei^ ail ? 1 1

stand. What might be called implicit or in-
direct historical tradition, that is to say, reliance
on titles of MSS. (and even indirect allusions of
contemporaries), as conveying a strong pre-
sumption of contemporaneous tradition, must
ever be a fact of first importance to any his-
torical decision as to its author and period.

The verdict of antiquity can rarely be set
aside, and if this be a principle applied without
hesitation, and with good results to the history
of other literatures, there is every reason to
apply it also to the history of Hebrew litera-
ture. There is evidence of great care in this
respect amongst the Hebrews.

It will thus be seen that the discovery* that
we may have given an exaggerated and uncritical
value to the authority of Ezra and the Great
Synagogue as the close and sanction of the
canon of the Hebrew Scriptures, does by no
means dispose of the evidences derived from
tradition. This discovery is for the purpose
for which it is used, an ignoratio elenchi. The
question to be decided by the historical student
is, how did the Pentateuch as it stands come
by the name of Moses ? It may be shown, by
the way, that Ezra and the Great Synagogue
have not been quite fairly treated ; for, if the
quite unhistorical letter of Aristeas is yet a

■^ ^rof. Driver's 'Introduction/ pages xxvii-xxxv.

12 Did Moses zvrite

strong confirmation of the fact otherwise
proved that the LXX. translation took its
beginning at the instance and for the purposes
of an early Ptolemy, vague and sometimes
foolish allusions to the work of Ezra and the
Great Synagogue are strong confirmations of
the fact, otherwise educed, of an edition of the
Hebrew Scriptures having been issued under
their superintendence generally correspondent
to that which we now have.

The emphasis given by the grandson of
Jesus, the son of Sirach, in his Preface
(130 B.C.), to the triple division of the canon
is very noticeable. The reference occurs three
times in a very short space, in which he speaks
of these three divisions as containing the
literary treasures of his nation, and is coupled
with the statement that the canonical Scrip-
tures themselves have become antiquated in
language (ou /xtKpav ex^i' '^yv Stacf^opav iv kavroL^^

' The law, the prophets, and the rest of the
books,' refers to a definite, and probably, be-
cause of the high estimation given to it, a
closed collection of writings. Ezra and the
Great Synagogue are the only possible persons,
it should seem, to whom this collection can be
* Ecclesiasticus — Prologue by the grandson of Jesus.

1 he Penlateuch after all? 13

But the extent and character of the work of
Ezra and the Great Synagogue is by no means
the only or the strongest bulwark of the vera-
city of Hterary tradition amongst the Hebrews.

That is not the main point. ' The firemen
are playing upon a place where the fire is not.'
The force and value of historical tradition
depends upon other considerations. Some of
these may be thus stated. It is a conclusion
alike of mental physiology and of historical
experience that genius and light and leading
can no more exist without some possibility of
social appreciation than music can exist in a
vacuum. There is a certain degree of action
and reaction in the production and influence
of great men. The fact of a Beethoven implies,
and necessarily implies, a certain amount of
culture in the nation that produced him, and a
certain capacity, if even a low level of capacity,
in them of appreciation. If we had no history
of the nation we must perforce infer this. A
Beethoven or a Mozart is an impossible pro-
duct in a savage or primitive nation. And this
culture and this appreciation is a certain
amount of guarantee for the conservation of
his works as his.

And ' the philosophers, the prophets, and the
poets, whom we now venerate as the noblest
benefactors of our race, have earned their

14 Did Moses write

claim to that distinction, not by bringing us
messages from other spheres, which they alone
were privileged to visit, but by enunciating
truths which our expanded intellect accepts as
self-evident, by proclaiming great principles
which our deepened insight perceives to con-
stitute the basis of all morality, by creating

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Online LibraryFrank Ernest SpencerDid Moses write the Pentateuch after all? → online text (page 1 of 20)