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THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE
HIGHER CRITICISM.*

IN the first place, what is the Higher Criticism? It is an attempt to view the different parts of the Bible in a large and general way, to discover when the different books were written, and, if possible, by whom they were written (though this particular is generally of much less importance than the other); and, yet further, their relations to each other and to the various times in which they were produced,how they were influenced by these, and what influence they had upon them,―if, haply, in this way the line of evolution may be traced from the beginning to the end of that millennium which, speaking roughly, synchronized with the production of the Bible from its earliest to its latest parts,― from the ninth century B.C. to the second after and inclusive. I say "speaking roughly," because, no doubt, there are fragments inhering in the Old Testament books which come down from a greater antiquity than the ninth century B.C. Twelve hundred years would cover the development of English literature from Cædmon and Bæda, its earliest beginners, to Watson and Kipling, the latest of the long and honorable line. A similar period would cover nearly or quite everything in the Bible, the earliest fragments which are imbedded in the histories and other books included. Hence the rank absurdity of thinking or speaking of the Bible as if it were one book. It is a compendium of Jewish literature until the end of the second Christian century. The sixty-six books which this compendium contains do not begin to tell the number of the authors who took

*To be followed by a sermon on the New Testament.

part in their composition; for there were, probably, scores of writers implicated in the production of the Psalms and Proverbs, and many more in the composition of the prophets than appears upon their face.

To speak of the Higher Criticism seems to imply a lower. It does,- a lower and a lowest. The lower criticism of the Bible is that which is merely textual. Of course, this and the Higher Criticism often play into each other's hands: the age of the book and the circumstances of its production help us to understand the individual texts, and the individual texts help us to understand the age and character of the books in which they appear. The Higher Criticism takes up into itself almost bodily the lower textual criticism, but is as much more than that as a man is more than the food which he consumes. It is one of the loveliest ironies of man's intellectual history that the superstitious reverence for the Bible has contributed immensely to the demonstration of its natural genesis and human character. Its text never would have received the attention which it has received if it had not been regarded as a sacred text. Every line has been interrogated, every word. And all this work has been the getting out of material for the Higher Criticism to work with in its day. Indeed, some of the most important elements of the Higher Criticism have been developed by the lower textual criticism, which said, "I will water my garden bed"; and, lo! "its brook became a river, and the river a sea."

There is a much lower criticism than that of the merely textual critic. It is that of the dogmatic critic, subjecting the Bible to the necessities of his particular system of theology. In this business there has been much bullying of the witnesses, much putting of them on the rack. Texts have had a meaning tortured out of them, agreeable to the wishes of the dogmatist. But the violence done has been for the most part unconscious. Because unconscious, it has been no less miserable in its effects. Beautiful as is our King James translation, it fairly reeks with the theological preconceptions of the translators,— so much so that a great linguist

declared not long ago that to retranslate the Bible would be to revolutionize the religion of the English-speaking world. Yet even more perversive of the meaning of the Bible than its translation has been its theological interpretation, the reading into it of all sorts and conditions of theological and ecclesiastical ideas.

Criticism, strictly speaking, is judgment; and hence the so-called criticism of the dogmatic theologian hunting up proof texts for his dogmas is not criticism at all. It is advocacy, and as unlike the true criticism as the advocacy of the lawyer for his client is unlike the judgment of the judge upon the bench. And still we have not reached the lowest deep. That is the so-called criticism of the wilful and deliberate depreciator of the Bible. This is criticism in the vulgar sense of those to whom all criticism is identical with fault-finding and depreciation. There are even clergymen who have not unlearned this childish notion. Said one of them, speaking of Dr. Briggs, "That he or any one should presume to criticise the word of God!" But we have plenty of what is called criticism which is nothing but deliberate depreciation. It revels in "the mistakes of Moses," unaware that the Higher Criticism finds but "ten words" of Moses in the Old Testament (if so many),—the Ten Commandments, which, in their simplest form, are possibly from that great leader's shaping hand.

Having thus distinguished between the Higher Criticism and certain lower forms, let me, in the next place, remind you that the Higher Criticism is not something new. You would imagine it to be so from the way many people talk of late in our city, where a distinguished clergyman has been putting out, in a very genial and fascinating way, some of the results of the Higher Criticism as it concerns the Old Testament. What he has done he has done very modestly and cautiously, sometimes with a strong accent of personal preference, as in his utterly uncritical idea that Job is the oldest whole book in the Bible. The leading scholars in our theological schools would seldom find his opinions unduly radical; much

oftener unduly conservative and traditional. They are not new opinions. With one significant exception they were familiar to me in my Divinity School days; and my dear teacher, Dr. George R. Noyes, held them fifty years ago, in common with the most learned German scholars of his time, and the most learned English scholars also, these, however, a much smaller company. Some of the most important of these results were clearly and irrefragably developed early in the present century, the documentary character of the Pentateuch earlier by half a century. Even the newest of Dr. Abbott's critical conclusions, which the late origin of the priestly portions of the Pentateuch—is more central to the Higher Criticism of the Old Testament than any other, even this conclusion had its "seeds and weak beginnings" sixty years ago in the simultaneous but mutually isolated intuitions of Reuss and Vatke, was clearly indicated by Graf in 1866, and splendidly developed by Kuenen in 1869, from which time its conquests were as rapid as those of the Darwinian biology. I cannot but be just a little proud that I appropriated this conclusion with enthusiasm twenty years ago, and made it central to my lectures on the Old Testament given in 1877, and that my book, "The Bible of To-day," was the first book published in America (1878) expository of a critical idea which was destined to be as fertile in Old Testament matters as Darwin's natural selection in biology.

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No, the conclusions of the Higher Criticism are not new. The surprising thing is that they should seem so to so many persons in this community. Where have they been? What have they been reading? One thing is sure: a good many of the clergy know how little novelty there is in them. They know that they are taught in many of their theological schools, and taught there with all possible reverence and sobriety. There could not be anything more foolish and absurd than the industrious circulation of the idea that there is something of enmity to the Bible in the Higher Criticism. The most tender of the saints have not studied

the Bible more reverently than the most revolutionary critics. These have been not only reverent of the Bible, but of the truth. They have only accepted results that have been forced upon them by the onset of the facts in irresistible array. If the field had been an open one, unfortressed by traditional prejudices and opinions of the most impregnable character, they would not have held out so long. But there has been this advantage in the situation: obliged, because of traditional prejudices and opinions, to give ten reasons for each onward step where one would have been sufficient but for those prejudices and opinions, their advance, if much slower than it would otherwise have been, has been much more incontrovertible, much more incontestably assured.

The method of the Higher Criticism has been the method of science. Beginning with what is most surely known, it has slowly and cautiously worked out its way from that into the adjacent region, and then into the regions more and more remote. In the Old Testament the most authentic writings of the prophets have been the starting-point. The most obvious outcome of this process, availing itself of whatever helps the narrower criticism of texts and separate books could furnish, is the negation and destruction of a great many traditional conceptions as to the age and authorship of the various books. Taking the Old Testament books in their traditional English order, which is not altogether that of the Jewish and other early versions, we are assured that Moses did not write the Pentateuch nor Joshua the book which bears his name, nor David the Psalms ascribed to him in their headings, nor Solomon the Proverbs or Ecclesiastes or Solomon's Song; that Isaiah wrote only about one-third of the book which bears his name; Jeremiah, less than the whole of that ascribed to him and no part of Lamentations; Daniel, the prophet of the captivity, not a syllable of the book ascribed to him; Zechariah, a part only of the book called Zechariah's.

With these negations of traditional authorship, which by no means represent the full amount, there have been as

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