“The Early Religion Of The Hebrews” -- By: A. J. F. Behrends

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:220 (Oct 1898)
Article: “The Early Religion Of The Hebrews”
Author: A. J. F. Behrends


“The Early Religion Of The Hebrews”

A. J. F. Behrends

Brooklyn, N. Y.

The thesis of Rev. A. E. Whatham in the present number of the Bibliotheca Sacra, is, that the early religion of the Hebrews was “little, if any, removed from the religion of those people by whom the Hebrews were surrounded.” The exact date of this environment is not indicated. The discussion of the point covers a period of some centuries, antedating Abraham, and extending far beyond Moses. No one has ever claimed that Abraham’s immediate ancestors and neighbors were pure monotheists. Abraham appears in the record as a reformer, and as moved in his migration by a purely religious impulse. He was a separatist. This, the author calls in question, and quotes Davidson as higher authority than Genesis! It is admitted that the record has an unmistakable monotheistic stamp, but then we are told that the pictures in Genesis are an “artificial elaboration,” dating from the prophetic period. What Abraham’s religious conceptions were, no one can tell, because the subsequent chronicler paints the assumed father of the race as he thinks he should have been! This is naive. The simplicity is amazing. The only trouble is, that, with such an estimate of the sources of information, it is in-

conceivable that the author did not go much farther, and resolve the entire record into a myth. It is a purely arbitrary criticism which preserves an Abraham, and then denies him to be what he is represented to be; or which concedes Abraham and Moses to have been real persons, and then resolves Jacob and his twelve sons into personifications.

But the author is caught in the same net with the traditionalists,—who simply read the record as it stands, and do not regard Davidson and Wellhausen as higher authorities. The author grants that Abraham was a “pure henotheist,” while his neighbors were only “partial” henotheists; and that Moses gave to henotheism an exclusive and abiding form and authority. The Decalogue, universally admitted, in the form of the Ten Words, to be of Mosaic origin, admits of no other conclusion. It is intensely and emphatically a law-code of spiritual and ethical monotheism, as it stands; and the author’s assumption that Moses was only a pronounced henotheist can be made out only by dissecting and mutilating the Decalogue itself. This many critics do; but it only shows to what dire straits criticism is forced. The whole record, in every fiber of it, must be torn to pieces, to make the author’s position good. And what does he gain? Nothing. He gets rid of monotheism as the religion of Abraham and Moses, only to make them the prophets of a peculiar he...

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