The Jews in the time of our Lord always considered these five books as one connected work; they called the whole sometimes "Torah," or "The Law," sometimes "The Law of Moses," sometimes "The Five-fifths of the Law." It was originally one book, and it is not easy to determine at what time its division into five parts took place.
Later criticism is also inclined to add to the Pentateuch the Book of Joshua, and to say that the first six books of the Bible were put into their present form by the same hand. "The Hexateuch," or Six-fold Work, has taken the place in these later discussions of the Pentateuch, or Five-fold Work. Doubtless there is good reason for the new classification, but it will be more convenient to begin with the traditional division and speak first of the five books reckoned by the later Jews as the "Torah," or the Five-fifths of the Law.
Who wrote these books? Our modern Hebrew Bibles give them the general title, "Quinque Libri Mosis." This means "The Five Books of Moses." But Moses could never have given them this title, for these are Latin words, and it is not possible that Moses should have used the Latin language because there was no Latin language in the world until many hundreds of years after the day of Moses. The Latin title was given to them, of course, by the editors who compiled them. The preface and the explanatory notes in these Hebrew Bibles are also written in Latin.
But over this Latin title in the Hebrew Bible is the Hebrew word "Torah." This was the name by which these books were chiefly known among the Jews; it signifies simply "The Law." This title gives us no information, then, concerning the authorship of these books.
When we look at our English Bibles we find no separation, as in the Hebrew Bible, of these five books from the rest of the Old Testament writings, but we find over each one of them a title by which it is ascribed to Moses as its author, -- "The First Book of Moses, commonly called Genesis;" "The Second Book of Moses, commonly called Exodus;" and so on. But when I look into my Hebrew Bible again no such title is there. Nothing is said about Moses in the Hebrew title to Genesis.
It is certain that if Moses wrote these books he did not call them "Genesis," "Exodus," "Leviticus," "Numbers," "Deuteronomy;" for these words, again, come from languages that he never heard. Four of them are Greek words, and one of them, Numbers, is a Latin word. These names were given to the several books at a very late day. What are their names in the Hebrew Bible? Each of them is called by the first word, or some of the first words in the book. The Jews were apt to name their books, as we name our hymns, by the initial word or words; thus they called the first of these five books, "Bereshith," "In the Beginning;" the second one "Veelleh Shemoth," "Now these are the names;" the third one "Vayikra," "And he called," and so on. The titles in our English Bible are much more significant and appropriate than these original Hebrew titles; thus Genesis signifies origin, and Genesis is the Book of Origins; Exodus means departure, and the book describes the departure of Israel from Egypt; Leviticus points out the fact that the book is mainly occupied with the Levitical legislation; Numbers gives a history of the numbering of the people, and Deuteronomy, which means the second law, contains what seems to be a recapitulation and reenactment of the legislation of the preceding books. But these English titles, which are partly translated and partly transferred to English from older Latin and Greek titles, tell us nothing trustworthy about the authorship of the books.
How, then, you desire to know, did these books come to be known as the books of Moses?
"They were quoted," answer some, "and thus accredited by our Lord and his apostles. They are frequently mentioned in the New Testament as inspired and authoritative books; they are referred to as the writings of Moses; we have the testimony of Jesus Christ and of his apostles to their genuineness and authenticity." Let us see how much truth this answer contains. It confronts us with a very important matter which may as well be settled before we go on.
It is true, to begin with, that Jesus and the Evangelists do quote from these books, and that they ascribe to Moses some of the passages which they quote. The soundest criticism cannot impugn the honesty or the intelligence of such quotations. There is good reason, as we shall see, for believing that a large part of this literature was written in the time of Moses, and under the eye of Moses, if not by his hand. In a certain important sense, which will be clearer to us as we go on, this literature is all Mosaic. The reference to it by the Lord and his apostles is therefore legitimate.
But this reference does by no means warrant the sweeping conclusion that the five books of the law were all and entire from the pen of the Lawgiver. Our Lord nowhere says that the first five books of the Old Testament were all written by Moses. Much less does he teach that the contents of these books are all equally inspired and authoritative. Indeed he quotes from them several times for the express purpose of repudiating their doctrines and repealing their legislation. In the very fore-front of his teaching stands a stern array of judgments in which undoubted commandments of the Mosaic law are expressly condemned and set aside, some of them because they are inadequate and superficial, some of them because they are morally defective. "Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time" thus and thus; "but I say unto you" -- and then follow words that directly contradict the old legislation. After quoting two of the commandments of the Decalogue and giving them an interpretation that wholly transforms them, he proceeds to cite several old laws from these Mosaic books, in order to set his own word firmly against them. One of these also is a law of the Decalogue itself. There can be little doubt that the third commandment is quoted and criticised by our Lord, in this discourse. That commandment forbids, not chiefly profanity, but perjury; by implication it permits judicial oaths. And Jesus expressly forbids judicial oaths. "Swear not at all." I am aware that this is not the usual interpretation of these words, but I believe that it is the only meaning that the words will bear. Not to insist upon this, however, several other examples are given in the discourse concerning which there can be no question.
Jesus quotes the law of divorce from Deuteronomy xxiv.1,2. "When a man taketh a wife and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house she may go and be another man's wife." These are the words of a law which Moses is represented as uttering by the authority of Jehovah. This law, as thus expressed, Jesus Christ unqualifiedly repeals. "I say unto you that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress, and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery."
The law of revenge is treated in the same way. "Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Who said this? Was it some rabbin of the olden time? It was Moses; nay, the old record says that this is the word of the Lord by Moses: "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying [among other things], If a man cause a blemish in his neighbor, as he hath done so shall it be done to him; breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be rendered unto him." (Lev. xxiv.19,20.) So in Exodus xxi.24, "Thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." It is sometimes said that these retaliations were simply permitted under the Mosaic law, but this is a great error; they were enjoined: "Thine eye shall not pity," it is said in another place (Deut. xix.21); "life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." This law of retaliation is an integral part of the moral legislation of the Pentateuch. It is no part of the ceremonial law; it is an ethical rule. It is clearly ascribed to Moses; it is distinctly said to have been enacted by command of God. But Christ in the most unhesitating manner condemns and countermands it.
"Ye have heard," he continues, "that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you." "But this," it is objected, "is not a quotation from the Old Testament. These words do not occur in that old legislation." At any rate Jesus introduces them with the very same formula which he has all along been applying to the words which he has quoted from the Mosaic law. It is evident that he means to give the impression that they are part of that law. He is not careful in any of these cases to quote the exact words of the law, but he does give the meaning of it. He gives the exact meaning of it here. The Mosaic law commanded Jews to love their neighbors, members of their own tribe, but to hate the people of surrounding tribes: "An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the Lord for ever.... Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever." (Deut. xxiii.3-6.)
"When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and shalt cast out many nations before thee, ... then thou shalt utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them." (Deut. vii.1,2.) This is the spirit of much of this ancient legislation; and these laws were, if the record is true, literally executed, in after times, by Joshua and Samuel, upon the people of Canaan. And these bloody commands, albeit they have a "Thus said the Lord" behind every one of them, Jesus, in the great discourse which is the charter of his kingdom, distinctly repeals.
Such is the method by which our Lord sometimes deals with the Old Testament. It is by no means true that he assumes this attitude toward all parts of it. Sometimes he quotes Lawgiver and Prophets in confirmation of his own words; often he refers to these ancient Scriptures as preparing the way for his kingdom and foreshadowing his person and his work. Nay, he even says of that law which we are now studying that not one jot or tittle shall in any wise pass from it till all things be accomplished. What he means by that we shall be able by and by to discover. But these passages which I have cited make it clear that Jesus Christ cannot be appealed to in support of the traditional view of the nature of these old writings.
The common argument by which Christ is made a witness to the authenticity and infallible authority of the Old Testament runs as follows:
Christ quotes Moses as the author of this legislation; therefore Moses must have written the whole Pentateuch.
Moses was an inspired prophet; therefore all the teaching of the Pentateuch must be infallible.
The facts are, that Jesus nowhere testifies that Moses wrote the whole of the Pentateuch; and that he nowhere guarantees the infallibility either of Moses or of the book. On the contrary, he sets aside as inadequate or morally defective certain laws which in this book are ascribed to Moses.
It is needful, thus, on the threshold of our argument, to have a clear understanding respecting the nature of the testimony borne by our Lord and his apostles to this ancient literature. It is upon this that the advocates of the traditional view of the Old Testament wholly rely. "Christ was authority," they say; "the New Testament writers were inspired; you all admit this; now Christ and the New Testament writers constantly quote the Scriptures of the Old Testament as inspired and as authoritative. Therefore they must be the infallible word of God." To this it is sufficient to reply, Christ and the apostles do quote the Old Testament Scriptures; they find a great treasure of inspired and inspiring truth in them, and so can we; they recognize the fact that they are organically related to that kingdom which Christ came to found, and that they record the earlier stages of that great course of revelation which culminates in Christ; but they nowhere pronounce any of these writings free from error; there is not a hint or suggestion anywhere in the New Testament that any of the writings of the Old Testament are infallible; and Christ himself, as we have seen, clearly warns his disciples that they do not even furnish a safe rule of moral conduct. After this, the attempt to prove the inerrancy of the Old Testament by summoning as witnesses the writers of the New Testament may as well be abandoned.
But did not Jesus say, "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me?" Well, if he had said that, it would not prove that the Scriptures they searched were errorless. The injunction would have all the force to-day that it ever had. One may very profitably study documents which are far from infallible. This was not, however, what our Lord said. If you will look into your Revised Version you will see that his words, addressed to the Jews, are not a command but an assertion: "Ye search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life" (John v.39); if you searched them carefully you would find some testimony there concerning me. It is not an injunction to search the Scriptures; it is simply the statement of the fact that the Jews to whom he was speaking did search the Scriptures, and searched them as many people in our own time do, to very little purpose.
But does not Paul say, in his letter to Timothy, that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God?" No, Paul does not say that. Look again at your Revised Version (2 Tim. iii.16): "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction, which is in righteousness." Every writing inspired of God is profitable reading. That is the whole statement.
But Paul says in the verses preceding, that Timothy had known from a child the Sacred Writings which were able to make him wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Was there not, then, in his hands, a volume or collection of books, known as the Sacred Writings, with a definite table of contents; and did not Paul refer to this collection, and imply that all these writings were inspired of God and profitable for the uses specified?
No, this is not the precise state of the case. These Sacred Writings had not at this time been gathered into a volume by themselves, with a fixed table of contents. What is called the Canon of the Old Testament had not yet been finally determined.[Footnote: See chapter xi] There were, indeed, as we saw in the last chapter, two collections of sacred writings, one in Hebrew and the other in Greek. The Hebrew collection was not at this time definitely closed; there was still a dispute among the Palestinian Jews as to whether two or three of the books which it now contains should go into it; that dispute was not concluded until half a century after the death of our Lord. The other collection, as I have said, was in the Greek language, and it included, not only our Old Testament books, but the books now known as the Old Testament Apocrypha. This was the collection, remember, most used by our Lord and his apostles. Which of these collections was in the hands of Timothy we do not certainly know. But the father of Timothy was a Greek, though his mother was a Jewess; and it is altogether probable that he had studied from his childhood the Greek version of the Old Testament writings. Shall we understand Paul, then, as certifying the authenticity and infallibility of this whole collection? Does he mean to say that the "Story of Susanna" and "Bel and the Dragon," and all the rest of these fables and tales, are profitable for teaching and instruction in righteousness? This text, so interpreted, evidently proves too much. Doubtless Paul did mean to commend to Timothy the Old Testament Scriptures as containing precious and saving truth. But we must not force his language into any wholesale indorsement of every letter and word, or even of every chapter and book of these old writings.
So far, therefore, as our Lord himself and his apostles are concerned, we have no decisive judgment either as to the authorship of these old writings or as to their absolute freedom from error. They handled these Scriptures, quoted from them, found inspired teaching in them; but the Scriptures which they chiefly handled, from which they generally quoted, in which they found their inspired teaching, contained, as we know, worthless matter. It is not to be assumed that they did not know this matter to be worthless; and if they knew this, it is not to be asserted that they intended to place upon the whole of it the stamp of their approval.
We have wandered somewhat from the path of our discussion, but it was necessary in order to determine the significance of those references to the Old Testament with which the New Testament abounds. The question before us is, Why do we believe that Moses wrote the five books which bear his name in our Bibles? We have seen that the New Testament writers give us no decisive testimony on this point. On what testimony is the belief founded?
Doubtless it rests wholly on the traditions of the Jews. Such was the tradition preserved among them in the time of our Lord. They believed that Moses wrote every word of these books; that God dictated the syllables to him and that he recorded them. But the traditions of the Jews are not, in other matters, highly regarded by Christians. Our Lord himself speaks more than once in stern censure of these traditions by which, as he charges, their moral sense was blunted and the law of God was made of none effect. Many of these old tales of theirs were extremely childish. One tradition ascribes, as we have seen, to Moses the authorship of the whole Pentateuch; another declares that when, during an invasion of the Chaldeans, all the books of the Scripture were destroyed by fire, Ezra wrote them all out from memory, in an incredibly short space of time; another tradition relates how the same Ezra one day heard a divine voice bidding him retire into the field with five swift amanuenses, -- "how he then received a full cup, full as it were of water, but the color of it was like fire, ... and when he had drank of it, his heart uttered understanding and wisdom grew in his breast, for his spirit strengthened his memory, ... and his mouth was opened and shut no more and for forty days and nights he dictated without stopping till two hundred and four books were written down." [Footnote: 2 Esdras xiv. See, also, Stanley's Jewish Church, iii, 151.] These fables had wide currency among the Jews; they were believed by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine, and others of the great fathers of the Christian Church; but they are not credited in these days. It is evident that Jewish tradition is not always to be trusted. We shall need some better reason than this for believing that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch.
I do not know where else we can go for information except to the books themselves. A careful examination of them may throw some light upon the question of their origin. A great multitude of scholars have been before us in their examination; what is their verdict?
First we have the verdict of the traditionalists, -- those, I mean, who accept the Jewish tradition, and believe with the rabbins that Moses wrote the whole of the first five books of the Bible. Some who hold this theory are ready to admit that there may be a few verses here and there interpolated into the record by later scribes; but they maintain that the books in their substance and entirety came in their present form from the hands of Moses. This is the theory which has been generally received by the Christian church. It is held to-day by very few eminent Christian scholars.
Over against this traditional theory is the theory of the radical and destructive critics that Moses wrote nothing at all; that perhaps the ten commandments were given by him, but hardly anything more; that these books were not even written in the time of Moses, but hundreds of years after his death. Moses is supposed to have lived about 1400 B.C.; these writings, say the destructive critics, were first produced in part about 730 B.C., but were mainly written after the Exile (about 444 B.C.), almost a thousand years after the death of Moses. "Strict and impartial investigation has shown," says Dr. Knappert, "that ... nothing in the whole Law really comes from Moses himself except the ten commandments. And even these were not delivered by him in the same form as we find them now." [Footnote: The Religion of Israel, p.9.] This is, to my mind, an astounding statement. It illustrates the lengths to which destructive criticism can go. And I dare say that we shall find in our study of these books reason for believing that such views as these are as far astray on the one side as those of the traditionalists are on the other.
Let us test these two theories by interrogating the books themselves.
First, then, we find upon the face of the record several reasons for believing that the books cannot have come, in their present form, from the hand of Moses.
Moses died in the wilderness, before the Israelites reached the Promised Land, before the Canaanites were driven out, and the land was divided among the tribes.
It is not likely that he wrote the account of his own death and burial which we find in the last chapter of Deuteronomy. There are those, it is true, who assert that Moses was inspired to write this account of his own funeral; but this is going a little farther than the rabbins; they declare that this chapter was added by Joshua. It is conceivable that Moses might have left on record a prediction that he would die and be buried in this way; but the Spirit of the Lord could never inspire a man to put in the past tense a plain narrative of an event which is yet in the future. The statement when written would be false, and God is not the author of falsehood.
It is not likely either that Moses wrote the words in Exodus xi.3: "Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of all the people;" nor those in Numbers xii.3: "Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men which were on the face of the earth." It has been said, indeed, that Moses was directed by inspiration to say such things about himself; but I do not believe that egotism is a supernatural product; men take that in the natural way.
Other passages show upon the face of them that they must have been added to these books after the time of Moses. It is stated in Exodus xvi.35, that the Israelites continued to eat manna until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan. But Moses was not living when they entered that land.
In Genesis xii.6, in connection with the story of Abraham's entrance into Palestine, the historical explanation is thrown in: "And the Canaanite was then in the land." It would seem that this must have been written at a day when the Canaanite was no longer in the land, -- after the occupation of the land and the expulsion of the Canaanites. In Numbers xv.32, an incident is related which is prefaced by the words, "While the children of Israel were in the wilderness." Does not this look back to a past time? Can we imagine that this was written by Moses? Again, in Deuteronomy iii.11, we have a description of the bedstead of Og, one of the giants captured and killed by the Israelites, just before the death of Moses; and this bedstead is referred to as if it were an antique curiosity; the village is mentioned in which it is kept. In Genesis xxxvi. we find a genealogy of the kings of Moab, running through several generations, prefaced with the words: "These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel." This is looking backward from a day when kings were reigning over the children of Israel. How could it have been written five hundred years before there ever was a king in Israel? In Genesis xiv.14, we read of the city of Dan; but in Judges xviii.29, we are told that this city did not receive its name until hundreds of years later, long after the time of Moses. Similarly the account of the naming of the villages of Jair, which we find in Deuteronomy iii.14, is quite inconsistent with another account in Judges x.3, 4. One of them must be erroneous, and it is probable that the passage in Deuteronomy is an anachronism.
Most of these passages could be explained by the admission that the scribes in later years added sentences here and there by way of interpretation. But that admission would of course discredit the infallibility of the books. Other difficulties, however, of a much more serious kind, present themselves.
In the first verse of the twentieth chapter of Numbers we read that the people came to Kadesh in the first month. The first month of what year? We look back, and the first note of time previous to this is the second month of the second year of the wandering in the wilderness. Their arrival at Kadesh described in the twentieth chapter would seem, then, to have been in the first month of the third year. In the twenty-second verse of this chapter the camp moves on to Mount Hor, and Aaron dies there. There is no note of any interval of time whatever; yet we are told in the thirty-third chapter of this book that Aaron died in the fortieth year of the wandering. Here is a skip of thirty-eight years in the history, without an indication of anything having happened meantime. On the supposition that this is a continuous history written by the man who was a chief actor in it, such a gap is inexplicable. There is a reasonable way of accounting for it, as we shall see, but it cannot be accounted for on the theory that the book in its present form came from the hand of Moses.
Some of the laws also bear internal evidence of having originated at a later day than that of Moses. The law forbidding the removal of landmarks presupposes a long occupation of the land; and the law regulating military enlistments is more naturally explained on the theory that it was framed in the settled period of the Hebrew history, and not during the wanderings. This may, indeed, have been anticipatory legislation, but the explanation is not probable.
Various repetitions of laws occur which are inexplicable on the supposition that these laws were all written by the hand of one person. Thus in Exodus xxxiv.17-26, there is a collection of legal enactments, all of which can be found, in the same order and almost the same words, in the twenty-third chapter of the same book. Thus, to quote the summary of Bleek, we find in both places, (a) that all the males shall appear before Jehovah three times in every year; (b) that no leavened bread shall be used at the killing of the Paschal Lamb, and that the fat shall be preserved until the next morning; (c) that the first of the fruits of the field shall be brought into the house of the Lord; (d) that the young kid shall not be seethed in its mother's milk.[Footnote: Introduction to the Old Testament, i.240.]
We cannot imagine that one man, with a fairly good memory, much less an infallibly inspired man, should have written these laws twice over, in the same words, within so small a space, in the same legal document. In Leviticus we have a similar instance. If any one will take that book and carefully compare the eighteenth with the twentieth chapter, he will see some reason for doubting that both chapters could have been inserted by one hand in this collection of statutes. "It is not probable," as Bleek has said, "that Moses would have written the two chapters one after the other, and would so shortly after have repeated the same precepts which he had before given, only not so well arranged the second time." [Footnote: Introduction to the Old Testament, i.240.]
There are also quite a number of inconsistencies and contradictions in the legislation, all of which may be easily explained, but not on the theory that the laws all came from the pen of one infallibly inspired lawgiver. We find also several historical repetitions and historical discrepancies, all of which make against the theory that Moses is the author of all this Pentateuchal literature. A single author, if he were a man of fair intelligence, good common sense, and reasonably firm memory, could not have written it. And unless tautology, anachronisms, and contradictions are a proof of inspiration, much less could it have been written by a single inspired writer. The traditional theory cannot therefore he true. We have appealed to the books themselves, and they bear swift witness against it.
Now let us look at the other theory of the destructive critics which not only denies that Moses wrote any portion of the Pentateuch, but alleges that it was written in Palestine, none of it less than six or seven hundred years after he was dead and buried.
In the first place the book expressly declares that Moses wrote certain portions of it. He is mentioned several times as having written certain historical records and certain words of the law. In Exodus xxiv., we are told that Moses not only rehearsed to the people the Covenant which the Lord had made with them, but that he wrote all the words of the Covenant in a book, and that he took the book of the Covenant and read it in the audience of all the people. After the idolatry of the people Moses was again commanded to write these words, "and" it is added, "he wrote upon the tables the words of the Covenant, the ten commandments." In Exodus xvii.14, we are told that Moses wrote the narrative of the defeat of Amalek in a book; and again in Numbers xxxiii.21, we read that Moses recorded the various marches and halts of the Israelites in the wilderness. We have also in the Book of Deuteronomy (xxxi.24-26) a statement that Moses wrote "the words of the law" in a book, and put it in the ark of the covenant for preservation. Precisely how much of the law this statement is meant to cover is not clear. Some have interpreted it to cover the whole Pentateuch, but that interpretation, as we have seen, is inadmissible. We may concede that it does refer to a body or code of laws, -- probably that body or code on which the legislation of Deuteronomy is based.
These are all the statements made in the writings themselves concerning their origin. They prove, if they are credible, that portions of these books were written by Moses; they do not prove that the whole of them came from his hand.
I see no reason whatever to doubt that this is the essential fact. The theory of the destructive critics that this literature and this legislation was all produced in Palestine, about the eighth century before Christ, and palmed off upon the Jews as a pious fraud, does not bear investigation. In large portions of these laws we are constantly meeting with legal provisions and historical allusions that take us directly back to the time of the wandering in the wilderness, and cannot be explained on any other theory. "When," says Bleek, "we meet with laws which refer in their whole tenor to a state of things utterly unknown in the period subsequent to Moses, and to circumstances existing in the Mosaic age, and in that only, it is in the highest degree likely that these laws not only in their essential purport proceeded from Moses, but also that they were written down by Moses or at least in the Mosaic age. Of these laws which appear to carry with them such clear and exact traces of the Mosaic age, there are many occurring, especially in Leviticus, and also in Numbers and Exodus, which laws relate to situations and surrounding circumstances only existing whilst the people, as was the case in Moses' time, wandered in the wilderness and were dwellers in the close confinement of camps and tents." [Footnote: Vol. i. p.212.] It is not necessary to draw out this evidence at length; I will only refer to a few out of scores of instances. The first seven chapters of Leviticus, containing laws regulating the burnt offerings and meat offerings, constantly assume that the people are in the camp and in the wilderness. The refuse of the beasts offered in sacrifice was to be carried out of the camp to the public ash heap, and burned. The law of the Great Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi.) is also full of allusions to the fact that the people were in camp; the scapegoat was to be driven into the wilderness, and the man who drove it out was to wash his clothes and bathe, and afterward come into the camp; the bullock and the goat, slain for the sacrifice, were to be carried forth without the camp; he who bears them forth must also wash himself before he returns to the camp. Large parts of the legislation concerning leprosy are full of the same incidental references to the fact that the people were dwelling in camp.
There are also laws requiring that all the animals killed for food should be slaughtered before the door of the Tabernacle. There was a reason for this law; it was intended to guard against a debasing superstition; but how would it have been possible to obey it when the people were scattered all over the land of Palestine? It was adapted only to the time when they were dwelling in a camp in the wilderness.
Besides, it must not be overlooked that in all this legislation "the priests are not at all referred to in general, but by name, as Aaron and his sons, or the sons of Aaron the priests."
All the legislation respecting the construction of the tabernacle, the disposition of it in the camp, the transportation of it from place to place in the wilderness, the order of the march, the summoning of the people when camp was to be broken, with all its minute and circumstantial directions, would be destitute of meaning if it had been written while the people were living in Palestine, scattered all over the land, dwelling in their own houses, and engaged in agricultural pursuits.
The simple, unforced, natural interpretation of these laws takes us back, I say, to the time of Moses, to the years of the wandering in the wilderness. The incidental references to the conditions of the wilderness life are far more convincing than any explicit statement would have been. Can any one conceive that a writer of laws, living in Palestine hundreds of years afterwards, could have fabricated these allusions to the camp life and the tent life of the people? Such a novelist did not exist among them; and I question whether Professor Kuenen and Professor Wellhausen, with all their wealth of imagination, could have done any such thing. Many of these laws were certainly written in the time of Moses; and I do not believe that any man was living in the time of Moses who was more competent to write such laws than was Moses himself. The conclusion of Bleek seems therefore to me altogether reasonable: "Although the Pentateuch in its present state and extent may not have been composed by Moses, and also many of the single laws therein may be the product of a later age, still the legislation contained in it is genuinely Mosaic in its entire spirit and character." [Footnote: Vol. i. p.221.] We are brought, therefore, in our study, to these inevitable conclusions:
1. The Pentateuch could never have been written by any one man, inspired or otherwise.
2. It is a composite work, in which many hands have been engaged. The production of it extends over many centuries.
3. It contains writings which are as old as the time of Moses, and some that are much older. It is impossible to tell how much of it came from the hand of Moses, but there are considerable portions of it which, although they may have been somewhat modified by later editors, are substantially as he left them.
I have said that the Pentateuch is a composite work. In the next chapter we shall find some curious facts concerning its component parts, and the way in which they have been put together. And although it did not come into being in the way in which we have been taught by the traditions of the rabbins, yet we shall see that it contains some wonderful evidence of the superintending care of God, -- of that continuous and growing manifestation of his truth and his love to the people of Israel, which is what we mean by revelation.
Revelation, we shall be able to understand, is not the dictation by God of words to men that they may be written down in books; it is rather the disclosure of the truth and love of God to men in the processes of history, in the development of the moral order of the world. It is the Light that lighteth every man, shining in the paths that lead to righteousness and life. There is a moral leadership of God in history; revelation is the record of that leadership. It is by no means confined to words; its most impressive disclosures are in the field of action. "Thus did the Lord," as Dr. Bruce has said, is a more perfect formula of revelation than "Thus said the Lord." It is in that great historical movement of which the Bible is the record that we find the revelation of God to men.