W. (William) Sanday.

Inspiration. Eight lectures on the early history and origin of the doctrine of Biblical inspiration; being the Bampton lectures for 1893 online

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least tentative about the prophecy of Amos and
Hosea. Neither as literature nor as religious teaching
does it bear the marks of an age of beginnings.
Jerome's criticism of Amos as rtisticus sermone seems
to have been wholly a priori, based upon his rustic
origin and calling. We are assured that, on the
contrary, his style is pure and classical'. We can in
fact see for ourselves even in the English version
that he is no unpractised writer. His literary dress
sits easily upon him ; he is not like one wearing
armour which had not been proved. The formulae
which are characteristic of the prophetic writing are
all there, without any hint that they are newly
coined ^ The religious ideas are such as must have
had a long history behind them. The fusion of morality
and religion is complete. And not only does the
prophet himself teach very exalted doctrine, but he
assumes that it will be understood by those to whom
it is addressed ; the nation itself must have had a
long- discipline ^.

But although we may conjecture that there were
writing prophets before Amos, we cannot prove it.

' Driver, Introd. p. 297.

" Such for instance as the opening words, ' The words of Amos . . .
which he saw concerning Israel,' &c. (cf. Is. i. i, ' The vision of
Isaiah . . . which he saw'; Hab. i. i, 'The burden which Habakkuk
the prophet did see,' &c.) ; ' Thus saith the Lord ' (Amos i. 3, 6, 9,
II, 13, &c.) ; 'Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken' (Amos
iii. I ; cf. iv. i, v. i), &c.

^ Stress is very justly laid on these points by Dr. A. B. Davidson in
two articles in The Expositor, 1887, i. 161 ff., ii. 161 ff. The whole
argument as to the presuppositions of the early prophets is fully
worked out by Professor James Robertson, Baird Lectures, pp. 50-166.

Beginnings of Written Law. 231

We must therefore content ourselves with pointing
out that, so far as the authority with which he speaks
is concerned, Amos had many predecessors. In this,
acting prophets and writing prophets are as one.
The history of the prophetic order does but repeat
itself. Amos before Amaziah priest of Bethel (Amos
vii. 10-17); Elijah before Ahab ; Nathan before
David ; Samuel before Saul ; the picture is in all its
essential features the same. The embryonic germ
of the Canon of Prophetic Scriptures is as old as
Prophecy itself. Development of course there was
in the teaching of the prophets ; but all through
their long line, the conception of Prophecy, as the
Word of God, had nothing added to it. It is as
complete in Moses as in Malachi. As seen at the
time, the change from speech to writing was little
more than an accident, though it was made to serve
a mighty purpose.

The existence of writing prophets before Amos
must be regarded as uncertain. Perhaps it is probable
that if there had been such we should have heard
more of them. But however that may be, there can
be no question about the Law. Traces of law com-
mitted to writing and accepted by the people as
authoritative go back far beyond Josiah. No doubt
the promulgation of the Deuteronomic Code by that
king was a very striking event. When we look at it we
soon see that the promulgation of what is now be-
lieved to be the full (or nearly the full) Pentateuchal
legislation by Ezra and Nehemiah in the year 444 b.c.
is really modelled upon it. The later scene is an

232 V. The Old Testament as a Collection.

amplified counterpart of the earlier. But again we
have to ask whether that in its turn does not bear the
same sort of relation to an earlier event still. In
order quite to appreciate the state of the case we need
to have the scene under Josiah set before us. 'And the
king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders
of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up to
the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and
all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the
priests and the prophets and all the people, both small
and great : and he read in their ears all the words of
the book of the covenant which was found in the
house of the Lord. And the king stood by the
pillar (or on the platform, R.V. marg.), and made a
covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and
to keep His commandments, and His testimonies, and
His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to
confirm the words of this covenant that were written
in this book : and all the people stood to the cove-
nant ^' It is one of those ideal moments sometimes
reached in history when a thrill of high resolve has
passed through king or leaders and people, and all
alike have risen to the full consciousness of their

But now let us see if there is nothing like it. And
first let us fix our attention upon the ceremonial of
the promulgation. Rather more than two centuries
before, in the coup d'etat which overthrew the usurping
queen Athaliah, another graphic scene is presented to
us. The young king Joash is brought out of his
' 2 Kings xxiii. 1-3.

Beginnings of Written Law. 233

hiding, and the guards collected together by a strata-
gem for that purpose are ranged round him ; and the
high-priest Jehoiada puts upon him ' the crown and
the testimony ' ; and he is anointed, amid shouts and
clapping of hands. Then we read that ' when Atha-
liah heard the noise of the guard and of the people,
she came to the people into the house of the Lord :
and she looked, and, behold, the king stood by the
pillar (or on the platform, R.V. marg.), as the manner
was, and the captains and the trumpets by the king ;
and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with
trumpets.' And then a little later : ' And Jehoiada
made a covenant between the Lord and the king and
the people, that they should be the Lord's people ;
between the king also and the people ^.'

The one thing which is wanting here is the ' Book
of the Law.' For its place is hardly taken by the
'testimony' (ver. 12), both the reading and meaning
of which is disputed^. Otherwise the ceremonial is
extremely like that which accompanies the promulga-
tion of Deuteronomy; the king standing ' by the
pillar ' (or ' on the platform ' — the same word with the
same ambiguity), and the solemn covenant of king and
people with Jehovah.

But a parallel for the ' Book of the Law' is not far
to seek. We have already had occasion to speak of
the Book of the Covenant, the oldest of all the Pen-
tateuchal Codes. This book is incorporated in one

' 2 Kings xi. 12-14, '7-

"^ Several critics substitute ' bracelets,' as an emblem of royalty
«?. P. B., ad loc).

2 34 y. The Old Testament as a Collection.

of the two primitive documents, the Elohistic or the
JehovisticS it is not certain which ; and one or other
of them contains an account of its solemn acceptance
by the people. First sacrifices are offered, and the
altar is sprinkled with a part of the blood ; and then
the book is read in the audience of the people. ' And
they said, All that the Lord hath spoken will we do,
and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and
sprinkled it on the people, and said. Behold the blood
of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you ^.'
We do not take this as evidence for the time of Moses ;
we take it as evidence for the age to which the docu-
ments belong, i.e. in any case for a date earlier — we
cannot say positively how much earlier — than 750 B.C.
But at that date what element in the fundamental
idea of Canonicity is missing ? We have a book, a
law-book, solemnly read and accepted by the people
as binding ; and binding, because it comes from God.

This is as far as we can go in the way of written
documents, but the next step carries us back to Sinai
itself The narrative of the events which happened
at Sinai is some centuries later than those events, and
therefore cannot be guaranteed to represent them with
literal accuracy. It is however, as we have seen,
when we first meet with it a double narrative, woven
together from two separate documents. One of these

^ Addis confidently claims the Book of the Covenant, with the
whole of Ex. xxiv. 1-14, for the Elohist (Documents of the Hexateuch,
i. 137 ff.); Driver refers it, with Ex. xxiv. 3-8, to the Jehovist; Socin
does not discriminate.

" Exod. xxiv. 5-8.

The History of the Law. 235

probably comes from the Northern Kingdom, the
other from the Southern. They were composed in-
dependently of each other. Yet in their general
tenor they agree. Both alike describe the giving of
the Law as associated with an awe-inspiring theo-
phany. The event clearly had a strong hold upon
the popular imagination. Perhaps there are traces of
a similar belief as early as the Song of Deborah ^,
which would be a long stepping-stone towards the age
of the Exodus and the Wanderings. But what is a
theophany but the highest conception which the men
of those days could form of a sanction investing that
to which it was applied with inviolable sanctity ?
I cannot undertake to say exactly what it was that
God was pleased to reveal through Moses ; but what-
ever it was, it contained the germ and potentiality of all
that was to follow, and we may be sure that from the
very first it was accepted as coming from God Himself
There are then four stages in the history of the
Law: (i) the actual beginnings, limited in extent and
indeterminate in outline, which Moses was inspired to
lay, of the Pentateuchal legislation, with its acceptance
by the people ; (2) the committal to writing of the
Book of the Covenant, already regarded as heaven-
given and binding upon the conscience ; (3) the pro-
mulgation of the Deuteronomic Code by Josiah in
62 1 B.C. ; and (4) the final promulgation of the complete,
or all but complete, body of Pentateuchal laws by Ezra
and Nehemiah in 444 B.C. There is a common likeness

' Compare the Rev. G. A. Cooke's excellent monograph, The
History and Song of Deborah, Oxford, 1892, p. 31.

236 V. The Old Testament as a Collection.

running through each of these stages. They are all
constructed on the same pattern. The body of laws
is added to from time to time, and there is an increase
in bulk in the later as compared with the earlier
Codes. The committal to writing begins, so far as
a critical analysis of the existing documents will carry
us, with the Book of the Covenant. But the funda-
mental idea which lies at the root of the Canon of the
Law, the idea of a legislation given and received as
coming from God and therefore absolutely binding
upon the conscience, was present from the very first.

II. In the case of the Law there was a more or
less regular machinery, in the first place for the pre-
servation, and afterwards for the multiplication, of the
sacred writings. Their sacredness is implied in the
fact that some of them at least were deposited with
the ark in the Holy of Holies. For instance in
regard to the Book of Deuteronomy, the Levites are
commanded to take it and put it by the side of the
ark of the covenant, that it might be there ' for a
witness against Israel ^.' The priests were the proper
custodians of the Law, and they were expected in
certain cases to furnish copies of it. Thus the king
for the time being is enjoined as soon as he succeeds
to the throne to have a copy made of the law of the
Monarchy from the standard exemplar which is in
the charge of the priests, and he is to keep it by him
and read in it as a perpetual reminder of his duties ^.

^ Deut. xxxi. 26. Compare i Sam. x. 25.
" Deut. xvii. 18-20.

Transmission of Prophetic Writings. 237

In the case of the prophets there was less security
both for the safe-keeping of the original writings and
for their regular transmission. The Book of Jeremiah
in particular supplies us with more than one incidental
glimpse of the history of a prophetic writing — the
circumstances under which it was composed and pub-
lished, the authority with which it was received, and
the risks it ran of mutilation or destruction. For
twenty-three years after his call Jeremiah had confined
himself to oral prophecy ^ His prophecies had been
delivered usually in some conspicuous public place,
now just outside one of the gates of Jerusalem, now
in the court of the temple^ ; but he had committed
nothing to writing. It was not until the fourth year
of Jehoiakim (605-4 B.C.) that he received an express
command, conveyed to him like other Divine com-
mands, to write down what he had spoken. We may
note in passing that this long delay shows that
written prophecy had by no means entirely superseded
oral. It shows also that the prophets themselves
were far from being aware of the full significance of
the change. Nor could we have a better example
of the action of that great overruling Providence of
which the prophets were but instruments. There was
a Power at work behind the Bible, the full designs of
which were beyond the ken even of those who had
the deepest insight into them,

Jeremiah did not write himself, but dictated to
his disciple Baruch, who wrote we may suppose on a

^ Compare Jer. xxv. i, 3, with xxxvi. i ff.
^ Jer. xix. 2 ; xxvi. 2.

238 V. The Old Testament as a Collectwn.

roll of roughly prepared leather'. Jeremiah is in
hiding, but a year (or according to another reading,
four years 2) later Baruch is told to take the roll into
the temple and read it to the assembled people. It
is a special fast day, so that the temple is crowded,
and Baruch takes his stand on the steps leading into
the upper court, where his words will be well heard.
The reading makes a profound impression. The
princes hear of it, and the roll must go to the king.
Jehoiakim reads in it a little way, but his anger gets
the better of him. He takes up a scribe's knife which
lay near, cuts the roll into shreds, and throws them
into the brazier which warmed the apartment in which
he was sitting. The result is only that a second
amplified copy is written in which the impending fate
of Jehoiakim himself is described more plainly ^

There is much to be learnt from this narrative.
We infer not only from the long delay in writing down
the earlier prophecies, but still more distinctly from
the enlarged edition which tells us that there were
added ' many like words,' that the prophets did not
feel themselves strictly bound to a literal reproduction
of their spoken addresses. We gather that the publi-
cation of a book of prophecies might be very similar
to that of a book of laws. We see that the written
words of a prophet, read by the mouth of another,
were received with the same deference as the spoken
words. They may of course be defied, as they were
defied by Jehoiakim, but such defiance is an act of

' Jer. xxxvi. 1-4. ^ Jer. xxxvi. 9 {Q. P. B.).

' Jer. xxxvi. 9-32.

Transmission of Prophetic Writings. 239

impiety which brings down swift punishment. We
learn also that the natural scribe and custodian of
a prophet's writings is a trusted disciple.

This last inference might have been drawn from
a much earlier passage. More than a hundred years
before Isaiah had received a command, ' Bind thou up
the testimony, seal the law {or the instruction) among
My disciples ^.' It is Jehovah who is speaking,
but commentators are agreed that the disciples in
question are personal adherents of Isaiah to whose
care the prophetic oracle is emphatically committed.
Once more we observe that the charge to take
steps for the permanent preservation of a prophetic
writing comes by direct inspiration. The ' binding
and sealing ' are expressive of the authority which the
writing in question is to carry.

But now, when we remember how these prophetic
rolls were to be preserved, we see at once to what
dangers they must have been exposed. The number
of a prophet's disciples would often be small. It
would seem as if Baruch was the only one in im-
mediate personal attendance upon Jeremiah. But if
so, when the prophet was gone and he was gone,
who was to take their place ? When the life of
a book depended upon a single copy and a single
guardian its continued existence was a precarious
matter. The men of those days lived in times quite
as troublous as that ' present distress ' of which
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians ^. Their country
wasted by successive invasions; Jerusalem twice taken
^ Is. viii. 16. ' I Cor. vii. 26.

2 4° V. The Old Testament as a Collection.

and once sacked and destroyed ; hurried flights, like
that of Zedekiah's men of war ' by the way of the
gate between the two walls, which was by the king's
garden ' ; ' long marches into the interior, with all the
chances of flood and field; the few precious scraps of
roll hastily stowed away in the first receptacle that
offered, and then perhaps committed as a last bequest
by one dying exile to another. Can we wonder if,
when the attempt was made to collect what remained
from the wreck, it was attended by serious difficulties?
At first there was no central body to make the attempt.
Little by little there grew up, and from Ezra onwards
we may believe that there flourished, a class of scribes
specially devoted to the collecting, transcription, and
study of the ancient writings. But in many cases the
mischief was done before these came into their hands.
Ownerless fragments of MS. were straying about.
Portions of the work of one prophet would be mixed
up with the work of another. And the editors into
whose hands they came had no clue to discriminate
between them. Sometimes mere juxtaposition in
place, the fact that two or three rolls or portions of
rolls were found together in the same case, might be
held to prove identity of authorship. And so nothing
would be easier than that intrusive matter should
sometimes make its way into the later collections, or
that the order of a prophet's writings should not be
preserved. In fact the ancient editors would often
have no real advantage over us moderns, while they
were without many of our methods and appliances.
' 2 Kings XXV. 4.

Growth of a Reading Public. 241

Hence they have left, and it was natural that they
should leave, something still to be done both in the
rearrangement of the order of the prophecies and in
the assignment of the authorship of particular portions.
The longest and the most important of the Prophetic
Books have perhaps suffered most; both Jeremiah
and Isaiah from dislocation of order, and Isaiah also
from the mixing up of anonymous fragments of
prophecy with his own. We must leave it to specialists
to decide how far the process has gone. Some of
them are perhaps inclined to run into extremes ; but
we cannot dispute the major premiss from which they
start, and a sober judgment is likely to prevail in
the end.

As we descend in time the need for collected and
multiplied editions became greater. It is important
to trace this growing need, because we are apt to
forget that the production of books depends quite as
much upon the readers as on the writers. Before
there can be a demand for books there must be a
reading public. But it must have taken some time
before such a public was formed. In Greece the
signs of a reading public hardly begin much before
the Peloponnesian War^ In Palestine they are no
doubt older than this, though at first they do not
extend very far. The chief students of the prophetic
writings were probably for some time the prophets
themselves. We see traces of this when we find in
Isaiah and Micah, for instance, or in Jeremiah and
Obadiah, passages which resemble each other so
' F. B. Jevons, History of Greek Literature, p. 45.

2 42 V. The Old Testament as a Collection.

closely that as the one does not seem in either case
to be directly dependent upon the other, the alter-
native hypothesis becomes probable, that both are
dependent upon some older writing now lost \

Next would come the activity of Schools. We
have seen that Isaiah had disciples to whom we
doubtless owe not the final collecting and arrange-
ment of the Book of Isaiah as we have it, but that
of some of the minor groups of prophecies included
in it. It is not however clear that they continued
the literary work of their master. It is otherwise
when we come to Deuteronomy. The point at which
this book — or rather the nucleus of the present
book — enters the stream of Hebrew literature is
very strongly marked. ' As it fixed for long the
standard by which men and actions were to be judged,
so it provided the formulae in which these judgments
were expressed ; in other words it provided a religious
terminology which readily lent itself to adoption by
subsequent writers^.' In two directions this influ-
ence is apparent : partly upon succeeding prophets,
Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Second Part
of Isaiah — Jeremiah in particular showing constant
signs of it ; and still more upon succeeding historians.
Even Deuteronomy itself is probably not the work
of a single writer, but of a school or succession of
writers, who have left their impress deeply traced upon
the Books of Joshua, Judges, Kings, and in sonie-

^ Driver, Inlrod., pp. 203, 208 f. Cornill {EM. p. 137 f.) disputes
the genuineness of Is. ii. 2-4, which is however defended by Duhm.
^ Driver, In trod., p. 95.

Influence of Schools. 243

what less degree upon the Books of Samuel. The
editors who brought together the historical materials
contained in these books worked in the Deutero-
nomic spirit and carried on the Deuteronomic tradition.
Jeremiah himself has left his mark upon a group
of psalms — possibly upon a group of psalmists —
as well as upon other later writers 1. Ezekiel was
evidently a close student not only of his predecessors
among the prophets but of the older collections of
laws. The Book of Job is the centre of a number
of affinities which may be due not so much to literary
dependence as to the fact that the writers move in
a similar circle of ideas ^. When we descend to
Zechariah we find direct references to the ' former pro-
phets ^.' The literature of the later period generally,

' Hitzig went further than any other critic has done in claiming
a number of Psalms as the actual composition of Jeremiah : viz.
Pss. V, vi, xxii, xxviii— xxxi, xxxv, xl, Iv, Ixix, Ixxi ; more doubtfully,
Pss. xiv, xxiii-xxvii, xxxii— xxxiv, xxxvii, xxxix, xli. This list has
been recently examined by W. Campe {^Das Verhdltniss Jereniias zu
den Psalmen, Halle, 1891), who finds real affinities in Pss. i, vi, xxxi,
xxxv, Ixxix, cxxxv; in all these cases the priority is on the side of
Jeremiah, and the coincidences proceed from the study of his writings
— in some of the instances at least much later than the time of the
prophet. It is not however denied that the influence of Jeremiah
may be traceable in other parts of the Psalter. Dr. Driver finds the
most marked resemblance to Jeremiah in Pss. xxxi, xxxv, Ixix, and
Ixxix. Dr. Cheyne also pronounces against Jeremiah's authorship,
but in favour of Jeremiah's influence not only in the Psalter but in
the Books of Kings, Job, Second Isaiah, and Lamentations {B. L.
p. 135; cf Driver, Jnirod., pp. 189, 408, 435).

' Cp. Driver, p. 408.

' Zech. i. 4, 6, vii. 7 ; compare the references in Driver, Inlrod.
p. 323 n., and for Zech. xi-xiv those on p. 331 n.

R 2

244 V. The Old Testament as a Collection.

the post-exilic prophets, the later psalms and Chron-
icles all show a close and systematic study of the
older writings.

There can be no doubt that by this time these
writings were not confined to the use of prophets
or priests, but that they were somewhat widely
diffused among the people generally. We have had
an instance from the Book of Deuteronomy in which
a portion at least of the Law was to be in lay hands :
the king was to have a copy made of the portion
relating to him. But the strong injunctions several
times repeated in this book that the precepts of the
Law are to be taught diligently by the fathers to the
children and that they are to be ' for a sign ' upon
the hand and ' for frontlets ' between the eyes \
although no doubt in the first instance referring to
oral teaching, would soon give rise to written teaching
as well.

The Exile must have given a great impulse to
the study of the former Scriptures. They were the
chief consolation which the people had now that they
had lost the temple and its services. The reading
of the Law seems to have been the primary object
of the synagogues, the date of the institution of which
is uncertain, but probably goes back nearly if not
quite to the time of Ezra^. Already in the pre-exilic
period provision had been made for the public reading
of portions of the Law. Every seven years at the

' Deut. vi. 7-9; cp. iv. 9, xi. 19, 20.

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayInspiration. Eight lectures on the early history and origin of the doctrine of Biblical inspiration; being the Bampton lectures for 1893 → online text (page 18 of 35)