Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly?

Topic: Bible Type: Article Author:   R. D. Wilson  

from THE CHRISTIAN NEWS, March 4, 1991

Clearly attested facts showing that the destructive "assured results of modern scholarship" are indefensible

by Robert Dick Wilson, Ph.D., D.D.
Professor of Semitic Philology in Princeton Theological Seminary

Printed in Philadelphia
by The Sunday School Times Company in 1922


"As a man is interested in his roses, and doesn’t think of the thorns," so he studied language. That was Professor Wilson’s answer to my query, when I expressed amazement at the range of his linguistic explorations, covering some forty-five languages and dialects. His answer helped me to understand.

And as we sat by the fire in his study at Princeton, with the signs of his labors all around us, on shelves, and tables, and desk--yes, and on the floor, I came to understand still better the stories I had heard of his learning, and of his masterly methods in the defense of the Scriptures.

When he was a little chap, four years old, son of a leading merchant in the little town of Indiana, PA, he could read. He began to go to school at five, and at eight he had read, among other books, Rawlinson’s Ancient Monarchies.

That merchant father was a man of sound culture and good sense. He was president of the Board of Trade of his county, and president of the local school board–with ten children in his own home.

When Robert was nine years old he and a brother were taken by their father on a journey to Philadelphia. One of the exciting and memorable experiences of the trip was the visit to a bookstore on Chestnut Street, where the father left the boys for a little while, so that they might select a number of books of their own choosing. When he returned they had gathered about fifty volumes, including Prescott, Robertson, J. S. C. Abbott, and similar standard works–examples of the "light reading" that these children enjoyed.

Robert prepared for college in the Indiana public school, and was ready for the sophomore class at Princeton when he was fourteen years old. However, he did not enter his class–the class of 1870–until he was at the advanced age of seventeen, for as he naively and rather apologetically remarked: "I had a good deal of headache between my fourteenth and twentieth years, and then typhoid. After that my headache disappeared. I really couldn’t half do my work before that."

In college young Wilson specialized in language, psychology, and mathematics. In such Bible courses as he then studied he says that he got "a very low grade of 90, which pulled down my average."

To him language was the gateway into alluring fields that drew him strongly. He prepared himself for college in French, German, and Greek, learned Hebrew by himself, and took a hundred dollar prize in Hebrew when he entered the seminary.

"But how did you ever do it?" I asked. The professor’s eyes twinkled, and he smiled at my surprise.

"Well, you see," he replied, "I used my spare time. When I went out for a walk I would take a grammar with me, and when I sat down to rest, I would take out the book, study it a little, and learn what I could. I made up my mind that I wanted to read the great classics in the originals, so I just learned the languages in order to do that.

"I would read a grammar through, look up the examples, making notes as I went along, and I wouldn’t pass by anything until I could explain it. I never learned long lists of words, but I would read a page through, recall the words I didn’t know, and then look them up. I read anything that I thought would be interesting to me if it were in English. I got so interested in the story that I was unconscious of the labor–as a man is interested in his roses, and doesn’t think of the thorns. So I learned Greek, Latin, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Biblical Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, and so on."

Now Robert Dick Wilson in all these crowded years was not clear concerning his true calling in life. Before he went to the seminary, he and a brother of his gave much time to evangelism. At Indiana they were in such work for a year and a half and with ample evidence of God’s blessings upon their labors in great numbers of souls led to Christ. That work was particularly attractive to young Wilson, on fire as he was, and is today, for the furtherance of the Gospel.

But his seminary studies caused him to feel that there was a great need for a type of Biblical scholarship that was not so subjective as much of teaching he heard, but objective and thorough in dealing with facts that could be known only by exhaustive research over the whole range of the ancient languages related to the Bible. He faced the question seriously–should he go on in the highly attractive and necessary work of preaching in which he had been so greatly blessed, or was God calling him to years of toil in comparative obscurity and seclusion, in order to let his life count for the defense of the Scriptures on the basis of linguistic and historical facts, which only arduous and patient toil could reveal? He chose under God’s guiding hand the life of the scholar, and thousands have thanked God, and other thousands will yet thank him, that this servant of His said, Here am I; send me.

What Robert Dick Wilson then believed, and now believes with all his heart is this: that textual and historical Biblical controversies should be taken out of the region of subjective personal opinion, into the region of objective, clearly attested fact. It was to this task that he set himself, and no labor was to be too long or too tedious or exacting to enable him to reach that goal.

He could not at that time learn Babylonian in America, so he went to Heidelberg, determined to learn every language that would enable him the better to understand the Scriptures, and to make his investigations in original documents.

So to Babylonian he added Ethiopic, Phoenician, all the Aramaic dialects, and Egyptian, Coptic, Persian and Armenian. He studied in Berlin with Schrader, who was Delitzsch’s teacher, called the father of Assyriology. He studied his Arabic and Syriac under Sachau, and Arabic under Jahn and Dieterichi; Hebrew under Dillmann and Strack, and Egyptian under Brugsch. He became conversant with some twenty-six languages in these years devoted to language acquisition.

For Professor Wilson had a plan, carefully worked out during his student days in Germany, under which he proposed to spend fifteen years in language study, fifteen years in Biblical textual study in the light of the findings of his studies in philology, and then, God willing, fifteen years of writing out his findings, so that others might share them with him. And now it is our privilege in this booklet to read, in terms that we all can understand, some of the gloriously reassuring facts that he has found in his long pilgrimage through ancient days.

Just a single glimpse of how long it has been startles the superficial and the scholarly student as well, when either learns that in order to answer a single sentence of a noted destructive critic, Professor Wilson read all the extant ancient literature of the period under discussion in numerous languages, and collated no less than one hundred thousand citations from that literature in order to get at the basic facts, which when found showed that the critic was wrong. It was largely a case of superior scholarship–in accordance with a good definition of the scholarly temperament–"that rare combination of profound insight, sustained attention, microscopic accuracy, iron tenacity, and disinterested pursuit of truth, which characterizes the great scientific discoverer or the great historian."

Professor Wilson’s productive work has been presented hitherto almost entirely to his students, some two thousand of whom have been in his seminary classes through the years; in scholarly journals of restricted circulation; and in a few books, one of the most remarkable of which is his Studies in the Book of Daniel.

"Professor," I asked, "what do you try to do for your students?"

Instantly he replied, with quiet earnestness, "I try to give them such an intelligent faith in the Old Testament Scriptures that they will never doubt them as long as they live. I try to give them evidence. I try to show them that there is a reasonable ground for belief in the history of the Old Testament [Emphasis added - aal] [He has not specialized on the New Testament].

"I’ve seen the day," he went on, "when I’ve just trembled at undertaking a new investigation, but I’ve gotten over that. I have come now to the conviction that no man knows enough to assail the truthfulness of the Old Testament. Whenever there is sufficient documentary evidence to make an investigation, the statements of the Bible, in the original texts, have stood the test."

That is a significant statement from one who does not have to trust to hearsay in matters of criticism, and who has worked for so many years in devout self-denying study of the sources and the text of the Old Testament. "When a man says to me, ‘I don’t believe the Old Testament,’ " exclaimed Dr. Wilson, "he makes no impression upon me. When he points out something there that he doesn’t believe, he makes no’ impression upon me. But if he comes to me and says, ‘I’ve got the evidence here to show that the Old Testament is wrong at this or that point’–then that’s where my work begins! I’m ready for him!" And the professor laughed in his hearty way, in evident enjoyment of the prospect of such an encounter.

I think perhaps one reason why I have been so stirred by many personal talks with this stalwart scholar is the habit he has of putting proof before you as he goes, and not standing on his dignity as though no one had a right to ask questions of him about his findings. But when a scholar challenges him, then the Professor is aroused lion–no, an aroused attorney for the defense, massing his facts so overwhelmingly, proving them, driving them home, and disclosing the weakness of his opponent’s case so convincingly, that I should think the attorney for the plaintiff in the attack on the Old Testament would wish for the sake of his reputation that he had not ventured on ground where his own ignorance would be so manifest to the court. For it is made very evident by a study of any of Professor Wilson’s keen critiques of the destructive critics’ work that much of the material so often called by the critics "the assured results of modern scholarship" is nothing more than the quicksand footsteps of a really inexcusable, downright ignorance. "Criticism," says Dr. Wilson, "is not a matter of brains, but a matter knowledge."

But let Professor Wilson lay before you his findings. He is concerned only with evidence, and it will gladden your heart to know even a little of what he has found, as he unfolds some of his experiences in the following studies.

Philip E. Howard


The history of the preparation of the world for the Gospel as set forth in the Old Testament is simple and clear, and in the light of the New Testament eminently reasonable. In fact, it has been considered so reasonable, so harmonious with what was to have been expected, that Christ and the apostles seem never to have doubted its veracity, and the Christian Church which they founded has up to our times accepted it as fully consonant with the facts. Within the last two centuries, however, largely as a result of the Deistic movement in England and of the application to sacred history of the so-called critical method, there has arisen a widespread doubt of the truthfulness of the Old Testament records. To such doubt many have refused to listen, and blessed are all those who have no doubts.

Countering With Proof, Defensive and Offensive

But there are many whose faith in the veracity of the Scriptures has been shaken; and the best, and in some cases the only, way to re-establish their faith is to show them that the charges which are brought against the Bible are untrue and unwarranted.

The attempt to show this may be made along two lines. We may take the purely defensive line and endeavor to show that the general and particular attacks upon the truthfulness of the Old Testament narratives are unsupported by facts. Or, we may take the offensive and show that the Old Testament narratives are in harmony with all that is really known of the history of the world in the times described in the Old Testament records, and that these records themselves contain the ineffaceable evidence that the time and place of their origin agree with the facts recorded. The best method, perhaps, will be to make an offensive-defensive, showing not merely that the attacks are futile, but that the events recorded and the persons and things described are true to history–that is, that they harmonize in general with what we learn from the contemporaneous documents of other nations.

This is true of the very earliest narratives of the Old Testament. Even when we look at the two great events occurring before the time of Abraham–the Creation and the Flood–we find that these events are the same that are emphasized among the Babylonians, from the midst of whom Abraham went out. For it is certain, that, however we may account for the difference between the Babylonian and Hebrew accounts of the Creation and of the Deluge, there is sufficient resemblance between them to point to a common origin antedating the time of Abraham’s departure from Ur of the Chaldees. 1[See King, The Seven Tablets of Creation; and Jensen, Assyrisch-Babylonische Mythen und Epen].

The Old Testament Derived From Written Sources Based on Contemporary Documents

From this time downward there is no good reason for doubting that the Biblical narrative is derived from written sources based on contemporaneous documents. For, first, Abraham came out of that part of Babylon in which writing had been in use for hundreds of years; and he lived during the time of Hammurapi, from whose reign we have scores of letters, contracts, and other records, of which by far the most important is the so-called code of laws which bears his name 2[See King, The Letters and Inscriptions of Hammurabi; and Harper, The Code of Hammurabi]. Besides, writing had been in existence in Egypt already for two thousand years or more, so that we can well believe that the family of Abraham, traveling from Babylon to Egypt and at last settling in Palestine, in between these two great literary peoples, had also formed the habit of conducting business and keeping records in writing 3[See especially Schorr, Urkunden des altabylonischen Zivilund Prozess Rechts]. Abraham would naturally use the cuneiform system of writing, since this is known to have existed in Western Asia long before the time of Hammurapi, and the Amarna letters show clearly that Hebrew was sometimes written in that script 4[See Winckler, Tel-el-Amarna Letters; and Kundtzon, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln.]. But not only do we know that there was a script in which to write; we know, also, that the Hebrew language was used in Palestine before the time of Moses. This is clear not merely from more than a hundred common words embedded in the Amarna letters but from the fact that the names of the places mentioned in them are largely Hebrew 5[Knudtzon, loc. cit., p. 1545f.]. In the geographical lists of the Egyptian king, Thothmes III, and of other kings of Egypt we find more than thirty good Hebrew words as the names of the cities of Palestine and Syria that they conquered 6[See Max Müller, Die Palastinaliste Thutmoses III]. From these facts we conclude that books may have been written in Hebrew at that early period. Further, we see that the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have been called by Hebrew names, as the Biblical record assures us 7[See article Was Abraham a Myth? in "Bible Student and Teacher" for 1905].

Age-long Correspondence in the Chronology of the Bible and Profane History

Having found, then, that writing and the Hebrew language were in existence long before the time of Moses, we turn next to the documents of the Old Testament which purport to give a history, more or less connected, of the period from Abraham (circa 2,000 BC) to Darius II (circa 400 BC), in order to find out, if possible, whether the general scheme of chronology and geography presented to us in the Hebrew records corresponds with what we can learn from other documents of the same period. And here we find, first, that the nations mentioned in the Scriptures as having flourished at one time or another are exactly the same as those that profane history reveals to us. Thus, in the period from Abraham to David we find in both Biblical and profane sources that Egypt is recognized as already in 2,000 BC a great and predominant power, and that she continued to the time of Solomon to be looked upon as the great enemy of the Israelites. In the same period, we see Elam and Babylon occupying the first place in the far East, and the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Sidonians, Moabites, Edomites, and Damascus in the intervening section, the "debatable ground" between Egypt and Babylon.

In the next period, from 1,000 to 625 BC, Assyria has become the chief power among the nations in the neighborhood of Palestine, with Babylon of only secondary importance. Egypt has lost the first rank and is at times subject to Cush or dominated by Assyria. Media appears on the scene, but as a subject of Assyria. Between the Euphrates and Egypt, the Hittites are prominent in the earlier part, and next to them Hamath, Damascus, Tyre, Ammon, Moab and Edom. Further, the distinction between Samaria and Judah is clearly recognized in the monuments.

In the last period, from 625 to 400 BC, Babylon has become the leading power until its hegemony is taken over by Persia under Cyrus. Egypt as a world power disappears from history with the conquests by Nebuchadnezzar and Cambyses. The Hittites, Damascus, Hamath, Israel, Judah, and all the tribes and cities between Babylon and Egypt have ceased to exist as independent powers.

A Foundation for Reliance

Now, into this framework of world history, the history of Israel fits exactly. The Bible records in succession the relations of Israel with Babylon, Elam, Egypt, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians; and the smaller nations, or powers, appear in their proper relation to these successively great powers. These are facts that cannot be denied and they afford a foundation for reliance upon the statements of the Biblical documents.

Correct Order and Character of the Kings

This foundation is strengthened when we observe that the kings of these various countries whose names are mentioned in the Old Testament are all named in the order and in the synchronism required by, the documents of the kings themselves. Thus, Chedorlaomer, possibly, and certainly Hammurapi (the Amraphel of Genesis 14) and Arioch lived at about 2,000 BC; Shishak, Zerah, So, Tirhakeh, Necho, and Hophra, kings of Cush and Egypt; Tiglath-Pileser, Shalmaneser, Sargon, Sennacherib, and Esrhaddon, kings of Assyria; Merodach-Baladan, Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach and Belshazzar, kings of Babylon; and Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia, all appear in the Scriptures in their correct order as attested by their own records, or by other contemporaneous evidence. The same is true, also, of the kings of Damascus, Tyre, and Moab.

Again, we find that the Assyrian documents that mention the kings of Israel and Judah name them in the same order in which they appear in the chronicles of Israel and Judah. And not only this. We find, also, that the statements made with regard to the kings of all these countries correspond as closely as different documents ever correspond in reference to their relative power, importance, and characteristics and deeds. Especially noteworthy are the close resemblances in this respect between the accounts of Shishak, Tiglath-Pileser, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus; but the whole fabric of the historic structure of the Old Testament harmonizes beautifully in general outline and often in detail with the background of the general history of the world as revealed in the documents from the nations surrounding Israel.

A Biblical Phenomenon Unequaled in the History of Literature

Moreover, an extraordinary confirmation of the careful transmission of the Hebrew documents from original sources lies in the exact manner in which the names of the kings are spelled. The twenty-four names of kings of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, et al., contain 120 consonantal letters, of which all are found in the same order in the inscriptions of the kings themselves or in those of their contemporaries. That the Hebrew writers should have transliterated these names with such accurateness and conformity to philological principles is a wonderful proof of their thorough care and scholarship and of their access to the original sources. That the names should have been transmitted to us through so many copyings and so many centuries in so complete a state of preservation is a phenomenon unequaled in the history of literature. The scribe of Assurbanipal in transcribing the name of Psammetichus, the contemporary king of Egypt, makes the mistake of writing a t for the p at the beginning and an l for the t in the middle 8[See Annals of Ashurbanipal, Col. II, 114; and Streck's Assurbanipal, p. 715]. Abulfeda, the author of the Arab ante-Islamic history, gives the names of the kings of Persia of the Achaemenid line as "Kei-Kobad, Kei-Kawus, Kei-Chosrew, Kei-Lohrasp, Kei-Bushtasf, Kei-Ardeshir-Bahman and Chomani his daughter, and Dara the First, and Dara the Second who was killed by Alaskander," and writes the name of Nebuchadnezzar as Bactnosar. In the list of names of the companions of Alexander given by the Pseudo-Callisthenes, nearly every name is changed so as to be unrecognizable; 9[See President Woolsey in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 111, pp. 359-440] and the same is true of most of the names of the kings of Egypt as we have them preserved in the lists of Manetho, Herodotus, and Diodorus Siculus, and of the kings of Assyria and Babylon as given in Africanus, Castor, and the Canon of Ptolemy 10[See Cory, Ancient Fragments; and Müller, Fragments Historicorum Grecorum; and article on "Darius the Mede," by R. D. Wilson, in Princeton Theological Review, April, 1922].

The Correctness of Hebrew Authors a Basis for Faith

This almost universal inaccuracy and unreliability of the Greek and Arab historians with reference to the kings of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon is in glaring contrast with the exactness and trustworthiness of the Hebrew Bible. It can be accounted for, humanly speaking, only on the grounds that the authors of the Hebrew records were contemporaries of the kings they mention, or had access to original documents; and secondly, that the Hebrew writers were good enough scholars to transliterate with exactness; and thirdly, that the copyists of the Hebrew originals transcribed with conscientious care the text that was before them. Having given such care to the names of heathen kings, it is to be presumed that they would give no less attention to what these kings said and did; and so we have in this incontestable evidence from the order, times, and spelling of the names, of the kings an indestructible basis upon which to rest our faith in the reliability of the history recorded in the books of the Old Testament Scriptures. Doubt about some of the minor details can never invalidate this strong foundation of facts upon which to erect the enduring structure of the history of Israel.

Having secured a framework for our history, let us look next at the doorways of language which let us inside the structure. These doorways are the passages through which converse with the outer world was carried on by the people of Israel. On their thresholds will be seen the footprints of the nations who introduced their ideas and their products to the household who dwelt within.

Intruding Foreign Words as Date-Setters

In order that the force of the evidence that I am about to produce may be fully appreciated, let me here say that the time at which any document of length, and often even of small compass, was written can generally be determined by the character of its vocabulary, and especially by the foreign words which are embedded in it. Take, for example, the various Aramaic documents. The inscriptions from Northern Syria having been written in Assyrian times bear evident marks of Assyrian, Phoenician, and even Hebrew words 11[See Lidzbraski, Nordsemitische Epigraphik; and Cooke, North Semitic Inscriptions]. The Egyptian papyri from Persian times have numerous words of Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian origin, as have also the Aramaic parts of Ezra and Daniel 12[See Sayce-Cowley, Papyri; Sachau, Papyrus; and Lidzbraski, Ephemeris for 1911]. The Nabatean Aramaic having been written probably by Arabs is strongly marked, especially in its proper names, by Arab words 13[See Euting, Sinditische Inschriften and the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticorum, Vol. II]. The Palmyrene, Syriac, and Rabbinical Aramaic, from the time of the Graeco-Roman domination, have hundreds of terms introduced from Greek and Latin 14[See Lidzbarski and Cooke as cited in Note 11; Brockelmann, Lexicon Syriacum; and Dalman, Aramaisch-neuhebraisches Worterbuch]. Bar Hebraeus and other writings after the Mohammedan conquest have numerous Arabic expressions, and the modern Syriac of Ouroumiah has many words of Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish origin 15[See Brockelmann, Lexicon Syriacum; and MacLean, Dictionary of Vernacular Syriac].

The Ever-Changing Influx of New Words in Hebrew Scriptures

Now, if the Biblical history be true, we shall expect to find Babylonian words in the early chapters of Genesis and Egyptian in the later; and so on down, an ever-changing influx of new words from the languages of the ever-changing dominating powers. And, as a matter of fact, this is exactly what we find. The accounts of the Creation and the Flood are marked by Babylonian words and ideas. The record of Joseph is tinged with all Egyptian coloring. The language of Solomon’s time has Indian, Assyrian, and probably Hittite words. From his time to the end of the Old Testament, Assyrian and Babylonian terms are often found, as in Jeremiah, Nahum, Isaiah, Kings, and other books. Persian words come in first with the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus and are frequent in Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Esther, and, in the case of proper names, one at least occurs in both Haggai and Zechariah. No Greek words are to be found in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, except Javan and possibly one or two other terms. That Aramaic words may have been in Hebrew documents at any time from Moses to Ezra is shown by the fact that two or more words and phrases found elsewhere only in Aramaic occur already in the Tel-el-Amarna letters, and one in a letter to the king of Egypt from Abd-Hiba of Jerusalem 16[See Winckler and Knudtzon as cited in Note 4].

It may be known to the reader that one verse in Jeremiah and about half of the books of Ezra and Daniel are written in Aramaic. This is what we might have expected at a time when, as the Egyptian papyri 17[See Sayce-Cowley, Papyri; and Sachau, Papyrus]. and the Babylonian endorsements 18[See Article by A. T. Clay in The W. R. Harper Memorial Volume] show, the Aramaic language had become the common language of Western Asia and in particular of the Jews, at least in all matters of business and commerce. That the Hebrew parts of Daniel and Ezra should have a large number of Aramaic words would, therefore, be expected; and, also, they would naturally be found in Chronicles and Nehemiah and other documents coming from the latter part of the sixth century (when Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Persian empire) and in other works down to the latest composition of the Old Testament. In later Hebrew this process of absorbing foreign words may be illustrated by numerous examples. Thus the tract Yoma, written about AD 200, has about twenty Greek words in it, and Pesahim, about fourteen, while hundreds of them are found in Dalman’s dictionary of New Hebrew. Many terms of Latin origin also appear in the Hebrew literature of Roman times.

No Whit Different From Our Own Language Today

We thus see that the Hebrew, just like the Aramaic, has embedded in it traces of the nations that influenced its history from 2,000 BC to AD 1,500, or indeed to the present time. The reader will compare this with the marks which have been left upon our American nomenclature by the different nations that have influenced its history. The native Indian appears in the names Massachusetts, Connecticut, Allegheny, Ohio, Mexico, Yucatan, and countless other terms. The Spanish appears in Florida, San Anselmo, Los Angeles, Vera Cruz, New Granada, and numerous appellations of mountains, rivers, and cities; the French, in Montreal, Detroit, Vincennes, Duquesne, Louisiana, St. Louis, and New Orleans; the Dutch, in Hackensack, Schenectady, Schuyler; the German, in Germantown, and Snyder County (Pennsylvania). Some of these languages have contributed, also, various words of common use such as moccasin, succotash, potato, maize, tomato, tomahawk, prairie, sauerkraut, broncho, and corral.

These languages all have left their mark, but the great directing, predominating, language and nation were the English, as is shown not merely in our literature and laws, but also in such names as New Hampshire, Boston, New York, Albany, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, and the names of most of our cities, counties, and statesmen. But that the English received their laws largely from the Romans and the Normans is evident in any law book or court room; that they received their religion from the Hebrews through the Greek and Latin churches is evident from the words we use every day such as amen, hallelujah, priest, baptism, cathedral, bishop, chant, cross, resurrection, glory, and countless others.

Critics Undervalue the Totality of the Evidence

Thus, the vicissitudes of the life of the English people for the last fifteen hundred years can be traced in the foreign words that have been taken over into its literature during that period. So also with the Hebrew people for the last four thousand years, and in the first part of sixteen hundred years no less than since that time. And in the study of the Hebrew literature in the light of the foreign elements that are embedded in it, we find that the truthfulness of the history is incidentally but convincingly confirmed. In each stage of the literature the foreign words in the documents are found to belong to the language of the peoples that the Scriptures and the records of the nations surrounding Israel unite in declaring to have influenced and affected the Israelites at that time. The critics of the Old Testament have never given sufficient weight to the totality of this evidence.

That the presence of Babylonian terms in the first chapter of Genesis points to a time when Babylonian influence was predominant, no one will dispute; but the same influence is manifest in the second chapter and also in Daniel. This influence can easily be accounted for in all three instances on the supposition that the contents of Genesis 1 and 2 were brought by Abraham from Babylon and that the book of Daniel was written at Babylon in the sixth century BC While it might be accounted for in Genesis 1 if it were composed at Babylon during or after the exile, how can it have influenced Genesis 2, if, as the critics assert, it were written somewhere between 800 and 750 BC? How, also, can we account for the Babylonian influence in Daniel if, as the same critics assure us, it were written in Palestine in 164 BC?

Why Are Persian Words Missing in Critic-Belated Bible Books?

So of the Persian words. They are found especially in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel, all ostensibly from the Persian period of world domination. According to analogy, this Persian domination accounts for their presence in these books. But how about their absence from Jonah, Joel, Job, the Psalms, the Song of Songs, the so-called Priest-Code of the Pentateuch and other writings which the critics place in the Persian period? Why especially should the Priest-Code have no Persian, and probably no Aramaic, words, if it were written between 500 and 300 BC in the very age and, as some affirm, by the very author of the book of Ezra? And why should the only demonstrably Babylonian words in this part of the Pentateuch be found in the accounts of the Creation and the Flood, which may so well have come with Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees? And how could the word for "kind" (min), an Egyptian word, have come to be used by the man who is supposed to have written this latest part of the Pentateuch in Babylon in the fifth century BC?

These and other similar questions that ought to be asked we may leave to the critics of the Old Testament to attempt to answer. They dare not deny the facts without laying themselves open to the charge of ignorance. They dare not ignore them without submitting to the charge of willful suppression of the facts in evidence.

But some one will say: How about the Greek words in Daniel? No one claims that there are any Greek words in the Hebrew of Daniel. In the Aramaic parts of Daniel there are three words, all names of musical instruments, which are alleged, not proved, to be Greek. It is more likely than not, I think, that they are of Greek origin, though no one of them is exactly transliterated. Assuming, however, that they are Greek, and waiving the question as to whether this part of the book was originally written in Hebrew, or Babylonian, and afterwards translated into Aramaic, there is no good reason for supposing that Greek musical instruments, retaining their original names though in a somewhat perverted form, may not have been used at the court of Nebuchadnezzar.

How Greek Words May Have Crept Into Daniel

It is known for a certainty that from the earliest times the kings and peoples of Babylon and Nineveh delighted in music. Now, the Greeks, according to all their traditions and habits, both in war and worship, had practiced music at all periods of their history and far excelled all ancient peoples in their attainments in the art of music. We all know how readily musical instruments and their native names travel from land to land. We might instance the ukelele, the guitar, the organ, and the trumpet. The Greeks themselves imported many foreign musical instruments which retained their foreign names. From at least 1,000 BC there was an active commerce between the Greeks and the Semites. Cyprus and Cilicia were subdued by the Assyrian kings; and Sennacherib about 700 BC conquered a Greek fleet and carried many prisoners captive to Nineveh. Assurbanipal received the homage of Gyges, king of Lydia, the neighbor and overlord of many Greek cities in Asia Minor.

Greeks had been settled in Egypt since long before the time of Assurbanipal and Nebuchadnezzar and served as mercenaries in the armies of the Egyptian kings who were subdued by the great kings of Nineveh and Babylon, and also in the army of Nebuchadnezzar himself. Thousands, perhaps, tens of thousands, of captive Greek soldiers would, according to the custom of those days, be settled in the cities of the Euphrates and Tigrus valleys. And these valleys were filled with people who spoke Aramaic. The Greeks would mingle with them and, as in the case of the Jews at Babylon, the natives would ask of them a song; and they would sing their strange songs to the accompaniment of their native instruments. This is one way in which the instruments and their names could get into Aramaic long before the time when the Aramaic of Daniel was written. Another was through the slaves, both men and girls, who would certainly be brought from all lands to minister to the pleasures of the luxurious court of the Chaldean king.

Why Daniel May Have Used Persian Words

That Daniel may have used the so-called Persian words in a document dating from the latter part of the sixth century BC is manifest when we remember that the children of Israel from the kingdom of Samaria had been captive among the Medes for two hundred years before the time of the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, and that the Jews had been carried to the banks of the Chebar and other localities where Aramaic was spoken nearly two generations before Daniel died. The Medes spoke a dialect of the Persian, and, having overthrown Nineveh in 606 BC, had ruled over large numbers of Aramaean tribes on the upper Tigris ever since that time. Such Medo-Persian terms as are found in Daniel, being mostly official titles like governor and names of persons, are the ones which would most readily be adopted by the subject nations, including the Aramaeans and Jews. That the words satrap and Xerxes were taken directly from the Medo-Persian and not from the Greek is shown by the fact that the Hebrew and Aramaic spelling of these names in Daniel is exactly the equivalent of that in the original language and not such as it must have been if these words had been taken over indirectly through the Greek historians.

Before leaving this subject of language, attention must be called to two matters that the critics have made of supreme importance in their attempts to settle the dates of the documents of the Old Testament. The first matter is that of the value, as evidence of date of the occurrence, of Aramaic words in a Hebrew document, and the second is the value, as evidence of date, of Hebrew words that occur but once, or at most a few times, in the Old Testament and that reoccur in the Hebrew of the Talmud.

Hebraisms in Aramaic, Not Aramaisms in Hebrew

As to the first of these, the so-called Aramaisms, the number has been grossly exaggerated. Many of the words and roots formerly called Aramaisms have been found in Babylonian records as early as Abraham. As to the remainder, many of them occur in the Old Testament but once. In view of the fact that there are about 1,500 words used but once in the Old Testament, it is impossible to select some of these and call them Aramaisms, simply because they are used in Aramaic also. Hundreds of words in both Aramaic and Hebrew, and also in Babylonian and Arabic, have the same meaning irrespective of the number of times or the documents in which they occur. According to the laws of consonantal change existing among the Semitic languages, not more than five or six Aramaic roots can be shown to have been adopted by the Hebrew from the Aramaic. These roots are found in what the critics class as early documents as well as in the later. Besides, a large proportion of the words designated as Aramaisms do not occur in any Aramaic dialect except those that were spoken by Jews. In all such cases the probability is that instead of the word’s being an Aramaism in Hebrew, it is a Hebraism in Aramaic. For the Hebrew documents in all such cases antedate the Aramaic by hundreds of years; and it is evident that the earlier cannot have been derived from the later.

Again, the critics find words which they call Aramaisms not merely in the books which they assert to be late, but in those that, according to their own dating, are the earliest. In this case, without any evidence except their own theory of how it ought to be, they charge that the original text has been changed and the Aramaic word inserted. Such procedure is contrary to all the laws of evidence, fairness, and common sense. For there is no reason why the early documents of the Hebrews should not have contained linguistic marks of Aramaic influence. According to Genesis 31, Laban spoke Aramaic. David conquered Damascus and other cities where Aramaic was spoken and the Israelites have certainly been in continuous contact with Aramaean tribes from that time to the present. Sporadic cases of the use of Aramaic words would, therefore, prove nothing as to the date of a Hebrew document.

A Theory That Would Make All Documents Late

In the second place, critics who are attempting to prove the late date of a certain document are wont to cite the words in that document which occur nowhere else, except possibly in another work claimed as being late, and in the Hebrew of the Talmud. Such evidence is worthy of being collected in order to show the peculiarities of an author, but it does not necessarily have anything to do with proving the date. For there are three thousand words in the Old Testament that occur five times only or under, and fifteen hundred that occur but once. Besides, such words occurring elsewhere in the Talmud are found in every book of the Old Testament and in almost every chapter. If such words were proof of the lateness of a document, all documents would be late; a conclusion so absurd as to be held by nobody.

Hebrew Literary Forms Duplicated in Babylon and Egypt

From the language of the Old Testament we naturally turn next to the literature, in order to see if the literary forms in which the documents are written are such as we would expect to find in existence when the documents lay claim to have been written. Our only evidence here must be derived from comparative literature and contemporary history 19[See further on this subject in article by R. D. Wilson on "Scientific Biblical Criticism," in The Princeton Theological Review for 1919]. Turning, then, to the vast body of the literatures of the Babylonians and Egyptians we find that in one, or both, of them is to be found every type of literary form that is met with in the literature of the Old Testament, except perhaps the discourses of the prophets. As no serious dispute of the date, or authorship, of the works of the prophets is made on the ground of mere literary form, the general statement will stand unimpeached; for poetry, history, laws, and biographies are all amply duplicated in form and style in the many productions of the great nations that surrounded Israel.

The Same True of Legal Forms

With regard to the laws it may be said that, not merely in the form in which the individual laws are stated, but also in the manner in which they are collected together in a kind of code, there was a pattern for the Israelites already existing at least from the time of Hammurapi, a contemporary of Abraham. This code of Hammurapi, it is true, deals almost entirely with civil and criminal laws such as we find in parts of Deuteronomy. But the plan of the tabernacle in Exodus 25-29 may be likened to the plans of the Babylonian temples which were placed in their foundation stones, to which Nebuchadnezzar and Nabunaid so often refer. Laws similar to those concerning leprosy and other diseases have also come down from the old Sumerians. It is almost certain, also, that the elaborate ceremonies of the Egyptian and Babylonian temples must have been regulated by written laws, though thus far we have discovered no complete code treating of such matters.

That Moses with his education in all the wisdom of the Egyptians at 1,500 BC might have produced the laws of the Pentateuch under the divine guidance seems beyond dispute. Lycurgus, Mohammed, Charlemagne, Peter the Great, and Napoleon have performed similar feats without any special divine help. It does not follow that systems of law and constitutions were not written, or inaugurated, because they were never carried out nor permanently established. Theodoric and Alfred the Great and even Charlemagne organized governments which scarcely survived their demise. The critics are in the habit of stressing the fact that so little mention of the law is made in the period before Hezekiah, or even Josiah, and assert that the law of the Priest-code was not fully established before Ezra.

An Argument From Silence Which Proves Nothing

This is an argument from silence which proves nothing absolutely. There is a history of the United States called Scribner’s by William Cullen Bryant and others. It has 53 pages, double column, of Index. The word Presbyterian does not occur in this Index; the word Christian only in the phrase, Christian Commission; the word church only twice. And yet, this is a history of a republic founded by Christians, observing the Sabbath, devoted to foreign missions, and full of Christian churches and activities. Thirty-five hundred pages quarto and no mention of Thanksgiving Day, nor of the days of fasting and prayer during the Civil War, nor of the Bible except in the relation of the Bible Society to slavery!

Nor does it prove that the law did not exist, to show that it was not completely observed, or that things forbidden in it were done. Does the crime wave that has been sweeping the world since the close of the war prove that the Gospel does not exist? In one week of December, 1920, the front page of one of our great New York dailies had scarcely space for anything except reports of murders, burglaries, and other crimes. Are the Ten Commandments unknown in New York City?

But the critics assert that a long period of development was necessary before such a system of laws could have been formulated, accepted, and enforced. I agree readily to this but I claim that all the development necessary for the formulation may have taken place before the time of Moses and that its hearty acceptance by the people and its enforcement depended upon moral rather than intellectual conditions. As far as intellectual requirements are concerned, there is nothing in the law that might not have been written either in Babylon or Egypt a thousand years before Moses. Then as now it was spiritual power and moral inclination that was wanted rather than intellectual perception in order to do the right and abhor the wrong. In each successive generation of Israelitish men each individual of the nation had to be converted and to submit his soul and conduct to the teachings of the divine law. The ancient Jewish church had its ups and downs, its times of strenuous faith and of declension and decay, just as the Christian church has had.

Ample Time for Revision of Laws

It is claimed by the critics that signs of progress, or change, are to be observed in some of the laws as given in Exodus 20-24, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. This may be admitted. It is, however, a sufficient answer to this claim that in the forty years from the arrival at Sinai to the final address of Moses at Shittim, there was plenty of time for revision and adaptation of these laws to suit all probable variety of circumstances awaiting the people of God. Consider the changes in forty years in the fish laws of Pennsylvania, or in the tariff or railroad legislation of the United States! Besides, many of these apparently variant legislations with regard to the same thing are, as Mr. Wiener has so clearly shown in his "Studies in Biblical Law," really laws affecting different relations of the same thing. Some, also, like the Income Tax Laws upon our yearly declaration sheet, are general laws for the whole people; while others, like the detailed statements of the Income Tax Law that are meant to guide the tax officials, are meant for the priests and Levites who officiated at the sanctuary.

That there should he repetitions of the laws affecting the Sabbath, festivals, idolatry, and so forth, does not argue against unity of authorship. The central facts of a new system are frequently emphasized by such repetition, as is manifest in almost every chapter of the Koran, and in almost every epistle of the apostle Paul. Why they thus repeat is not always clear to us; but it is to be supposed that it was clear to the authors of the repetitions. That is a question of motives and not of text or evidence. What the Peace Treaty says is evident; why the treaty-makers said thus and so is not always apparent, and cannot be produced in evidence.

Were the "Redactors" Slipshod Editors?

That there should be apparent contradictions among so many laws was inevitable. Some of these are doubtless due to errors of transmission, especially if, as seems probable, the original was written in cuneiform and afterwards transferred to an alphabetic system of writing. Some of them appear contradictory, but really relate to different persons or circumstances. Certainly, if they were as contradictory and irreconcilable as the critics suppose, we have a right to express our astonishment that such contradictions were not removed by one or another of those numerous and canny redactors, editors, and diaskeuasts (revisers), of unknown but blessed memory, whom the critics allege and assume to have labored for centuries upon the elaboration of these laws. Surely, these alleged contradictions cannot have escaped their notice. Surely, they cannot have seemed incongruous to the priests of the second temple and to the Scribes and Pharisees who put them into execution. Surely, if real contradictions exist in the laws it is more likely that they were not in the ancient documents and that they arose in the process of transmission through the vicissitudes of many centuries, than that they should have been inserted in the time of Jeremiah, or of Ezra, that ready scribe in the Law of Moses.

Will Objectors Please Answer a Few Questions?

Before leaving the matter of the law, it may be well to propose for the consideration of the objectors to the Biblical account of the origin of the laws of Moses a few questions that, it seems to me, require an answer before we can accept their theory of its origin, unsupported as it is by any direct evidence.

First, if Exodus 20-24 and Deuteronomy were written in the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, how can we account for the fact that the king is referred to but once (Deuteronomy 16), and that in a passage difficult to read and explain and claiming to be anticipatory? And why should this passage make no reference to the house of David, and place its emphasis on a warning against a return to Egypt?

Second, why should the law never mention Zion, or Jerusalem, as the place where men ought to worship, if these laws were written hundreds of years after the temple had been built?

Third, why should the temple itself receive no consideration, but be set aside for a "mythical" tabernacle whose plan to the minutest particular has been elaborated with so much care? And why, if this plan were devised at Babylon in the fifth century BC, should it in its form and divisions show more resemblance to an Egyptian than to a Babylonian house of God?

Why the Emphasis on the Shedding of Blood?

Fourth, if the laws of the Priest-code were made at Babylon, how does it come about that the main emphasis in these laws is upon the shedding of blood and that the principal offerings are bloody offerings; whereas, in the Babylonian religion it is doubtful if any reference is ever made to the importance of the blood and no word corresponding to the Hebrew word for altar (mizbeach) has ever yet been found in the Babylonian language? How is it, also, that almost the entire vocabulary bearing upon the ceremonial observances is different in Babylonian from what it is in Hebrew? The Hebrew names for the various articles of clothing worn by the priests, for the stones of the breastplate, for the sacrifices, for the altar and the many spoons and other implements used in its service, for the festivals, for the ark and the multifarious articles used in its construction, for sins and removal of sins, and for nearly all the gracious acts of God in redemption, differ almost altogether from the Babylonian. How account for all this, if the ceremonies of the second temple were first conceived by the rivers of Babylon under the shadow of the tower of Bel?

Ezra’s Careful Camouflage!

Fifth, if the ceremonial law were written between 500 and 300 BC, at a time when the Persian power was supreme, how account for the entire absence of Persian words and customs from the priestly document? Why should Ezra and his contemporaries have used so many Persian words in their other compositions and have utterly eschewed them in the lengthiest of their works? Not one Persian word, forsooth! How careful they must have been in this endeavor to camouflage their attempt to foist their work on Moses! They should have spent more of their time and energy on the removal of alleged incongruities in the subject matter.

Sixth, if the Israelitish religion is a natural development like that of the nations that surrounded them, how does it happen that the Phoenicians who spoke substantially the same language have an almost entirely different nomenclature for their ceremonial acts, for sacrifices and the material of sacrifice and that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians and their colonies remained polytheistic to the last?

Seventh, if the ceremonial law were written after the exile, when all the Jews, from Elephantine in Egypt on the west to Babylon on the east, were speaking and writing Aramaic, how did it come to pass that the law was written in a Hebrew so different from anything found in any Aramaic dialect that almost every word used in it required to be translated in order to make it understood by the Aramaic speaking Jews? Are we to suppose that the exiled Hebrews invented their religious vocabulary arbitrarily after their language had ceased to be spoken by any great body of living men? Are we to suppose that they invented, or borrowed, the names of the stones of the breastplate, and then forgot so completely their Aramaic equivalents that scarcely any two of the four Aramaic targums, or versions, should afterwards be able to agree as to the meaning in Aramaic of more than two or three of them at most? Why, also, should the articles of dress, the names of the sacrifices, the materials of the tabernacle, the verbs to denote the ceremonial acts, and in fact the general coloring and the particular shades of the coloring of the whole fabric be so different?

Eighth, how is the fact to be explained that the Aramaic of the Targum and Talmud has taken over so many roots and vocables from the Hebrew of the Old Testament? For a comparison of the Old Testament Hebrew with the Aramaic of the Targums and of both these with the Syriac shows that about six hundred roots and words found in the two former do not appear in Syriac, nor in any other Aramaic dialect not written by Jews. The critics are in the habit of charging that such words are Aramaisms in Hebrew; but it is manifest that, while it is possible for the Jews who wrote Aramaic two hundred years after Christ to have taken over Hebrew words from the Old Testament into their translations and commentaries, it would have been impossible for Hebrew authors living from two hundred to five hundred years before Christ to have taken over into their vocabulary Aramaic words not in use till AD 200, or later. All of the "Introductions" to the Old Testament need to be revised along this line.

"To the Text and to the Testimony!"

That a word occurs in the Old Testament but once and then reappears five hundred or a thousand years later in an Aramaic document written by Jews is to be expected. To say that such a word may have been in the spoken Aramaic before ever the Hebrew document was written, but that it did not appear in writing till AD 200, may be met by affirming that it may have existed in the spoken Hebrew for a thousand years before it was written. When we once attempt to argue on the basis of what is not contained in documents, one man’s conjecture is just about as good as anothers, I am willing to leave all such cases to the written testimony found in the documents we possess, and I demand that the assailants of the Scriptures confine themselves in like manner to that which has been written. To the text and to the testimony! By these let us stand or fall.

Why Do the Critics Reject Chronicles?

Leaving the consideration of the Law of Moses, I pass on next to the regulations which David is said to have formulated for the guidance of the priests in the service of the sanctuary and especially for the musical accompaniments of worship. It will be necessary in the course of this discussion to examine the reasons why the critics reject the historical character of the books of Chronicles which refer so often to the music of the first temple 20[For a further discussion of Chronicles, see article referred to in Note 19]. Since the Chronicler refers only to regulations made by David for the divisions of the priests and of singers, and the like, it is to be presumed that regulations with regard to other matters connected with the service were already in use.

That a temple was actually built by David and Solomon on Mount Zion at Jerusalem no man surely would deny. The whole after history of both Israel and Judah turns upon that fact. The analogy of all other ancient nations and the whole literature of the Israelites proves beyond question that such a temple must have been constructed.

Now, when this temple was first built, all that would be necessary would be to take over the priests and the ritual already in existence and vary them only in so far as was required to meet the new conditions of an enlarged and more dignified place of worship. The old priesthood of the temple at Shiloh and the old laws of the tabernacle with reference to sacrifices and festivals would be found sufficient; but to make the service more efficient and suitable to the great glory of the magnificent house that had been erected for the God of Israel, certain new regulations as to the time and manner of the services were instituted by David. Whatever is not referred to as having originated with him must be presumed to have been already in existence.

Since David and Solomon built the temple, it is common sense to suppose that they organized the priests into regular orders for the orderly service of the sanctuary. These priests had already had their clothing prescribed by Moses after the analogy of the Egyptian and all other orders of priesthood the world over. He also had prescribed the kinds and times of offerings and the purpose for which they were offered. The Israelites, also, like the Egyptians and Babylonians, had for their festive occasions such regulations as are attributed to David for the observance of these festivals, so as to avoid confusion and to preserve decency in the house of God.

An Inconsistent Theory Made to Fit

Is it to be supposed that on these festive occasions no music was to be employed and no hymns of praise to God to be sung? Even the most savage tribes have music at their festivals and we know that the ancient Egyptians had numerous hymns to Amon and other gods, and that the Assyrians and Babylonians, and even the Sumerians before them, delighted in singing psalms of praise and penitence as a part of their ritual of worship. These hymns in all cases were accompanied by instrumental music. Some of the Babylonian and Egyptian hymns were current in writing for hundreds, or even thousands, of years before the time of Solomon; and some musical instruments had existed for the same length of time. Are we to suppose that the Hebrews alone among the nations of antiquity had no vocal and instrumental music in their temple services? The critics maintain that poetry is the earliest form of expression of a people’s thoughts and history. Many of them assert that the song of Deborah antedates all other literary productions in the Bible. Most of them will admit that David composed the lament over Saul and Jonathan.

But they draw the line at his Psalms of praise and penitence. Why? Because it suits their theory that the Psalms were prepared for use in the second temple. They hold at the same time that certain poems, like the songs of Deborah and Miriam and the blessings of Jacob and Moses, antedate by centuries the historical narratives in which they are found, but that the Psalms were all, or nearly all, composed after the captivity. What grounds have they for holding such seemingly inconsistent theories? Absolutely none that is based on any evidence, unless the wish to have it so, in order to bolster up their conception of the history of Israel’s religion, be called evidence. We all know into what condition the German conception that the "will to power" is the same as the power itself has brought the world today. Let us remember that it is the German conception that the will to have the text of the Old Testament what they want to have it is considered by them to be the same as having the text the same as they will it to be. The "willing" the power has destroyed what power there really was; the "willing" the text has destroyed the text itself.

Psalm Writers Would Not Have Absurdly Attributed Their Work to Pre-Captivity Authors

Of course, it is obvious that music is mentioned in the books of Kings; but it is made prominent in Chronicles, and the headings of many of the Psalms attribute them to David and in three cases to Moses and Solomon. It is hardly to be supposed that the writer would have made his work absurd by making statements that his contemporaries would have known to be untrue. Whether the headings are all trustworthy, or not, it is absurd to suppose that the writers of them would have attributed so many of the Psalms to pre-captivity authors, when their contemporaries must have known that the whole body of Psalms had arisen after the fall of the first temple, had such been actually the case. The most natural supposition would be that David either made or collected a sufficient number of Psalms to meet the requirements of the temple worship.

Common sense and universal analogy compel us to believe, also, that an orderly worship conducted by priests in accordance with prescribed regulations and a service of song commensurate with the dignity and decency becoming the house of God must have existed among the Hebrews, certainly from the time that the first temple was constructed and probably from the time that the tabernacle was erected and the annual festivals established. Historians of royal courts, of diplomacy and war, like the author of the books of Kings, may not mention such things; but we may be sure that they existed. The temple itself proves this. Universal experience proves it. The weeping stone at the foundation of the temple, where the Jews of today congregate to bewail the long departed glories of Mount Zion and the glorious house of Israel’s God, testifies that the traditions about the sweet Psalmist of Israel were not all figments of the imagination, nor mythical creations of later times.

Besides, why should the critics treat the books of Chronicles as if their statements, additional to those in Kings, were not to be credited? They assert that the genealogical list in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24 would bring down the date of the composition of Chronicles to about 300 BC, and that we cannot rely upon the statements of a work written so long after the events recorded. But, at the same time, they all agree that the text of this passage has not been correctly transmitted and that its interpretation admits of the sixth generation after Zerubbabel as the period of its composition. As the word son in all such genealogies means successor, whether it be a real son, an adopted son, or an official successor, it is fair, judging by the analogy of other similar lists, to suppose that from fifteen to twenty years would be amply sufficient for each generation of priests, or kings. Since Zerubbabel lived about 520 BC, such a calculation would bring the date of Chronicles to about 400 BC.

The "Jaddua" of Chronicles and of Josephus Not Necessarily the Same

That the mention of Jaddua as high priest renders this date impossible, cannot be maintained for the following reasons: First, it is supposed that the Jaddua mentioned in Nehemiah 12:11, 22 is the same as the Jaddua mentioned by Josephus as having been high priest when Alexander came up to Jerusalem in 336 BC. But the critics themselves assert that this account of Alexander’s visit is utterly unreliable. Why then should they consider the name and the time of the high priesthood of Jaddua to be the only valid date of the account given by Josephus and that they alone are reliable enough to overthrow the accepted date of Chronicles?

Besides, there may have been two high priests of the name of Jaddua, just as, between 300 and 100 BC, there were two or three of the name of Simon and six of the name of Onias. Or the same Jaddua may have been high priest at 400 BC and also in 336 BC Josephus says he was very old, and men in such positions not infrequently reach ninety, or more, years of age. I, myself, had a great-grandfather and a great-uncle who lived to be over a hundred, a great-grandmother who was ninety-nine, one great-uncle ninety-four, another ninety-two. Besides, my mother died at eighty, and half a dozen uncles and aunts between eighty and ninety years of age. Every one of these was old enough and active enough to have been high priest for sixty-five years, and several of them for eighty years, had they lived in the times of the Chronicles, and been eligible to the office.

Ewald Utterly Refuted in the Argument Regarding the Title "King of Persia"

Second, the critics affirm that Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles were put together in their present form by the same redactor and that this redactor must have lived in the Greek period, because he calls the kings of Persia by the title "king of Persia." The great German critic, Ewald, said it was "unnecessary and contrary to contemporary usage" to call the kings of Persia by the title "king of Persia" during the time that the kings of Persia actually ruled; and that consequently the presence of this title in a document shows that the document must have been written after the Persian empire had ceased to exist. The present writer has shown by a complete induction of all the titles of the kings of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, and all the other nations of that part of the world including the Hebrews themselves, from 4,000 BC down to Augustus, that it was the custom in all times, languages, and kingdoms to use titles similar to this 21[See Articles by R. D. Wilson on "The Titles of Kings in Ancient Times," in The Princeton Theological Review for 1905-6].

Further, he has shown that the title "king of Persia" was given by Nabunaid, king of Babylon, to Cyrus in 546 BC, seven years before the first use of it in the Bible, and that it is used by Xenophon in 365 BC, probably forty years after it is used for the last time in the Bible. Further, he has shown that, between 546 and 365 BC, it was used thirty-eight different times by eighteen different authors, in nineteen different documents, in six different languages, and in five or six different countries; and that it is used in letters and dates in Scripture just as it is used in the extra-Biblical documents. Lastly, he has shown that it was not usual for the Greek authors after the Persian period to employ the title 22[See article by R. D. Wilson in the Festschrift Edouard Sachau, Berlin, 1911].

Inexcusable Ignorance of Evidence on the Part of Notable Critics Exposed

Thus, with regard to this title, by a mass of incontestable evidence, the writers of Chronicles and Ezra, and of Daniel, also, are shown to be in harmony with the contemporaneous usage of documents written in the Persian period and to be out of harmony with the common usage in Greek times. The Bible is right, and Professor Ewald of Gottingen, the greatest German Old Testament scholar of his time, and Professors Driver and Gray of Oxford, the writers of many books and of many articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Hastings, and the Expository Times, are proved to be wrong. They all might have read that part of the evidence which is found in Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Xenophon, and other Greek authors. Drs. Driver and Gray ought, also, to have read for themselves, or to have had Professor Sayce, or Dr. King, or Dr. Budge, read or gather for them the evidence on the subject to be found in the Babylonian, Persian, Susian, and Egyptian. Unless one has sufficiently mastered the languages in which the texts containing the evidence on such subjects as the titles of the kings of Persia are written, he cannot be called an expert witness and should be ruled out of court.

Having read carefully and repeatedly what these critics have to say on this title, I have failed to find any hint indicating that they have ever appealed for their information to any original sources outside of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic; and as to these, they pay no attention to the great Greek writers mentioned above. If they are so careless and unreliable where their assertions can be investigated, what ground have they for expecting us to rely upon them where their assertions cannot be tested? If the statements of the Biblical writers are found to be confirmed when they can be tested by outside evidence, is it not right to presume that they are correct when no evidence for, or against, their statements is within our knowledge?

Variations in Numbers Will be Better Understood When Israel’s Numerical Signs Are Discovered

The other objections to the trustworthiness of the records of Chronicles are mostly purely subjective in character, utterly devoid of any objective evidence in their favor; or they are based upon interpretations which are impossible to prove. Are we driven to conclude, for example, that a thousand of thousands means exactly one million neither more nor less? May it not mean many, or countless, thousands, just as a generation of generations means many generations? And are the critics who find the account that the Chronicler gives of the conspiracy against Athaliah inconsistent with that given in Kings quite sure that the captain and the guard of Kings cannot have been priests and Levites? Besides, how can we expect to explain satisfactorily all apparent incongruities in documents that are thousands of years old?

As to the variations in numbers in the different sources, they are probably due to different readings of the original signs. But we do not know what signs the Hebrews used; and so we cannot at present discuss intelligently the reasons for the variations, and never shall until the system of numerical signs used by the Israelites has been discovered. And everybody knows how difficult it is to copy numerical signs correctly. There is nothing usually in the context to help us to determine just how many men were in an army, or how many were killed in a given battle. The important thing is, who won the fight.

I once inquired what was the population of a certain Southern city. One told me 40,000; another, 120,000. When I asked for an explanation of the discrepancy, I was told that there were 40,000 whites and 80,000 Negroes. Both estimates were true; but had they been written down in two different documents what charges of inconsistency might not have been made by future scientific historians!

The Chronicler Need Not Have Copied From Kings

Again, in their criticism of Chronicles, the critics proceed on the presumption that, in the portions that are parallel to Kings. the author has merely copied from Kings, and that he has no further sources of reliable information. The author of Chronicles himself states that he had a number of such sources. Can the critics give any good reason to show that he did not have these sources? Why, since the Chronicles of the kings of Israel were not destroyed by Sargon when Samaria was overthrown, and Hosea, Amos, the so-called Jehovist and Elohistic parts of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy, and other works of the Hebrews were not destroyed at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, should we suppose that the records of the kings of Israel and Judah were not in existence when the writers of Kings and Chronicles composed their works?

And why, since so many hundreds of works of the ancient Greeks, such as those mentioned by 23[Pliny, Natural History, Book I] have since utterly disappeared, are we to suppose that the Jews of Ezra’s time did not also possess many works that have long since been obliterated? The Aramaic recension of the Behistun Inscription of Darius Hystaspis and the Aramaic work of Ahikar were buried at Elephantine for twenty-three hundred years, but have now been unearthed and show that the Aramaic-speaking Jews of the sixth and fifth centuries BC had produced some literary documents at least in addition to the Aramaic portions of Ezra and Daniel 24[See Sachau, Papyrus].

How many more of such works may have been possessed by them both in Hebrew and Aramaic we cannot say, but the probability is that they were numerous. We cannot see that there is sufficient reason for doubting the claim of the Chronicler to have had access to sources extending from the time of David down to his own time. He says that he did have such sources. How can the critics know that he did not?

One of the most unjustifiable of the assaults upon the Old Testament Scriptures lies in the assumption that the larger part of the great poetical and legal productions and some of the finest prophecies were produced during the period of her political and linguistic decay, which followed the year 500 BC. The only time after the end of the captivity at which we might naturally have expected a recrudescence of such literary activity was the period from 200 BC to the time of Pompey. And here in fact are to be placed the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works of Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First Maccabees, Jubilees, parts of Enoch, and many other works of greater or less value 25[See Apocrypha and Pseudipigrapha of the Old Testament, by R. H. Charles].

The only one of these that has been preserved in Hebrew is Ecclesiasticus; and its Hebrew has no word that is certainly Greek, and not one of Persian origin that is not found in the Old Testament 26[See Strack’s and Smend’s editions].

Many traces of Persian influence are visible in Chronicles, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah 27[See Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, in loc.]. When, however, we come to the Hebrew of the Psalms, of which so many are placed by the critics in this period, of Ecclesiastes, and of the Hebrew part of Daniel, we find that the language differs markedly from Ecclesiasticus both in vocabulary and forms.

The use of the conjunction "and" with the perfect, which is said to be a mark of the lateness of Ecclesiastes, is not found in Ecclesiasticus. Ecclesiastes is devoid of any words that are certainly Babylonian, Persian, or Aramaic. The so-called Maccabean Psalms have no Persian or Greek words and few if any that are certainly Babylonian and only a few that are even alleged to have Aramaic vocables or forms.

The period between 500 and 164 BC was one in which the Israelites were subservient to the government of Persia and the Greeks. The only reliable information from this time about a revival of national feeling and semi-independence among the Jews is that to be found in Ezra-Nehemiah and a few hints in Ecclesiasticus and Tobit. And the only literary works in Hebrew that were certainly written during this period of decay are the books of Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. As we would expect, they are all characterized by Persian, Babylonian, and Aramaic words, and Ezra is nearly half composed in Aramaic.

Prophecies That Contain No Persian or Greek Word

But how about Jonah, Joel, Isaiah 24-27, the Priest Codex, the Song of Songs, and the multitude of Psalms, which the critics arbitrarily place in this period? There is not in them one certainly Persian word, nor a single Greek word. Not a Babylonian word, not already found in the earlier literature, appears in any one of them, and scarcely a word that the critics even can allege to be an Aramaism. In language, style, and thought, no greater contrast can be found in the whole literature of the Old Testament than there is between the books that purport to have been written and those which the critics allege to have been written in this period.

It is to be hoped that the reader appreciates the value and the bearing of these facts. The Higher Criticism, as Dr. Driver affirms in the Preface to his "Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament," is based upon "a comparative study of the writings." No one will object to this method of investigation. Only, let us abide by the results. Let us not bring in our subjective views and make them outweigh the obvious facts.

Nothing, in 1,800 Years of History to Invalidate the Old Testament

Last of all, we must cast a glance at the history of the religion of Israel. It must be admitted that, before we can attempt such a history, we must determine two great facts: first, the dates of the documents on which the history is based; and, secondly, the attitude we are going to take with regard to miracle and prophecy. As to the first of these facts, I have already given a number of the reasons for holding that there is no sufficient ground for believing that the Pentateuch did not originate with Moses, or that David did not write many of the Psalms; and that there is every reason in language and history for supposing that all but a few of the books were written before 500 BC. I have not attempted to fix the exact dates of composition, or final redaction, of the books composed before that time, preferring rather to show that there is nothing in the history of the world from 2,000 to 164 BC that militates against the possibility, nor even against the probability of the trustworthiness of the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. Nor, in spite of some apparent inconsistencies and of many passages difficult to explain satisfactorily, owing to our ignorance of all the facts, is there anything in the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament that makes it appear incredible or unveracious. No one knows enough to affirm with confidence that any one of the prophetic books was not written by the man whose name it bears. No one knows enough to assert that the kings and others mentioned did not do and say what is ascribed to them.

If, then, we can accept the documents of the Old Testament as substantially correct, we come to the further question of whether the presentment of the Israelitish religion, as we find it described in the Old Testament, is true. But there is no use of discussing this subject until at least the possibility of God’s making known His will to man is admitted. Whoever admits this possibility is in a fair way to become a Christian. So long as one denies this, he cannot possibly become a Christian nor even a Theist. For those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus and what it implies as to the person and work of the Son of God and of His apostles under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the question of the history of the religion of Israel assumes an entirely different character and purpose. It becomes part of the plan of God for the world’s redemption. They who accept the statements of the New Testament writers and of the Lord as true will accept what they say about the Old Testament as true until it is proved to be false. And when the Old Testament is shown not to agree with what Christ and the apostles say, it will be presumed that the text has not been rightly transmitted or correctly interpreted.

The Plan, Purpose and People of the History of Redemption Offer a Reasonable Basis for Belief

The attitude of one who believes that God spoke to man through the prophets to whom He gave a message for His people is also fundamentally different from that of one who disbelieves this hundred-times repeated statement of the Old Testament. A believer in Theism can accept the statements of the Old Testament books, especially in the light of the New, as being what they appear on the face of them to be. If any statements of the Old Testament are proved to be false, he lays the blame to a corruption of the text or to a wrong interpretation of the evidence. For he is convinced that the Bible contains the revelation of the divine plan for the redemption of humanity from sin unto holiness and everlasting life. All that he wants, or needs, to have established, is that this plan has been handed down to us in a sufficiently reliable form to insure the purpose of the divine author. The reasonable Christian can rejoice and believe that the Bible has thus been handed down. The plan is there in the documents of the Old Testament and of the New, as clear as day. The purpose is there. The Jewish people existed and exists, according to the Scripture, as an ever-present evidence that the plan and the purpose were of God.

The Christian church in like manner exists as an evidence that the Gospel of salvation was really meant for the whole world. This Gospel has met and satisfied the need and the hope of human nature for pardon and communion with God, and it is meeting them today. Millions exult in their present faith and die at peace and in hope of a blessed and an everlasting life. The Bible and the church are the foundation of this faith and peace and hope. The history of Israel is continued in the history of the Christian church. He who attacks one attacks both. United they stand; divided they fall. Unitedly they present a reasonable foundation for the belief that God has never left Himself without a witness that He loves mankind and will have all men to believe and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Looked at in the light of the whole world’s history from the beginning until now, the history of the religion of the Old Testament as given in the books themselves, unrevised and fairly interpreted, is rational and worthy of trust. In this faith we live; in this faith let us die.

A Parallel Monstrosity to the Denial of Old Testament History Imagined

Notwithstanding this evident plan and purpose of a divine redemption which runs all through the Scriptures, there are today many professedly Christian writers who treat of the Israelitish religion as if it were a purely natural development. They diligently pick out every instance of a superstitious observance, or of a departure from the law, or of a disobedience to the divine commands, as if these represented the true religion of ancient Israel. They cut up the books and doctor the documents and change the text and wrest the meaning, to suit the perverted view of their own fancy. They seem to think that they know better what the Scriptures ought to have been than the prophets and apostles and even the Lord Himself! They tell us when revelations must have been made, and how and where they must have been given, and what their contents could have been, as if they knew more about such matters than God Himself. Imagine a man’s writing the history of the last eighteen hundred years and denying that the New Testament had been in existence during all that time, denying that the Christian church with all its saving doctrines and benevolent institutions and beneficent social system derived from the New Testament had been active and, in a sense, triumphant for at least fifteen hundred years, simply because he could select thousands of examples of superstitious customs, and hellish deeds, and impious words, and avowed agnostics, and Heaven-defying atheists, that have disgraced the pages of history during this time!

Grovel for Beetles–or Pluck Violets?

Let us not grovel for the beetles and the earth worms of almost forgotten faiths which may perchance be discovered beneath the stones and sod of the Old Testament, while the violets and the lilies-of-the-valley of a sweet and lowly faith are in bloom on every page and every oracle revealed within the Word of God is jubilant with songs of everlasting joy. The true religion of Israel came down from God arrayed in the beautiful garments of righteousness and life. We cannot substitute for this Heaven-made apparel a robe of human manufacture, however fine it be.

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This Page Last Updated: 12/05/98 A. Allison Lewis