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The latest hypothesis.


We cannot deny to the authors of this latest hypothesis the praise of a high degree of ingenuity in its construction, of consummate dexterity in adapting it to the emergencies of the case, and in marshalling all available materials for its support, and of unflinching intrepidity, or rather a veritable audacity, in pushing it to its last results, so that it is absolutely beyond the reach of the reductio ad absurdum argument; for the most preposterous conclusions are accepted without hesitation, and paraded as genuine discoveries. Kuenen and Wellhausen have shown us by what clever tricks of legerdemain they can construct castles in the air and produce histories which have positively no basis whatever but their own exuberant fancy; while Lagarde makes the practical application of their principles by demanding the overthrow of the Christian Church and its institutions as the mere outgrowth of Pharisaical superstition. The temporary applause which has followed upon the performance of these novel feats is no augury of its abiding popularity, much less of its assured success. The boastful claims of its advocates will not disturb the equanimity of those who remember with what rapidity hypothesis has succeeded hypothesis, and one phase of criticism has grown up after another in the fruitful soil of German speculation.

It is substantially a revival of ideas which were almost simultaneously suggested by Vatke, George, and Von Bohlen, in 1835, but which then fell utterly flat. De Wette, in his review of these “three young critics," dryly suggested that there was a reason for this hypothesis coming to the surface, inasmuch as the criticism of the Pentateuch could only thus complete the entire round of possible assumptions. And he said of the reconstruction of the Israelitish history upon the basis proposed, that “ the only thing lacking to make it attractive is truth;” “ whether from a dread of individualism inspired by the Hegelian philosophy, a predilection for development and self-impelled struggles upward, or a love of paradox, they have linked the history of Hebraism not with the fixed point of the grand creations of Moses, but have suspended its beginnings upon airy nothing.” Hupfeld” repudiated in the strongest terms the distinctive principle of their hypothesis (as of Grafos and Kuenen's) that Deuteronomy is the earliest instead of the latest portion of the Pentateuch, calling it “a monstrous error that turned everything topsy-turvy and perverted and entangled the questions at issue, but did not solve them." Riehm, in 1854, considered it “a critical or rather uncritical view," which was already “antiquated” and unworthy of attention, And there is little likelihood that this hypothesis, even in its most recent phase, will win its way to universal favour, when critics such as Riehm, Dillmann, Kleinert, Marti, Delitzsch, Klostermann, Bredenkamp, and D. Hoffmann” have pronounced against it, not to speak of the assaults made upon it from the rear by those who charge it with a timid conservatism and with not being thoroughgoing enough in the work of demolition. It is apparent that this hypothesis affords us no firm footing were we to embrace it. If all that has thus far been asked were to be conceded, no guarantee is, or can be, given against fresh demands in the same direction. It is only the arbitrary pleasure of the critics and nothing in the nature of the case which leads them, with their principles and methods, to stop where they do.

1 “Studien und Kritiken" for 1837, pp. 955, 981. ? “ De Primitiva Festorum Ratione," 1851, p. 1.

In five passages in the Pentateuch (Ex. xvii. 14 ; xxiv. 4; xxxiv. 27; Num. xxxiii. 2 ; Deut. xxxi. 9, 22, 24), as Professor Smith correctly informs us, Moses is said to have written down certain things. The express statement of his authorship in these cases does not exclude it in others any more than it follows from Isa. viii. 1 and xxx. 8, that Isaiah wrote nothing but what is referred to in those verses. The natural presumption, on the contrary, is that if he wrote those scraps of the history and those sections of the law, he also wrote others which it was quite as important to have recorded. These recognitions of the fact that whatever was memorable should be committed to writing for safe preservation, and that Moses The laws of the Pentateuch.

1 “Die Gesetzgebung Mosis im Lande Moab, Vorrede.”

2 Riehm reviewed Graf's positions in the “Studien und Kritiken" for 1868 and 1872; Dillmann, “Die Bücher Exodus und Leviticus," 1880; Kleinert, “Das Deuteronomium und der Deuteronomiker," 1872 ; Marti, " Traces of the so-called Grundschrift of the Hexateuch in the Pre-exilic Prophets of the Old Testament," in the “Jahrbücher für Protestantische Theologie," 1880; Delitzsch, a series of articles in Luthardt's “ Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft und Leben," 1880 ; Klostermann, in the “ Zeitschrift für Lutherische Theologie und Kirche,” 1877 ; Bredenkamp, “Gesetz und Propheten,” 1881 ; D. Hoffmann, “ Magazin für die Wissenchaft des Judenthums," 1876-80.


was the proper person to write it, would rather lead us to expect that Moses would record the history and the legislation in which he bore so prominent a part, and incline us to believe that “the book,” to which reference is made, Ex. xvii. 14 (Heb.), is such a comprehensive work upon which he was then already engaged, or which at least he intended to prepare.

But we shall lay no stress upon presumptions. We shall concern ourselves simply with duly certified facts; and as the discussion of Professor Smith relates merely to the laws of the Pentateuch, we shall confine ourselves to these. And here we adopt the appropriate division which he gives us, pp. 316 ff., into “ three principal groups of laws or ritual observances in addition to the Ten Commandments," viz.: 1. The collection Ex. xxi.-xxiii.; 2. The Deuteronomic code, Deut. xii.-xxvi., as distinguished from what is purely hortatory and historical in the book; 3. The Levitical legislation, which does not form a compact code like the preceding, but is scattered through several parts of Exodus and the books of Leviticus and Numbers. Three of the passages above adduced speak of Moses as writing laws. In Ex. xxiv. 4 he is said to have written“ all the words of the LORD." This Professor Smith, p. 331, would restrict to the Ten Commandments. But after God had uttered these by His own voice, and the terrified people had asked that Moses should henceforth speak with them and not God, the LORD gave them His commands through Moses, Ex. xx. 22 ff., including a body of judgments or ordinances, ch. xxi.-xxiii. Then (xxiv. 3) Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, of course not merely the ten words which they had themselves heard Him speak, but all that God had charged him to say to them, and particularly “the judgments,” which are therefore separately specified. “And all the people answered with one voice and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do." Now, unless any one is prepared to maintain that the people here promised obedience to the Ten Commandments only, and not to the judgments which Moses had just repeated to them from the mouth of God, he must admit that both are included in the words of the Lord, which the very next verse declares that Moses wrote, and which (verse 8) entered into the covenant then formed between Jehovah and Israel. It could not be more explicitly stated VOL. XXXI.-NO. CXX.


than it is, that this first collection of laws dates from the time immediately following the exodus. It was then reduced to writing, formally read in the audience of the people, their submission to it pledged, and the covenant of God with Israel ratified on the basis of it with appropriate ceremonies. It even claims priority to the tables of the law deposited in the ark, whose authenticity and antiquity are vouched for in the most unimpeachable manner, and are not disputed by Professor Smith.

Again, at the renewal of the covenant after the sin of the golden calf, Moses is directed to write certain words, which are not "expressly identified with the ten words on the tables of stone,” but are, on the contrary, expressly distinguished from them (Ex. xxxiv. 27, 28). The ambiguity arising from the omission of the subject of the verb in the last clause of verse 28, is removed by a comparison of verse 1. It was the LORD, not Moses, who wrote the Ten Commandments upon the tables, which were carried to the summit of Sinai for this purpose. Moses wrote upon some material not indicated the words contained in Ex. xxxiv. 10-26, which is substantially repeated from the book of the covenant (Ex. xx. 23 ; xxiii. 12-33), being the specifications there given respecting the service of God, and the pledge on His part to subdue the Canaanites before them. They had grossly violated their duty to God, which wrought a forfeiture of His pledge to them. Hence these portions of the covenant are singled out and enforced upon the people afresh. The rewriting of these extracts is an additional confirmation of the existence of the code from which they were taken, and is equivalent to a new assertion of its Mosaic origin.

In Deut. xxxi. 9 we read, “ Moses wrote this law”: and verses 24-26, “ When Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book until they were finished, Moses commanded the Levites . . . saying, Take this book of the law and put it in the side of the ark.” If it is possible for words to convey the idea that the entire code of laws here spoken of, which cannot be less than Deut. xi.-xxvi., was written by Moses, this idea is here expressed. And no amount of arguing about the various extent of meaning that may be given to the term “ law can make it different. The fact that “all the

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The discourses in Deuteronomy.


words of this law” were to be written on plastered stones on Mount Ebal (Deut. xxvii. 3), can create no difficulty. This statement finds abundant illustration in the walls of tombs and temples in Egypt, and its numerous monuments written all over with hieroglyphical legends. And it surely requires no great effort to believe it feasible to trace these laws in plaster as a symbolic declaration that they were thenceforth the laws of the land. Written in letters five times the size of those in ordinary Hebrew Bibles, they could all be embraced in the space of eight feet by three. The famous Behistûn inscription of Darius in its triple form is twice as long as this entire code, besides being carved in bold characters in the solid rock, and in a position difficult of access on the mountain side.

And the whole book of Deuteronomy purports to be a series of discourses delivered by Moses to the people in the plains of Moab, inculcating and enforcing this law. Professor Smith reminds us that these were not“ taken down by a shorthand reporter.” And he queries whether it is certainly the meaning of Deut. xxxi. 24, that we have this body of laws “word for word” as it was written down by Moses. But under cover of this regard for absolute precision, it will not do to fritter away the entire record. That Moses in his oral discourse uttered in every case exactly the words reported to us, just those and neither less nor more, we are not concerned to affirm ; but that he did deliver such discourses, and that they are here preserved in their substantial import, is fully certified unless the credibility of the book can be impeached. And this code of laws is substantially as it came from the pen of Moses, if any reliance can be placed upon the record.

So, too, the Mosaic origin of the Levitical law is abundantly declared by the formulas with which they are introduced, and which recur over and over again : The LORD spake unto Moses, or The LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron; and the formulas, by which they are often followed, e.g., Lev. vii. 37, 38; xxiii. 44 ; xxvi. 46; xxvii. 34. The occasion is recited upon which particular laws were delivered; and the circumstances connected with these enactments are inseparably united with the historical narrative of the time.

Now as to the origin of these several codes of laws there

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