Does The Old Testament Contain Traces Of Animism? -- By: John H. de Vries

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:283 (Jul 1914)
Article: Does The Old Testament Contain Traces Of Animism?
Author: John H. de Vries


Does The Old Testament Contain Traces Of Animism?

John H. de Vries

Saybrook, Conn.

Under this caption a deeply interesting brochure has just appeared from the pen of the Rev. G. C. Aalders, D.D., which not only adds another name to the list of Dutch scholars whose able articles in defense of the integrity of the Old Testament have been given a place of late in the Bibliotheca Sacra, but is also a notable contribution to the growing literature upon this subject. Modern thought takes the religion of Israel as a part of the “science of religions,” and infers that, since animism is (supposedly) the most ancient form of human religion, traces of it must appear in the sacred books of Israel. Says the author: “This involves the question between evolution and Revelation.” He who believes that Israel is the people to whom were committed the oracles of God, and that Israel’s religion was revealed by God himself, cannot accept the thought that animism’ in any form was ever a natural and normal link in the chain of development of the religious representations in Israel. But this does not end the matter.

It may be asked whether he who accepts revelation may take it, a priori, for granted that the Old Testament contains no traces of animism. He may deny that the religion of Israel developed in a natural way from such animism. But might it not be possible that among the several idolatries and superstitions which were repeatedly practiced in Israel, animistical representations and usages had a place? According to the sacred record itself, Israel’s religion did not always harmonize with the revealed religion. Hence it is not correct to say that the acceptance of Revelation excludes, a priori, the possibility of animistical traces in the Old Testament.

But it may also be asked whether the rejection of Revelation and the acceptance of Evolution forces one to the other a priori, that the Old Testament must show traces, of an earlier animism. The most radical Evolutionist may readily admit

that it is possible and thinkable that Israel’s religious literature contains no convincing traces of animism, and yet be sure in his mind that at one time there was an animistic period in Israel.

At this point, therefore, Revelationists and Evolutionists may meet as men of science, who, objectively and without regard to any other question, face the question: Does the Old Testament show actual traces of animism? When it concerns facts, and not inferences or conclusions drawn from facts, liberal and conservative men of science can stand side by side. Facts are facts to us also who accept Revelation. Our unconditional belief in the Sc...

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