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The Bible of to-day: a course of lectures online

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without exception, human voices ; human, and
therefore often fallible. And we have seen enough
to make us wonder how much longer such a book
will hold the absolutely unique position which it
holds to-day, whereby its texts serve in the place
of arguments to impede the advance of science, and
bolster many a tottering iniquity.

But what I have told in these lectures is but a

♦ Walt Whitman.

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little part of the whole story. I have often been
compelled to give you mere results where I would
gladly have given you arguments, if the minutes
had been hours. And of the beauty and glory
which shine forth on many a page of psalm and
prophecy, wisdom and law, I have said almost noth-
ing, for I have been dealing with the different books
somewhat externally.

*• Others shall sing the song ;
Others shaU right the wrong ;
Finbh what I begin.
And all I faU of win."

But as for the principal idea which has been forced
upon us — that the religion of Israel was not "a
ladder let down from heaven," but one that was
built up round by round from the good solid earth
— for this I offer no apology. A hundred times
more rational, it is a thousand times more beautiful
than the idea it displaces. It makea the religion of
Israel of a piece with all the other great religions, of
humanity, and with the universal prder, which by a
million million infinitesimal variations has been
evolved from the primeval chaos..

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Hardly anything else has contributed so much to
give the origin of Christianity an abnormal and
miraculous appearance, as the gap apparently and
really existing between the Old and New Testa-
ment literature. I say ^^ apparently and really/' for
the gap is not so great as it is made to appear in
our English Bible ; there is a " missing link/* but
some of the materials for forging it are at hand in
the Old Testament. If Malachi were indeed the
latest book in the Old Testament Canon, as it is
represented by its marginal date, 397, B. C, there
would be a gap of four hundred and fifty years be-
tween this book and the earliest books of the New
Testament. No wonder then that Christianity has
impressed the multitude as an interpolation from, a
supernatural sphere, — Jesus aa unrelated person,
wholly sui generis^ teaching a doctrine of which
there had been no previous anticipation. That the
gap is in reality a good deal less than, four hundred
and fifty years has made no difference with the
majority, for the fact has either been denied by
their constituted teachers or passed over in prudent
silence. But if we have not wholly gone astray, in
the lectures of this course already given, the mar-


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ginal date of Malachi, 397, is far from being the
latest date of any Old Testament book, though it is
fifty years too late for Malachi, The books of Ezra
and Nehemiah^ even in their original form, were
written after Malachi, and did not assume their
present form until 250, B.C., when the books of
Chronicles made their appearance with these incor-
porated in them. We have good reason to believe
that many of the Psalms were written after Malachi^
together with the books of Ruth and Jonah and Ec-
clesiastes and Esther and Daniel^ the last only one
hundred and sixty-five years before Christ, and
Esther and Ecclesiastes not very long before. Thus
between Malachi and Paul's first Epistle, we have
a considerable amount of Old Testament literature,
a good deal of material out of which to forge the
missing link. But we have nothing like enough.
We get some wonderful glimpses of what was
transpiring in the bosom of Judaism ; but there is
need of much more light if we are going to under-
stand the natural development of Christianity from
the parent faith. The last word of the Old Testa-
ment, unless a psalm or two are later still, is Daniely
and even this was written more than two hundred
years before the first line of the New Testament. The
gap is still considerable ; the missing link still lacks
material. And where shall more be found? A
great deal more in the Apocrypha ;'hwX,X}^^hooV^
herein contained need to be supplemented by
others, which are not even contained as these are
in the Roman Catholic Bible, such as the book of
Enochs which is in the Bible of the Abyssinian

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Christians; such as the Sibylhne Books, the Book of
Jubilees* the Psalnis of Solomon^ so called, the
writings of Josephus and the Talmudic Mishna.
With all these helps much will remain obscure ; but
using them discreetly, they will convince the can-
did, if not the most skeptical, that a rose upon its
bush in June is not more natural and tunely than
Jesus was in the Galilee of Herod Antipas, and
under the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. And
moreover, the genesis and growth of much that is
implied in Jesus are thus made apparent. For
when the curtain rises on the scenes of the New
Testament, Judea is the province of an empire ot
which even the pseudo-Daniel did not dream, and
which lay far, far beneath the horizon of Malachi
and his contemporaries. Moreover Scribes, Phari-
sees, Sadducees and Essenes, sects of which
Malachi was entirely ignorant, jostle each other on
the narrow stage. The synagogue, an institution
of which the Old Testament is wholly irmocent, in
the New Testament is of more importance than the
temple. Again, the language of the speakers in
the New Testament is entirely strange, not merely
that it is Greek or Aramaic instead of Hebrew, but
that it is concerning angels and devils, concerning
immortality and the resurrection of the body, and
paradise and hell, of all which Malachi and his con-
temporaries had only learned the alphabet. And
yet no less a scholar than Westcott, anxious to
make a point, speaks of the time from Mdachi to
Jesus as a period of stagnation. Never at any
♦Sometimes included in the Aby-sinian Canon.

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time did a more active principle of change preside
over the fortunes of the Jewish people. And the
change was as important as it was immense, im-
portant for prospective Christianity as well as pres-
ent Judaism. No Jewish synagogue, no Christian
church. No Jewish scribe, no Christian minister. No
Jewish gehenna, possibly no Christian hell. No Jew-
ish immortality, no such gigantic other-worldliness,
obscuring the ethical simplicity of Jesus with its
absurd or solemn phantasms. No general resur-
rection of the body, then no special resurrection of
Jesus to usurp the place of every higher argument
for immortality. " If the dead rise not," said Paul,
" then is Christ not risen."

We have need then of every help of which we
can avail ourselves to understand the process of de-
velopment from Malachi to Paul. As I have saidj
the Old Testament is not entirely silent on this
period, though at the first blush it appears to be so.
In Est/ter we have seen the introduction of the
Purim feast into Judea; in Chronicles the entire
recasting of the national history in the priestly in-
terest. In Ecclesiastes we have heard a plaintive
cry of discontent with both the temple and the
Scribes ; in Daniely a great voice of prophecy and
exhortation,, the last not wholly vain, the prophecy,
like the predictions of far greater men, destined to
utter disappointment ; the first hint also of the resur-
rection of the body. The books of the Apocrypha,
with which we are to deal to-night, fill up the gulf still
more between Old Testament and New; but yet
other books are needed to bridge it over perfectly.

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These can be sought and found outside the Bible's
most inclusive boundaries. Their names I have
already given.*

The books contained in the 'Apocrypha, as it is
commonly printed, are not all regarded as canon-
ical even by the Roman church. The exceptions
are the two books of Esdras and the Prayer of
Manasses. The others were adjudged canonical by
the Council of Trent, April 8th, 1546, as they had
been by the Council of Carthage, in 397, A. D. The
Lutheran and the Anglican churches do not consider
them canonical, but allow them to be printed with
the rest of the Bible, and read ** for instruction."
Other branches of the Protestant Church have made
apocryphal, which originally meant hidden, (a hidden
meaning being attributed to the books), mean spuri-
ous, and in accordance with this view the Apocry-
pha has not been printed by other Bible Societies
than the Lutheran and Anglican. I have myself
been taken to task for using a text from it, as if I
had sinned against the Holy Ghost; but in this
pulpit it has always been a favorite section of the

The books of the Apocrypha were not admitted
into the Jewish canon, mainly, because the destruc-
tion of the Jewish state in 70, A. D., naturally threw
back the Jews with exclusive admiration on what
had been accepted as canonical before that event.
These books were then already knocking at the
door of the Jewish canon, and would have been ad-
mitted but for the destruction of Jerusalem. To

♦Vide, pp. 154, 155.

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the canon of the Alexandrian Jews, whom this
catastrophe did not seriously affect, they were ad-
mitted, and from thence passed over into the keep-
ing of the early Christian Church. Though never
quoted expressly in the New Testament their influ-
ence is often unmistakable, and by the early schol-
ars of the Church they are continually quoted as of
equal authority with the Old Testament and those
which have never been admitted into the Roman
canon ; Enochs which is in the Ethiopic canon only,
being even quoted in the New Testament, in the
Epistle of Jude, The Council of Carthage, which
decided on the canonicity of those which were
again canonized at Trent, was the same Council
which decided on the canonicity of our New Testa-
ment books. It had as good reasons in the one
case as in the other, and Protestants who attach
any value to its judgment of the New Testament
writings, are bound to attach equal value to its
judgment of the Apocrypha. The arguments of
Protestant divines against their canonicity, arc for
the most part miserable make-shifts. The puerility
of certain portions is charged upon the whole.
They are not written in Hebrew, we are told, like
the Old Testament books, ,No more is the New
Testament, and for. the same good reason. When
itwa3 written, Hebrew wa? not th^ lanjaag^ of the
time and plac2 wh^rc it was vvrittcn. Som^ of the
later Old Testam^iit bDDlc3 are written in a different
Hebrew from the earlier. As for internal character-
istics, whatever militates again?t their value can be
matched in the Old Teita.njnt. The most doubt-

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ful history is no more doubtful than that of Chron^
icles^ and is less wilfully misrepresented. The an-
gel of Tobit is no more fictitious than the angel of
Jacob. The murder of Holofemes by Judith is
paralleled by that of Sisera by Jael, and the gen-
eral spirit of the book of Judith is not so savage
and vengeful as that of Est/ier. But to those who
set no artificial value on the Old Testament these
comparisons are for the most part superfluous. To
such the canon is but a list of books which for one
reason or another came, in course of time, to be re-
garded as of remarkable and even supernatural im-
portance. Remarkable we may allow ; but to say
supernatural we have no faintest warrant. The
books of the Old Testament differ among them-
selves in value and significance. In the Apocrypha
there are books which, if not equal to some in the
Old Testament, are certainly superior to others.
We could give up Esther and Ecclesiastes much bet-
ter than the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus,
The first book of Maccabees is a chapter which the
epi^ of the centuries could ill afford to spare, while
Chronicles^ however interesting as a contribution to
the history of opinions, has no such moral energy,
and tells no such unvarnished tale of heroism and
unwavering fidelity. The genius of Handel knew
its own when it made Judas Maccabaeus the theme
of one of his most glorious oratorios. High art is
never narrow or sectarian, and therefore it has found
in the Apocrypha a never-failing fountain of Gug-
gestion. Music and poetry and painting have dis-
covered here some of their choicest themes, some

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of their grandest inspirations. Commend me to
the artists, rather than to the theologians, as judges
of what is most inspiring, and by consequence the
most inspired.

The first book in the Apocrypha is one which
might discourage a new-comer from proceeding any
further. It is the first book of Esdras^ sometimes
called the third because, Esdras being the Greek
form of Ezra, the books of Ezra and Neliemiah are
designated in the Vulgate as the first and second
books of Esdras. This book is for the most part a
rehash of material contained in Chronicles and Ezra^
and adds little or nothing to the original, which is
far more trustworthy as history. First we have an
account of the great passover celebrated by Josiah,
after the discovery of Deuteronomy and the subse-
quent reform; then, in order, accounts of Cyrus's
permission for the captives to return, of the rebuild-
ing of the temple, its interruption and completion
and the publication of the Law. Seeing that we
have all this in better form elsewhere, the most
interesting portion of the book is the episode, be-
ginning at chapter III., 4, the argument before the
king, Darius, as to which, wine, woman, or the
Truth is the strongest, from which, in slightly
modified form, we get the glorious proverb Magna
est Veritas et prcevalebit ;— ^" Truth is mighty and will
prevail," a sentiment whose latest echo is the noble
plea which Dr. Holmes has written for the substitu-
tion of VeritaSy the earliest motto of Harvard Col-
lege, for the later and present one, To Christ and
the Church :

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" Nurse of the future, daughter of the past,
That sicrn phylactery best becomes thee now :
Lift to Ihe morning star thy marble brow !

Cast thy brave Truth on every warring blast ;
Stretch thy white hand to that forbidden bough

And let thine earliest symbol be thy last."

The first book of Esdras was perhaps written
from a purely literary impulse, the writer fancying
he could improve on the original account ; perhaps
from a desire to hold up the character of Cyrus as a
model to the foreign oppressors of Judea. The au-
thor would seem to have been a Greek-speaking
Jew resident in Egypt, and this book to have been
written in the first century before Christ. Quoted
as Scriptural authority by Athanasius and August-
ine, it was nevertheless omitted from the canon by
the Council of Carthage, and this omission was con-
firmed at Trent.

The second book of Esdras, the fourth according
to the Vulgate reckoning, is a much more important
contribution to our knowledge of the hopes and
theories that were in ebullition in Judea, in the
time of Jesus. At the earliest it was not written
long before his birth ; at the latest not later than
the end of the first Christian century. The date is
harder to decide because the book has been freely
interpolated by a Christian hand, and it is not
always easy to distinguish the limits of the interpo-
lations. Like Daniel the book pretends to have
been. written by one who had been dead four or five
hundred years. This sort of pseudonymous writing
was the order of the day. The book is further like
Daniel in being an example of Apocalyptic writing.

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the peculiarity of which consists in its representor
tions of coming events by extended rhetorical vis-
ions in which imaginary beasts play a distinguished
part. The two great examples of this sort of writ-
ing in the Bible are the books of Daniel and Revela
Hon. The second book of Esdras makes a third
and the book of Enoch still another of the most
striking character, and so instructive that it is a
pity the Abyssinian Bible has its exclusive benefit.
Daniel's fourth empire, which was the Greek with
him, here figures as the Roman, and the great
events which Daniel had predicted on the downfall
of the Greek Empire not having happened, they
are here postponed till the destruction of the Rom-
an Empire is accomplished. The first two and last
two chapters of the book are plainly Christian addi-
tions. The remainder is made up of a series of
dream-visions, six in all, very mysterious, with ex-
planations hardly less so, concluding with a revela-
tion to Esdras that " the world has lost its youth,
and the times wax old," and a command for him to
take five men " ready to write swiftly," and dictate
to them the contents of all the sacred books which
had been burned by the Chaldeans. For forty days
he dictated day and night, and from his dictation
the five scribes wrote two hundred and four books
"to publish openly," and afterwards seventy others
for the wise only among the people. One could
hardly have a better sample of the critical acumen
of the early fathers than their acceptance of this
story as a true account of the miraculous preservation
of the Old Testament books, though of the twohun-

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dred and seventy-four thus written only thirty-nine
remained to them. Irenaeus and Tertullian, and even
Clement and Augustine, scholars among the fathers,
swallowed this camel as easily as if it had been a
gnat. And yet this marvellous story is but the
lengthened shadow of the fact that Ezra was the
publisher, if not the writer, of the whole Levitic
legislation, and that from his resolute activity dated
a new order in the religious life and doctrine of his
people. The second book of Esdras is a wail of
bitter disappointment over the hard fate of Judea,
but the persuasion finally prevails that, however
dark the present, the Lord cannot withhold his
mercy forever, and the appearance of his anointed
one cannot be long delayed. As a book written
during the first Christian century, and near its close
th^ book is interesting as showing how absolutely
unconscious Judaism was of the significance of
Christianity. The coming of Messiah is still future,
and the claim of Jesus to the messianic office does
not so much as demand a passing word of reproba-

** How calm a moment may succeed *
One that shall thrill the world forever ! "

The Abyssinian is the only Christian canon which
contains the fourth book of Esdras, it having been
rejected by the Council of Carthage, and again by
that of Trent. But between Carthage and Trent it
was printed in the Vulgate, and parts of it still
linger in the Roman service. Such a book is prool
positive that the forms of thought of the Ne>*

* ** Precede " in the original by Alfred Domett.

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Testament are by no means sui generis, but those of
the Jew as well as the Christian in the first century.
We find here many a curious analogue of Paul's
theology and the imagery of John in the Apoca-

The next book in the Apocrypha is the Book of
Tobit. It is the story of a faithful Jew of the As-
syrian captivity, whose prayers and alms are not
forgotten, but secure him ample blessings after a
period of sad mishap. In fact, the writer is one
who joins the three friends of Job to charge him
with folly in denying the infallible connection of
piety and good fortune within the limits of the
present life. The book is similar to Job at various
points, and it is not unlikely that the author had
Job in his mind and felt he was improving on its
treatment of the universal problem : Why is the
good man made to suffer? Tobit is remarkable for
its union of the most natural and human elements
with the baldest supernatural traits. In many parts
of it there is a charming simplicity. No other book
in the whole Bible has such a warm, domestic color-
ing; the home life of the Cohens in Daniel De-
ronda is hardly made more real than that of Tobit
and his wife and their son Tobias. On the other
hand, the supernatural element is omnipresent.
We have a complete doctrine of angels. A group
of seven, standing before God, present to him the
prayers of the pious. The angel Raphael, passing
himself off as a distant relative of Tobias, makes a
long journey with him. The bad angel Asmodeus,
desiring Sara for himself, kills seven of her hus-

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bands on their bridal night, and is finally outwitted
by Tobias who, with the smoking heart and liver
of a fish, a device of Raphael's suggestion, drives
him away into the utmost parts of Egypt, where a
good angel binds him. This is the atmosphere of
the Talmudic legends and the " Arabian Nights/*
Palestine has already borrowed the whole Persian
angelology. The seven angels about God repro-
duce the seven councillors of King Darius. The doc-
trines of prayer and alms prepare us for the Phari-
saic pride in these *' means of grace" which kindled
the pure flame of Jesus* indignation. But there is
no trace of Hellenism va Tobit. The book was
probably written in the first quarter of the second
century, B.C., and by a Palestinian Jew who had no
personal acquaintance with the scene of his stor}\
Hence, a good deal of bad geography. Origen and
other early Christian scholars quoted it as regular
Scripture. It was an especial favorite in the West-
ern Church and was made canonical at Carthage,
and again at Trent. Luther's fondness for it is well
known. Its homely domestic quality must have
attracted him, and its childish superstition certainly
did not repel him.

As Tobit is another Job, so Judith is another
Jael, — a mingled Jael and Esther, perhaps we might
say more truly. Judith is one of the great Bible
story books. Her figure, with the head of Hol6-
fernes in her hand, is one that artists have a hun-
dred times essayed to paint, and as I read the book
it is made far more impressive because, with my
mind's eye, I see Judith always wonderful with the

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beauty that a modern artist has given her upon his
canvas. The most of you are well acquainted with
the story of the book : how Nebuchadnezzar, King
of Nineveh, sent out his general, Holofernes, to
compel the whole earth to worship him alone ; how,
ravaging and murdering, he came at length to Beth-
uliah, and lay siege to it, and cut off its supply of
water ; how the people were in such sore distress
that they begged the elders to give up the town to
the invader; and then how Judith, the rich widow,
as good as she was beautiful, devised a plan for
bringing all the counsels of the enemy to nought.
Arraying herself splendidly, she sought the camp of
Holofernes, and was admitted to his tent. And
having seen her beauty, he forgot all things else,
and thought only how he might win her. But when
she feigned compliance, and he, for joy thereat, had
drunk him into a heavy sleep, she took his falchion
and at two strokes cut off his head, and then, upon
the plea of going to her morning prayers outside
the camp, she made off with the head of Holofernes
to Bethuliah. And when the Assyrians knew their
general had been murdered, and saw his head sus-
pended from the wall, they fled in terror, but were
overtaken and despoiled, and the remnant of them
was pursued beyond Damascus. And Judith's
share was Holofernes* tent, with all its gorgeous
stuffs and costly vessels, and better still a crown of
olive and the love of all her people, and many
years of honored widowhood. Such is the story,
and it is told very powerfully. It is a fiction, not a
history of any actual occun*ence. The writer did

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not try to keep up an appearance of historic veri-
similitude. He made Nebuchadnezzar King of
Nineveh after the captivity, though Nineveh was
taken by his father before the captivity^ and he
himself was King of Babylon. Wherever we can
check the writer's history, it proves to be absurd.
Holofernes is an unknown general, and Bethuliah is
an unknown city. But, though the book is a fiction,
it is a fiction with a purpose, as Esther was and
Daniel and Jonah. Its purpose was — all here is
probability — to fire some woman's heart to such a

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Online LibraryJohn White ChadwickThe Bible of to-day: a course of lectures → online text (page 12 of 22)