The Evidence Of The Psalter To A Levitical System -- By: Henry Hayman
BSac 50:198 (April 1893) p. 238
The Evidence Of The Psalter To A Levitical System
The Book of Psalms ought, according to widespread recent theories, to mark a great advance on the ante-Babylonian prophets in the evidence of Levitical ordinances, their value and obligatory character—not of course as set forth in formal detail, but as extolled in religious sentiment. Of those prophets Prof. Robertson Smith, whom I have already taken as a representative advocate of those theories, remarks,1 that, whereas “in the Levitical system access to God … was only attained through the mediation of Aaronic priests at the central sanctuary,” and whereas “the ordinary Israelite meets there with God only on special occasions, and during the greater part of his life must … stand afar off,” the “reformers of Israel [i.e. the prophets aforesaid, pp. 266, 267] strove against the constant lapses of Israel into syncretism, or the worship of foreign gods; but they did not do so on the ground of the Levitical theory of Israel’s absolute separation from the nations, or of a unique holiness radiating from the one sanctuary, and descending in widening circles through priests and Levites to the ordinary Israelite. The history itself does not accept the Levitical standard… . Nowhere does the condemnation of the popular religion rest on the original consecration of the tabernacle, the brazen altar, and the Aaronic priesthood as the exclusive channels of veritable intercourse between Jehovah and Israel.”
BSac 50:198 (April 1893) p. 239
But the prophets, it was further urged by the professor, give no testimony to a written code of law, and depreciate or even denounce all such elements of ceremonial as form the prominent feature of the Levitical law, and further rebuke contemporary Israel and Judah, not for abandoning those Levitical elements, but for neglecting moral duties and spiritual dispositions, these latter alone being that which Jehovah regards.
I have endeavored in an earlier essay2 to show that the above-quoted statements do not square with the facts, or do so to a far less extent than is supposed by the learned professor. But I am now going to assume, for argument’s sake., that the facts are at any rate defective in the evidence which they give both to a written law and to a Levitical system and theory. In order to test the trustworthiness of this assumption, I proceed now to compare the similar evidence given by the Psalter, which we are expressly told by the same learned authority was “the service-book of the second Temple,” i.e. of the Temple as restored after the return from Babylon. If this be so, we ought, on his view, to...
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