A Layman’s View of the Critical Theory -- By: Herbert William Magoun

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 070:278 (Apr 1913)
Article: A Layman’s View of the Critical Theory
Author: Herbert William Magoun


A Layman’s View of the Critical Theory

Herbert William Magoun, Ph.D.

II.

It is proverbial that the Occident cannot understand the Orient. Human nature is the same the world over; but viewpoint differs so widely that the same environment actually produces diametrically opposite results in persons of different races. It has even been claimed that a Chinaman has been known to hang himself in his neighbor’s well to satisfy a grudge, because he thought that his spirit would thus be set free and he could then hound the offender to a speedy destruction. Whether any truth is to be looked for in this statement or not, is, in this connection, a matter of comparatively little importance; for, whatever the facts may be, the story illustrates a fundamental difference in the character of the Oriental and Occidental minds, and it does so admirably.

To all intents and purposes, the Jew is an oriental. He is a Semite and he has a Semite’s peculiarities. His eastern proclivities persist even in a western environment, and it often requires a residence of several generations with a free occidental people to eradicate certain distinctive characteristics that cling to his personality as a mark of heredity. Among these is a curious conservatism which makes him devotedly faithful to various forms and ceremonies long after he has ceased to attach any real importance to them in his

daily life. He will observe his own Sabbath carefully until sundown, but he is not above securing a gentile partner to keep the business in active operation on that day. In some places the practical result has been a seven-day business week instead of a six-day one. But if the Jew really loved his Sabbath, he would not wish to have it broken even by a gentile. Its sacredness, therefore, must be external rather than internal, where such practices are in vogue; and conservatism, or possibly superstition, furnishes, in all probability, the dominant motive for his conduct.

The same characteristic is also shown in another way; for it is plainly back of the persistence with which Rabbis cling to the outward forms of Jewish worship even after they have surrendered themselves to a thoroughgoing rationalism. It matters little that their idea of God has undergone such a change that he is no longer a person and survives in their thought merely as a governing principle or ethical force; for the old forms are retained, outwardly at least, and they continue to be observed with a punctiliousness worthy of a deeper and a truer conviction. Religious ideas change with the lapse of years; but religious forms and formulas, especially among orientals, tend to persist without alteration down through the ages.

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