10$ THE BRITISH ACADEMY
THE SCHWEICH LECTURES ON
'THE TEXT OF
THE OLD TESTAMENT'
MONSIEUR ^DOUARD NAV1LLE
D.C.L., LL.D., D.LITT.
PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GENEVA
December 9th, 14th, 16th, 1915
SUMMARY OF LECTURES
THE TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT ACCORDING TO
THE rise of archaeology has considerably modified our views as to
the origin of the nations of antiquity. As regards Israel the two
important discoveries, the Tel el Amarna tablets and the Elephantine
papyri, have been made in Egypt. These discoveries have a literary
character ; but the influence of Israel in the world is due to its
books, from which its history has to be reconstructed.
At the outset we meet with two contrary conceptions : tradition
and Higher Criticism. We should like to judge Higher Criticism on
its own merits, not taking the apologetic side of tradition. Our
guide will be the late American divine, Dr. Briggs, an enthusiastic
advocate of Higher Criticism. This system maintains that the whole
literature of the Old Testament is a collection of books, the great
majority of which are anonymous or pseudonymous. Five only may
be considered as the product of one mind, as an organic whole.
Common sense cannot easily accept such a description of a whole
Higher Criticism began with Astruc, but was founded by Eichhorn.
It consists of two parts: a negative and a positive one. The
destructive element is the dominant one. But we shall look here
at the constructive side, following the principles and methods of the
critics. Taking Genesis as example, we find that it is said to consist
of 260 fragments coming from six different authors. Description of
part of ch. xlviii such as it is taken to pieces by the critics. Lines of
evidence upon which the Higher Critics rely : the writing must be in
accordance with its supposed historical position as to time, place,
and circumstances. No historical evidence about the six supposed
authors of Genesis. The priestly code, according to Prof. Skinner,
is the work of a school of juristic writers the date of which is between
444 and 432. There are no historical proofs of the existence of that
school ; it is a literary creation. If the laws contained in the code
are to regulate the worship of post-exilic Jews, why do they centre on
the tabernacle and the ark, and not on the temple, which is not even
mentioned ? They are not in accordance with the time to which they
are attributed ; and it is extraordinary that they ignore Deuteronomy.
One cannot admit that the Jahvist and Elohist writers should
have entirely disappeared as independent writers ; besides, they
could not have the information about Joseph which is found in
Genesis; their historical position is not in accordance with circum-
If we take the redactor of Genesis, where did he find the authority
to speak as he does ? The post-exilic Jews would not have believed
such a description of the past and the promises made to Abraham,
which were completely baffled. He was not a prophet nor a lawgiver.
Time and author are not appropriate to the composition of a book
Deuteronomy. The critics are unanimous in stating that it was
the book found by Hilkiah in the temple. One cannot but apply to
the Deuteronomy of the critics the name of a forgery. If, according
to Dr. Driver, the author reproduced faithfully old laws, why should
his statement not be correct when he says that they are the laws of
Moses ? The name of Moses, if he was the man described by the
critics, would not have appealed to post-exilic Jews ; it had no
authority with them.
Let us in one instance put side by side Higher Criticism and
tradition. The second and third chapters of Genesis, containing
the narrative of the creation of mankind, are said to be Jahvist,
and since God is called there Jahveh Elohim, the latter name is
a late addition. Tradition says that the three first chapters are the
work of Moses. In the first he names Elohim alone ; in the second
and third, Jahveh Elohim. Jahveh Elohim is one God. Thus these
two words teach us that from the first moment of man's existence his
God was Jahveh Elohim. The double name is necessary in the
narrative of the creation of man. In the next lecture we shall
inquire what was the original form of the text of the Old Testament.
BABYLONIAN CUNEIFORM AND THE CANAANITE SCRIPT
Moses is the first author in the Old Testament. Tradition
attributes to him the whole of the Pentateuch. The generally
received opinion is that it was written in Hebrew, not in the square
Hebrew character, but with the Canaanite alphabet called Old
Hebrew. To test the value of this idea we are obliged to go back
to the origin of the people of Israel.
Abraham left Haran at God's command, which means for a
religious motive. We know now the state of Mesopotamia at
that time. As far back as we can go the country was divided
between two races, the Semitic Akkadians in the North and the
non-Semitic Sumerians in the South. In the first half of the third
millennium Sargon of Agada conquered the country as far as the
Persian Gulf, and also the land of the Amurru Syria and Palestine.
Two hundred years afterwards there was a Sumerian reaction,
brought by the dynasty of Ur, but the Elamite conquerors put an
end to it. Their successors were the kings of Isin, under the last
of whom the Western Semites succeeded in establishing a Semitic
dynasty, after which the racial character of Babylonia became
predominantly Semitic. The son and successor of the king who
put an end to the dynasty of Isin was Hammurabi, the Amraphel
The date of Abraham is given by ch. xiv of Genesis. Abraham
was contemporary with Hammurabi. He left a country the literary
language of which was Babylonian cuneiform, written on clay
tablets. He probably had his religious books, which he took with
him. He may have had in his retinue a man who could write and
who kept records of his master's dealings with his neighbours. The
difference between written literary language and spoken dialects has
to be considered. Coming from Haran Abraham spoke a Semitic
dialect which differed but little from the dialect or dialects of
Palestine. The literary language of Canaan was Babylonian cunei-
form as in the whole of Western Asia ; we know it from the tablets
of Tel el Amarna and from the discoveries at Boghazkeui. Moses,
a Semite in Egypt, must have known the dialect of his countrymen
and the written language in which Pharaoh corresponded with the
governors of the cities of Palestine and the kings of Mesopotamia.
He wrote Babylonian cuneiform, for at that time there was no other
literary language in Western Asia, and for that he could use only
Objections against this statement. Character of books written
on clay tablets. If Moses had tablets brought by Abraham from
Mesopotamia, he re-wrote them.
The books of the Pentateuch are therefore not original documents ;
they have passed through two changes in language and script. They
were first written in cuneiform, and this fact upsets the critical
system. The universally received opinion is that the Old Testament
was written in Canaanite or Phoenician script, called Old Hebrew,
and that about the date of the Christian era it was changed into
square Hebrew. This is a mere hypothesis of which there is no historical
proof. Sir Arthur Evans has discovered that the Canaanite alphabet
came from Crete ; it was first introduced in the settlements on the
coast, and reached Canaan with the conquering Philistines. Tyre
and Sidon became powerful naval cities after they had received
colonies of Minoans. The Phoenician alphabet may have penetrated
into Canaan in Hiram's time, when the temple was constructed : of
this we have no positive proof, while we know by the ostraca found
in Samaria that it was the writing of the court of Ahab and Jezebel,
a Phoenician court. It could not be the script of the religious books
of the Hebrews. The stone of Mesha has the script of the con-
querors of the kingdom of Moab. The inscription of Siloah describes
a work done by Phoenician workmen. The name of Old Hebrew has
to be dropped in reference to the Canaanite and Phoenician script.
ARAMAIC AND HEBREW
Prophecy of Isaiah (xix. 18) about five cities in Egypt speaking
the language of Canaan. The Elephantine papyri show that the
language of the cities of Egypt was Aramaic. The plain interpreta-
tion of Isaiah's passage is therefore that Aramaic was the language of
Canaan. There were several dialects in Palestine. Jehudith Jewish
was the popular dialect of Jerusalem and Judah, as we know from
the message of Rabshakeh to the people on the wall at Jerusalem and
from Nehemiah. Nature of popular dialects described from examples
taken in Switzerland. The passage of Isaiah shows that Jehudith was
not the language of Canaan.
The Jews were settled in Egypt long before the Persian conquest.
They brought from their country their language, which the papyri
show to have been Aramaic, and their cult. Aramaic had super-
seded as written language Babylonian cuneiform. It was used by
the ethnic group called Arameans. Examples of Aramaic being used
parallel with cuneiform. The conclusion derived from these facts is
that the prophets wrote in Aramaic.
The generally received opinion is that they wrote in Hebrew.
What is Hebrew? This name is not found in the Old Testament,
which mentions only Jehudith, Jewish which is the dialect of
Jerusalem, and the language of Canaan, Aramaic. What was the
script used by the prophets ? Canaanite, we saw, was a foreign
alphabet which became that of Samaria and of the Samaritan
Pentateuch. If it had been the script of the prophets, what reason
was there for changing it for square Hebrew ?
The name read Jahveh is Aramaic. We see it in the proper
names. This name was not unspeakable. This prohibition origi-
nates possibly with the Alexandrian synagogue. We do not know
when Aramaic was first written and where, probably in Mesopo-
tamia. Cuneiform was still used for religious books in Solomon's
time, who deposited a copy of Deuteronomy in the foundations of
the temple. Objections against the idea that it was in cuneiform.
The Law of Moses was turned into Aramaic by Ezra, ' the ready
scribe '. The Law was to him the Law of Moses, as it had already
been before to Zerubbabel. Statement of Edward Meyer about
Ezra. Ezra was also a teacher ; it was necessary for him to turn the
cuneiform tablets into Aramaic. This work was in conformity with
the usual work and training of Mesopotamian scribes. The Law was
possibly preserved in one of the large libraries of which considerable
remains have been discovered. He may have divided it into five
books. The people of Jerusalem must have recognized the authority
of the Law of Moses. Reading of the Law under Nehemiah. It
was interpreted by the Levites. In the prayer are quoted all the
components of the Pentateuch assigned by the critics to a later
date. After Ezra all the books of the Old Testament existing in
his time must have been in Aramaic. Ezra, who revived the Mosaic
Law, may be considered the second legislator.
The translation of the LXX was made from an Aramaic text.
How did Aramaic become the language written with the square
Hebrew ? This script dates from the Christian era. It is derived
from Aramaic. The Jews who returned from the Captivity were
only men of Judah and Benjamin : Jerusalem became more and
more important; their sacred books had to become Jewish. The
rabbis or the scribes made a literary language of Jewish by adapting
to it a script, the square Hebrew. The Hebrew of the Bible is the
Jehudith, the language of Jerusalem put in writing.
A 000 1 1 1 943 7
THE SCH WEIGH LECTURES ON
* ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN RELA-
TION TO BIBLICAL STUDY,' by the Rev.
S. R. DRIVER, D.D., Fellow of the Academy. 1908.
'THE COMPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF
ISAIAH IN THE LIGHT OF ARCHEO-
LOGY AND HISTORY,' by the Rev. Canon
R. H. KENNETT. 1909.
'THE EARLY POETRY OF ISRAEL IN ITS
PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL ASPECTS,' by the
Very Rev. GEORGE ADAM SMITH, D.D. 1910.
'THE PHILISTINES, THEIR HISTORY AND
CIVILIZATION,' by Professor R. A. STEWART
' THE LAWS OF ISRAEL AND BABYLON,'
by the Rev. C. H. W. JOHNS, Lirr.D. 1912.
'JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN APOCALYPSES,'
by Professor F. C. BURKITT, D.D., Fellow of the
'A JUDEO-ARAMEAN COMMUNITY AT
ELEPHANTINE IN EGYPT IN THE SIXTH
AND FIFTH CENTURIES B. C., 1 by the Rev.
Canon A. VAN HOONACKER, D.D. 1914.
PUBLISHED FOR THE BRITISH ACADEMY
BY HUMPHREY MILFORD
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, AMEN CORNER, LONDON, B.C.