The God Of The Fathers -- By: Edward J. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 03:1 (Nov 1940)
Article: The God Of The Fathers
Author: Edward J. Young

The God Of The Fathers

Edward J. Young

FEW students of the Old Testament would deny that the religion of the prophets of Israel was unique among the religions of the ancient world. According to many its culmination is to be found in the latter half of the book of Isaiah, which presents a pure and lofty monotheism, without parallel in the literature of the ancient East. God is God, teaches the prophet, and there is none to whom He may be likened; He is truly the Creator and Ruler of all things, and between Him and the creation there is an infinite gulf.1 What, however, is to be said with respect to the origin of such exalted conceptions of God? Whence did the prophet derive his views?

Broadly speaking, we may say that there are two answers given to this question. In the first place, it may be maintained that the prophet proclaimed these high views of God, because God had revealed them to him. When, therefore, he taught that there was none to whom God could be likened,2 he was uttering far more than the mature conclusion of years of meditation and thought, based upon his own reaction to the world about. His monotheism, therefore, was not the result of human wisdom, but of Divine revelation. Such has been the viewpoint of the historic Christian Church. Such, also, is the teaching of the Bible itself.3

The second answer which may be offered to the question above stated is that the prophet did not receive his monotheism by means of revelation from God. On the contrary, the sublime conceptions of God which are found in the latter half of the book of Isaiah are, according to the advocates of this view, the culmination of a long process of development

in religious thought.4 They are the flower, so to speak, of Hebrew religion, the noblest expressions of the devout meditation of ancient Israel. Therefore, when we ask whence the prophet derived his ideas, we must, it is maintained, turn our attention to the course of events of which they were the climax, and seek to discover its origin. Those who reject the plain statements of the Bible find here a pressing problem which calls for solution. Indeed, it is this very question which is today agitating the minds of many scholars who discard the clear testimony of the Bible as to the beginnings of Israel’s religion.

Alt’s View of Patriarchal Religion

It is the purpose of this article to examine one of the more recent attempts to discover these beginnings elsewhere than in Divine revelation. Professor A...

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