When the spirit of religious inquiry began to move men's minds, towards the close of the dark ages, these speculative objections again made their appearance. In the beginning of the 11th cen tury a learned few, Isaac Ben Jasos, maintained that portions of the Pentateuch belonged to a later age than the Mosaic, and referred them to the time of Jehoshaphat. In the 12th century Aben Ezra argued for the interpolation of some portions of the Pentateuch. In the i6th century John Carl stadt and Masius held the same opinion ; the former arguing from the impossibility of the law giver recording his own death, and the latter con jecturally ascribing their authorship to Ezra. In the 17th century the English deist Hobbes, and still more specially the celebrated Jew Spinoza, repeated the same attacks on the authority of the Mosaic books. The writings of Spinoza especially have been the great armoury out of which later writers have gathered their weapons. In the 18th century a whole array of deistical writers— the third Earl of Shaftesbury, Collins, Tindal, Blunt, Toland, Morgan, Chubb, and Lord Boling broke—followed in the same track, rejecting the Mosaic books as offensive to man's self-respect, and repugnant to human reason. Unfortunately the line of argument which some professed friends of the Bible adopted in defence of it only served to increase the mischief. Already in the 17th cen tury Dr. Spencer had endeavoured to show that the great object of the Mosaic ritual was to wean the Israelitish people from the idolatrous habits contracted by them in Egypt, and that with this view the utmost possible indulgence was accorded to their inclinations. His views were mainly adopted by Bishop Warburton in the next century. To the same school and about the same period be longed the learned Michaelis. Dr. Geddes, a Ro man Catholic divine, freely doubted both the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and the his torical character of the narrative. At the close of the 18th century began the age of criticism, and of what has been called the `higher criticism' of Germany. The historical scepticism of F. A. Wolf, professor of philosophy at Halle, led the way. Among the many disciples of historical criticism who claimed to pronounce the verdict of modern inquiry, a few names stand prominent as marking the successive theories in regard to the composition of the Pentateuch, which one after the other have been adopted and rejected. Thus, Astruc and Eichhorn are the authors of the document hypothe sis, which regards the Pentateuch, and especially the book of Genesis, as a compilation from other earlier memoirs. The work of critical disintegra tion still advancing, the number of supposed origi nal writers was multiplied till the whole became torn into shreds, and hence arose the fragment hypothesis, of which Vater and De Wette may he taken as the representatives. Lastly followed the complement hypothesis of Tuch and Stahelin, which regards the Pentateuch as the work of two Writers, the latter of whom revised and supple mented the work of his predecessor. This repre sents the last and existing phase of German ration alistic opinion, of which Von Bohlen is one of the most extreme and conspicuous advocates. It is unnecessary to carry the list further. As regards our own country, the names of Dr. Davidson, Dr. Donaldson, the Essayists and Reviewers, and Bishop Colenso, are too familiarly known to make any sketch of their opinions necessary. On the other side, a number of valuable works have been published in vindication of the Pentateuch. Of these apologies the most important will be found to be among the Germans : the works of Hengsten berg, Kurtz, and Havernick, which have been pub lished in an English version by Messrs. Clark of Edinburgh. In the English, Stillingfleet's Origins Sac'? e ; Hone Mosaice, by G. S. Faber ; Dean Graves On the Pentateuch ;Blunt's Undesigned Coin cidences; Critical History of the O. 7: Canon, by Moses Stuart ; Rawlinson's Banipton Lectures ; Hoare's Peracily of Genesis; Marsden's Mosaic Code, etc.
Now, the objections urged against the Mosaic authorship and divine authority of the Pentateuch may be conveniently classed under four general heads—critical, historical, scientific, and moral. Any exhaustive statement of these objections would vastly exceed the possible limits of an article. We shall only supply brief particulars under each head to elucidate the ground and nature of the argument.
1. Critical.—These are directed to prove that the Mosaic books are not the production of any one author, but consist of a variety of ancient frag ments, which some later compiler has arranged into order ; or, in another form of the objection, that they consist of traditional tales, subsequently shaped into a kind of religious romance, without any deliberate intention on the part of the compiler to give them historic authority. The grounds on which the objections are based are mainly three : (r.) Alleged repetitions in the narrative, indicating,
as it is thought, a plurality of writers : thus Gen. ii. 1-7 is held to be a mere useless repetition of Gen. i. ; Gen. xxi. 9-21 is asserted to be only another version of Gen. xvi. 4-16 ; the sojourning of Isaac among the Philistines to be an imitation of the previous narrative of Abraham's residence in Egypt (Gen. xiii. ro ; xxvi. 1) ; and objections of a simi lar kind have been urged against the genealogical lists of Gen. x. and xi. (2.) The alleged diversity of style, and, in some instances, the difference of terms and passages by which the book of Deutero nomy is distinguished from the four books pre ceding. Objectors on this ground forget the dis tinctive nature of the circumstances under which the last exhortations of the great lawgiver to the people were delivered, and how naturally the dif ference of style arises from this difference of cir cumstance. (3.) The main foundation of these critical objections rests on the diverse use of the names of God, Elohim' and Jehovah.' It is assumed that the use of Elohim' marks an earlier writer, and the use of Jehovah' a later. The English student may understand the degree in which the words are mutually used, by compar ing, in the A. V., the expressions God' and ` Lord God ;' for instance, in Gen. ii. and iii. In its compound equally as in its simple form, the -word Jehovah' is confidently assumed to be the irrefragable mark of a later date.
In regard to this class of objections, it is only necessary that two cautions should be borne in mind. We must remember that the supposition that Moses embodied ancient documents in his books, such as genealogical lists or accounts of events, is perfectly consistent with a devout belief in their inspired authority, so long as we recognise the divine guidance under which the lawgiver acted. Portions which admit of such a supposition derive authority, not from their original authors, but from the inspired prophet who has embodied them into his own composition. It is only when the theory is used to support a post-Mosaic author ship that they become absolutely irreconcilable with a devout belief in their inspiration. It must also be borne in mind, that the use of the two words Elohim' and Jehovah,' and the rapid transition from one to the other in some cases, and the union of the two in other cases, admits of a totally different solution to that of the rational istic objector. A close examination will show that in all cases the selection of the particular term is made intentionally, and has reference to the con ditions of place, person, and time, under which it was employed, just as in the N. T. Scriptures vari ous titles of God are used, but used with a most exact and appropriate relation to the whole nature of the context (see articles on Genesis).
2. is most important to observe, that in no one single instance are these objections drawn from any comprehensive view of the relation in which the Pentateuch stands towards the later treatises, on the one side, or profane history upon the other. They are derived exclusively from a captious and capricious criticism of details. The publicity these objections have recently received makes it almost unnecessary to supply illustrative instances under this head. But we may mention the objec tion raised to the number of the Hebrew people at the time of the exodus, the census of the people in the wilderness, and the number of the sacrifices alleged to have been required during the forty years' wanderings. What it is important to bear in mind under this head is the logical position which alone such difficulties can hold in relation to the general evidences for the Pentateuch. They are wholly devoid of force unless they prove an impossibility in the events against which they are alleged. If they simply prove our ignorance of details, they prove no more than that, in the condensed records of exceedingly remote events, many details must necessarily be omitted. A very small acquaintance with history is sufficient to show the influence which one single and apparently minute particular may exercise upon a whole series of events. Con sequently, there is no necessity placed upon the Christian apologist, to prove that the events did take place in any one mode, or to tie his defence to one invariable explanation. All he needs to show is, that the events are possible ; to point out how they may have taken place, not to prove how they did take place. The different explanations of certain difficulties, for instance in relation to the birth of Hezron and Hamul, Gen. xlvi. 12, which have been offered by different writers, afford no handle to the unfriendly criticism to which they have been subjected ; but, wnen viewed in relation to the logical requirements of the argument, strengthen, in proportion to their number, the pleas in defence of the Pentateuch.