Hermann Marcus Kottinger.

The youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment online

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place opposite to the mountain, large enough for a whole people is there not
to be found, for these mountains are quite full of rocks and clifts.) "And the
whole mount was smoking, because Jehovah had descended upon it in fire, and
its smoke rose, and the whole mount quaked greatly, and there was a sound of
trumpets, exceeding loud. Moses was speaking, and Jehovah answered him in
the thunder. And Jehovah descended on the mountain, and called Moses to the


top, and Moses mounted." (Jehovah appears in clouds and fire, in a cloud of
tempest, in the midst of thunder and lightning* he is the god of thunder.)
"And all the people saw (!) the thunderclaps, the flame, the sound (!) of the
trumpets, and the reeking mount. And Moses entered the cloud, and passed on
the mount forty days and forty nights with Jehovah ; he did not eat bread, nor
drink water (?). And Jehovah spoke to Moses from face to face, as a friend
speaks to his friend." (Moses, then, has seen Jehovah's face; but seven verses
farther down he asks him to let him see his majesty, and Jehovah answers :
"■ You may see my back, but you dare not see my face," And Jehovah passed
by him, and showed hmi his back.) On the mount Jehovah contracts a
covenant with the Israelites, saying to them : " You shall be unto me a priest-
hood, and a holy people." The league is solemnly consecrated; namely.
Muses builds an altar at the bottom of the mountain, and bids the young men of
the people to put burnt -offerings upon it, sprinkling it with the blood of the
sacrifices. The people vow obedience to the laws of Jehovah.

Hereafter the author reports (2 Mos. 24, 7) that Moses has written down all
the words of Jehovah, and read them to the people. But according to another
passage, Jehovah gives him the law upon two tables of stone, written with his
own finger (2 Mos. 31, 18, and 32, 16). Later, as Moses again descended the
mountain, he sees the Jews dancing around a golden calf, adoring it; he flies
into a passion, and smashes the tables on the rocks ; Jehovah orders him to make
two new ones, and says that he himself will copy on them the same words
which had been written on the former. But in contradiction to this, it is stated
farther down (2 Mos. 34, 27) : "Moses was with Jehovah, and wrote on the
tables the words of the covenant, the ten words." On the one hand, then,
Jehovah will write them himself, on the new tables, and on the other, Moses is
said to have done it. It is also not stated which the ten words are, and on
which place of the book they are written ; therefore the doubt remains which the
true content of the tables may have been. Besides this, the ten command-
ments, as tbey call them, would not have had space enough on two tables of
stone which one man would be able to carry. The tablets are mentioned as late
as in the books of the Kings and in the Chronicles, which both were written
during or alter the captivity; the older books, even the writings of the prophets,
do not commemorate them ; therefore they certainly did never exist, neither the
book, in which Moses is said to have penned down the whole law " According
to the custom of the earliest times to write the laws on tables, and to put them up
publicly, the author has created the tables himself, and put them in the hand of
his legislator." *

8. The Tabernacle.

At the Sinai Moses raised also the Tabernacl*^ (according to 2 Mos. 25, etc.)
which ought to be Jehovah's residence. It is described in detail. It was 30

* G. A. Wislicenus, " the Bible."


cubits long, 9 wide, and 10 high. A curtain parted it in two sections, called
" the Holy," and " the Hdly of the Holies." From the outside it was sur-
rounded Ijy a court, which was formed by curtains of fine linen, and was ico
cubits long, and 50 wide. In the Holy of the Holies the ark of the covenant
stood, over which two golden Cherubs spread their wings. On those Jehovah
was said lo throne, in a similar way as he also rode in the sky upon the Cherubim
(the thunder clouds) ; from there he promulgated his oracles. In the ark the
two tables are said to have lain. The author does not consider the objection
obvious to his statement, how the people, which is said to have wandered during
forty years in the desert, has been able to carry along such a large tent, its court,
70 wooden columns, of which some were 10 cubits long, many gold-covered
boards of the same length, a sacrificial altar, and a great many carpets and tools.
Such holy arks are used by many people, especially by Nomades. The ob-
jects of veneration, in particular the idols, were conserved in them, and carried
along in their migrations. This was probably also the custom of the Israelites.
A dreadful power is attributed to the ark of covenant. Even the Levites,
though they were to carry it, were fordidden to seize it. or to look at it, and
besides the High Priest nobody, under pain of death, was allowed to behold the
Holy of the Holies. Once the ark was taken by the Philistines, but as it caused
death and calamity among them, they brought it back to the confines of the
Israelites. The inhabitants of the frontier-town beheld it joyfully, and the
Levites lifted it down from the wagon. " But Jehovah killed 70 men of the in-
habitants ; 50,000." (I Sam.) The number " 50,000 " was probably added by
a writer in a later time, though it can not be comprehended, how in a little town
so many inhabitants could live. When David would bring the ark to Jerusalem
(2 Sam. 6), and the team tried to break loose, a man (called Usa), with the best in-
tention to save the ark from falling, stretched out his arm, and seized it ; but he
also was killed by Jehovah. " It is impossible that the law has originated in the
desert, and that Moses has given it. A great many institutions, which are of use
only to a settled people, and only with such a one could originate and continue
to exist, as e. g., agrarian laws, municipal institutions, the royal law, the numer-
ous priesthood, the large pompous sanctuary, testify irrefragably to the contrary.
Therefore the content of the law offers a new testimony that the books of Moses
are neither authentic, nor have been written in so early a time.'' *

9. Conquest of Canaan— Joshua— Samson.

When Moses had died, Joshua conquered Canaan. (Jos. i — 12 ch.) First the
people crossed the Jordan. The crossing was again effected by a miracle which
the ark operated, because Jehovah was throning upon it. The priests carry it
before the people, and step with it in the water. " The water now stopped, and
rose like a dam ; and the water flowing down in the Dead Sea, disappeared."

* A. Wiscilenus, " the Bible." i vol. p. 273.


The first town which was to be conquered, was Jericho, the town of palm-trees
lying on the road to Jerusalem. During six days the army, headed by the ark
of the covenant, and seven priests with trumpets, passes once a day around the
town ; the seventh day the procession is repeated seven times ; at last the priests
blow the trumpets, the people set up cries, the walls fall in ruins, and the town
is taken. A terrible massacre followed; all inhabitants, not even women,
children and old men excepted, were killed, with all animals, and the houses
burnt; for Jehovah commanded it. Then it was the turn of Ai ; the inhabitants
of this town were also killed by order of Jehovah, and their dwellings burned.
Successively Joshua vanquished thirty-one Kings ; they and all their subjects
lost their lives. Once Jehovah assisted him by stopping the movement of the
sun (ch. lo). Joshua cried during the battle: "Sun, stand thou still upon
Gibeon, and thou, moon, in the vaHey of Ajalon !" The sun then stopped in
the midst of the sky almost one day, and the moon stayed too, until all the
enemies were destroyed. Such a solstice is impossible, because it would suspend
nature's laws, which are eternal, unchangeable, admitting no exceptions. (Cf.
views of the Univ., § 3.) In this manner, at Jehovah's command, all inhab-
itants of Canaan were extirpated, their abodes burned, and then the country was
divided among the tribes of the Israelites. What atrocious actions are attribut-
ed to Jehovah in this book ! In honor to humanity the truth of this whole
story may be doubted. National hatred against the aboriginals of the country
has dictated it to the author. There are several contradictions in the book ;
e. g., it states (21, 43) : "Jehovah gave Israel the land entirely; he delivered
all their enemies into their hands." On the other hand, Jehovah tells to Joshua
(13, i) : '^ You have grown old, far gone in years, and much land remains to be
conquered;'' and moreover the book remarks (17, 12): -'These towns could
not be conquered, and the Canaanites remained in this country." Finally, it first
tells that Joshua has conquered the entire country at the head of the whole
people, and after that the conquest is left to the single tribes (i, 12 — 4, 12,
— 17, 14, etc.).

The book of the Judges contains also the poem of Samson (ch. 13 — 16), the
greatest adventurer of whom the Old Testament narrates. Samson, first, tears
a lion in pieces, as easily •' as a kid." As he goes, some time hereafter, to his
bride, who was a Philistine girl, in order ti) celebrate his nuptials with her, he
finds in the decaying lion a swarm of l^ees, and honey. At the wedding feast
he proposes a riddle to thirty Philistines, and agrees with them to give every one
a holiday garment if they could solve it, but that they must give him such a one
in the opposite case. The riddle referred to that lion, and was this : " From
the glutton food was gained, and sweetness from the strong one." As the young
men could not expound it, they induced the young wife to elicit the explanation
from Samson by caresses and menaces, and on the seventh day they rendered
this reply : "What is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than the lion ?"
The irritated Samson kills then thirty Philistines, and gives the young men their



festival dresses. As his father-in-law gives the young wife in matrimony to one
of them, Samson, desirous of revenge, catches three hundred foxes, ties two
and two of their tails together, with firebrands between them, lets these animals
run into the fields of the Philistines, and thereby sets them on fire. They insist
on his delivery. The Israelites deliver him, bound with two new ropes. But
he tears them like threads, and kills, with the jaw-bone of an ass, one thousand
of them. He implores Jehovah, as he much sufters from thirst ; the cavity of
the jaw-bone opens, water pours out, and Samson drinks his fill. Another time
he takes his night's rest in a town of the Philistines ; they will take him prisoner,
and watch the door ; but he unhinges its foldings and carries them on the sum-
mit of the bordering mountain. They promise to the Philistine Delila a large
sum of money if she would elicit from Samton the secret of his strength.
First he pretended to lose it, if he were tied with seven new sinews. Delila tied
him with such one$ but Samson broke them like threads. Then he told her that
he would grow weak, if seven braids of his long hair were nailed on the wall ;
but as she called the Philistines, he pulled also the nail out. Tired by her re-
proaches and caresses, he at last discovered her that the secret of his strength
was in his long hair. Being consecrated to Jehovah, he had never before got it
cut; he would be as feeble as other men, were it cut. When he again was
sleeping in her house, she allowed his braids to be cut, and called the hidden
Philistines, They seize him, put out his eyes, and forced him to grind as a
slave in the mill. After some time, as they celebrated a festival in honor of their
god Dagon, they brought Samson in the temple, and ordered him to make
sport, and to dance. But he takes hold of both columns, between which he
stands, and which supported the roof, and pulls thenidown. lie was killed by
the ruins of the temple, with all the people who were present, and three thou-
sand more who stood upon the roof of the temple. Samson is the fictitious ideal
of the Israelitic young men fighting at the borders the young Philistines, of the
bullies of the frontier villages ; he is the Jewish Hercules.

10. The Prophets Elias and Elisha.

In the history of the Ancient Testament the prophets occupy an important
position. Moses already was called a prophet. When David was King, the
Prophet Nathan once comes forth as his adviser and judge. But it is the period
after the schism of the realm, in which the efficiency of the prophets is most
conspicuous. The occasion of their appearance were the moral corruption of
their cotemporaries, and idolatry. They saw that this public state of the nation
must soon be followed by the dissolution of the realm, and they recommended
morality and the service due to Jehovah as the only means of safety. They
hoped that the people would embrace these means, and that in this way Israel
would beccmie the supreme of all nations on earth, and that they all would serve
Jehovah. Undaunted, they made bitter reproaches to both the people and the
vicious Kings of Israel and Judah. They believed in their divine mission ;


therefore they believed the impulse of their religious and patriotic feelings to be
divine inspiration, and announced their thoughts as Jehovah's dictates. The
people attributed them the gift of miracles, and of a prophetic knowledge of the
future. In general their thoughts were also right; but they erred also if they
predicted particular circumstances. Their prophetic gift is not to be wondered
at ; it can be explained in a natural way by the circumstances of that time. So,
e. g., the separation of the ten tribes, which a prophet is said to have predicted
at Salomon's time, could be foreboded then. Isaiah (the greatest and most
respectable of all prophets) saw himseif the kingdom of Israel attacked and
conquered by the Assyrians, saw also Judea threatened by the enemies, and
Jerusalem, where his residence was, assieged ; was it, then, marvellous if he
foresaw and prophesied the approaching ruin ? Now-a-days the prophetic gift is
also rife ; some politicians and state-men enjoy it even in a higher degree than
those seers of the Old Testament. As for the rest, at those times there were
also false, egotistic prophets, who carried on prophesying as a lucrative business.

The greatest miracle-workers among the prophets were Elias and Elisha. The
former announced to King Ahab that no more rain would fall in his realm, till
Jehovah would be pleased to send it again. During the time of f^rought, a
raven brought the prophet daily, bread and meat. Finally, after two years, in
consequence of his prayers, Jehovah accorded again rain. But how could plants,
animals and men subsist, during this time, without rain ?

One of the most famous Biblical legends is the butchering of the Baal priests
by Elias. They performed the service in the temple of the god of the sun,
whose name in Israel was Baal (Mithras in Persia, and Osiris in Egypt), and
were appointed by Queen Jesabel. Elias proposes to the people that the
prophets of Baal first ought to offer a sacrifice, and that then he, too, would
sacrifice to Jehovah, and the god who would answer with fire ought to be their
god. The people approve the proposal. The prophets of Baal, then, are crying
for fire to their god from the morning until night; but in vain. Now Elias re-
builds the destroyed altar of Jehovah, digs a large ditch arAund it, puts wood
and the dissected bull upon the altar, bids to pour many buckets of water on it,
and to fill also the ditch with water ; then he implores Jehovah ; fire fell imme-
diately Irom the sky, and consumed not only the sacrificed meat, and the wood,
but also the stones, and earth, and licked up the water in the ditch. Now the
people believed in Jehovah, seized upon the Baal priests by order of Elias, and
this butchered them all.

In spite of this miracle the Queen did not turn to the belief in Jehovah, but
assailed the prophet's life. Finally he rides during a tempest on a fiery chariot
to which fiery horses were put, to heaven.

Elisha, his disciple, operates even more miracles than he. He curses in Je-
hovah's name the boys who stoned him on the road, and nicknamed him bald-
head ; two bear^ then emerge from the woods, and tear forty-two of them to
pieces. He satiates one hundred men with twenty cakes of bread, of which yet


some part is left, etc. From these narratives it is evident that the author intends
to represent the efficacy of the two prophets in a superhuman splendor. It may be
that there are some truths at the bottom of them, but it is also possible that both
prophets are entirely fictitious persons ; for the books of the Kings, in which
their exploits are related, were not composed until nearly 300 years alter Elisha's
death. The name Elias signifies : " My God is Jehovah," and Eiisha : " God's
aid." These names are quite adapted to their deeds.



1. The Birth of Jesus.

The birth of Jesus is reported by Matthew and Luke, but in two different ways.

According to Matthew, Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod, in

Bethlehem, where his parents lived. About the time of his birth Mages came

from the Orient to Jerusalem, saying : " Where is the new-born King of the

Jews ? For we have seen his star, and have come to do homage to him." By

this news Herod and the whole city of Jerusalem are terror-struck ; he assembles

the high priests and scribes, and understands by their statement that Christ ought

to be born in Bethlehem. Then he inquires in a conversation of the Mages for

the time, when the star has appeared, and concerts with them that, if they would

find the child, they should report it to him, in order that he also could do homage

to him. But it was liis secret design to dispatch the dangerous child. They find

the child, as the star stopped above the house of his birth, pay him their homage,

and make him presents ; but warned in a dream by a divine direction, they do

not return to Herod, but travel on another road back to their home. As Herod

saw that he was deceived, he ordered all children to be killed, who were aged

two years or less, and lived in Bethlehem and its environs. But Joseph, Mary's

husband, obedient to a divine order, had already fled with the mother and child

to Egypt, and did not return to Palestine until after Herod's death ; then he took

his residence with his family in Nazareth.

A similar story is related in the Old Testament (4 Mos. 22 — 24). There also
a wise man of the Orient, named Rileam, travels to Palestine; he, too, sees the
star of an Israelitic King, professes also his veneration to this King, returns then
to his home, etc. Matthew has imitated this story and enlarged it with some
features. It is seen, how incorrect his notions of the nnture, magnitude and
motion of the stars were, as he lets a star precede the Mages, stop and move as

he pleases, etc. At those times the prejudice was yet common that great, high-
famed men weie born under the influence of stars, which ruled their fate.
The massacre of the Bethlehemitic children is also a mere fiction, and drawn
from the ancient Mosaic legend that Pharao had ordered all Israelitic children to be
killed, and that only Mo^es was saved in a wonderful way. Though the Roman
historians depict the character of Herod as cruel, still they know nothing of snch
an unprecedented blood-shed,

Luke relates the birth of Jesus in this way : When Quirinus was Governor of
Syria and Palestine, the Roman Emperor Augustus decreed that the whole world
ought to be taxed. Every one went to his native town to be taxed. Joseph also
went from Nazareth, his residence, with Mary to David's town, called Bethlehem,
because he descended from David's house and family, in order to get taxed him-
self and his wife. Mary brought there forth in the inn her first son, wrapped
him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger, because in the inn there
was no room for them. An angel announced the child's birth to the shepherds
in the field ; they came and venerated it. Hymms of praise were sung by angels
in the air, etc. Hereafter the parents brought the child to Jerusalem, and repre-
sented it in the temple ; and after having perfoimed all rites of the Jewish law,
they returned to their town Nazareth in Galilee.

This account does not deserve more credit than the former. By the Roman
Emperors, indeed, Palestine, like the other provinces of their dominion, was
taxed, but for the sake of the census nobody had to travel from home to his native
place ; the descent might be important to the Jews, but it was not so to the
Romans, who only cared for the taxes. Besides, Luke subjects Mary to the cen-
sus also, though it was confined to men. Nay, it is proved by histoiy that such
a taxation could not take place at the time of the birth of Jesus, because Palestine
then was not subjected to the Romans. Matthew distinctly reports that Jesus
was born during the reign of Herod ; and T^uke also puts his birth in the period
of the government of this King. The taxation mentioned by Luke, happened
not till ten to twelve years after the birth of Jesus, when Palestine had become a
Roman province. Finally, the statement of Luke that the census was extended
over the whole world (to say, over the whole Roman Empire), is also incorrect ;
the Roman taxations never comprised the entire Empire, but only single provin-
ces. The angels also play a considerable part m Luke's report. The belief in
angels developed among the Jews since their captivity rapidly, and was most
flourishing in the epoch in which the evangelies were writterr.

This birth story turns yet more incredible, if both evangelists are confronted.
The circumstances of their stories are quite different, some portions even contra-
dict and annul each other. According to Matthew the parents of Jesus origin-
ally lived in Bethlehem, and did not move to Nazareth until several years after
their flight to Egypt ; according to Luke they always lived in Nazareth, and were
only for a short time (at the time of the child's birth) in Bethlehem. Matthew
states that Jesus was born in his parents' home ; Luke, that he was brought forth

in the inn, and that a manger was his cradle, Matthew let the whole family first
flee to Egypt, and from that land come to Nazareth ; at Luke they return to their
usual residence immediately after the performance of the legal rites. Both
evangelists let homage be done to the new-born infant, the one by wise men, the
other by shepherds and angels, in order to illustrate more brightly the high
dignity of the King's and God's son.

2. The Baptism of Jesus.

John, whom all evangelists called the precursor of Jesus, founded a peculiar
sect, and baptized in the river Jordan those who vowed to improve the morals of
their life, and to do penance. Jesus, too, wanted to be baptized. The reason of
it can hardly be surmised ; for, if he was entirely sinless (as the evangelists re-
port), why did he need the baptism ? Matthew narrates : " When Jesus was
baptized, and stepped out of the water, he saw the spirit of God descending, and
come upon him.'' Jesus, then, himself, and he alone, saw the Holy Ghost;
how could it be that John and other people who were present, did not perceive
him ? This descension of the Holy Ghost was also very needless ; for, accord-
ing to the evangelists, Jesus was without that a child of the Holy Ghost ; why
was this particularly troubled to come down from his celestial residence ? Three
evangelists state simply that this Ghost descended /i7ce a dove ; but in Luke there
are even the words : " He descended in dody form, like a dove." The dove
was to the Jews the symbol of innocence. Jesus himself admonished his dis-
ciples : " Be as prudent as serpents, and as simple as doves." In general, in
the Orient the dove is deemed to be holy. In the Bible it denotes God's spirit.
So Isaiah says in a similar way (ch. 42) : " See my elected one in whom my
soul takes delight. //«/ mj' spirit upon hitn ; he shall promulgate the right to
the nations." For the rest celestial voices were an article of creed in which
people of ancient times usually believed, they happened also frequently among
Greeks and Romans.

3. The Temptation of Jesus. ,

After the baptism of Jesus, his temptation immediately followed. Matthew
says: " Jesus was then conducted by the spirit into the desert, in order to be
tempted by the devil. After having fasted forty days and nights, he was hungry.

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Online LibraryHermann Marcus KottingerThe youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment → online text (page 19 of 28)