Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

Philonic ideas and expositions passed over into the Midrashim. Philo occupies himself chiefly with that element of the Talmudic literature which it is customary to sum up under the term Agada. But the other side of the Talmudic literature, the Halacha, is not altogether absent. The relation of Philo to the Palestinian Halacha, B. Ritter has made clear in an able monograph (1879). “Philo does not simply offer a paraphrase to the Biblical laws; in his representation and exposition he frequently travels beyond the letter of the Mosaic ordinances.” He may not have invented these divergencies; they may represent traditions, or the actual practice then in vogue in Egypt.

The literary and historical works on Philo of this century are those of Gfrörer, Dähne, Grossmann, Ewald, Schürer, and Massabieau. Speaking in general terms, three great categories can be distinguished in the works of Philo, viz., writings on the exposition of the Pentateuch, historico-apologetic writings, and philosophical writings For the explanation of the Pentateuch he composed three great works : (1) Quæstiones et Solutiones ; a short explanation of the Bible according to the literal sense, and the allegorical sense, in the form of question and answer. (2) The Great Allegorical Commentary on Genesis. By allegorizing the events narrated in Genesis, Philo gives a history of the human soul, a system of psychology and ethics, the aim of which is the union of the human soul with God. “All writings belonging to this work probably proceeded from religious discourses which Philo delivered on the Jewish festivals to assemblies in Alexandria, and which he later worked out in connected commentaries." (3) The Presentation of the Mosaic Legislation. In this historicoexegetic work Philo expounds the Mosaic ordinances chiefly according to their literal sense.

Of the historico-apologetic and the philosophical writings it is not necessary for us to write. The genuineness of some of Philo's writings has been contested, especially the work, De Vita Contemplativa, which deals with the Therapeutæ. It is confidently affirmed that no such ascetic sect existed in his time. It is assumed that these Therapeute were not Jews but Christians. Eusebius treats them as Christian monks. L. Massabieau, in an excellent essay (1887), has most successfully defended the genuineness of this work. It is, however, a fact needing explanation, that the Church fathers who lived before Eusebius never mention the sect of Therapeutæ.

Dr. P. Wendland has been engaged upon a new edition of Philo, in which Dr. Cohn has been collaborateur. Wendland's book was published last year (1891), and is invaluable to all who propose a study of Philo's works.

CHEYNE'S BAMPTON LECTURES AND THE DATE OF THE PSALTER (The Church Quarterly Review).---It was inevitable that Canon Cheyne's very advanced position in relation to the Psalter would be variously and keenly criticized. It is not fitting that any one should form a final judgment on this question of the authorship and date of the Psalms until all are heard on it who have a right to be heard, and all sides are fairly represented. The main lines of criticism in this careful article may be briefly indicated.

The most interesting and important theological, we might even say literary, problem of the day is the particular course which the Jewish nation took in its religious development before the coming of Christ, and the times at which it passed through the various stages. The historical critic cannot afford to pass over the records of that nation which, though in numbers and material rule third-rate, stands first in its influence on the religions of the world. Misarranged, misused, misinterpreted, the Old Testament may be proved, or imagined to be, it will never be a

[ocr errors]

book which either religious people or students can afford to leave unused upon a shelf. Yet it has not, till our times, been critically studied. The science of Biblical criticism is, to all intents and purposes, a modern science. It is necessary, however, to make a clear distinction between Biblical criticism, on the one hand, and the methods and results of some Biblical critics on the other. “ Biblical criticism is an attempt to apply the greatest of God's natural gifts, the human reason, to the investigation of the authorship, date, literary form, and character of one of the greatest of His supernatural gifts, the written Word of God. Believers in Revelation take up an utterly false position if they complain of the careful scientific study and the minute criticism of the Old Testament. A historical revelation is necessarily open to historical illustration, and therefore, on strict principles of justice, to historical criticism. Because we believe that very many of “the established critical results" are not only false, but in a very high degree mischievous-destructive of all true belief in Revelation-we are most anxious that they should be demolished in the only possible way, i.e., by the critical use of critical methods. But our use of the critical methods must be sympathetic and candid. Our only chance of conquering unbelieving criticism is to recognize fully that which gives it its strength-the truth contained in it.

The results, in regard to the authorship and date of the Psalms, which are formulated by Prof. Cheyne, are in direct opposition to the tradition of the Jewish Church. He has taken a long step in advance of the position of former critics, or his own in earlier years. The definiteness of the results at which he arrives is very noticeable. He at once brushes aside the " titles” of the Psalms, not allowing them any place of consideration. No doubt they were placed by the collectors of the Psalms, and not by their authors; but they must have been so placed upon reasons then regarded as sufficient, and the opinion of the early collector is surely entitled to some consideration. This fact has to be taken into account the LXX. version of the Psalms was made from a copy in which the titles were substantially the same as our

We should claim for the titles that they be treated with the respect due to ancient traditions.

Cheyne's “own theory involves him in special difficulties here. He ascribes twenty-four out of the sixty-one Psalms of books iv. and v. (edited by Simon the Maccabee) to the Greek period (pre-Maccabean and Maccabean); ten out of these twenty-four are assigned by their titles to David. Practically all the fifteen . Greek ' Psalms of books ii. and iii. (edited by a Maccabean editor) have inscriptions which place them amongst Davidic, Asaphic, Korahite, and Solomonic Psalms. Prof. Cheyne thus brings together two things which the traditional theory is unable to do, viz., the authors of the inscriptions and the inscriptions themselves. In consequence their importance is greatly enhanced. It is Maccabean editors who ascribe Greek, and even Maccabean, Psalms to David and other ancient names. Now, there is some sense in the idea that the Jews naturally called a great ancient psalm, of whose authorship they were ignorant, by the name of David. He was by tradition the father of their sacred song. But why should the editors give to Psalmssome at least of which were contemporaneous with themselves, some of whose authors they personally knew—a false and misleading title? Does it not seem simply ridiculous to prefix an ancient title to essentially and notoriously modern psalmspsalms composed, as we are told, because the ancient ones did not meet the require. ments of the times?"

The title ascribing Ps. cx. to David, whether true or false, furnishes us with a strong argument against its Maccabean authorship in the form in which Prof. Cheyne presents

own.

it. It was Simon the Maccabee, according to Prof. Cheyne, who edited the last two books of the Psalter, and so it was by him that the title was prefixed, or under his directions. But Cheyne asserts that the psalm was Simon's own encomium, and he could hardly be ignorant of the Court poet to whom he owed his apotheosis. And, above all, the reference of the psalm to David as author obscured, if it did not destroy, its reference to Simon as subject. Never was there such an unfortunate case of suicide.

Prof. Cheyne's main reason for the post-Exilic date which he assigns to the Psalter is derived from the history of religion in Israel. Critical inquiry must begin with the canonical prophets of the eighth century B.C. In the prophetical literature we are allowed to have our earliest firm standing ground. But why isolate the prophetical literature ? If the prophets account for everything good and unique in the religion or influence of Israel, who or what accounts for the prophets ? The weak point in the critics' position is obvious—they cannot account for the prophets.

On the traditional theory, more especially as modified by a sound criticism, David, with the writings ascribed to him, was an important link in the chain of Israel's religious development. Prof. Cheyne assures us that if he wrote psalms they have not come down to us. The only genuine Davidic compositions are the elegies, 2 Sam. i. 19-27, iii. 33, 34. Removing David, Prof. Cheyne is obliged to imagine a school of writers in order to account for the literary charaeter of the Book of Amos, &c.

After examining the arguments against Davidic psalms from the history of art, the author examines the arguments from the history of religion. David's personal character undoubtedly causes a difficulty. In his character incongruous elements are plainly discernible. On the one hand, his passions are strong, and they have not been subdued or regulated by well-established customs or laws. On the other hand, the grace of God was mighty in him. Reckon up all his wrong-doing, yet it must be admitted that he exemplifies in a wonderful degree the virtues of patience, meekness, pure love, true penitence, and faith in God's unseen hand. The tradition that the David of history is the first and most famous of the psalmists is not à priori inconceivable. Prof. Cheyne's precise point, however, is that the religious ideas of the psalms ascribed to David are too highly developed to have been conceived in David's time. It is, of course, not necessary for us to maintain the Davidic author. ship of all the psalms which are entitled “Psalms of David”; and we are quite ready to admit that the standard of faith and life contained in the psalms is much beyond that of an ordinary Israelite. It is part of our case that David was an extraordinary

All thought-readers are above and beyond the age in which, and for which, they write, and they would be no thought-leaders " if they were not.

Prof. Cheyne further objects, “that the most productive and spiritually the richest of the ages of psalmody cannot have been the earliest.” The answer is that the most productive and spiritually the richest of the ages of written prophecy was beyond question the earliest. What prophetical period can we compare with that of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah ? Prof. Cheyne would substitute for " David ” the “ Jewish Church.” He says, “ The Psalms are Church psalms, and there is no Jewish Church before the Exile.” It is plain that the term “Church" is used in a disputable sense, and it may be argued that all the Psalms are not Church psalms—some are distinctly individual.

Prof. Cheyne does not believe that the psalmists, in the strictest sense of the word, prophesy of Christ or of His Church. Consequently he has to find some explanation for the

seeming extravagances of the psalmists.” It is that “the NO. VI.-VOL. II.-THE THINKEK.

man.

66

[ocr errors]

9)

[ocr errors]

MM

psalmists speak in general, not as individuals, but in the name of the Church nation. The Psalter is a monument of Church consciousness.” He thinks the uniqueness of Israel's psalms is a direct consequence of their national or church character.

"The religious poetry of Israel was fervent, just because its writers spoke for the community, having absorbed that passionate love of God and country which flowed in each of its members.” But is this psychologically true ? Is a man most fervent when he speaks for others, even his church or nation, or when he speaks for himself ? The spiritual experiences of which the Psalter is so full must, from the nature of the case, be individual experiences, and, as a fact, the most essentially congregational psalms are the least passionate.

Prof. Cheyne accounts for discrepancies between the actual history and his hypothesis about a psalm, by assuming some harmless illusion" in the writer. The author tests this theory of illusion by Ps. xlv.; lxxii.; cx., and then asks whether the argument from illusion is valid, and compatible with inspiration. He believes he can discern a very large and important Maccabean element in the Psalter, and on this crucial point his arguments need to be examined. They are a pyramid of hypotheses based on the single, and not very remarkable fact, that Books iv. and v. are specially intended for congregational use.

In concluding his long article, the author asks, “What are the consequences of accepting Prof. Cheyne's theory as a whole ? By that theory, the psalms by tradition predominantly Davidic are assigned, without a single exception, to post-Exilic times. Jewish history, it appears, is, from beginning to end, a chapter of illusions. The prophets were utterly mistaken as to the methods of their own religious education, and the past history of their nation; so also was the Church of the Exile and onwards as to the names and times of its sweet singers. The Psalter is removed from a period of which we have considerable historical knowledge, and is consigned to one which must be called historically a dark age of the Jewish Church. The choicest product of the Old Testament religion—its flower of sacred song-budded and blossomed when that religion was being fossilized. Tradition marks out no great post-Exile poet. History knows nothing of any Maccabean psalm writers. Tradition and history are alike disregarded because of the necessities of the critical theory of Israel's religious development. We decline to give up the ancient tradition of the composition of the Psalter, which, though no absolute demonstration of its truth can be given, is supported by many solid considerations, and corresponds fairly with the general historical circumstances. As against the modern critical theory, with its meagre positive support, its numerous and continuous assumptions, and its inherent probabilities, with its reckless repudiation of tradition and its constant resort to a theory of illusion, we claim that it holds the field.”

CURRENT AMERICAN

THOUGHT.

THE ETHICAL AIM OF CHRISTIANITY. By M. VALENTINE, D.D., LL.D. (The Lutheran Quarterly).—Life rightly takes its start from its end. What it is to become and secure settles the direction and movement from the beginning. Its great purpose must decide how it is to be lived. The system of the world is a thought, a thought of God, with a sublime and glorious purpose. The law of our lives is teleological. The heart of Christianity, that which stands for everything which it means and seeks to do, is the renewal of human life, the restoration of it to order out of the world's sin, the recovery of men, and perfecting of them in righteousness, goodness, and blessedness. The very summit of its purpose is character and right life.

This great truth has hardly ever been more than half apprehended by the Church. Though the supreme ethical character of Christianity illuminates every page of the New Testament, and glorifies the apostolic type of its power, the succeeding human development became too human, and soon began to obscure it, permitting this purpose to fall into the background. Very early in the necessary process of formulating the truths of the Gospel, human onesidedness tended to an absorbing conception of it as a system of doctrines rather than as a renewal of life and the earth. Another baleful influence came in from the side of philosophy—from the hard, dry, Aristotelianism of the Middle Ages, which, in its excessive speculative methods, tended strongly to leave religion with but little touch on morals and life. Metaphysical subtleties absorbed the working power of the theologians. After the Reformation brought a new morning to the long night of the Church, and the restored truth of justification by faith put men again in true, living relation of sonship with God for the true life of righteousness, polemics, wars, and revolutions prevented the carrying forward of the saving truth into its right and full fruitage. And when quieter times came there was a disposition to rest too much in mere intellectual orthodoxy.

Is not "salvation ” continually thought of as something for the future, for the next world, rather than as a present attainment of state and character. Phillips Brooks says the business of Christians is still largely an illustration of the ethics of paganism. Is it not a sad fact that effort is still largely satisfied in simply bringing the subjects of grace across the margin from condemnation to forgiveness, with credible profession of trust in Christ, but with hardly a conception of that complete regeneration into which forgiveness and adoption are to bring them, “working out” the real salvation in a new life of duty, holiness, righteousness, love, goodness, real “ obedience to Him whose world men live in " ?

Christendom to-day, as in no other period, is coming to see this moral purpose of redemption. Not theology alone, but philosophy and science and poetry are being inspired with the vision, and pleading for its better realisation, as the world's only hope of regeneration and peace. This supreme ethical purpose belongs to Christianity in both the grand relations in which the Gospel touches mankind, viz., in its work of individual salvation, and in its work for society. As to men personally, this divine design is indisputable. Redemption, in its deepest essence, is redemption from a wrong or immoral state and action of our fallen nature. Man's deepest woe is the disorder or corruption in his nature, under which it acts sinfully, immorally. It is lost to the life of duty. The great, all-consummating purpose of redemption was, and for ever remains, to restore the believer from bad character and life to good, and bring him to be again, in nature, power and conduct, the being of excellence and glory that man was primarily made to be. The lofty ethical demands of the Hebrew Scriptures, along with their revelation of grace, form their unique and distinguishing feature. “And when the New Testament brings us the fruit of the Old Testament budding time, the kingdom of heaven out of the preparing period, the Son of God, in the Sermon on the Mount, as the pronunciamento of the aim of saving grace, takes the old law of duty and conduct, deepens it, broadens it, intensifies it, making it reach down into the state of the heart and sweep round and through the whole compass of human thought, feeling, and action-so that when the sermon closes, it has carried the law of duty into a spirituality, solemnity, and glory before unknown, forever

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »