A. F. (Alexander Francis) Kirkpatrick.

The divine library of the Old Testament : its origin, preservation, inspiration, and permanent value : five lectures .. online

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" As we are in no sort judges beforehand, by what laws or rules,
in what degree, or by what means it were to have been expected
that God Avould naturally instruct us ; so upon supposition of His
atibrding us light and instruction by revelation, additional to what
He has aflbrded us by reason and experience, we are in no sort
judges by what methods and in what proportion it were to be ex-
pected that this supernatural light and instruction would be
afforded us. . . .

" Neither obscurity nor seeming inaccuracy of style, nor various
readings, nor early disputes about the authors of particular parts, nor
any other things of the like kind, though they had been much more
considerable in degree than they are, could overthrow the authority
of the Scripture ; unless the Prophets, Apostles, or our Lord, had
promised that the book containing the Divine revelation should be
secure from those things." — Bishop Butler, Analogy, Part ii. ch. 3.











All rights reserved

First Editiofi iSgi.
Reprinted lSg2.


Of the Lectures contained in this volume four were
delivered in the Cathedral of St. Asaph, at the
invitation of the Dean and Chapter, to a gather-
ing of clergy and laity from different parts of the
Diocese, in Whitsun week of 1891. The third
Lecture is one of a course given at Ely in 1885,
with reference to the appearance of the Eevised
Version of the Old Testament. I have added it
here, as I had originally intended to include the
subject of the Preservation of the Old Testament
in the course of Lectures at St. Asaph, and it
forms a natural sequel to the two Lectures on the
Origin of the Old Testament.

The Lectures are now published in accordance
with a wish expressed by some of those who heard
them at St. Asaph, and in the hope that they may
be a contribution, however humble, towards the
propagation, I will not say of right opinion, but
of a right temper and attitude, with reference to
the questions which are exercising the mind of
the Church at the present time with regard to
the Old Testament. The spirit in which these


questions are approached is more important than
an immediate solution of them; and I rejoice to
think that there are abundant and increasing signs
of the spread of a right and wise spirit.^ Solutions
of some of the questions at issue can only come
with time, after patient examination and re-exam-
ination of the evidence, and — I will venture to say —
after first-hand investigations carried on independ-
ently by English scholars from every possible point
of view ; for which, alas ! so few have the necessary
ability, taste, training, and leisure in combination.

Meanwhile the temper and attitude of the
Church, and especially of the clergy, are of prime
importance for the future of the Church and of
Belief The attempt to decry the critical study
of the Old Testament on a priori grounds can
only prove mischievous in the end. The intelligent
Christian will not say, " These views are contrary
to my theory of inspiration," or " They are incom-
patible with this or t?iat dogma, and therefore they
cannot be true "; but " Are these views grounded upon
facts ? and if so how must I modify the theory, or
qualify the inferences I have drawn from the dogma,
and perhaps re-state it ? " Their apparent opposition
to what we have received to hold may be good
reason for special caution and reserve in accepting
new ideas, but it is idle to invoke dogma to defeat
critical and historical research, conducted upon sound
principles, and limited to its proper sphere.

1 See Note A.


Some words of that great theologian Dollinger
may well be applied to the study of the Old
Testament at the present moment.

" The work of a true theologian is to dig deep,
to examine with restless assiduity, and not to draw
back in terror should his investigation lead to con-
clusions that are unwelcome or inconsistent with
preconceived notions or favourite views. ... It is
a law as valid for the future as for the past that
in theology we can only through mistakes attain
to truth. . . . Use none but scientific weapons in
philosophical and theological inquiries, banish . . .
all denunciation and holding up to suspicion of
those who differ from us." -^

I have endeavoured in these Lectures to state
and illustrate some fundamental principles which
are helpful to myself, and I trust may be helpful
to others, though they only form as it were a
standing ground from which to survey more difiS-
cult questions.

On the one hand, no devout Christian who be-
lieves the facts of the Incarnation and Eesurrection
can possibly regard Christianity as merely one among
the great religions of the world ; or view the religion
of Israel, which formed the preparation for it, as
merely a natural development out of the conscious-
ness of a naturally religious people. He must hold
fast without wavering to the conviction that Chris-

^ Quoted in tlie Preface to Oxenliam's translation of The First
Age of the Church.


tianity occupies a wholly unique place in the history
of religions ; that it is not merely somewhat superior
to other religions, but differs from them in kind, as
being God's supreme and final revelation of Himself
to mankind in His Son. He must hold fast with
equal tenacity to the conviction tliat the history of
Israel was a divinely ordered history, and the religion
of Israel a divinely given revelation, leading up to
the Coming of Christ, and preparing for it in a
wholly different way from the negative preparation
which went on silently in the heathen world.

This belief we accept as Christians on the author-
ity of our Lord and the Apostles whom He taught.
And when we pass from the consideration of the
history of Israel and the revelation made to Israel
to the consideration of the documents in which that
history and that revelation are recorded, we cannot
but accept them on the same authority as possessing
a Divine element, as being, to use our ordinary word,
inspired. But, on the other hand, they have a human
element in them also. God speaks to men through
men. The extent and nature of this human element,
and its relation to the Divine element of which it is
the vehicle, must be investigated with the fullest
freedom, combined, it need hardly be said, with the
most thorough reverence. The inductive method
must be applied to the examination. Facts must
be carefully ascertained and co-ordinated. From
them we may frame a working hypothesis which
must be verified by fresh comparison with facts.


and may lead us on a step farther. But nothing
can be more fatal than to approach the study of
Scripture with a rigid theory, and to attempt to force
phenomena into agreement with that theory. " It is,"
as the Archbishop of Canterbury has pointed out,
" of the transition from the spiritual into the natural
that we are least able to form an idea . . . and it
is to such a region that the thought of inspiration
belongs, the thought of God passing into the limited
thought of man." In defining inspiration, if indeed
it is possible to define it at all, we must proceed
with the greatest caution, and recognise that the
definition can be only provisional.

The analogy of Creation helps us. By faith we
understa7id that the ivorlds have been framed hy the
ivord of God; but that belief does not hinder us
from examining by all the scientific methods within
our power into the processes by which the worlds
were made. Such an examination must in the end
enlarge our knowledge of God and of His ways of

The plan of these Lectures is a simple one. The
first two treat of the orisjin of the Old Testament on
its human side. Their object is to show to what a
large extent the books of the Old Testament have
grown to their present form by the action of literary
processes. The human element in them is large,
larger perhaps than we are readily willing to admit ;
and so far as this element is concerned they cannot
be exempted from literary and historical criticism,


nay they cannot be explained witliout it. Sober
criticism is the ally, not the enemy, of theology and

The third Lecture illustrates the same idea from
the history of the text of the Old Testament. Once
men found it possible to believe in a miraculous
preservation of the text of the Old Testament from
all error. Now, by the examination of facts, we
know that this has not been the case. Here, too,
a human element comes in. While we gratefully
recognise that a superintending Providence has
watched over the preservation of the Scriptures,
candour compels us to acknowledge that it has
not been part of the Divine plan to protect them
supernaturally from all change and error in the
manifold vicissitudes of a long textual history.

Tlie fourth Lecture deals briefly with the Divine
side of this Divine-human book. The fact of its
inspiration is recognised, and some characteristics
of inspiration, negative and positive, are considered ;
but here again stress is laid on the necessity of
deducing our conception of inspiration from the
examination of inspired books, instead of approach-
ing them with an a friori theory as to what inspira-
tion can and cannot include.

The fifth Lecture treats of the permanent value
of the Old Testament for the Christian Church,
wliich is the natural corollary to its inspiration ;
and of the sense in which it is still valid for the
Christian Church as ' fulfilled ' in Christ.


The Lectures do not attempt to deal with many of
the graver questions which are being raised as to the
Old Testament. I may have miscalculated, but it
seemed to me that a frank and full recognition of the
extent of the human element in the Old Testament,
associated with an equally frank and full recognition
of its Divine character, is the necessary preliminary
to the solution of more difficult questions ; and that
this step has still to be made by many who have
grown up in traditional views of the origin of the
Bible. It is for such readers that these Lectures are

I venture to ask my readers, as I asked my
andience, that this course of Lectures should be
taken and judged as a whole ; that they should
not throw down the book in disgust after the
perusal of the first two Lectures without going on
to the fourth and fifth, which form the necessary
supplement and corrective to them. The human
and Divine elements in the Old Testament are
inseparably joined together, though we are perforce
obliged to consider them separately. We cannot
see the whole of the sphere at once.

And for my own part let me disclaim any wish
dogmatically to impose certain views upon my
readers. All I ask is that they should search the
Scriioturcs, vjlicther these things cere so. The Lectures
will not have been wasted, if they may serve to
stimulate any hearer or reader to a more diligent
study of the Old Testament. Each age has some-


tliino- fresh to contribute towards the better under-


standing of it. Each age has some fresh lesson to
learn from it. If the special work to which our
age is called is that of the historical study of the
Old Testament in its origin and growth, as the
record of the Divine education of Israel, one
special lesson which we may learn from it is the
lesson of the certain and wonderful accomplish-
ment of God's purposes for His people, and through
them for the world — a lesson of infinite encourage-
ment in times when faith and patience are often
severely strained.

I must not conclude without a word of hearty
thanks for much kindness show^n me in connexion
with the delivery of these Lectures, and an ex-
pression of my sincere admiration for the way in
which the Dean and Chapter of St. Asaph, by
gathering the often isolated and much-tried clergy
of a scattered diocese for a short period of social
reunion and theolof]jical instruction, are makino; the
Cathedral a real centre for the diocese. To have
been allowed to take part in such a gathering
is no common privilege. It leaves behind many
pleasant recollections, only tempered by the wish
that the duty imposed on the lecturer could have
been more faithfully discharged.

Lastly, my thanks are due to my friend the Eev.
li. Appleton for his kind help in revising the proofs.

The College, Ely,
August 1891.





The origin of the books of the Bible a legitimate subject
for investigation — Such investigation not to be feared, in
spite of the difficulties which it raises — Like the scientiJSic
investigation of Nature, it must ultimately teach us more
of the Divine methods ....... 1-3

The Divine Library an instructive title for the Bible —
The broad distinction between the Old and Ncav Testaments
— The triple division of the Old Testament into Law, Pro-
2)hets, ami Writings ........ 4-7

The function of Biblical criticism to confirm, correct, or
supplement the traditional accounts of the origin of the
books of the Bible — Criticism an inductive science ; its con-
clusions more or less probable — Questions of authorship are
not settled by Xew Testament references, which necessarily
adopt the current nomenclature of the time . . . 7-1 1

The books of the Old Testament to a large extent the
result of processes of compilation and editing . . . 11

{a) The Historical Books based upon earlier prophetic
narratives — The method of Oriental historiography and its
bearing on their character . . . . . . .12-15

(6) The Prophetical Books may in some cases owe their
present form to the prophets whose names they bear, but in
others are of composite origin — Much prophetic teaching in
the first instance oral, and subsequently recorded in sum-
mary by the prophet himself or his disciples — The teaching
of different prophets may be combined in the same volume . 16, 17



A prophet's modus operandi illustrated from Jeremiah —
The teaching of more than twenty years summarised in the
roll dictated to Baruch— This roll the basis of the existing
boolvT-Internal evidence points to the freer intervention of
an editorial hand in the later parts of the book — Probable
method of arrangement of prophecies in the roll — The two
recensions of the book of Jeremiah ..... 17-22

Important bearing of investigations into the origin
and character of the prophetic books upon their inter-
pretation . - 22, 23



Combination of the Avorks of different prophets in the same
volume illustrated by the book of Isaiah — Grounds for at-
tributing Is. xl.-lxvi. to a prophet living in Babjdonia
towards the close of the Exile — The Exile an existing fact —
Cyrus already in full career of conquest — The restoration of
the exiles close at hand 24-29

Evidence of style and language confirms the conclusion
that the prophecy cannot be Isaiah's — Probable incorpora-
tion of older prophecies in the work — The author a true
disciple and successor of Isaiah, worthy to share his master's
fame — This view involves no denial of jirediction, and is in
accordance with the general princiijle of the circumstantial
origin of prophecy — Gain to the interpretation of this pro-
phecy when it is brought into vital connexion ^^dth the
history of the time . . 29-33

(c) The Hagiographa —

The book of Proverbs a clear example of a composite
work, consisting of three principal divisions, distinguished
by marked characteristics — The product of the wisdom not
of one individual or of a single age, but of many men and
ages 34-36

The Psalter a composite work — Positive evidence of
editing, adaptation, and combination in particular Psalms —
Similar processes probably went on elsewhere also — The
main divisions of the Psalter — Previously existing collec-
tions included in them — j\Ieaning and value of the title a
Psalm of David— 'No good reason for regarding all the Psalms
as post-exilic ......... 36-41



{d) The Law-
Pentateuch or Hexateuch ? — ]\Iosaic authorship of the
whole Pentateuch a JeAnsh tradition, nowhere asserted in
the Pentateuch itself — Com])aratively small portions only
said to have been A\Titten by Moses — Grounds for maintain-
ing its composite origin from four principal documents :
the ' Priests' Code, ' the ' Elohistic ' and ' Jehovistic ' his-
tories ; and Deuteronomy — These documents based upon
still older materials ........ 41-47

Ancient Babylonian narratives of the Creation, Fall, and
Flood, resembling those of Genesis — These traditions may
have been brought with them by the Hebrews in their original
migration to Canaan . . . . . . . . 47, 48

Critical investigation of the origin of the Bible the
duty of the Christian student, not for its own sake, but for
the better understanding of the Divine message . . .49, 50



The history of the preservation of the Old Testament a
natural sequel to the history of its origin — The Scriptures
not supernaturally exempted from error in transmission . 51-53

Wide difference between the documentary authorities for
the text of the Old Testament and those for the text of the
New Testament in (1) age ; (2) character— Hebrew MSS. of
the Old Testament comparatively recent, and all of the
same type — This uniformity due to the adoption of a standard
text, probably in the first century a.d. , Avhich superseded
other forms of text ........ 53-55

Disappearance of ancient MSS. accounted for — Hebrew
MSS. are either rolls for synagogue use, without vowels
('unpointed'), or volumes for private use, with vowels
('pointed') — Hebrew originally written without vowels;
the ' vowel points ' a later addition ..... 55-57

The history of the text may be divided into four periods —

(i. ) Before Ezi'a. The old Hebrew character in use, as seen
on the Moabite stone, the Siloam inscription, and Macca-
baean coins , . . . . . . . . 58, 59

(ii.) From Ezra to 70 a.p. Introduction of the ' square '
character — The existence of various forms of text in this



period proved by the evidence of the Samaritan Pentateuch

and the LXX 60-63

(iii.) From 70 a.d. to 500 a.d. Determination of a
standard text probably connected with the reconstruction of
Judaism after the Fall of Jerusalem — Evidence of the Greek
Versions of the second century ; of Origen ; Jerome ; the
Targums ; and the Talmud — Labours of the scribes in this
period — KHhlhh and Q'rl — The exegetical tradition gradu-
ally hxed, but no vowel signs yet employed — Gradual
development of the system of pronunciation ... 63-69

(iv.) From 500 a.d. to 1000 a.d. Reduction of the exe-
getical tradition to writing by the addition of vowel points
and accents to the text in the seventh and eighth centuries
— Rival schools of Babylon and Tiberias — Elaboration of
the Massdra as a safeguard for the exact preservation of the
text — Character and value of the Massoretic Text . . 69-74

Controversies of the seventeenth century between the
Buxtorfs and Cappel and Moriu — Proofs of the imperfec-
tion of the Massoretic Text from (1) internal evidence ;
(2) parallel passages ; (3) the Versions — Examples of pas-
sages needing correction — Treatment of the text by the
Revisers — Relative superiority of the Massoretic Text . 74-82

Textual criticism not merely negative and destructive —
Its bearing on the study of the Old Testament . . . 82-84



In all the variety of the books of the Old Testament there
is a unity which testifies to a common origin — The fact of
inspiration assumed in the New Testament and in the
Christian Church, but no definition of inspiration given —
We are left to deduce from Scrijiture what inspiration
means .......... 85-90

The Divine and human factors in Scripture have been
alternately exaggerated, and inspiration consequently re-
garded as purely mechanical, or merely subjective — A true
view must take full account of both factors . . . 90-93

The question of the inspiration of the Old Testament best
approached from the consideration of its character as the
record of God's revelation of Himself to Israel in His purpose



of redeeming love with a view to the establishment of His
universal kingdom — Israel chosen and trained to be the bearer
of God's revelation of Himself and the mediator of His pur-
pose of Redemption to the world — This revelation gradual,
progressive, manifold — It required a record, which must
correspond to the revelation, and be at once superhuman, as
describing the will and action of God, and human, as
written by men in a language intelligible to men . . 93-95

The characteristics of inspiration must be deduced from
an examination of the inspired books . . . , . 95, 96

(1) Some positive characteristics. It takes primitive
traditions and purifies them — It treats history from the
religious point of view — It is readily recognised and gener-
ally acknowledged in Prophecy and the Psalms — General
evidence of the Providential superintendence of the record 97-103

(2) Some negative characteristics. It does not involve
independence of existing materials, or of research, or of
current literary methods — It does not guarantee immunity
from error in matters of fact, science, or historj^ — It does not
exclude imperfection, relativity, accommodation . 103-107

Difficulties raised by the neglect to observe the progress-
ive nature of revelation ...... 107,108

Double proof of the inspiration of the Old Testament in
its unity and in the response of the soul to its message 109-111



The permanent value of the Old Testament for the Christian
Church attested in the New Testament by positive state-
ment, and even more by the use made of it — The use of the
Old Testament in the New Testament recognises a deeper
sense in it, but differs widely from the arbitrary use found
in Jewish and later Christian writings — Use of the Old
Testament not merely transitional .... 112-116

Alleged neglect of the Old Testament in the present day
— Danger of such neglect — Due partly to past misuse, but
more to vague suspicions — Critical uncertainties must not
be allowed to deprive us of the use of the Old Testament 116-123



Some uses of the Old Testament for the Christian Church —

(1) Its historic use as the record of the preparation for
the Incarnation can never become obsolete — It must not be
left to apologists, but is indispensable for the confirmation
of faith — The argument from prophecy — The fulfilment of
prophecy 123-126

(2) The Old Testament indispensable for the interpreta-
tion of the New Testament, in regard to language ; theological
ideas ; our conception of the course and methods of divine
Providence and the establishment of Christ's kingdom 126-129

(3) National lessons from the Old Testament — The re-
sponsibility of nations — Personality of nations — Continuity

of national life • • 130,131

(4) Social lessons 131

(5) Devotional and practical value — Some religious ideas
most easily comprehended in simple and concrete forms—

The religious imagination — The language of the soul . 131-133

The Old Testament must not be confounded with the
New Testament — The Christian interpretation of the Old
Testament as fulfilled in Christ — It must be read in the
light of that fulfilment — The deeper meaning of the Old
Testament necessarily involved in the idea of its inspiration 133-141
Conclusion 141-143

Notes 145



TToKvfxepujs Kol TroXvTpdirojs irdXaL 6 debs XaXrjaas roh iraTpdcnv iy
Tots irpocpTjTaLS, — Heb. i. 1.

There have been times in which it would have been
thought a sufficient answer to the question, What
was the origin of the Old Testament ? to reply that

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Online LibraryA. F. (Alexander Francis) KirkpatrickThe divine library of the Old Testament : its origin, preservation, inspiration, and permanent value : five lectures .. → online text (page 1 of 12)