There can therefore be no possible question that the Jew, such as we know him, and the Jewish Scriptures, such as we have them in our own day, existed at the time of the Ptolemies ; that is, the Jewish Scriptures of that day were the Scriptures of the O. T. as now received, not only containing the Pentateuch as an integral part of themselves, but as the characteristic part of the whole—the his torical starting-point of their national history, and the authoritative code of laws which had coloured and moulded it from the beginning downwards. The existence of the people, with their distinctive religious creed, their peculiar civil regulations, and their exclusive ritual, constitutes one fact ; the exist ence of their Scriptures constitutes another. The facts are distinct, but not separate. The law could not have survived without the nationality ; the nationality could not have existed without the law. To explain either the one fact or the other without an extensive antecedent history running far back into the past would be impossible. The two together supply an argument for the historical reality of the events of the Jewish history and the divine autho rity of the Jewish Scriptures, which never has been answered, and is, we believe, unanswerable.
If the events of early Jewish history, as narrated in the Pentateuch, really took place, and are to be accepted as historically true, then it is impossible to deny the divine legation of Moses and the autho rity of the books which bear his name. If, on the other hand, the Pentateuch is to be regarded as un historic—a compilation of ancient traditions and old myths unworthy of credit—then the events narrated in the Pentateuch can never have taken place. The miraculous call of Abraham, the captivity in Egypt, the exodus, the giving of the law upon Sinai, and the forty years' wanderings in the wilderness, must be regarded as popular tales, so exaggerated and amplified by national vanity and superstition as to be unworthy of all belief. This conclusion is boldly accepted by modern scepticism. Let us see to what contradictions and impossibilities it leads in regard to both of the ascertained facts of the date of the Ptolemies, the fact of the existence of the Jewish people, and the fact of the existence of the Jewish Scriptures. Let us try them all in their turn.
The Jewish people, scattered at this date widely over the known world, and living, not in a remote corner, but in the full blaze of the civilisation and learning of the day, unanimously accepted the facts of their past history recorded in the Pentateuch as real events, connected together by a close sequence of cause and effect from the call of Abraham down wards. The settlement in Canaan grew out of the exodus ; the adoption of the monarchical form of government out of the settlement ; the imperial greatness of the reigns of David and Solomon out of the establishment of the monarchy; the division of the united empire into two kingdoms out of the luxury and despotism of Solomon's reign ; the cap tivity, on its human side, out of the elements of national weakness introduced by the schism ; the restoration out of the captivity ; and the re-estab lishment of the Jewish race in Judma, side by side with their wide dispersion in all lands, grew out of the captivity and the restoration together. All human events arise from a combination of promi nent moral causes, and would be impossible without them. Break any one of the links of the series,
and at that point, wherever it maybe, we get an effect without a cause, a consequent without an antece dent. The Jews of the period of the restoration traced their history backward by unbroken succes sion to the times of Moses and Abraham. In the hypothesis now under consideration they were mis taken in this belief, and were as far wrong as the Romans were in tracing their national origin to two outcast boys suckled by a wolf, and in ascribing the framework of their laws to the communications of Numa Pompilius with the nymph Egeria. The question occurs, At what epoch of their history did this strange deception begin, and how was it ce mented into that firm, universal, national belief which formed the very heart and life-blood of the nation, as it is found to have existed at the epoch of authentic profane history ? The apparent parallel of Jewish belief with Ro man mythology has been much dwelt upon, and it has been confidently asked why we should be at liberty to discard the mythical legends of the history of the Roman and not be at liberty to do the same with the history of the Jew ? It might be enough to reply that the facts are so different, that the cri tical process which reduces into order and pro bability the Roman history only dislocates and destroys the Jewish. But the difference of the two cases needs to be stated more precisely. The be lief of the Jew was not the mere instinct of a na tional vanity seeking to put honour on his race by linking its fortunes on to a fabulous past, but it involves definite particulars relative to his own government and polity. He not only believed that his forefathers received their law direct from the Deity himself ; but in this belief he submitted him self to a rigorous code which separated him from all other nations, cut him off from pleasures deemed lawful by all the other peoples of antiquity, con trolled him by a strict moral law, and regulated with even vexatious minuteness all the details of his per sonal, social, and civil life. He believed that in this submission he was but following the example of his forefathers and carrying out the principles in stilled into him by the education of his childhood. He not only believed that his nation had passed. through great vicissitudes, and had enjoyed signal deliverances by the hand of God, but he believed likewise that in commemoration of them a variety of public and formal celebrations had been observed by his people from time immemorial—such as the passover in commemoration of the deliverance from Egypt. The belief of the Jew, consequently, was not like that of the Roman, a traditional legend, the truth or falsehood of which affected in no con ceivable manner the condition of himself or of the people to whom he belonged ; but it was a belief bound up with ,the habits of his everyday life, in separable from all his experience, connected with all the disasters of his race, identified with his deepest and most solemn convictions, perpetuated by the great public acts of his faith, as three times a year all the men of his race flocked to their holy city to celebrate the religious ordinances, every act of which was significant of some past event in his history.