EWALD'S BIBLICAL THEOLOGY.*
" AT present," says Mr. Goadby, " there is absolutely no original work in the English language dealing with the theology of Scripture from a purely historical and critical point of view." In other words, English theology is, in this most im- portant branch of learning, just about a century behind the time. We doubt whether Mr. Goadby has chosen the best means of supplying the desideratum. Ewald's Biblical Theology has the merits and defects of its author; it is marked by the learning, by the insight, by the religious enthusiasm, and, on the other hand, by the intolerant dogmatism and the misty philosophy which characterised that great scholar, to which we must add, that the book is in certain respects out of date. Still, it is much to have the desideratum supplied at all ; it is more to find leading principles which can never be out of date enforced with the energy of genius. In the remarks which follow, we have tried to sketch the growth of one or two main ideas in the Old Testament literature, sometimes following, sometimes abandoning Ewald's guidance.
Ewald constantly speaks of the Hebrew religion as the truth, removed to an immeasurable distance above all forms of heathenism. He is right ; but we could have wished that the rise of a pure monotheism, as distinct from the mere worship of one national God, had been given in faller detail ; and it would have been well, we think, to have pointed out that the Mosaic religion had this great advantage, that it had to con- tend, in all probability, merely with a vague spirit-worship easily displaced or absorbed, and not with an elaborate mythology which might have proved a dangerous rival. True, there were incursions of foreign cults which had to be driven back again and again ; but the mythology of Semitic nations was never artistic enough to attract any of the higher affections in human nature, and the Hebrew superstitions were directed to the spirits which rose "like gods from the earth," to the spirits of the dead which " chirped and muttered," to the ghosts which took possession of men and became divining spirits. But when this has been admitted, the fact remains that whereas other nations have passed from the animism of savage life to an orderly mythology, Israel was never given up to such delusions, but held to a belief in the living God. " There are no myths," says Ewald, " in the Bible : the mythical element is heathenish or of heathenish tendency. ' And though many instructed scholars would consider this general statement too sweeping, there can be no doubt that it is substantially correct. The reason is, that in the very earliest Hebrew literature religion is already influenced by morality, and the early Hebrew shrank in reverential awe from mingling the holy with the profane. The best proof of this is to be found in the apparent exceptions. Let the reader recall the sixth chapter of Genesis, admittedly from an early document. The " sons of God "—i.e., the angels—wed the daughters of men : from this union spring the Nephilim. " These were the heroes who were from of old : these were the men of name." Now, we know how much a Greek would have made of this heroic genealogy, and the ancestral glory which would have thrown its glamour over such an origin. The Hebrew historian, on the contrary, turns in horror from • Old and Now Testament Theology. By H. }fused. Translated from the German by the Rev. Thomas Goulby, B.A., President of the Bar Mt College, Nottingham Edinburgh : T. nut T. (lark. Forming part of "Clark's Foreign Theological Library." the results of such a union. And immediately he continue 3, a And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth,"—so that the flood destroys that evil generation. Just so is it with the story of the Flood itself. Every one has heard of the Chaldaean legend discovered in cuneiform by Mr. George Smith, who published the news of his discovery at the close of 1872. Now, the points of resemblance between the cunei- form account and the Jahvist, which in this case the merest tyro can separate from the Elohist, account, are numerous and minute. The mention of the seven days, the downpour of rain, the closing of the door of the ark, the birds sent forth three times, the sacrifice after the Flood, the inhaling of a sweet odour by God, are common to the cuneiform and the Jahvistic narrative. But how marvellously has the ethical genius of the Mosaic religion transformed and transfigured the original elements ! " The cuneiform account" (we quote from Schrader) " represents the Flood as essentially the arbitrary act of the Gods, especially of Bel. In the Bible—with Jahvist as well as Elohist—it is the sin and corruption of the human race which bring about the Flood." The very style of the Hebrew writer is dignified by the higher character of his religion. At the end of the cuneiform story, the gods "gather like flies over the sacrificer," whereas the Hebrew historian is content with a simpler picture,—" Jehovah smelt the sweet odour." This is sensual imagery, but sensual imagery chastened and restrained. It is just the same with the story of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Other nations have had their tree of life and analogous conceptions, but" the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" is peculiar to Israel. Everywhere the revealed religion displays itself as the glory and special privilege of Israel. It is not that Israel was dominated more than other nations by the spirit of religion, since all early races are religions after their fashion. It is not that Israel attained a higher morality, for long before Moses the Egyptian Book of the Dead displays a just and merciful spirit which does not fall short one whit of the morality of the Dees- love and of Deuteronomy, as Mr. Renouf has abundantly proved. The point is, that while in Egypt a lofty code of ethics stands side by side with a religion of magic and fetishism, in Israel religion and morality interpenetrate each other. " Be ye holy, because I, Jehovah, your God, am holy," is a dictum which has been assigned to a late date, but the spirit of it runs through the Bible from first to last.
We should like to have dwelt on thenndeniable fact, which is worth more than all the precarious reconciliations of Genesis and geology, that there is no genesis of God. All, or nearly all, Hebrew cosmogonies begin with chaos. And so far they are at one with the heathen stories of creation. There, how- ever, the resemblance ends. In the latter, " chaos" (the words are Ewald's) " is only very briefly mentioned, much as in common narratives a beginning is made with some definite time and situation. But the true God does not," as in the heathen myths, " arise up out of it, still less does he come to it by chance." But passing this by, we go on to observe that while the Eternal himself has not, his revelation of himself to his people has, a history, and that a most remarkable one. At the outset, he is the national God, and Jephthah speaks of him as a deity who has given Israel the land of Canaan, just as Chemosh has given the Ammonites their land. But how was Israel to serve him ? The popular answer was, by offering plenty of sacrifices. Jehovah could not abandon Israel, because he needed the Israelite gifts, just as Israel needed his protection ; that is to say, the connection was natural. The answer of the earliest of the literary prophets was that the connection was moral, and that Jehovah must be served by national righteousness. "You only have I known," says Amos, " of all the nations of the earth : therefore upon you first I will visit your iniquities." This, in reality, contains the germ of a worship freed from all conditions of time and space, of a worship which might be offered every- where "in spirit and in truth." Sacrifice, according to the old rule, could only be offered to Jehovah on his own territory, so that to " go forth " from the land of Israel was the same thing as to " serve other gods." But the homage of a righteous life could be offered in all places, and it is not, therefore, surprising to find Isaiah and Micah, about a century later, anticipating a time when many nations would go up to " the house of the God of Jacob," not to offer sacrifice, but "that they might learn his ways and walk in his paths." The progress from the theology of Isaiah to that of Jereniiah and the great unknown
prophet of the Exile was natural and easy. When these last proclaim in express terms the absolute unity of the one living God who had made the heavens and the earth, and the utter vanity of heathen worship, they do no more than put in words: the thought which had been latent in the mind of the literary prophets from the very first. Two other points must be noted before we leave the subject. 'That, the development of religious. thought among the Hebrews was promoted by national disaster, and no more conspicuous example occurs of the way in which "all things" may "work together for good." For long, God's covenant had been with the nation ; and when, under- King Josiah, who did his best to .observe this covenant, the- commonwealth fell with a crash, it might have been expected that Hebrew faith would have perished in the common ruin.. But it was not so. When the independent life of the State- was gone, men turned to God with a new kind of ardour as. the guide and.judge of individual souls. We can see clear- intimations of this spirit in Jeremiah, and in Ezekiel the new epoch may be distinctly recognised. It was not possible for- him to direct the State in the prophetic spirit, as Isaiah had done ; but he is something which Isaiah was not,—namely, a. pastor of souls. The great lesson which he enforces is that: of individual responsibility, the truth that each mast bear his. own burden, in contrast to the other truth mainly insisted upon by his -predecessors, that -there was a unity of national life, and that no man stood alone. Next, it is not enough to- regard the God of the -prophets as a righteous being. That, of course, he was ; but he was much more than that, for " His. nature and His name were love." It may seem strange to. illustrate the prophets from the language of a Christian hymn, but the Christian element in Hebrew revelation is just the point which we would-bring into relief, and which we can call by no other name. The feeling that God is exalted . far above creatures frequently appears among Semitic- nations. We have- a sign of it in the fact that Phoenician proper names often mark the bearer of them as the servant, or rather slave, of his God; and the Koran is full of that reverential fear which is a genuine survival from the times before Mahommed. But it is the Hebrew religion,. and that alone, so far as we are aware, among the religions of antiquity, which describes the holy and exalted God in the closeness of his relation to man. In Hosea, he is the tender father who loved Israel " when he was young." He is the husband whose faithful love cannot be quenched even by the cruel unfaithfulness of his -people,—" How shall I give thee up, Ephraim P How shall I deliver thee,. Israel P Mine heart is turned within me. My compassions are kindled together." In Isaiah, the sting of the divine- indignation is this, that the rebels against him are his own childreni—" Sons have I made great and high, and they have- rebelled against me." In the Koran, God commands and threatens; in the Hebrew Scriptures, he complains, entreats,. and pleads with pathetic power,—" 0 my people, what have- I done to thee, and wherein have I wearied thee? answer me."' (Micah -vi., 3.) We have perhaps the finest example of this- spirit in the Book of Job, just when the book has reached its lowest degree of desolation and despair. " If a man die," Job• asks, " shall he live again ?" He does not answer his own question, but he lingers on the thought, and given that possi- bility, he has good hope for the rest. Let God hide him in the nether world ; Job will wait patiently there and perform his allotted service till the divine wrath is past. " Thou wouldst• call and I would answer thee : thou wouldat pine for the work of thy hands." (Job xiv., 15.) The Hebrew word which we have translated " pine " is really stronger still, and means "to grow pale with desire." The whole of this relation between God and his creatures is well put by Ewald (p. 163) : " Nearer than friend, more inseparable in love, but also if need be more severe, is the father to the son;" and we may make some amends for writing an essay in which little is taken from Ewald while we have been professing to review him, by referring the reader to Ewald's chapter on " The World of Mankind and its Divine Aim." Never, as it seems to us, has Ewald written anything finer than his exposition of the eighth Psalm contained in this chapter; that wonderful Psalm which presents so luminously the antithesis in human nature,. —its feebleness on the one hand, its sublime dignity on the other, because this feeble nature shares in the counsel and work of the supreme. Just when it is feeblest, but also least perverted, the divine glory shines forth most conspicuously;
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou halt perfected praise."
The doctrine of immortality ran through a course of development exactly parallel to that of the teaching on God. Egypt, with whom Israel dwelt, had the most elaborate doctrine of immortality, and retained simultaneously most gross and superstitious views of the divine nature ; nor had it apparently the least insight into that eternal progress of God's work upon earth in which man participates. It began at the -wrong end, and the thought of death and judgment produced nothing but fear, and tended to destroy the charm and interest of life. The Mosaic and prophetic religion left the old picture of a shadowy life beyond the grave, which had come from a period prior to civilisation, unaltered, and concerned itself little about it. A man was gathered to his fathers, and passed to a, shadowy life which did not deserve the name of life at all,—to an existence where there was no remembrance of God, no work to be done, no distinction between the good and the wicked. " To-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me,"—that is all which the spirit of Samuel can say to Saul. But the Hebrew prophets pointed to a living God who was to be served by his people ." in the living present," and that for the time sufficed. There was a true immortality, but it was the immortality of the nation which was God's son, and could not die because God's love to it was eternal. The words of Balsam breathe the spirit of that glad time when the individual exulted in the fullness of that national life in which he hoped to share for ever through his posterity. "Who can number"—he exclaims, as he descries the Hebrew hosts on the eve of victory—" who can number the dust of Jacob, or count* the fourth part of Israel P Let me die the death of the upright, and let my posterityt be like his." Just, however, as the Hebrew belief was deepened, instead of being destroyed, by national ruin, so it was with the hope of personal immortality. More and more it was felt that a God who brings individual souls into immediate union with himself, would not and could not allow these souls to perish. So it comes that in the Psalms, which are the most perfect expression of individual religion, the hope of an im- mortal life begins to dawn. The men of this world, says the .author of Psalm xvii., have " their portion " here. God "fills their belly with hid treasure." "'But I in righteous- ness will behold thy face : when I awake up I shall be .satisfied with thy likeness." It may be said that Ecclesiastes proves that the belief in immortality was even then no article of Jewish faith. Nor was it : we have been speaking of hope, of the presentiment of an inspired poet, not of fixed belief. Yet Ecclesiastes itself witnesses to the weariness of life from which political freedom was gone, and no firm faith in immortality had yet arisen. The books of Ecclesiastes and Wisdom have sprung from the same needs and the same circumstances. Only in the former we see the old life decayed and dead, in Wisdom the new life in the vigour of its youth.
In conclusion, we can but spare a single sentence for Ewald's treatment of the New Testament. Its value lies in this,—that it is the work of an Old Testament scholar who has a special gift for showing how the New Testament sums up and com- pletes the teaching of the Old. Nothing, for example, can be happier than the comparison of John v. 20, "The Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things which himself doeth," with Old Testament passages, notably Psalm viii., which place the dignity of man in this very thing, that he can understand and rejoice in the works of God. The translator seems to have done his work well. The. English is as good as .could be expected, considering how hard Ewald is to render, and the translator's notes are useful. We have only observed one inaccuracy, viz., a misquotation, or at least complete misunderstanding, of Gesenius on p. 77.