Many Moods in the Hebrew Scriptures

C. G. Montefiore
1890 Jewish Quarterly Review  
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It is criticism which has restored to the Bible its original variety of life and colour. Just as in the human structure the inter-connection of mind and matter is so much more complex than was supposed erewhile, so, too, in the Bible, the human and divine elements are far more subtly transfused than the pious simplicity of an earlier age believed. It is through the very variety of its human aspect that what we call the inspiration of the Bible is now recognised and revered. Yet there are two ways in which this variety is limited. One is that because it is a collection of the religious and historical writings of a single race, the Bible (by which term I here mean the Old Testament only) takes for granted throughout one or two fundamental religious convictions, from which it never deflects. That Yahveh is the God of Israel, and that Yahveh is a God of righteousness,-these are assertions which, however differently they might be expressed, and whatever difference in implication they might contain for different ages and minds, would never have been flatly contradicted by any Israelite from David to Judas the Maccabee. This limitation is obvious and familiar; the other, though undoubtedly very important, is as yet of unascertained range. We may call it the editorial limitation, and it shows itself in different ways. Certain functions of the Old Testament editors have only quite recently been more narrowly inquired into; and till the criticism of Stade and his school has been systematically examined, there must remain considerable doubt in many important details relating to this work of the Biblical editors.' Its method, how-I refer especially to their work in Stade's excellent Zeitschkrift fdr (die alttestamentliche WVisen.?thaft. Into the field of this criticism it should be noted that Geiger led the way. Compare the Ueberarbcitung chapter in his Urschrift, pp. 72-101. 142 Mansy Moods in the Hebrew Scriptures. ever, is already clear. Much of it is comprised in that useful German word, for which unfortunately we have no English equivalent, Ueberarbeituzg. The historical books provide the best field for these critical investigations. Their results we see most satisfactorily in those chapters of Samuel in which a clearly primitive train of thought is rounded off or interlarded with far later reflections and ideas. How much the editors may have omitted from their originals we cannot tell; it is very probable that many a passage, into which even they could not read their own religious convictions, was left out or greatly modified. Even in the prophetical writings we have, though with reserve, to be on the watch for the editor's hands. Not merely, as almost everybody now-adays is aware, are whole chapters appended to one prophet's utterances which belong to a different age (e.g., Isaiah xl.-lxvi., Zechariah ix.-xiv.), but even within single chapters a careful, though sometimes too subtle, criticism has shown with more or less convincing exactitude the presence of editorial accretions. If then an attempt is made to prove an identity of thought between, let us say, Jeremiah and Ezra, by the help of a few verses from the former which are used to counterbalance a number of other passages which ordinarily would suggest a considerable difference between these two writers, we must first be sure that the argument of the harmonist is not resting upon the precarious foundation of an editorial comment or gloss. On the other hand, the existence of isolated passages such as Isaiah lvi. 1-8, or writings with a partly polemical purpose, such as Jonah and Ruth, suggest a doubt whether many noble utterances may not have been curtailed or suppressed by over-zealous editors with whose religious position they were not in harmony. The actual variety of thought in the Biblical writings in their present form may be roughly classified as follows. First, a variety that indicates and illustrates a development in time of moral and religious thought from lower to higher. But within this category we cannot include all species of difference. Nehemiah is later than the "second Isaiah," but he is spiritually his inferior. Secondly, a variety that is partially explained by the fact that the authors of Scripture fall into three or four different classes. The prophets, the wise men, the priests and the psalmists had all, to some extent, their own special points of view, and there are writings in the Bible, such as Deuteronomy or Ezekiel or Psalm cxix., which represent a more or less perfect fusion between two of these different classes. Lastly, there remains all the variety that may be due to the individual idiosyncrasy and character of each particular writer. K2 157 Smend, Ueber die Bedeutung des Jerusalemi.schen Tempels, etc., Studien 2ind Kritiken, 1884, p. 704. 2 Compare "Mystic Passages in the Psalms," Jeiish Quarterly Review, Vol. I., p. 143. 3 Another curious instance of a mood that lies between "legalism" and " prophetism" is a passage in the post-exilic Joel. " Turn ye to me with all your hearts, anld withlfasting and with weepling, and with smiting of the breast." But the next verse begins, "Rend your heart, and not your garments."
doi:10.2307/1450094 fatcat:ufawhynymbgbbl5l3zkn4wgy6i