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Bishop Colenso's examination of the Pentateuch examined ; with an appendix online

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12 COLENSO'S EXAMINATION OF

age'^ (p. xxxi), must^ at least in part, be likewise ren-
dered to that Body — the Jewish Church — with which
He identified Himself, and from which the Christian
Church claims to be descended. We know that He, even
this Wondrous Man, before Whom we find ourselves
compelled to bow in such deep reverence, after we have
once, by accepting the Evangelists as true historians,
gone into His presence — ^^ avowed His membership of
the Jewish Church, and recognised its Divine authority;
that He ascribed unto its temple, its priesthood, and its
worship, a heavenly origin. All this is as much matter
of fact as that He actually lived. We may yet have to
ascertain the influence under which this was done by
Him ; but this, at least, is certain, that in this Church
He lived as one of its members, and that, as a Divine
institution. He constantly acknowledged it. And so,
as respects the Scriptures, which that Church presented
to its members and to the world, just as the Christian
Church now presents the entire volume in our hands,
of which they form the greater part — viz., as contain-
ing the charter of its authority, and the declaration of
its pui-poses — we know that in this character He
accepted and employed them. If He did not formally
assert their authority, we know that He habitually
assumed it. On this assumption He continually taught
and reasoned ; indeed, much of what He said is quite
unintelligible, except on a supposition that would be
inconsistent with the conclusion respecting Him which
we have already reached, unless we admit that He



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 13

ascribed authority to these Jemsh Writings^ and ac-
knowledged their genuineness and their authenticity.
It is quite true that we cannot claim any of His words
in sanction of opinions that were then current and
popular among the Jews with respect to their sacred
books ; on the contrary, much of His teaching was a
direct assault on those opinions. But it is not less
true that He ascribed to these same writings substan-
tial claims on men^s regards : He acknowledged them
as a collection of authenticated documents that are
worthy of reverent heed and of studious perusal, and
from which decisive evidence, and proofs beyond appeal,
might be derived.

" This must be admitted. We are not more cer-
tain that He of whom I am speaking is there really
and actually before us, than we are that He thus
spake of, and thus looked upon, those same documents
which have been placed, with such demands for atten-
tion to them, in our hands. He habitually gave them
the title which is equivalent to the direct assertion of
their authority ! In marked distinction from all other
writings then in circulation. He referred to them as
' The Scriptures,^ and He so referred to them as to
sanction each one of those divisions into which they
w^ere then classified . . . Examine the steps which we
have trodden towards this conclusion, and you will see
that nothing at present in your view is clearer and
more certain than this vision of Him into whose
presence the writers of the New Testament have carried



14



us, there worshipping in the Jewish Churchy and, in
the character of one of its members, taking up the
Scriptures of the Old Testament as if they had, in
fact, that purpose and authority which the Christian
Church ascribes to the volume now in our hands, of
which they form the larger part."^

Here, then — assuming the identity of our Scriptures
of the Old Testament with those writings as they existed
in the days of Christ — we begin to see the aspect in
which they must be regarded, and, consequent on this,
the spirit in which any examination of them must be
conducted.^ Most evidently it is, at the outset, a
logical error, in which Dr. Colenso cannot be followed,
to take up these Books of Moses just as we might take
up any other documents that have come by any chance
conveyance into our possession. That same reason which
compels us to look reverently towards the whole Bible as
the Interpretation and the Charter of the most ancient
Society at this time in existence, is indefinitely strength-
ened with respect to this portion of the volume, since we
have received it, at the hands of Christ Himself, as being
similarly related to the Society with which He was iden-
tified. And we might, as reasonably, ignore the facts that
the documents to be examined were written in Hebrew,
and not in English ; that they are couched in the free
language of the East, with its exuberant imagery and
abrupt transitions, and not in the style of the mere

' Reasons ofFaith^ Chap. iii. pp. 51-55.
^ Appendix.



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 15

literal and statistical documents with which this " ex-
amination" has confounded them, — as forget that they
come accredited in the manner I have described, and
that all these venerable associations are around them.
It does not, indeed, immediately follow, from these con-
siderations, that we should implicitly accept these Writ-
ings. As I have shown, in the work from which the
above extracts are taken, there are several steps between
this conclusion, if it can be reached, and those we
have thus far ascertained, — which, you observe, have
regard solely to certain aspects of these ancient books,
and to claims on their behalf which, on the plainest
grounds of reasoning, should be in the mind of every
one by whom they are examined.

There is a certain temper and attitude of thought
which, I say, is logically incumbent upon every such
inquirer. Nor, again, can he reasonably take the
first step in his investigation by rigorously searching
into particulars. He may not yet cross- question the
authors of these writings as to the details of their
narrative, until he has taken other preliminary move-
ments by way of surveying the ground of his inquiry.
He must, first of all, ascertain the general relations
of the narrative to the place and times with which
it is professedly connected, and then he must con-
sider the shape into which it has been cast, and its
internal relations and coherence. He must ask if it
has the aspect of a native of the region in which it
is said to have originated ; and if it wears the well-



16 COLENSO'S EXAMINATION OF

known features of historical trustworthiness ? In
other words_, he should next have regard to the
written and monumental information which synchro-
nizes with the period to which the writings in ques-
tion have been ascribed. He must look to those
"points of connexion between the Old Testament and
ascertained facts and documents bearing on the past,
which have otherwise been securely guaranteed.

" He must here confront this history with the
results of recent researches in Egypt and Arabia, in
Eastern Syria, and amongst the ruins on the banks of
the Tigris and Euphrates. He must examine it in
the light of that intelligence which is so vividly pic-
turing itself before every eye, in the cleared and
opened ruins, in the temples, and palaces, and tombs
with which ' Eastern views ' have made us all so
accurately familiar. And, as is well known, that cross-
questioning of these innumerable witnesses to our
documents, which they have themselves invited, has
been carried on most vigorously. The result also is
well known. It has satisfied the most jealous, nay,
even the most hostile, scrutiny which has been brought
to bear on them ; their trustworthiness as authentic
documents has been marvellously — nay, may I not
say, in some instances, miraculously? — established.
You are familiar with innumerable works, the purpose
and contents of which I am describing in this manner
. . . And, along with them, regard should at this
point be also had to those other evidences which may



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 17

be distinguislied as ^ internal/ and whicli are found
in what have been well called the ' undesigned coin-
cidences' of this volume. Connect them with the
testimony we gather from the coins_, and sculptures,
and inscriptions in our Museum, from books and pho-
tographs which are accessible to every one — and, I
think, you must acknowledge that, at all events, the
general trustworthiness of these historical books has
been established. ''*

Here, I think, we have a fair statement of con-
siderations which are necessarily preliminary to any
such detailed and rigorous inquisition into the accuracy
of the Mosaic history as that which is before us.
This general character and aspect of the volume,
these " surroundings '' of the ground on which such
an inquiry should be conducted, must, in the outset,
be taken into our account. It is indeed conceivable
that all these and other presumptions in favour of these
writings may be neutralized by the errors and in-
coherences that a " critical examination '' may detect in
them : it may be, notwithstanding all these depositions in
their favour, that their " story '^ is '^'' unhistorical,^' and
has been framed by some unknown editor, who, "with-
out any more consciousness of doing wrong than Homer
or the early Roman annalists had," compiled it "from
the ancient legends of his people;'^ — this is possible,
and as the consequence of discovering that such is
indeed their character, we shall then have to grapple

* Reasons of Faith, Chap. iv. pp. 58-60.

C



18

with the problem how such presumptions and argu-
ments in favour of the historical veracity of these
Scriptures could have arisen. But surely they must
be well-established inconsistencies_, errors that are con-
clusive and inevitable^ that may involve us in such a
troublesome dilemma : and^ remembering the ground
we stand on, and the subject we are dealing with^ we
should be watchful against mere suspiciousness and
captiousness, and against careless haste, as well as
firm in the purpose that our intended inquiry shall
be impartially and searchingly conducted.

All this, then, being — and I repeat it has been of
necessity — premised, I now proceed to accept Dr.
Colenso^s invitation. I will " watch carefully ever}^
step of his argument, with a full consciousness of the
momentous results to which it leads, and with a deter-
mination to test severely (the italics are his own), with
all the power and skill I can bring to the work, but yet
honestly and fairly, the truth of every inference he has
drawn, and every conclusion to which he has arrived.''^

Including the " Introductory,"*^ and " Concluding
Remarks," his examination is comprised in twenty-
two chapters. But their entire substance may be
ranged under less than one-fifth of this number of
divisions; and such a classification will be more con-
venient for my purpose, as I will here venture to sug-
gest it would have been also for his own. For, what-
ever the cause may be, we fail to discern the mathe-



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 19

matical sequence and order in his arrangement of his
subject which his attainments would lead us to expect.
ThuSj in Chaps, xvii.-xix., he gives sundry considera-
tions in proof of the impossibility of the number of
the Israelites being that which, for the sake of the argu-
ments of the chapters preceding^ he had already assumed
it actually was. Surely these later reasonings should
have been adduced first in order, so that his argument
might have run in some such form as this: — '^^ Here
are considerations which show^ that the Israelites could
not have been two millions in number, at the time of
the Exodus; and here, in further confirmation of this
result, if that be needed, observe how inadequate for
such a multitude are the resources of the w^ilderness.^^
I think this would have been a more natural arrange-
ment of his materials. His neglect of it brings us
afresh, in the later chapters of his book, on topics
which have already been partially disposed of. Similar
instances of like confusion might be mentioned; so
that, if we are to make any eff'ective progress, I am,
in fact, compelled to substitute for his own, another
classification of his material, and I will accordingly
arrange it under these four heads, w^hich, I believe,
you will find embrace the whole of it, viz. : —

I. Considerations of difiiculty with respect to the
migration of Jacobus family and household into
Egypt.

II. Similar considerations with respect to the



20 COLENSO'S EXAMINATION OF

Exodus^ and the journeyings of the Israelites through
the wilderness.

III. Difficulties in connexion with the Mosaic polity,
and with the circumstances of the conquest; and

IV. General considerations with respect to the
statements of Scripture upon subjects that touch on
geology, and on other sciences.

We will take these four points in order. And be-
ginning, therefore^ with the ^* considerations of diffi-
culty respecting the migration of Jacob's family and
household into Egypt/' — let us first collect some of
the notices which the sacred writer has given of the
circumstances of this movement. He tells us that

" Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do
ye ; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan.
And take your father, and your households, and come unto me ;
and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and ye shall
eat the fat of the land. . . . And God spake to Israel in the
visions of the night, and said, . . . Fear not to go down into
Egypt ; for I will there make of thee a great nation. I will go
down with thee into Egypt. . . . And Jacob rose from Beer-
sheba ; and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and
their little ones. . . . And they took their cattle, and their
substance which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and
came into Egypt, Jacob and all his seed with him : his sons,
and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons'
daughters, and all his seed, brought he with him into Egypt."

The names of his immediate descendants are then
given, and we are farther told, that after their arrival
Joseph welcomed '' his brethren and his father's house,"



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 31

and under this designation, introduced them to Pharaoh ,
who then assigned to them the territory which they
were to occupy and cultivate. Goshen is the name
given to it by the writer. From his description of it,
ft is at once" identified with that wide-stretching, and,
in its upper part, well-watered plain which lies between
the Tanitic branch of the Nile and the desert country
which thence stretches to the East. This plain had
been raised gradually by the deposits of the river ; and,
while firm and hard enough for the occupation of a large
community, it was, on account of its formation, of
exuberant richness and fertility. In this respect it
was, indeed, the " best of the land," though, under the
circumstances of the lower tingdom of Egypt at this
time, and especially from the absence of any inhabi-
tants to bring it under cultivation, "nakedness" was
a designation specially appropriate to considerable por-
tions of this territoi7.

Such is the narrative. And, reading it trustmgly,-
as I have shown we should read an historical document
presented to us as this has been-and throwing upon
it at the same time all the light which can be thrown
on it from contemporaneous information, we find it
describes in the clearest and simplest manner a migra-
tion, from the patriarchal territory south of Jutoa,
into Eo-ypt, of the entire community which had been
established there for the previous two centuries, and
to the chieftaincy of which Jacob had recently succeeded
This community had been considerable m the days ot



22 COLENSO'S EXAMINATION OF

bis ancestors, and it was now largely augmented by
his own acquisitions in Mesopotamia, and by tbe
possessions and retainers tbat bad gathered round bim
during tbe thirty years which bad elapsed since his
return into Syria. We see, in consequence, tbat it was
a considerable body which, following bim as their
patriarch and leader, went down with him into Egypt ;
and though the historian only mentions tbe names of
Jacob's immediate connexion, we find bim distinctly
alluding, under the designation of the patriarch's
" household,'' to the vast caravan by which be was
accompanied. It must, at tbe least, have numbered
many hundreds ; and indeed thousands may have been
comprised in it.

There is reason to believe tbat the Hamite dynasty,
which bad conquered the lower country, was reigning
in Egypt at tbe period when they " went down. " to
their new settlement, and tbat at this time all tbe
military force of tbe Pharaoh who invited them
was employed in tbe defence of his soatbern frontier
against the kings of tbe upper country. We recog-
nise his policy in encouraging the settlement, on the
northern province of bis kingdom, of the robust and
hardy people who, for upwards of two centuries, had
maintained their ground on the wilderness pastures of
Syria against the predatory Bedouin of tbe adjacent
desert. Unto himself and his subjects the establish-
ment of such a people on the north-eastern frontier of
bis territory, wliicb was so exposed to the attacks of



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 23

those same marauders, was in the highest degree ad-
vantageous ; while, for the sons of Israel themselves,
an exchange, from the bleak and inhospitable camping
ground on the south of Hebron, to the rich estates
of the Delta, was not less welcome and attractive.
x'\nd the change would be especially agreeable to those
who were at that time holding, through their father,
ascendancy in the community. They had grown up
in the plains of Mesopotamia, and had recently left
the most luxuriant portions of Upper Palestine; and
now Egypt, with its genial climate and exuberant soil,
and with its abundant pasture-grounds, was the very
place which, of all others, would be chosen by them.

Thus, taking into account the political condition of
the Egyptian kingdom, and the relation, in respect to
climate and soil, between that country and the terri-
tory to which Jacob had succeeded, and also bearing
in mind the history and character of the family
which was then uppermost in the patriarchal settle-
ment — the account of their immigration, as above
given, is seen to be singularly consonant with all
the circumstances amidst which it took place ; and the
more definitely and vividly those circumstances are
realised, the more harmoniously does the occurrence
thus described by Moses agree, and, so to speak, fit in
with the condition of things, adjacent to and sur-
rounding it, which is thus brought into our view.

This suitableness could hardly have altogether
escaped Dr. Colenso's notice, in the course of his



24



eighteen montlis^ study of the Pentateuch^ with the
help which Ewald, Kurtz, and Hengstenberg, have
given him : among the many facts which he " freely
admits (page 139) were to himself new, till within a
comparatively recent period," this also could hardly fail
to have occurred to him. It is not, however, brought
into his reader's view, if it was in his own. But, indeed,
there was no reason why it should be, since it appears
there is one line in the statement of the writer of this
" story -'^ which betrays its "unhistorical" ( = fictitious,
p. xvii) character ! This southward movement of the
caravan which we have seen " going down " into
Egypt never took place as Moses has described, — or,
rather, by Moses it never was described at all; the
" story " has been compiled by some unknown writer
" from the ancient legends of his people," because,
says Dr. Colenso, " it appears to me certain that the
writer means to say," in his enumeration of Jacobus
kindred, "that Hezron and Hamul were horn in the
land of Canaan, and were among the seventy persons
who came into Egypt with Jacob .... Now Judah
was forty-two years old, according to the story,"
when this happened, and Hezron and Hamul were his
great-grandchildren. Hence we must give up this
point, and this, he adds, is " to give up an essential
part of the whole story."

This is the first '^prominent instance" of what
he calls "remarkable contradictions" and "plain
impossibilities," which Dr. Colenso has alleged to show



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 25

that the " books of the Pentateuch cannot be regarded
as true narratives of actual historical matters of fact."
So it is^ however, that the only " remarkable contra-
diction " which can be seen in this part of the " story '^
is between Dr. Colenso^s version of it, and that which
the sacred writer himself has given. The passage
referred to, as we find it in the history, runs thus : —

'' And the sons of Judah ; Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and
Pharez, and Zarah : but Er and Onan died in the land of
Canaan. And the sons of Pharez were Hezron and Hamul."

But thus is it given in the '' examination : " —

" And the sons of Judah, Er, and Onan, and Shelah, and
Pharez, and Zarah ; but Er and Onan died in the land of
Canaan ; and the sons of Pharez, Hezron and Hamul."

That peculiarity of the verse, which this comparison
will at once show you. Dr. Colenso has — from no
worse cause, I really believe, than that rash and care-
less haste which marks his book throughout — sup-
pressed by his substitution of a semicolon for a full-
stop, and by the omission of the emphatic "were;"
that peculiarity, I say, makes '' it appear certain to
me," — as I believe it must to every attentive reader
of the passage — that the writer here means to say
that Hezron and Hamul were not born in the land of
of Canaan, but that, like those members of Jacobus
kindred given in v. 21 of the same enumeration, they
were born after the patriarch had descended into Egypt.
Nor does this conclusion, as any reader of the English
Bible may see, depend on the mere punctuation of the



26 COLENSO'S EXAMINATION OF

passage ; for he will observe that^ in this instance only,
is the substantive verb employed. (K-epresenting the
•l^'I^I^] of the Hebrew, it is emphatically given in the
Septuagint 'Eysvovro ds.) Thus, even on the surface of
our translation, it is manifest that, for some reason,
Hezron and Hamul are specially distinguished from
the other members of the family in the midst of
which their names occur ; and we may feel certain that
if we could have examined the papyrus on which
Moses wrote this passage in his history, we should
have seen this line, '^ And the sons of Pharez were
Hezron and Hamul,^^ introduced by him as a paren-
thesis. It was so introduced by him for this plain
reason, that, on a former sheet of the same roll, he had
already given some remarkable details concerning Er
and Onan : while, in a subsequent passage (Num.
xxvi. 21), he has to mention Hezron and Hamul again
among the heads of the family of Judah. (This, I may
add, supplies an answer to Dr. Colenso^s question
(p. 24), ^^ why the sons of Pharez should be named,
and not the sons of Zarah?^^ It was plainly because
the posterity of this one of Tamar^s children had never
obtained a like distinction.) In addition to all this, it
is hardly necessary again to recall the reader^s atten-
tion to the fact, that while there is no statement in
the list (Gen. xlvi. 8-27) which justifies the assumption
that all contained in it had been born before the immi-
gration — the phrase "coming into Egypt" being
plainly equivalent to "^settled in " the country— there



THE PENTATEUCH EXAMINED. 27

are names given in the passage which expressly negative
that view; e.g. in the mention of the ten sons of
Benjamin^ and of the sons of Joseph also^ who it is
expressly said^ were " born to him in Egypt/^

If any further explanation of Dr. Colenso^s difficulty
is required, he has given it abundantly, and with really
touching and wonderful simplicity, in his own large
quotations from Kurtz and Hengstenberg upon this
subject.^ He has done us service, however, in calling
our attention to the passage in this manner, since, as
you will see, he has really brought into view another
"undesigned coincidence,^^ which, I believe, has not
before been noticed. Singularly and strikingly does
ihi^ parenthetical dWvii^ion to Hezrou and Hamul agree

^ He does not, however, allude to the explanation of his
difficulty which is suggested by Lightfoot, in his Observa-
tions on Genesis (Works, vol. ii. p. 347), in this passage:
" The words ' at that time,' in the beginning of this chapter
(xxxviii.), have not so much any reference to the exact time of
Judah's marriage as to the miscarriage of Er and Onan, which
befell not long after Joseph was sold ; and so teach of his re-
quital in his children for the sale of his righteous brother." —
Indeed the probability is that, according to Eastern usage, Judah


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Online LibraryGeorge Smith DrewBishop Colenso's examination of the Pentateuch examined ; with an appendix → online text (page 2 of 12)