John Muehleisen Arnold.

Genesis and science; or The first leaves of the Bible online

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upon Christian thought, will appear from the lines —

" Dies ira?, dies ilia,
Solvet ssecrum in favilhi,
Teste David cum Sibylla."

The Sibyls themselves, of which ten are assumed, must be taken,
not as personal or individual prophetesses, but as the personifica-
tion of the oldest primeval traditions, embodiments of the primi-
tive oracles, as diffused among mankind, which, indeed, afforded
the staple of all the myths which are now under consideration.



MYTHS RESPECTING REVEALED TRUTHS, 181

Not very different are the myths of the Green-
landers and Mexicans respecting the close of their
dispensation. The last clearly taught that after
fifty-two cycles the world would perish by fire;
whence at the close of each of these cycles they
smashed all their vessels, extinguished all their
fires, knelt down on the roof of their houses Avith
the face towards the East, to see whether the sun
would rise again. On its rising they beat drums,
played upon instruments of music in honour of the
god of the fire who had spared them for the time
being. The inhabitants of Peru undoubtedly believed
in the resurrection of the dead before they became
Christians. When the Spaniards had opened the
graves of their princes, and were scattering the bones,
they entreated them to desist, lest the dead on their
reviving should have difficulty in finding them. The
Greenlanders believed that pirksoma, i.e., " he that
is above," shall breathe upon the dead bodies, and
they shall become alive. On the occasion of a solar
eclipse, a missionary was told by a Pagan Green-
lander that when the sun shall once be wholly
darkened, then shall the dead rise from their graves.
The Peruvians deposited their hair and their nails
in safe hiding-places, and when pressed for the
reason of this practice by Garcilasso, they replied : —
" Do you know that all we who are born here below
shall revive again after death, and that the souls,
with 'all that belongs to their bodies, shall rise from
the graves ? Now to save trouble to our relations in
seeking long for their nails and for their hair — for
there shall be a great commotion on that day — we
put them safely together, so that they may be easily
found, and if we could, we certainly would always
spit on the same spot."



182 CHAP. IV. GENESIS AND MYTHS.

It need scarcely be added, that the immortalitg of
the soul is one of the uniformly accepted dogmas
which the myths of nations have generally fastened
upon ; and the notion of future rewards and punish-
ments has also been engrafted into the human mind
from the very commencement of time. That the
body is not the soul and the soul is not the body,
was a belief held, according to Cicero, by all, " and
the nearer man was to his divine origin, the clearer
was the perception of this truth." Socrates, in
Phgedon, advises that we accept the best and most
trusty of human opinions respecting the immortality
of the soul, upon which, as it were, we might swim
through life as upon the fragment of a wrecked
vessel, till a safer conveyance offered itself in some
divine oracle. Aristotle says : — " We not only think
of the departed as blessed and happy, but we deem
it impiety to utter either untruths or offensive words
respecting them, because they are already in a higher
and better condition. This is the belief existing
among us since primeval days, the origin of which
is as little known as he who first started it, but it is
one which has never ceased to exist from the begin-
ning of time."

Naturally, none can tell of the first origin
of this dogma, since it is as old as the human race.
Certainly to the reproach of our present materialists,
Cicero says, " There is inherent in the soul a certain
foreboding of a future life, and this lives most and
becomes most manifest in those who are most gifted
and most excellent among men. And who would
be so foolish, without such a belief, as to bear up
against the toil and burden of life ? " It was the
belief in the future which reared those giant struc-
tures in the East and West ; which gave courage to



MYTHS RESPECTING REVEALED TRUTHS. 183

Socrates to drink the poisoned cup, and which in-
spired the northern barbarians with that indomitable
bravery by which they were distinguished. When
Columbus landed on the island of Cuba, and Mass
having been performed on the beach, he was addressed
by a Kazike in these words : — " Understand clearly
that in the other world, as we know quite well, there
are two kinds of places for departed souls. One
dreadful and full of darkness, this is the place allotted
to the evil ones. The other good and pleasant, ap-
pointed for those that love peace and promote the
happiness of mankind. If thou believe that thou
must die, and that the good and the evil thou hast
done shall be rewarded unto thee, I hope thou wilt
not offend those that have not offended thee."

The Egyptians were much engrossed by their belief
of a future existence after death, of which their rites
of sepulture abundantly testify. They taught that
when the soul is conducted to the world of spirits by
Anubis, it has to appear before Osiris for judgment.
If found wanting, it has to return into animal forms
and transmigrate to purge away the stain. If pure,
the soul rests with the gods till they shall inhabit
bodies of higher grades among men. At funerals
the following prayer was said over the vessel con-
taining the bowels, which were deemed to be the
seat of sinful desires : — " O thou sun, our Lord, and
all ye gods that give life, receive me into the society
of the eternal ones ; for I obeyed the deity as taught
by my parents. Likewise I honour those to whom
I owe my existence. I killed no one, never stole,
but if I ever sinned in my life, by eating or drinking
what is forbidden, the guilt falls not upon me but
upon this which is in this vessel." The vessel was
then thrown into the river, and the body was mum-



184 CRAP. IV. GENESIS AND MYTHS.

imfied, if the priestly tribune which ordered the burial
ceremonies, counted the departed worthy of them.
If the embalmed bodies showed symptoms of dissolu-
tion, it was a sign of the departed soul not being in
a state of bliss. The negroes also believe in a future
life, and after the death of their kindred speak of
the souls as taken to God. As a terrible evidence of
the belief in future existence may be named the
slaughter of the wives, servants, and slaves of de-
parted kings, to follow them into the spirit world.

That the Assyrians believed in the future punish-
ment of the wicked has lately been decyphered from
cuneiform inscriptions. The ancient Persians held
that after death there is a struggle, which lasts for
three days, respecting the disembodied soul, between
the devs, or evil spirits, and the good spirits, and only
on the fourth day the soul can pass the bridge,
Tshinavad, into the other world. There, Ormuzd and
Bahman give judgment, after Rashuerast has
weighed the good and evil deeds. If acceptable, the
celestial dog who watches the bridge, allows the
soul to pass, and it is safely conducted to glory by
the angelic spirits. The evil ones are thrust over
the bridge into the Dutzak. There is, however,
Hamestan, a third intermediate place, for those that
are neither good nor evil. In some respects the
ideas of the Hindus are very similar. With them
the soul in death has to appear in the Yama-log,
the place of Yama, where his deeds are examined
and weighed in a balance. After this, the soul has
to return for ten days to the earth, and food is on
that account deposited for that term for the departed
spirit. Then follows the judgment ; after which, if
not accepted, the soul is thrown into Narak or hell,
where it is tormented till a fresh course of transmi-



MYTHS RESPECTING REVEALED TRUTHS. 185

gration begins ; if accepted the soul enters one of
the blessed abodes of Brahma-log, i.e., the place of
Brahma.

The belief of the Chinese in this respect is similar
to that of the Shamans, consisting of a worship of
demons and the souls of the departed. Although
this element has been greatly repressed by Confucius,
there is no reason to believe that the Chinese have
no faith in the immortality of the soul. The souls
of the departed Emperors are said to be in heaven,
where they are rewarded. In every city there is a
public building, and in it upon a tablet is the
inscription: "O! Cong-fu-dsu, may it please thee to
descend in thy spiritual part, and be rejoiced by this
our homage or gifts, which we give in humility ; ' '
fruits, wine, flowers and incense, being offered by
the worshipper. According to the Tao-tse system,
1300 good acts must be done to become worthy of
beino- counted with the immortals of heaven. The
wicked after death are doomed to dwell with evil
spirits. The nectar of immortality, Tchang-sing,
ensures the immortality of the body.

The place of the departed among the Greeks and
Romans is Hades or Orkus, with its two great
divisions, the Elysium and the Tartarus, all too well
known to require any details in this place. Enough
to add that their intellectual achievements never led
them, like our modern materialists, to deny a future
state. Go where we will, we find everywhere some
Paradise, Elysium, Walhalla, or some Tartarus,
Nastrand, Huergelmir, Onderah, Dutzak or Hell, only
with this difference, that none of the places of
punishment is represented in these myths as eternal
or never-ending, though in some it is not so clearly



186 CHAP. IV. GENESIS AND MYTHS.

stated that they are simply places of purgation and
purification.

5. Belation of Pagan Myths to the Booh of Genesis.

The bona fide record of the beginnings of all
things given in Genesis, must not be confounded
with Pagan mythology ; it cannot be explained by
any mythology, nor can they be compared together,
the one being specifically and absolutely different
from the other. In relation to the Book of Genesis, all
myths are what the dark and misty perception of
the animal is to the clear and rational consciousness
of man. Admitting the possibility of plagiarism
in the Persian legends as contained in those later
portions of the Zendavesta, called the Bundehesh,
where the temptation of the human pair is recorded,
such plagiarism is absolutely impossible in the case
of the Babylonian, Phoenician, or other traditions
respecting the creation and many other antediluvian
events. Even if these legends be not derived from
the Hebrew Scriptures, but transmitted by some
other channel, it would only prove that the Biblical
records must rest upon an historical basis, because it
is psychologically impossible that large numbers of
individuals and nations, separated by seas and con-
tinents, as well as by time and language, should
have concocted legends so strikingly similar and
uniform, without assuming that the same historic
facts, and the same revelation of pre-historic facts
gave rise to them all. Several explanations are
possible. "Where the sporadic legends of the Gentiles
resemble the traditions of the Hebrews, they may
either have been copied from the Book of Genesis ;
or the Hebrew traditions may be taken to represent
one such legend out of many ; or, Moses may describe



RELATION TO EACH OTHER. 187

traditions that were well known before his time;
lastly, the Mosaic account may have followed the
legends of the Gentiles.

In reply to these surmises it will be hard in the
first place to prove that the Book of Genesis is the
original of the legends; but it is not so hard to
prove that these legends are a degenerated edition of
some more original primeval tradition which found
its faithful expression in the Mosaic account. If, for
argument's sake, we assume that the Biblical account
is simply one of many legends, it will require little
discernment to point out the original one from which
the others sprang. If we recognize certain peculi-
arities in the Biblical account which the legends lack,
and if by their light we can explain the mythological
additions attached to the legends, we then prove
that the Bible contains a correct transcript of the
original tradition, and thus secure its historical
veracity. Were the traditions recorded by Moses
received from the patriarchs of the Hebrews, they
cannot be mythical, but must be historical.

A myth as such never can be a pure invention.
Again, a myth cannot exist unless the event to
which it refers has happened sufficiently long to
have acquired some uncertainty or obscurity in
its details. Thus if the traditions handed down by
Moses were in the possession of the Hebrew patri-
archs, they cannot be mythical, there being no
possibility of a myth developing in so short a period.
The Greeks wisely judged that there was first an
unknown, secondly a mythical, and thirdly an his-
torical age in their chronology. With the Hebrews
there can be no such division, since they do not
recognize an unknown or a mythical age. With all
other nations the historical period is preceded by the



188 CHAP. IV. GENESIS AND MYTHS.

mythical. But there was neither time nor oppor-
tunity for the formation of a Hebrew mythology.
If any element of mythology were to run through
the Hebrew Scriptures, then there can be no history,
since it would be impossible to define the period
when the mythical epoch ended and the historical
era began.

The last case assumed as possible is, that the
Mosaic account of antediluvian days might be
derived from the fictions that were in circulation at
the time when the Book of Genesis was written.
The case of one nation borrowing myths from
another is not unprecedented. The mythology of
the early Greeks was compiled from the mythical
lore of nations more ancient than their own, which
they appropriated to themselves. That the Israel-
itish theoracy should have been borrowed from
Paganism, is a theory perfectly untenable in itself,
and irreconcileable with history, there being no
instance on record to support such an hypothesis.
The antediluvian legends of ancient nations are,
moreover, in many points as unlike the narration
given by Moses, as in many they resemble it; and
this dissimilarity, as well as analogy, must be duly
taken into consideration in order to ascertain the
mythical or historical character of the Mosaic
account.

No Pagan myth or legend ever ventured to make
such an announcement as this; — "In the beginning
God created heaven and earth." On the contrary,
every legend assumes the eternity of matter, in
harmony with our modern materialistic philosophers.
In its very nature Paganism implies a practical
denial of the Deity as Creator. Except in the
cosmogony of Moses, there exists no record whatever,



RELATION TO EACH OTHER. 189

or any intimation even, of the creation being
wrought out of nothing ; and no legend or tradition
seems to apprehend in the least degree the difference
between the Creator and the creature. In the Book
of Genesis there is no eternity of matter, no
demiurgical co-operation, no pantheistic emanation
or evolution, no dualistic principle of creation,
nothing but the creative act of God. Thus the
Mosaic cosmogony proves itself to be historical, by
faithfully handing down the primitive revelation so
as to render the origin of all the cosmogonic legends
perfectly intelligible. The first line of the first
chapter of Genesis, by introducing the Deity, not as
an abstract object of metaphysical speculation, but
as the Creator of heaven and earth, at once leads
from an unknown, dead, or imaginary being, to the
revealed, living, and true God. Even were the
cosmogony of Genesis what our opponents assert it
to be, it would still justify what Jean Paul says
concerning it, " The first leaf of Genesis has more
weight than all the folios of naturalists and philo-
sophers."

And how did the author of Genesis obtain his
materials? He received them either by direct and
immediate revelation, or through the channel of
written or oral tradition. The remarkable similarity
between the sagas of the Gentile world and the
account given by Moses, would indicate that the
facts had reached him through tradition, and that
the legends of the Pagan world were founded upon
recollections retained after the dispersion of mankind.
But it was revealed tradition, for God alone could
tell what happened before there were eye-witnesses
of His majesty, as revealed in the act of creation,
for as little is known of man's condition before the



190 CHAP. IV. GENESIS AND MYTHS.

fall, as we know of his condition after death. God
was to teach His children, and as Adam was taught
of God, so was the writer of this cosmogony re-
taught when the primitive revelation became subject
to endless metamorphoses among different nations.
"Speaking face to face, as a man speaketh to his
friend," Jehovah commanded Moses to secure from
oblivion all that remained true in tradition, by
committing it to writing. We have the highest
sanction to reason from the greater to the smaller.
"Is not life more than meat, or the body than rai-
ment? " If God revealed the process of creation to
man, would He not provide for a safe transmissoin
of the original tradition to Moses ? Those who deny
that Moses was inspired, must remember that Adam
lived till the days of Lamech, Noah's father, and
Shem till the days of Abraham, thus there were only
a few members in the sacred line required to trans-
mit the treasure. It has been pertinently remarked
that the charge of Moses to commit a certain song
to memory was equivalent to our sending an article
to the press.

Genesis records tradition, which reaches back to
primitive days, and such a 5 was not preserved among
any other people besides the Jews, though originally
the common heritage of the as yet undivided race.
Supposing the myths of the ancients and the record
of Genesis dated from one and the same original
tradition, it is still true that holy men of God spake
and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Considering the myths as briefly set forth in this
chapter, we must see that there was a common origin.
The source of all tradition belongs to a time when
mankind was as yet united, and even the legends of
the ancients bear the undoubted signature of having



ARE THESE MYTHS IN GENESIS? 191

originally come from the same God who was the
first teacher of His children in the garden of Eden.
The most intelligible way to account for the existence
of these myths as we have them, as well as for
the existence of the record of Genesis, is by
assuming that it was revealed to Adam, and handed
down as tradition, till among the Hebrews it was put
into writing, the Gentile world making it the sub-
stance of their national myths and mythologies.

6. Are Myths embodied in the Booh of Genesis ?

Neology, true to its nature, is always bent upon
destruction, and treats the Bible as if it resembled
the ima^e of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, "whose head
is of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his
body and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, and
part of potter's clay." If the head of fine gold be
fairly represented in the Gospel, and the feet and
toes in the first ten chapters or the first forty
Parashioth of Genesis, it follows that the whole
Bible must share the fate of the great image seen
in the royal dream. With such issues at stake, is it
too much to ask for a patient hearing of fresh
arguments, or of the reiteration, it may be, of old
ones in support of the old way of thinking, even in
days when writers are deemed learned and books
original, only in proportion as they subvert all
previously established ways of thought or belief ?
Yet it is only by our not taking foregone conclusions
for granted as matters of fact, that we can be brought
to see that as the Gospel "head is of fine gold," so
also are Pentateuchal "feet and toes" in the first
ten chapters of Genesis, which, for greatness, simpli-
city, antiquity, and depth, have no parallel in



102 CHAP. IV. GENESIS AND MYTHS.

literature, sacred or profane, in spite of the majestic
nonchalance of which Krummacher writes: — ■

"Die heilige Klio kann nicht in hohen Worten die Geschichte
der Menschheit reden, sondern sie fuhret ihren Griffel in Demuth,
und indem sie sehnsiichtig ihr Haupt gen Himmel richtet, beachtet
sie nicht den nachlassigen Gang ihrer Hand und die kindlioh
hingeworfenen Ziige des Griffels."

I cannot resist the impression that it was the alle-
gorising exegesis of patristic theology, which first of
all suggested both the philosophico-mythical, and the
rationalistic interpretation. Is it safe to follow St.
Augustine, when he puts beatitudo hominis for
Paradise ; quatuor virtutes, for the four rivers ;
diabolus, for serpent ; vitce imortalitas, for the
coats of skin ; scientice plenitudo, for the Cheru-
bim ; temporales pcence, for the naming sword ?
Years ago, when arguing in favour of the Mosaic
authorship of the Pentateuch against Doctor
Colenso,* I objected that if the Pentateuch embody
myths, the Hebrew literature constitutes the most
intricate of all literary mysteries, to which no key
can be found. The post-Mosaic period in that case
would resemble a tree without root. Yet, the Patri-
archal history, the Exodus, and the sojourn in the
wilderness, form the necessary condition of the
subsequent Jewish polity. Not once, but a hundred
times, the facts and marvels of the Pentateuch are
reiterated in the Psalms and Prophets. Even
after foretelling the approaching dissolution of the
Theocratical constitution, the Prophets recur to the
marvellous beginnings, prophesying a repetition of
these primitive marvels in connection with the
expected kingdom of the Messiah. "According to

* See English Biblical Criticism and Authorship of the
Pentateuch. Second Edition, page 21.



ARE THERE ANY MYTHS IN GENESIS? 193

the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt,
will I show unto him marvellous thing's. ' '

Hence it will appear that these things were known
to the whole nation as history, exactly as we have it
in the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua. This
original history was, moreover, kept alive by the
festivals of the Passover and of Tabernacles, and
by the ordinances of the sabbath and circumcision,
just as we keep alive the facts of our redemption by
annual and weekly festivals, by sacraments, and
other means of grace. Israel knew God only as the
Creator of heaven and earth, as the "God of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," as Jehovah who brought
his people out of Egypt, just as we know God as the
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The very names
of God are memorials of the great epochs of Penta-
teuchal history. Indeed the chief means of grace
was the history of creation, of the Patriarchs, and
of the nation in after ages, by which Israel was
taught, quickened, rejoiced, and enlightened, as much
as by the precepts and testimonies which were then
given in connection with it.

Among all nations, according to Dr. Auberlin,
two distinct literary periods are observed which may
be styled heroic-epical, and historico-philosophical.
But just where we expect analogy between the
Hebrew and other nations, the greatest difference in
the formation of the two respective periods of
literature is observed. In point of chronological
order, the poetical, didactical, and prophetical litera-
ture of the Jews is, in relation to the Pentateuch,
what the works of Pindar, Sophocles, Herodotus,
and Plato, are in respect to Homer and Hesiod
among the most important representatives of the
Gentiles; and what much of our modern Literature

N



194 CHAP. IV. GENESIS AND MYTHS.

is, in comparison with the Nibelungenlied, and
similar productions of our Saxon forefathers. The
heroic-epical period of Greek Literature is the crea-
tion of their mythology by their poets. The second
epoch was that of a critical and sceptical Philosophy,
which dissolves the mythical element, reveals the
unreal nature of the mythological element, and
lays bare its pernicious effects upon religion and
morality.

Classical Paganism, just before our era, had become
convinced of the falsehood of its popular mythology
as furnished by the epic poems, and of its practically
unfavourable effects upon the people. Pythagoras
580 B.C., Heraclitus 500 B.C., Xenophanes 456 B.C.
and others severally protested against the gods and
myths of Homer ; and Socrates 400 B.C. bravely died
a martyr in the cause. But it was reserved to Plato,
his pupil, to protest more emphatically against the
mythical creations of Homer in the shape of gods,
heroes, and men. Plato's Republic was written
towards the end of his life, and contains a summary


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Online LibraryJohn Muehleisen ArnoldGenesis and science; or The first leaves of the Bible → online text (page 15 of 27)