William Frederic Badè.

The Old Testament in the light of to-day : a study in moral development online

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IN THE Light of To-day





Professor on the Frederick Billings Foundation

for Old Testament Literature and Semitic Languages

Pacifc Theological Seminary

Berkeley, California



(arbe UlitoEtsitic fut^i Cambribge



Published November iqij



We came to know
The master-lesson and the riddle' s key:
Unending love unending growth shall be


The one thing of supreme importance in the Old
Testament, actually and historically, is the idea of
God — the focal point of its significance for humanity.
That idea did not come in full feather, nor fall as a bolt
from the blue. In a long history of progress, it presents
the necessity of choice between the higher and the
lower, the better and the worse. The advance of Bib-
lical scholarship, and the change from an instructional
to an educational view of revelation, have made the
choice easier, so that a rich heritage need no longer
prove a poor possession. The helpful teacher of the
Old Testament now employs the higher achievements
of Israel's religion as grave-diggers for the defunct
moral crudities that have dropped by the way. The
usual procedure has been to embalm them with a
"Thus saith the Lord," and to carry them along until
the living expire under the dead.

I cherish the modest hope that this book may help
students and teachers of the Old Testament to find a
new and securer place for it in the religious thought of
our time. Although it embodies results of ten years of
special study and practical experience in teaching, it
still falls so far short of its simple purpose that I shall
be the last to consider it blamed unduly if it meets
with evil as well as good report.


The first draft of Its contents was delivered eight
years ago, at the Berkeley Summer School of Religion,
as a series of lectures under the title, "The Idea of God
in the Old Testament." Since then the scope of the
book has been greatly amplified. If It comes as a tardy
fulfilment of the expectations of my students and
friends, I hope the maturer work which It embodies
will prove a partial compensation for the delay.

It has been my constant endeavor to meet, as un-
technlcally as possible, the difficulties of men and
women to whom the Old Testament is still a valuable
part of the Bible, but who find It an Indigestible ele-
ment in the Biblical rationale of their beliefs. In my own
case, as in that of others who were brought up under
the traditional view of the Scriptures, a frank evalua-
tion of the morals of the Old Testament In the light of
historical criticism has proved the only effective solv-
ent. For this reason I have not been content merely to
record facts, but have applied to them the moral judg-
ments which lie Implicit in the thought of moral prog-
ress. Not to make within the Bible those moral dis-
tinctions by which men now live their daily lives, is to
cut it off from further participation in the vital con-
cerns of mankind.

I have tried to keep the footnotes within as small a
compass as possible, and yet to give the most essential
evidence and references to literature. H. P. Smith's
Religion of Israel, and J. P. Peters's Religion of the
Hebrews, did not appear In time to be included among



the citations of literature. A selected bibliography
covering the entire field of my investigations is in con-
templation for the second volume. My original plan,
to cover the whole period of Hebrew religious develop-
ment in one volume, had to be abandoned in the in-
terest of a fuller and more adequate treatment. The
exilic and post-exilic period will, therefore, be treated

More than ordinary attention has been devoted in
this volume to a study of the decalogue. A first draft
of my tentative conclusions was published in the Uni-
versity of California Chronicle, a little over a year ago,
under the title, "The Decalogue a Problem in Ethical
Development." Reprints of the article were sent to
Old Testament scholars in all parts of the world with a
request for an expression of opinion. There was a most
generous response, which might have been even more
complete had it not been for the outbreak of the great
European war. The chapter on the decalogue has
been rewritten and amplified in the light of this cor-

Now that a part, at least, of my task is completed,
my grateful acknowledgments are due to John Wells
Morss, of Boston, whose more than friendly interest
and encouragement have been unfailing; to my col-
leagues. President Charles Sumner Nash and John
Wright Buckham, for wise counsel which has ever
been at my service; to Karl Marti, of the University
of Berne, for many helpful suggestions; to Charles F.


Aked, Winston Churchill, and Charles Mills Gayley,
for the advantage derived from friendly discussions
of problems broached in my study; and to Miss Clara
Lyford Smith for valuable suggestions in the last stages
of my manuscript, for a verification of the Scripture ref-
erences, and for the preparation of an index.

I feel prompted, also, to acknowledge a long-standing
debt of gratitude to my former teachers at Yale : Pro-
fessor Frank C. Porter, Frank Knight Sanders, and
Edward L. Curtis. The last-named has passed on, but
his well-remembered kindnesses and the charm of his
spirit abide.

To her whose pure and radiant self is wrought into
all this book contains of strength and truth and hope, I
dedicate it with infinite regret that she was not des-
tined to see finished what we planned together.

William Frederic Bad]^.

Berkeley, California,
June, igiS-



Two views of the Old Testament still contending for
mastery — Source of disorder in religious education —
Fact of moral growth must be admitted — Relation be-
tween general culture and religion — What moral develop-
ment implies — Task of determining chronological order
of materials for study — Literary chronology of the Old
Testament xv

List of Abbreviations


The Old Testament under Sentence of Life

Proposals to eliminate it from religious education —
Retention desirable, but conditioned on a different use —
Implied recognition of religious evolution in the Bible —
Explicitly recognized by Jesus — His moral criticism of the
Old Testament — Moral vision of his followers obscured by
letter-worship — Historical criticism demands moral criti-
cism — Need of a new conception of revelation — Response
to the demands of a new world-view — Not faith itself, but
mistaken reasons for faith under review 3


Moral Beginnings of Hebrew Religion

No direct sources from the time of Moses — Adapta-
tion and expurgation of traditions — Indirect testimony of
the sources — Criterion afforded by antagonism between
Bedawin and Fellahin — Characteristics of Bedawin —
Of Half-nomads — Of Fellahin — Nomadic survivals in
Israel's religion — Ritual and institutional survivals —
Nomadic reactions against agriculture — Surviving effects
of primitive social institutions — Blood-revenge, marriage,
concubinage, slavery ^°



Moral Character of Jahveh and his Clients in the
Early Literature

Character of the sources — Political origin of ideas about
Jahveh — His local and intramundane character — Expla-
nation of his extra-Palestinian appearances — Tomb versus
Sheol — Evidence of Jahveh's fixedness — Resulting lim-
itations — Distrust of his purposes — His irascibility —
Attitude toward non-Israelites — Moral obligations bind-
ing only between countrymen — Current Israelite practice
invested with divine sanction — Covenant idea and impli-
cations — Involves obligation to observe taboos — Im-
moral beliefs and consequences 54


Origin and Moral Significance of the Decalogue

Result of a long development — Two different deca-
logues — Relative antiquity of ritual and standard deca-
logues — Variant forms of standard decalogue — Ad-
dressed to men only — To be observed only by He-
brews — Discussion of individual precepts — Question
about the third commandment — Ancient Sabbath a full-
moon festival? — Parents and children — Origin of dual
standard of sex morality — Summary — Morality by com-
mand an immoral theory — Divine legislation through
human sense of right 87


Pioneers of a New Era: Amos of Tekoa and Hosea ben-

Greatness of Amos — Review of earlier beliefs — De-
clares inseparability of religion and morality — Denuncia-
tion of the cultus — New ideas of right and wrong — Not
a monotheist — Only material benefits expected of religion
— Comparison of pre-exilic and N. T. beliefs — Idea of
retribution — Similarity of Hosea's message — Empha-
sizes love; Amos, justice — Also attacks the cultus —
Prophet versus priest — Lights and shadows of his message 132



The Prophet of Holiness: Isaiah ben-Amoz

Isaiah's many-sided greatness — Statesman, reformer,
poet, theologian — Prophetism and its changing ideas of
revelation — Possession-theory and ecstatic prophetism —
Reason and reflection as channels of revelation — Charac-
ter versus ceremonial — "Holy through righteousness" —
The "glory" of Jahveh — New grandeur impressed upon
the idea of God — Counsels of trust — Unsparingly de-
nounces the sacrificial ritual 167


The Monojahvism of Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy not monotheistic — Alternation of Jahveh
and Baal worship unhistorical — Coalescence, instead, of
Canaanite and Hebrew religion — Term "baal" applied
to Jahveh — Cultus attacked as Canaanite by the prophets
— Worst features of Jahveh-Baal worship proscribed —
The ark ignored — Evidence of many local Jahvehs —
Diverse influences behind Deuteronomic reform — Moral
versus ritual reform — One Jahveh, one sanctuary —
Monojahvism not monotheism — Jahveh's supremacy —
Summary 187


The Social Ethics of Deuteronomy

Prophets' relation to the ethics of D — Slavery counte-
nanced — Its abuses mitigated for Hebrews only — Dis-
criminations against clients and aliens — Discriminatory
regulations about debts — Effect of national -god-idea upon
sense of moral obligation — Preferential treatment of
specified races — Feuds bequeathed — Ammonites, Moab-
ites, Amalekites — Deuteronomic exclusivism — Humani-
zation of earlier laws — Stepmother-marriage — Widows
are victims of innovations — Social ethics evaluated by
death-penalties — Effect of making idolatry a capital
offence — Holiness or taboo 2i{



The First Great Heretic: Jeremiah of Anathoth

Some facts of personal history — Probably not a sup-
porter of Deuteronomy — Opposes its misuse by the in-
violability party — Champions reform of character against
reform of ritual — The temple no palladium — Shiloh: an
appeal to history — False criterion for judging prophets — ■
Issue between dogma and ethics — Jeremiah denies Mosaic
origin of sacrifice — An ethical monotheist — Implicitly an
individualist — The new covenant 258


The Repudiation of Ritual Religion by the Pre-Exilic

Repudiation of sacrifice the distinction of Israel's reli-
gion — Calling the witnesses — Distortion of their testi-
mony by later editors — Protest of a Psalmist — Atone-
ment by sacrifice a priestly doctrine — Prophets tolerate
sacrificial system for its social uses — Abuses of the system
— Deuteronomic sacrifice accords with prophetic ideas —
Exploitation of Deuteronomic regulations by the Jerusa-
lemite priesthood — Misdevelopment inaugurated by Eze-
kielj — Conclusion 281


A. "Jehovah" and "Jahveh" 313

B. Duhm on Jer. 8:8 315

Index of Scripture Citations 321

Index of Subjects 323


Two views of the Old Testament still contend for
mastery among the adherents of Christianity. The one
regards it as a sort of talisman, miraculously given and
divinely authoritative on the subject of God, religion,
and morals, in every part. The other regards it as a
growth, in which the moral sanctions of each stage of
development were succeeded and displaced by the
next higher one.

A former generation called into question chiefly the
historical difficulties presented by the traditional view.
The present generation is troubled by the crudity of
its moral implications, and by what Matthew Arnold
rather severely characterized as "its insane license of
affirmation about God." Even the late Henry Drum-
mond, who came close to the thinking youth of his day,
observed that the difficulty which young men had in
accepting the Old Testament was no longer intellec-
tual, but moral.

Under the traditional scheme of the Bible its moral
content is all of one piece. To quote one of its defend-
ers, "The Bible itself knows of but one kind of inspira-
tion, and that is an inspiration which extends to every
chapter, verse, word, and syllable of the original
Scriptures, using the mind and mouth, the heart and
hand of the writers, guiding them in the least particu-


lar, guarding them against the least blunder, and mak-
ing their utterance the very word of God to our souls.
. . . The Scripture and the entire Scripture, claims
to be, and is in fact, altogether exempt from errors
or mistakes of any sort."^

A certain well-known Bible Institute, recently in-
corporated under the laws of California, contains
the following item in its statement of doctrine: "The
Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are without
error or misstatement in their moral and spiritual
teachings and record of historical facts. They are with-
out error or defect of any kind." To this statement of
belief "every officer, teacher, and worker must sub-
scribe once a year," and "failure to insist upon the pro-
mulgation of these doctrines . . . constitutes ground
for suit for the reversion of money contributed for the
erection of the building and the return of same to the
original donors or their heirs."

While he believes with the same intensity in the
high mission of the Bible, the modern historical student
cannot subscribe to any such view of its contents.
He feels called of God to start with the facts, not
with a dogma. Where the traditionalist sees one un-
broken plain of heaven-descended perfect morality, the
thoughtful man of to-day finds "a land of hills and
valleys," as the Deuteronomist said of Palestine. It is
one thing to have a strong faith in the inspiration of
the Bible ; quite another, to make it serve in the place

^ J. H. Brookes, Anti-Higher Criticism, p. 334.


of man's equally God-given intelligence. Jesus taught,
and human history illustrates, the fact that men must
struggle for the truths which they hope to possess.
This was as true of the Israelites as of those who study
the record of their struggle to-day. Refusal to recognize
the obvious stages of moral progress by which Israel,
under divine guidance, wrought out Its high destiny, is
not only to rob the Old Testament of its human In-
terest and dramatic appeal, but to make it a serious
stumbling-block to those who need its passion for
righteousness in their own lives.

The real source of disorder in our religious education
is this artificial doctrinal coordination of different
stages of moral development, contained within the
Bible. For while in most universities and theological
seminaries the substance and spirit of Old Testament
scholarship find expression in terms adequate to the
intelligence and needs of our time, the great mass of
religious Instruction outside exhibits little more than
forced accommodation to the new standards. The re-
sult is moral confusion, anguish of soul, and ultimate
indifference. Granting that distinctions of fact under-
lie distinctions of worth, It scarcely is necessary to en-
large upon the viciousness of a method that Ignores not
only stages of religious development within the Old
Testament, but loses sight also of essential differences
between the Old and the New.

Until a substantial moral inequality between the Old
and the New Testament is recognized in Biblical In-


struction, the student will have difficulty in seeing that
the former is developmentally as well as historically
subordinate to the latter. The differences between suc-
cessive periods of Old Testament religion, and between
the Old Testament as a whole and the New Testament
as a whole, are differences of growth, and consequently
of moral authoritativeness. With respect to much in
Hebrew religion the student has done his full duty
when he has traced its origin and assigned it a place in
the development of human thought. There are intel-
lectual conceptions, moral ideals, motives, and rites,
which, in spite of their divine sanctions, have fortu-
nately forever fallen below our moral horizon. With re-
spect to still other areas of Old Testament thought, his-
torical study will leave men disinclined to attempt any
spiritual appropriation of what belongs so completely
to the past. The process of discrimination involved In
such study will free them from the false obligation to
justify the unjustifiable, and In the language of Job, to
"speak unrighteously for God." Their moral no less
than their intellectual difficulties with the Bible will
vanish in direct proportion to their willingness to make
room for the cancellations of development In matters re-
ligious as well as scientific.

For a just appreciation of the facts of moral develop-
ment in Hebrew religion, it is necessary to realize at the
outset that religion and general culture were practi-
cally inseparable in antiquity. In their reactions upon
each other this is true to-day. But the further one goes


back into the beginnings of human history, the more
the different forms of authority which regulate men's
actions are seen to merge into one. What we now call
morals is in the earliest times represented by a body of
tribal customs rigidly enforced upon all members of the
community by discipline and habit. What we now call
civil law is represented by a series of prohibitions and
punishments unsparingly enforced by all members of
the tribe upon the refractory. What we now call
science is represented by a series of myths and legends,
giving supernatural reasons for tribal customs and the
fierceness with which any infractions of those customs
were to be punished. What we now call religion was a
part of all three sets of facts, and its chief practical
manifestation was a disposition to provide existing
practices with divine sanctions. Since religion in prim-
itive times was not a body of abstract beliefs, but con-
cretely a part of almost all that we would class as gen-
eral culture in the form of tribal institutions and
customs, and since primitive culture undeniably has,
by a long process of evolution, developed into modern
civilization, it follows inevitably that religion has
shared with civilization this process of progressive
development. It passed by stages from the crudest
expressions of the religious instinct, in nature, ances-
tor, and fetish worship, to the exalted form in which
it has expressed itself in the teachings of Jesus.

When, therefore, we speak of the development of
morals and religion, or of the moral content of religion,


we are using an elliptical term and really mean the
development of the morally religious man. The truth
of this is obvious, and it implies that the development
of the morally religious man is at the same time the
development of the rational man, the artistic man, the
civilized man. No less is the history of moral ideals in
Hebrew religion a history of human growth, which ex-
hibits on the one hand a process in man ; on the other,
a progress in idea and institution. The process is the
growing fitness of the vehicle of revelation. The prog-
ress is the growing moral perfection of the religion.
Needless to say, the conception of revelation that un-
derlies this study regards it as an illumination from
within, not as a communication from without; as an
educative, not as an instructional, process.

The materials which must form the basis of our
study lie embedded in the literature of the Old Testa-
ment. They are in the form of religious ideas, hopes,
and rites, set forth in terms of Hebrew history, life, and
institutions. This mass of ideas cannot, of course, be
reduced to a systematic theology such as was formerly
in fashion. One can trace the course of a river, but one
may not treat it as a lake. So the religious progress of
Israel may be traced like a river through the highlands
and lowlands of Israel's literature. It may be described
in order, but not set forth systematically as a unified
theology. Obviously we must know the historical
sequence in which that literature grew up, and the
political and cultural environment which determined
its changing social ideals, for


". . . every fiery prophet of old time,
And all the sacred madness of the bard,
When God made music through them, could but speak
His music by the framework and the chord."

An enormous amount of critical acumen has been
expended upon the Hterary analysis of the writings
of the Old Testament with a view to determining the
age, or relative chronology, of its several parts. That
task may now be said to be accomplished ; for the un-
certainties that remain do not affect large issues. As a
result of this analysis, verified by linguistics, by the
history of laws and institutions, by the testimony of
the monuments, and by our knowledge of the history
of contemporary nations, the actual and approximate
dates of the various books, and of literary strata within
composite books, of the Old Testament, are now known
with a remarkable degree of precision. This knowledge
naturally has become the basis for a reinterpretation of
Hebrew morals and religion in terms of development.
It is unfortunate that the Psalms cannot be used with
the same assurance as other parts of the Old Testa-
ment. Their individual dates are on the whole quite
uncertain, and the evidence of religious experience, or
doctrine, which they contain must, therefore, be ad-
duced as auxiliary, rather than as fundamental. The
reader may occasionally find advantage in getting his
chronological bearings by reference to the following
table. No attempt has been made to give analytical
details. These will be found in various modern trea-
tises on Old Testament Introduction.


Literary Chronology of the Old Testament


Moses (no authentic literary remains) c. 1300-1200

Early traditions and songs 1200-1000

*J Document (Jahvist). Materials scattered

through the Pentateuch and Joshua 850

*E Document (Elohist). Materials scattered

through the Pentateuch and Joshua 1 750

Amos and Hosea 750- 735

Isaiah (authentic materials in chaps. 1-39) 740- 700

Micah, chaps. 1-3 725- 690

J and E compiled into a single document c. 650

Nahum c. 650

Zephaniah c. 630

* Deuteronomy (D) written about 650, published . . f 621
Jeremiah (a great part consisting of later addi-
tions) 626- 586

Habakkuk c. 600

Babylonian Exile 597- 538

Ezekiel 592- 570

Lamentations 586

Historical books up to Kings edited in the spirit

of Deuteronomy 600- 570

JE combined with D c. 560

Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah, chaps. 40-55) c. 540

Haggai and Zechariah 520

Trito-Isaiah (Isaiah, chaps. 56-66), mostly 500- 460

Job (containing later additions) c. 450 or later

Psalms (collected, edited, in large part composed). . 520- 150

* Priests' Code (P) , Leviticus, etc 550-t 450

Malachi, Ruth, Joel, Jonah, Obadiah 460- 350

Pentateuch completed (JEDP) by addition of P. . c. 420

Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah 350- 250

Song of Songs c. 350

Book of Proverbs (containing older materials) .... 300

Ecclesiastes c. 250

Daniel c. 165

Esther c. 150

c, circa, about. • Principal documents. t Legal codes.

IN THE Light of To-day


AJSL = American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature.
AJT = American Journal of Theology.

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Online LibraryWilliam Frederic BadèThe Old Testament in the light of to-day : a study in moral development → online text (page 1 of 22)