7. Revelation and Christianity

7. Revelation and Christianity

The arguments for the reality of revelation, derived from the nature of thought, the essence of nature, the character of history, and the conception of religion, are finally strengthened by the course of development through which mankind has passed, and which has led it from paradise to the cross and will guide it from the cross to glory.

We cannot reach the origin of the human race or form an idea of its primitive condition by the aid of animal, child, and savage; neither do biology, geology and palaeontology give us any certainty with regard to its first abode or concerning the unity of the race. If there are no other sources and resources from which to draw our knowledge, we continually move in guesses and conjectures, and form for ourselves the image of an incomprehensible and impossible primitive man at the beginning of history.

Tradition, the testimony which mankind itself bears to its origin in tradition and history, points out a safer way to acquire knowledge regarding the oldest condition of the human race. In former times this was the method by which people sought to penetrate into the past. The Church Fathers derived all the wisdom they found among the heathen from the theology of the eternal Logos.241 Augustine speaks of a Christianity which has existed since the beginning of the human race, and was of the opinion that the doctrine of God as the creator of all The arguments for the reality of revelation, derived from the nature of thought, the essence of nature, the character of history, and the conception of religion, are finally strengthened by the course of development through which mankind has passed, and which has led it from paradise to the cross and will guide it from the cross to glory.

Augustine speaks of a Christianity which has existed since the beginning of the human race, and was of the opinion that the doctrine of God as the creator of all things and the light of all knowledge and action had been known to all the wise men and philosophers of all peoples.242 Lactantius rejoiced in this unity of all peoples, and beheld in it a prelude of the great alleluiah which in the days to come will be sung by all mankind, although he complains that the traditions have been corrupted by poetical license and the truth often perverted into a delusion.243 Both in earlier and later times in the Christian Church the truth and wisdom found among the heathen have been generally derived from a primitive revelation, from the continuous illumination by the Logos, from acquaintance with the literature of the Old Testament, or from the operation of God’s common grace.244
No doubt the rationalism of the eighteenth century threw all these theories overboard, because it believed that it possessed in reason the only and sufficient source of all truth. But it was cast down from this exalted pedestal by the philosophy of Kant, by the theology of Schleiermacher, and with more prevailing power by the rise of the romantic school. When towards the end of that century Persian, Indian, and Egyptian antiquity gradually disclosed its treasures, the idea of an original revelation, a common tradition, a primitive monotheism, revived in wide circles. A host of men— Schelling, Creuzer, Chr. G. Heyne, F. G. Welcker, O. Müller, Fr. Schlegel, Ad. Müller, and others—proceeded from this hypothesis and, often rather one-sidedly, elevated India or Egypt or Persia to the cradle of the human race and the source of all wisdom.245 Traditionalists, such as de Maistre and de Bonald, carried this tendency to an extreme, maintaining that language, and with it all knowledge of the truth, had been communicated to man by God in the primitive revelation, and that this knowledge was now propagated by tradition and had to be received on authority.246 Antagonism to the autonomy asserted by the Revolution led these men to ignore entirely the activity of reason and to deny all personal independence. By these extravagancies the romantic school digged its own grave; empirical science raised its voice against it, called men back to reality, and at first imagined that all the advance of culture as well as the origin of man himself could be explained by means of minute variations, occurring through an endless series of years. But deeper study and continued investigation, not only of the culture but also of the history of the most ancient peoples, has in this case too led to the acknowledgment of the just claims that lay at the foundation of the old view.

In the first place, we have to consider the primitive history of culture, which is best known to us through many important and exact researches concerning the oldest inhabitants of Europe. The prehistoric men who lived there no longer speak to us, and have left nothing behind them in writing; hence our knowledge of their condition always remains in the highest degree imperfect; we cannot even directly prove that they possessed language and religion, morality and laws; there is here a large domain for the play of the imagination. Nevertheless they are known to us in part by means of the fossils of their bones and skulls, by means of the relics of their arms and tools, of their dwellings and graves, their food and clothing, their furniture and ornaments. And these teach us that the original inhabitants of Europe stood on a much lower level in culture, science, art, technic, etc., than the culture-peoples of the present time; but in intellect, talents, capabilities, in bodily and mental qualities, they were men of like passions with us. In elements of culture they did not stand on a lower plane than many nature- peoples of our day as, for instance, the

Patagonians and Bushmen, whom we nevertheless reckon among men, and who have in common with other men the same mind and the same bodily structure. In fact the study of the arms and tools which have been preserved proceeds on the assumption that those who made them were men; for we consider objects arms and tools only when they manifest intellect and reflection, thought and purpose, and hence are an evidence of the activity of the human mind. Schurtz is right in saying that “all material culture is a creation of the mind, and always serves to strengthen the body or to free it of burdens; the staff lengthens the arm, the stone strengthens the fist, the dress protects the body, the dwelling shelters the family.”247 The original inhabitants of Europe, having left behind objects such as never have been conceived or made by any animal,— these bear incontestable witness to their mental gifts and their human nature. When we consider, indeed, that they stood at the beginning of culture and had to invent many things which we, aided by their labor, simply need to modify and develop, we stand amazed at their inventiveness, and especially their artistic skill, which accomplished so much with such defective means and under such unfavorable conditions.

But there is still something further in ancient culture which draws our attention. Notwithstanding all the differences caused by character and talents, wants and environment, soil and climate, there exists a striking likeness between the oldest culture which is met with in Europe and that which is found in other parts of the world and among other peoples. For example dolmens, that is family graves, composed of five large blocks of granite, are found in all parts of the earth, with the exception of Australia, and are ascribed on this account by some writers on the history of civilization to a single race which had spread through various lands.248 Axes, which mark the boundary between the palaeolithic and the neolithic conditions show great similarity to one another in the whole of Europe and in Egypt; and the pottery which is found in the latter country vividly reminds us of the forms which are scattered through Europe.249 It is remarkable in this respect, that numerous axes have been found in Southern- and Central-Europe, made of kinds of stone which are not indigenous to Europe, but are common in Central-Asia.250 The ornamentation by which the pottery especially is decorated is the same which from time immemorial was used in Egypt.251 The same species of cereals, wheat, barley, and millet found in Egypt and Asia were later raised in Europe.252 All the principal elements of culture in Europe—tools, decorations, agriculture, cattle-breeding, dwellings, and graves—point back to the East, to Egypt and Asia. On this account Sophus Müller says that not only has the more recent culture been influenced by the East, but the oldest culture also did not grow up independently in Europe, but was introduced from the East.253 In point of fact, scientific research increases the probability of the hypothesis that man did not originate in Europe, but came across from Asia and Africa into Italy and Spain. Even such an enthusiastic adherent of the doctrine of evolution as Ludwig Reinhart testifies that, as Europe is only an appendix of the vast continent of Asia, so also the principal gifts of culture were for the most part not acquired in Europe, but brought over from the ancient civilized countries of Western-Asia.254
The remarkable excavations which have been undertaken in recent years in several parts of Greece and especially in Crete, have confirmed this result of the history of civilization. They make it clear that Greece, long before the Hellenic culture proper, that is to say, more than a thousand years before Christ, passed through an extremely interesting period of culture, which is designated the pre-Mycenic and the Mycenic ages, the latter of which is intimately connected with the Egyptian civilization.255 Some, it is true, such as Karl Penka, have been of the opinion that civilization really began in Northern-Europe and spread thence towards the South; others, like Solomon Reinach, have expressed the judgment that the civilization of Europe had an origin of its own, independent of Asia. But the arguments in favor of the contrary are so numerous and strong that the great majority of the experts are persuaded of the Egyptian origin of the Mycenic civilization. Just as in later days the art of writing, the brick-kiln, the coining of money, Christianity, etc., have been brought over from the south to northern Europe, so it happened with the other constituents of civilization. The south was the real source of civilization for Europe, although it is true that the north has greatly modified and developed the elements received, as, for example, the stone axe.256 And Southern-Europe in its turn stood under the influence of Africa and Asia. The knowledge of metals penetrated from the East into southern Europe. Bronze objects found in the lowest strata of Troy, pottery and objects of worship in Crete, graves in large numbers, especially on the islands of the Archipelago, but also in Greece ancl Asia Minor, daggers and axes of bronze in the graves, ornaments wrought on the pottery in the form of spirals, lines, and female figures,—all these point to the civilization of ancient Egypt.257
The study of Greek philosophy points in the same direction. Zeller, Ueberweg and others succeeded in introducing into wide circles the idea that the philosophy of Thales and his fellow spirits was the result of opposition to religion, or at least of the emancipation of the mind from religion, and that philosophy had taken an antithetical position to belief in any form. But further research has brought to light the incorrectness of this explanation. As a rule, the philosophers were opposed to the superstition of the people and the superficiality of the masses, but we have no right whatever to represent them on this account as infidel and irreligious. On the contrary, religion and philosophy were still in their case one; they were not one-sided, materialistic, nature-philosophers, but on the contrary propounded a positive view about man and God. They investigated not only the essence of nature, but also the essence of man, his soul and its immortality. Moreover, the philosophy of Thales did not fall abruptly from the skies; a long time of preparation preceded it. According to the testimony of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, the theologians and lawgivers were the precursors of the philosophers. The age before Homer was by no means one of rude barbarism, without history and without letters; but the Pelasgians brought over from Asia a treasure of religious conceptions, manners and customs. When the several tribes in Greece intermingled, there was born from their intercourse a new cult, the cult of the Muses, who formed the court retinue of the Doric god Apollo. Orpheus was in this period the great figure; singers and poets in their nomoi regulated the worship of Apollo; the siege of Troy and the founding of the colonies in Asia Minor furnished new material for thought and hymn; Homer and Hosiod did not invent, but systematized the religious ideas and customs. Next to these poets and singers appeared the politicians and the law-givers, the wise men and the moralists, the theologians and the mystics. Along with them appeared very soon on the scene the real, afterwards so-called, philosophers. They were men of like passions with the others, and stood not outside the rich, full life of their time, but, as Heinrich Gomperz has described them, as men of flesh and blood, in the midst of it

The rich tradition which existed in poetry and aphorisms, in theology and legislation, forms the background of their philosophy, and is itself intimately connected with Oriental wisdom. The greatest thinkers of Greece—Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, and later Plutarch and Plotinus—derived their wisdom, especially the knowledge of the ideas, from ancient tradition, and further on from divine revelation.258 Of course this tradition was, to a large extent, corrupted, especially through the imagination of the poets, and was more purely preserved in the Orphic school than in the works of Homer and Hesiod. But it was nevertheless the source from which philosophy drew its most elevated ideas. Just as poetry and art, so philosophy enriched itself from the precious treasure which was preserved in tradition. The first problems on which thinking tried its strength were brought to the thinkers by life itself. Philosophy arose out of religion, and the question which presents itself to us is, not how philosophy later on assumed a religious character in Pythagoras and Plato, but, on the contrary, how philosophy was born of religion and theology.259 The marvellous discoveries which have been made in recent years in the land of Babylon and Assyria enable us now to trace further back this broad stream of tradition which culture and history both indicate to us. A new world has here risen out of the ground. New peoples have appeared on the scene whose names were scarcely known to us. As natural science has expanded our horizon above, beneath, and around us, so historical science has extended it into an almost infinite past. They who recognized the historical value of the book of Genesis of course knew better; but for many there lay behind the time of Moses nothing but a world of rude barbarism. All this has now been changed. Penetrating into the past260 under the guidance, not of imagination, but of history, we encounter in ancient Asia not half-bestial men and savage hordes, but highly civilized peoples and a richly developed culture.

Not only do we find a land, the fertility of which in that dry climate was increased by numerous canals and channels of irrigation, under the superintendence of a large multitude of officials, whose activity was carefully regulated. Legislation and jurisprudence also had reached a high degree of development. The code of Hammurabi contains decrees about marriage, about the relations between parents and children and between freemen and slaves, about the protection of honor and life, about rents and leases, about feudal tenure, mortgage, inheritance, and penal justice. Trade and art rejoiced in a rich measure of prosperity; architecture and sculpture, metallurgy, the arts of the goldsmith, potter, and stone-cutter produced works which excite even now our admiration, and had at their disposal even then a great wealth of forms. Commerce flourished and moved along excellent roads of communication which led from Babylonia to Western-Asia. Science also found its students, especially astronomy, in harmony with the astral character of the religion, but also arithmetic, geometry, chronology and geography, hieroglyphics and history. Not a few even maintain that the civilization of Babylonia, like that of Egypt, does not, so far as it is known to us, exhibit a picture of advance and bloom, but rather of retrogression and decadence. The oldest works of art in both lands are, in their opinion, far in advance of later productions in talent and in freedom, and truth of conception. Otto Weber expresses this view thus. “The dogma of a gradual development from a lower to a higher level is not sustained by the history of the Oriental peoples. What history gives us leaves upon us, on the contrary, the impression of decadence rather than of an advancing civilization, which tries to find fixed forms; everywhere in art, science, and religion, this is confirmed.” 261
It has happened with the excavations in Babylon and Assyria very much as it happens with all discoveries. At first they were greatly overestimated and their importance exaggerated. Just as in former ages all the wisdom of the peoples was derived from the books of the Old Testament, and in the days of romanticism from India, Egypt, or Persia, so also there has arisen in sequence to the important discoveries in the land of Sumer and Accad a Panbabylonian school, which imagines it has discovered in Babel’s astral religion a key to the religion and worldview of all the peoples. Certain similar features in the narratives of creation and the deluge, for example, so astonished men that borrowing or community in origin was at once assumed, the differences ignored, and even the precipitate conclusion formed that probably affinity and agreement existed in everything else too. Just as the points of resemblance between man and beast have been the occasion of a rash inference of common descent, so also the Panbabylonists, through the mouth of Winckler, Zimmern, Jeremias, Mücke, Stucken, Hans Schmidt, and especially Jensen in his Gilgamesh-Epos, have made a fearful abuse of the argument from analogy. The Babel formula seemed to furnish the explanation of the entire history of the world. But this exaggeration need not cause much solicitude; all exaggerations hasten by and are succeeded in a short time by a calmer and more sober view.262 And the result will be the recognition of the significant fact that the land of Babel was the cradle of the descendants of Noah and the starting-point of all civilization.

This fact receives strong confirmation from another side also. Not only the Babylonists and the Assyriologists, but also the ethnologists in a wider sense, supply us with strong grounds for the suggestion that the cradle of the human race stood in Central-Asia. We meet with striking points of agreement, in conceptions, manners, customs, institutions, between the most widely separated peoples. The state of society of the Greeks as described by Homer, for instance, shows remarkable resemblances to the condition of the ancient Irish, Welsh, Scottish Highlanders, and further to that of the ancient Norsemen, Araucanians, Massai, Turcomans, and the Kirgish. All the institutions, all the characteristics of the ancient ancestors of the Romanic, Germanic, Slavonic, and Semitic, peoples, find their parallels in the primitive races which still exist or have recently become extinct. The similarity between the Semites and the American Indians is so great that some old ethnologists imagined that they had discovered in the aborigines of America the lost ten tribes of Israel.263 Richthofen found astronomical conceptions in China which distinctly pointed back to Babylon. This led him to remark: “We stand here before one of the most remarkable problems which prehistoric times offer us in reference to the inter-communication of peoples.”264 In a word, the study of history and civilization makes it more and more clear that Babylon was in ancient times the ancestral country of the human race and the source of civilization. The peoples in Western-Asia stood in active communication with one another; there was no “spiritual isolation” (geistige Sonderexistenz) of the peoples, no Chinese wall which separated them from one another; a common tradition in the widest sense bound together all lands and peoples,—Babylonia, Arabia, Canaan, Phoenicia, and Egypt. Whether the tribes and generations after the building of the tower of Babel took many elements of culture away with them from their original home, or whether these were in various ways conveyed to them or were developed through later communication, it is a fact that the hypothesis gains progressively in strength, that the same tradition and the same culture lie at the foundation of the conceptions and customs of all peoples.265 Probably more light will be shed on all this as excavations are continued, the texts translated, and the researches of palaeontologists and ethnologists further prosecuted.

But we are at least warranted in saying, even at present, that the so-called Völkeridee of Adolph Bastian has received a heavy blow. The ethnologists have always been struck by the many and strong analogies which exist between even widely sundered peoples in all sorts of conceptions and institutions, manners and customs. The celebrated and widely travelled Bastian thought this explicable on the hypothesis that human nature is everywhere the same, and that the several peoples have given birth wholly independently of one another to the same conceptions and customs; and this theory for a long time met with much favor. Dogs bark everywhere alike, the cuckoo utters everywhere the same note, and in the same way man everywhere forms the same ideas and performs the same actions.266 Of course it cannot be denied that next to heredity variability, next to dependence independence, plays an important ro1e, and it is well-nigh impossible to draw the boundary line where the one ends and the other begins. A frivolous game has often been played with formal agreement, affinity, descent, not only in the science of religion, but also in the science of philology.267 But on the other side it must not be forgotten that the unity of human nature, on which Bastian based his argument, includes more than is actually derived from it.

It is, of course, easy to imagine that the animal-man stands behind the culture-man whom we meet with even in the primitive races, and that the interval between man and beast was bridged over in earlier times by many transition—forms which are now extinct and lost. This, however, is pure fancy, which has no rooting in reality. The facts are, that everywhere and always, so far as investigation can carry us, an essential difference exists between man and beast. Human nature is sui generis; it has its own character and attributes. If this be true, then the common origin of all men is necessarily given with it, without needing further proof; and in point of fact this hypothesis is accepted theoretically by many adherents of the doctrine of descent, and practically by almost all. This monogeny, however, again implies that the first human pair was either created by God or arose all of a sudden, by means of an enormous leap of mutation, to the height of human nature, and still further, that the oldest men dwelt together for a long time as one family. But there is involved in this not only the possibility but also the necessity of a common tradition. Human nature is not an empty notion, no purely abstract conception, but a reality, a particular manner of being, which includes distinctive habits, inclinations, and attributes. And this tradition was undoubtedly supported and strengthened for a long time by the intercommunication which the families and tribes kept up even after they had separated. Some tribes no doubt wandered so far away that they became isolated and impoverished in culture; others, however, remained in close proximity and came often in contact with one another. Commerce, intercommunication, intercourse, are, according to the latest researches, much older and more widely extended than is usually represented. There is nothing, therefore, that can be urged in itself as an argument against the existence of a common tradition.

Even Wundt acknowledges “that the historical testimonies do not of themselves exclude the hypothesis that all myths and religions have proceeded in prehistoric time from one single centre of origin, if only the possibility of such an hypothesis could be psychologically conceded.”268 Why this should be impossible is not easy to understand. For since human nature is one, the possibility is certainly implied in this, that conceptions may be taken over and further developed; and it is assuredly more readily explicable that peoples should have interchanged conceptions and customs than that they should have produced them all independently, and yet in close agreement. Moreover, however much a general tradition, the common property of all, may be denied, the same thing is acknowledged by all in a narrower circle. Wundt, for example, thinks it possible that in America, Oceania, South-Africa, and India “a flood of legends may have deluged vast territories.”269 Every household, every family, every town, every people, in its turn is a centre around which spread out, in narrower or wider circles, conceptions and views, manners and customs. And the human race is similarly one large family, which in all its movements and in all its tendencies is dependent on its common origin and its original equipment. It is, as G. F. Wright correctly observes, a wise and holy arrangement of Divine Providence that succeeding generations are in a high degree dependent on preceding ones, and that the better-favored parts of the human race, to whom much is given, are made responsible for the communication of these gifts to the less favored.270
Through what channels this communication has been made it is often impossible to trace. This gap in our knowledge, however, cannot be adduced, as Wundt271 supposes, as an objection to the fact itself. For in a number of cases we can say that such channels must have existed, although we possess no detailed knowledge of them.272 Since the human race has been made of one blood, then certainly men at first dwelt together, and when they went forth to fill the whole earth they must also have carried with them conceptions and customs from the parental home to all parts of the world. The unity of the human race, which forms the basis of the unity of human nature, necessarily includes in it an original common tradition.

Of course a large measure of wisdom and circumspection is needed for distinguishing among the traditions and manners of the peoples between what has been brought from the original abode and what has been the result of later modification and mutilation, extension and augmentation, by the different peoples. Apologeties has sometimes taken its task here too easily, for general phrases do not suffice here; every element of the civilization of mankind needs to be investigated carefully and comprehensively before we are ready to draw conclusions. And even after the deepest and most extended research it will be found that we have very often to be satisfied with a conjecture or a probability.

Nevertheless there are phenomena which point back with great probability to a common origin. Among these we find, for example, the knowledge of a single supreme Being, which is found among various peoples. We have no historical testimony to the development of polytheism into pure monotheism; when polytheism comes no longer to satisfy the intellectual circles, it is remodelled into pantheism, which has in common with polytheism the “nature-character” of the godhead, and dissolves the multitude of nature-gods into one nature-godhead. On the other hand, we have many historical examples of monotheism not developing, indeed, but gradually degenerating into polytheism and polydemonism. There are Christian churches in the past, and in the present also, which furnish proof of this statement; and even among the most cultured people there are some who, in our own day, turn not only to Mohammedanism and Buddhism, but also to the crudest forms of superstition and sorcery. Sometimes even theologians and philosophers prefer polytheism to monotheism. Goethe, himself once said that he was not satisfied with one system, but was by turns monotheist, polytheist, and pantheist.273 We may also see with our own eyes the theoretical profession of faith in one God accompanied in practice by the adoration of many angels and saints. The same phenomenon appears among many peoples.

When some speak of “monotheistic currents” in the Babylonian religion, very serious objections may certainly be advanced. But it cannot be denied, and is indeed recognized on all hands, that many nature-peoples in Africa, America, Australia, Mongolia, Tartary, and the Indian Archipelago, alongside of a practical religion full of superstition and sorcery, believe in a supreme good God, who is often called the great Spirit, the supreme Being, the Father, our Father. It may be that this belief in such a supreme Being has often been too much idealized, as, for example, by Andrew Lang; it is, no doubt, seldom worshipped, and even sometimes not conceived in a pure monotheistic form; it remains, nevertheless, in the religions of the nature-peoples a most remarkable phenomenon, which cannot be explained from Christian or Mohammedan influences, and as little from animism or ancestor-worship. And if now we do not forget that the religious worship of natural phenomena and spirits always already presupposes the idea of God, and that religion, according to many students of the philosophy of religion, is rooted in human nature as such, the hypothesis lies close at hand that we are confronted in this belief in the great Spirit with an original monotheism which preceded all polytheistic religions and is still at work in them.274
But not to insist upon this or other agreement in details, so much at least remains undoubtedly assured that human nature, both in body and soul, points back to the common origin of all men. In the fundamental ideas and fundamental elements of religion, morality, law, science, art, technic,—in short, in all the foundations of culture,—a unity exists which, from the viewpoint of the doctrine of descent, must be considered a miracle. According to the nominalistic point of view, represented, for example, by Professor William James, all men must be considered as not originally one, but as gradually becoming one. This view forgets that whatever can become one already is one in its deepest foundation, and it ignores, moreover, the actual unity which has through all the ages existed among men notwithstanding all differences. According to James, it is pure accident that our ancestors have followed precisely the line of thought along which we still travel, just as, according to Darwin, we owe it to pure chance that our women have not been trained like bees, and on this account refrain from killing their daughters. This, however, does not remove the fact that the methods of thinking and acting, which have been gradually invented by men and transmitted by heredity from generation to generation, have become inextirpably tenacious. Yea, according to James’ own expressions, “these fundamental ways of thinking” have continually grown firmer and remain practically useful and indispensable.275 We may therefore quietly set aside the hypothesis that these modes of thinking and acting, like men themselves, have come gradually into being; in reality, they form the immutable foundation on which all our civilization is built.

Thus it is in every respect. The human race is everywhere and always bound to its nature, to its origin, to its past. There are a multitude of ideas, a whole complex of views regarding the chief concerns of life which men have in common. They concern the idea of God as the almighty and all-wise source of all things, the world as established by wisdom, order and the reign of law, the unity and harmony of creation, the symbolical meaning of all things, the distinction between a world of things seen and unseen, the opposition of truth and falsehood, the struggle between good and evil, the memory of a golden age and a subsequent decay, the wrath of the gods and the hope of reconciliation, the divine origin and destination of man, the immortality of the soul and the expectation of a judgment, reward and punishment in the hereafter.276 All these fundamental ideas form the beginning and the foundation of history, the principle and starting-point of all religion, morality, and law, the bond of all social relations, the germ and the root of all science and art, the harmony of thinking and being, of being and becoming, of becoming and acting, the unity of logic, physics, and ethics, of the true, the good, and the beautiful All these fundamentals are given from the beginning in human nature; they are transmitted from generation to generation, and are at the same time grounded in the very nature of man, so that dependence and independence work together here. And they all point back to a divine origin: “all knowledge is,” at least so far as principles and foundations are concerned, “of divine origin.”277 Knowledge in this sense flows from revelation.

To this original revelation is joined on that revelation which according to the Old Testament was bestowed upon Israel. The latter is built upon the former and rests upon it, and is at the same time the continuation, the development and completion of it. The distinction between what has come to be called general and special revelation does not begin until the call of Abraham; before that the two intermingle, and so far have become the property of all peoples and nations. Special revelation certainly is set antithetically over against all the corruption which gradually entered into the life of the peoples, but it takes up, confirms, and completes all that had been from the beginning put into human nature by revelation and had been preserved and increased subsequently in the human race. The earlier view, which exclusively emphasized the antithesis, no less than that now prevalent which has an eye only for the agreement and affinity, suffers from one-sidedness. The latter, however, is giving way gradually to another and better view. For a time the notion was prevalent that the history and the religion of Israel could be thoroughly explained if the books of the Old Testament were subjected to free criticism and redating like other literature. But when this historical criticism had analyzed and rearranged the books of the Bible, consciously or unconsciously under the influence of the doctrine of evolution,—after all this source-criticism, the problem of the religion of Israel remained still unsolved. Historico-critical investigation had not succeeded in destroying the peculiar and special character of this religion. And yet this was the motive which had given the impulse to this research.

What profit was there in the analysis of the sources if Israel itself with its religion remained in the midst of the peoples unexplained? It is therefore that Panbabylonism has drawn away the attention of scholars and supplanted the historico-critical period by a religio-historical one. It has been right in suggesting that there may be a great difference and a long interval between the origin of ideas and institutions and their literary description; it has restored to honor the living tradition, and has shown that there are many other ways besides the literary one of exercising and receiving influence. For the field of religion especially these observations have been of great importance. For a religion is not invented by this or that thinker, and is not imposed upon a people from without, but is always a doctrine, a worship, a sum total of conceptions, rules, ordinances, and institutions which are linked to the past, live in the hearts of the people, and are transmitted from generation to generation. And religious and moral conceptions do not develop themselves after a logical method, as a result of apriori thought, but are often of older origin, exist side by side with each other, and develop themselves together in mutual connection. The simple and rectilinear theory of evolution comes in conflict with the complicated reality.

Thus the religio-historical method was right in reverting from literary criticism to the study of religion, and therewith from theory to life, from a system of abstract conceptions to the folk-soul, to the totality of reality. Its purpose, however, is to derive this totality, this complex of conceptions and prescriptions, not from Moses and the patriarchs, but from Babylonia. There, in its opinion, is to be found the source of the religion and worship of Israel, and even of the whole of Christianity. “Babel and Bible,” says Otto Weber, “are products of one and the same world-view.”278 Continued research will result, however, here, as in geology and anthropology, in a reaction from one-sidedness, and soon in the agreement the unlikeness and the difference will also be noticed. In the meantime, however, this gain has been registered, that it is no longer possible to consider Israel as an island, separated by a wide ocean from the rest of the world. Israel stands as a people and in its entire religious life in relation with its environment, and also with the past. No sudden breach was made by the prophets of the eighth century before Christ between the past and the future. The narrative of creation and the deluge, monotheism and the worship of Jehovah, the laws and ceremonies of the cultus, the reminiscences of paradise and the expectations of the future, the idea of the Messiah and the Servant of Jehovah, and all the eschatological conceptions, are much older than the literary documents wherein they are mentioned. Babel does not lie behind the Bible, but behind the Scriptures lies the revelation which begins with the origin of the human race, continues in the tribes of the Sethites and Semites, and then flows on in the channel of the Israelitish covenant towards the fulness of time. For although Abraham left Babylonia and was sent to dwell apart in a strange land, the God who manifested himself to him, and later to Moses and to Israel, is no new, strange God, but the God of old, the creator of heaven and earth, the Lord of all things, who had been originally known to all men, and had still preserved the knowledge and worship of himself in many, in more or less pure form.279 The segregation and the election of Israel served the sole purpose of maintaining, unmixed and unadulterated, continuing and perfecting, the, original revelation, which more and more threatened to be lost,280 so that it might again in the fulness of time be made the property of the whole of mankind. The promise became temporarily particular, in order that thus it might later become universal. Israel belongs to the human race, remains in relation to all peoples, and is chosen not at the cost, but for the benefit of the whole human race.

Hence the peculiarity of the religion of Israel does not consist exclusively or primarily in its ethical monotheism. There are a number of elements in the history and religion of Israel which occur nowhere else, so far as is now known to us, and not even a parallel to which is found among other peoples. Among these are the name of Jehovah, the cosmogony free from all theogony, the idea of the unity of the human race, the narrative of the fall, the week of seven days and the Sabbath, circumcision of all male children on the eighth day, prophetism which accompanies Israel through its entire history, the plan of salvation embracing all nations, ethical monotheism, the invisibility of God and the impossibility of representing him, etc.281 And there are many more elements in the Old and New Testaments still whose explanation is sought by the Panbabylonists in the astral religion of Babel, but in such a manner that the far-fetched character and the artificiality of the derivation are manifest to all.282 Nevertheless all these elements do not yet form the essence of the religion of Israel. They stand, indeed, in very close connection with it, and form with it an integral whole; but the substance of the revelation which came to Israel, and the core of the religion which corresponded with it in Israel, consist in something else.

In order to find this, we must go back to the prophets and psalmists, to Jesus and the apostles, and they all teach us unanimously and clearly that the content of the divine revelation does not consist primarily in the unity of God, in the moral law, in circumcision, in the Sabbath, in short, in the law, but appears primarily and principally in the promise, in the covenant of grace, and in the gospel. Not law, but gospel, is in the Old and the New Testament alike the core of the divine revelation, the essence of religion, the sum total of the Holy Scriptures. Every other view fails to do justice to special revelation, effaces its difference from general revelation, degrades the Old Testament, rends apart the two economies of the same covenant of grace, and even gradually changes the gospel of the New Covenant into a law, and makes of Christ a second Moses. Paul, however, declares that the promise is older than the law, that Abraham already received the righteousness of faith, not by the law, which was in his days not yet in existence, but by the promise which was granted him by grace. The law was thus originally not joined to the promise, but was added to it later, that transgressions might abound, and accordingly the necessity and indispensableness of the promise might be ever more clearly revealed, and its contents ever more fully developed and at last completed. The law thus is temporal, transitory, a means in the service of the promise, but the promise is eternal; it had its beginning in paradise, was preserved and developed by revelation in the days of the Old Covenant, received its fulfilment in Christ, and is now extended to the whole human race and all the peoples.283
In this promise, given to the patriarchs and to Israel, there are three things included. In the first place, there is the free, electing love of God, who seeks, calls, and adopts as his own Abraham and his seed, by pure grace, without any desert or merit of their own. The new element, which enters in with Abraham and later with Israel, consists in this, that God, the knowledge and service of whom were gradually passing away, at a given point of time places himself in a most special relation to a particular person and people. This relation is not grounded in nature; it is not a matter of course; it does not exist by virtue of creation; it is not instituted on the part of man, by his conscience or reason, by his feeling of dependence or need. But it is an historical product; the initiative came from God; he so reveals himself as, by the act of revelation, to receive a particular person and people into communion with himself. The calling of Abraham, the deliverance from Egypt, the institution of the covenant on Sinai, are accordingly the main pillars upon which the religion of Israel rests.284 It is the sovereign and gracious will of God which calls this federal relation into life. By this will, which injects itself into history and establishes a new relation between God and his people, God is once for all in Israel made free from nature and raised above it. God is no nature-power, as is the case among the nations. He is an independent person, has his own nature and will, and a law and worship of his own which, in the most stringent way, prohibit all idolatry and image-worship. The human race owes a great deal to Babylon, many good things of civilization and culture. But let us not forget that there have also come forth from Babylon all superstition and magic. It was Babylon which made all peoples drunk with the wine of her fornication and sorcery.285 And it was Israel alone which, by the revelation of God, was delivered from these bonds, and in this respect Israel stood alone in the midst of all peoples.

Because to-day we evaporate religion into frames of mind, detach it from every object, and retain scarcely any sympathy with the knowledge and worship of God, we no longer feel the importance of this entirely unique position of Israel. The prophets and apostles, however, thought of it very differently. The true religion consisted for them first of all in the knowledge and worship of the true God, according to his will and in consonance with his command. They still knew the difference between faith and superstition, between religion and magic, between theology and mythology. Well, now, Israel is the people chosen by God, which never had a mythology, and has rescued the human races from the bonds of superstition and sorcery. The Bible did not come forth from Babylon, but in its fundamental thought is in diametrical opposition to Babylon, and has made an end to Babylon’s spiritual dominion over the peoples. Granted that the chaos-myth, as Gunkel supposes, has had an influence upon Israel, that Rahab and Leviathan, Tiamat and Nachash, were originally mythological conceptions; they have on Israel’s soil, in the sphere of special revelation, totally cast aside this character. The poetical personification of natural phenomena is in Israel as strong as among other peoples; the thunder is God’s voice, the light his garment, the lightning his fiery arrow, the storm his breath, the clouds are his chariot, and the like. But nowhere is this poetry presented as a description of objective reality, and never are these poetical conceptions combined and elaborated into a mythological narrative. Israel has no mythical feeling; by special revelation, by the intervention of God in history, by miracles, it has been profoundly convinced of the distinction between God and the world; the knowledge of God has expelled all myths. God no doubt works in nature and in history, but he transcends them as the free and almighty One; he has a character and will of his own. However personal and poetic the description of the phenomena of nature may be—though it may be said that the mountains clap their hands, that Tabor and Hermon rejoice, that the cedars gambol like calves, and that the whole creation listens and keeps silence, declares the honor of God and proclaims his glory—they are never represented as real, independent powers with which God has to struggle. The narratives also of the creation and the fall, of the deluge and the building of the tower of Babel, of the patriarchs and judges, are for the Israelite no myths, but history. Israel’s God is far exalted above nature, but by special revelation he brings about in the world a peculiar history.286
In the second place, God’s pardoning grace is contained in the promise which was given to Israel. Although Tiamat and Nachash, Rahab and Leviathan, are no longer real, inimical nature-powers, yet certainly the Old Testament knows a power which opposes God. But this power must not be looked for in the abyss or the stars, nor in the sea or the mountains; on the contrary, it appears in history, in the world of men. It is sin, sin alone, which opposes God and with which he fights. It admits of no doubt that sin and sickness (misfortune, disaster, demoniacal possession), guilt and misery, forgiveness and deliverance, were in Israel’s consciousness more intimately connected and much more closely interrelated than in ours. All the pious of Israel wrestled with the problem of the relation between them. But this very wrestling presupposes that there is, after all, a distinction between them; it can arise only when the just, convinced of his innocence, maintains himself in his religio-moral consciousness in the face of the suffering of the world. Therefore we owe to special revelation in Israel the purely ethical conception of the nature of sin, with respect both to its origin and to its essence and punishment. Sin is no disease, although disease is often the result and proof of it; it is not involved in existence itself, for every creature, as it comes forth from the hand of God, is very good; it consists in transgression of God’s commandment. As God is distinct from nature, so also is his moral will distinct from the law of nature, the ethical from the physical, the “what ought to be” from “what is.” The third chapter of Genesis, therefore, tells us just about the origin of sin; it cannot be explained except as a narration of how sin has entered into the world, and consists in transgression of God’s command. The following chapters sketch for us the progress of sin, which is an imagination, a product of the heart of man from his youth. And when again after the deluge the stream of unrighteousness flows on its course, God chooses Abraham and his seed for a people of his own, that they may walk in holiness before his face.

But the electing love of God is at the same time a forgiving love. God not only elects and calls, but gives himself to his people; he joins himself to them, so intimately and tenderly, that he charges their guilt and transfers it, as it were, to himself. I am thy shield and exceeding great reward; I am the Lord thy God, who has led thee out of Egypt. The covenant with Abraham and his seed is built in a certain sense upon redemption and remission, and the walk before God’s face to which the patriarchs and Israel were called is the duty of gratitude. The law which God gave his people, entered in after the promise, is built on the promise and is placed in the service of the promise. It was not a law of the covenant of works, but a law of the covenant of grace, a law of the covenant, a law of gratitude. It served the purpose not of acquiring righteousness and life, but of confirming these gifts to our consciousness, and of bringing them out in our walk before God’s face. Nor was the ceremonial law a means to bring about reconciliation, but to maintain the reconciliation which already existed in the covenant relation. Prophecy revived from time to time the consciousness of this: it did not usher in a higher law, it did not establish a new religion, it was not the promulgator of ethical monotheism, but it had the covenant of God with his people for its presupposition and was built upon the regulation of their reciprocal relation in the law. Never did it call upon the people to make themselves God’s people by keeping the law; it always started from the supposition that Israel had become God’s people by election, and laid upon them the demand that therefore they must as God’s people walk in his ways. Morality was in Israel grounded in religion. God forgives sins for his name’s, for his covenant’s, for his glory’s sake.

That God forgives sin by grace, for his name’s sake the knowledge of this mystery we owe wholly to the special revelation which God granted unto Israel. We would value this more highly if we had a deeper consciousness of guilt. For the forgiving love of God is not a matter of course; it is not known to us from nature, or from history, or from our own intellect and conscience. On the contrary, appearances are against it,—we do not perceive it by sight or by touch; it is a matter of faith. Nay, more than this: if God forgives sin for his own sake, then he must himself provide the atonement. For without atonement, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. In the ceremonial legislation God himself gave his people instruction In this matter; it pointed to the way in which God himself would bring about reconciliation. Man can as little make propitiation for his sin as he can forgive it himself. But God can do both, atone and forgive; he can do the one just because he can do the other. The tension, however, which existed between them in the days of the Old Testament, the time of the paresis is reflected in the consciousness of the Israelites, as a disharmony between righteousness and suffering, holiness and blessedness, virtue and happiness, but in this way contributes to prepare the wav for its own solution. For so in Israel’s prophecy, psalmody and chokhma, the profound thought is gradually formed of a suffering which is endured on account of and for others; thus there gradually reveals itself the divine mystery of an innocent and atoning suffering, which is illustrated in Isaiah by the Servant of Jehovah, who is wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, but upon whom was the chastisement of our peace, and with whose stripes we are healed.

In the third place the gospel in the Old Testament includes also the promise of God’s unchangeable faithfulness. The more Israel’s apostasy and unfaithfulness increased, making it ever more apparent how little reliance could be placed on man, the louder the prophets announced that God will not break his covenant and will not annul his promise. Mountains may depart and hills may be removed, but his loving-kindness shall not depart from his people, and the covenant of his peace shall not be removed forever. The prophets narrate the past of Israel, they explain the present; but they likewise foresee the future not as fortune-tellers and soothsayers, but as seers and watchmen upon the walls of Zion, as searchers according to the description of Peter, and as inquirers under the guidance of the Spirit into the salvation which in the future was to be obtained and given by the Messiah. Thus they see what others do not see; persevere in believing where others doubt; cling to the promise in hope against hope, and expect that God himself will in his own time realize and extend his dominion to all peoples through his Anointed One. As he is to complete his revelation through the Prophet like unto Moses and to procure the atonement through the Servant of Jehovah, so also is he to establish his kingdom on the earth through the Anointed King. Theology leads through soteriology to eschatology. The love of election passes over through the grace of forgiveness into the full communion of God with his people. In the future God will make a new covenant, wherein the old promise, I will be your God and you shall be my people, will be fully realized.

These are the contents of the gospel, which was preached and intrusted to Israel. No criticism of the books of the Bible can destroy this content. Election, gracious forgiveness and true, perfect communion, are the great thoughts and the spiritual gifts which Israel has received from God and in the fulness of time has communicated to humanity. For in the Person of Christ, who is the Son of God and also the Son of Man, who is at the same time the highest prophet, the only priest and the eternal king, all the promises have been fulfilled. He indeed is the object of the conflict of the ages, at present fiercer and more serious than ever before. Judged from the present position of scientific investigation, it would seem as if everything concerning his person and work is uncertain and even unknowable. All kinds of hypotheses have been erected and numerous attempts made to explain the origin and essence of Christianity. Judaism and Heathenism, apocryphal and Talmudic literature, political and social conditions, the mythologies of Egypt and Persia, of Babylonia and India, are called upon to help us derive not only the world and man, religion and morality, but also the Christian religion, from weak beggarly elements and the poorest possible beginnings. These investigations have an important value and contain a rich promise. Through them the Christian religion will become better known in its close connection with the world and history, and the words and facts of the New Testament will be better understood in their universal significance and bearing. But more than this, all these investigations, provided they are not broken off half-way but carried on to the end, will throw into ever clearer and clearer light the uniqueness of the Christian religion.

For Christ, the mediator of creation, the life and the light of men, the promise to the fathers, the desire of the nations, the saviour of the world, and the judge of the quick and the dead, is akin to all and to everything, and at the same time distinguished from all and exalted above all. Whatever may be adduced to elucidate and explain his person and work, he appears now as ever on the pages of the gospel before us and the whole world in his unique superiority. The central facts of the incarnation, satisfaction, and resurrection are the fulfilment of the three great thoughts of the Old Covenant, the content of the New Testament, the kerygma of the Apostles, the foundation of the Christian Church, the marrow of its history of dogma and the centre of the history of the world. Without these facts history breaks into fragments. Through them there is brought into it unity and variety, thought and plan, progress and development. From the protevangel to the consummation of all things one thread runs through the history of mankind, namely, the operation of the sovereign, merciful, and almighty will of God, to save and to glorify the world notwithstanding its subjection to corruption.

This will of God forms the heart of pure religion and at the same time the soul of all true theology. For according to the counsel of this will we are chosen, conformably to this will we are regenerated, through this will we are sanctified. In virtue of the good pleasure of this will both that which is in heaven and on earth will be gathered in one in the dispensation of the fulness of time under Christ as Head. And in the whole course of revelation this will of God unfolds itself ever more clearly as the love of God, the grace of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.

241Clemens Alex., Stromata, I, 5; VI, 8. Clemens Alex., Stromata, I, 5; VI, 8.
242Augustinus, de Civ., VIII, 9-12; de Doctr. Chr., II, p. 40. Retract., I, 3.
243Lactantius, Inst., VII, 7, 22.
244Willmann, Geschichte des Idealismus, I, 1894, pp. 14 ff.; II,. 23 ff. Mausbach, Christentum und Weltmoral. Munster, 1905, pp. 9 ff. Willmann, Geschichte des Idealismus, I, 1894, pp. 14 ff.; II,. 23 ff. Mausbach, Christentum und Weltmoral. Munster, 1905, pp. 9 ff.
245Willmann, Gesch. des Ideal., III, pp. 763 ff.
246A. Stöckl, Lehrbuch der Philos. I, 1887, pp. 406 ff.
247Schurtz, Urgeschichte der Kultur, pp. 298 fP. Ulrich Wendt, Die Technik als Kulturmacht. Berlin, 1906.
248Schurtz, op. cit., p. 441. S. Müller, Urgeschichte Europas, Gruudzüge einer prähist. Archaeologie. Strassburg, 1905, p. 40. J. Guibert, Les origines. Paris, 1905, p. 348. C. W. Vollgraff, Over den oorsprong onzer Europeesche beschaving. Gids, Dec., 1905.
249S. Müller, op. cit., p. 19.
250Ibid., p. 21.
251Ibid., p. 22.
252Ibid., p. 24.
253Ibid., p. 3. Comp. also pp. 25, 26, 28, 29.
254L. Reinhardt, Der Mensch zur Eiszeit in Europa, 1906, p. 249.
255Holworda, in Ch. de la Saussaye, Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte, II, p. 245.
256S. Müller, op. cit,. pp. 49-52.
257Ibid., pp. 30 ff.
258Willmann. Gesch. des Ideal., I, pp. 2 ff.
259Dilthey, Einl., pp. 184 ff. Karl Joël, Der Ursprung der Naturphilosophie aus dem Geiste der Mystik, Basel, 1903. Willmann, Gesch. des Ideal., I, pp. 1 ff., 33 ff., 142 ff. R..E. Woltjer, Het mystiekreligieuse Element in de Grieksche Philologie, Leiden, 1905.
260D. Gath Whitley, What was the Primitive Condition of Man? The Prinecton Theol. Review, Oct., 1906, pp. 513-534.
261O. Weber, Theologie und Assyriologie im Streite um Babel und Bibel, 1904, p. 17. Comp. Tiele, Inl., II, p. 220. Winckler, Religionsgesch. und gesch. Orient. Leipzig, 1906, p. 9. Id., Die Babylon. Geisteskultur. Leipzig, 1907, pp. 18 ff.
262H. H. Kuyper, Evolutie of Revelatie, Amsterdam, 1903, and the literature there quoted. Felix Stähelin, Probleme der Israel. Geschichte, Basel, 1907.
263Steinmetz, De Studie der Volkenkunde, pp. 36, 37, 39. Steinmetz, De Studie der Volkenkunde, pp. 36, 37, 39.
264Richthofen, in Jeremias, Die Panbabylonisten. Leipzig, 1907, p. 15.
265Winkler, Religionsgesch. und gesch., orient., pp. 7, 8, 9, 17, 33. Id., Die Weltanschauung des alten Orients, p. 4. Id., Die Babyl. Geisteskultur, pp. 6, 47, 48. Winkler, Religionsgesch. und gesch., orient., pp. 7, 8, 9, 17, 33. Id., Die Weltanschauung des alten Orients, p. 4. Id., Die Babyl. Geisteskultur, pp. 6, 47, 48.
266A. Bastian, Der Völkergedanke im Aufban einer Wissenschaft vom Menschen, Leipzig, 1881. Cf. Gumplovicz, Grundriss der Soziologie, pp. 27 ff. A. Bastian, Der Völkergedanke im Aufban einer Wissenschaft vom Menschen, Leipzig, 1881. Cf. Gumplovicz, Grundriss der Soziologie, pp. 27 ff.
267As regards language comp., Fritz Mauthner, Die Sprache, Frankfurt a. M., pp. 45 ff.
268Wundt, Vö1kerpsych., II, 1, p. 570.
269Wundt, op. cit., II, pp. 343, 571.
270G. P. Wright, Scientific Confirmations of Old Testament History, Oberlin, 1906.
271Wundt, op. cit., pp. 342, 570.
272Jeremias, Die Panbabylonisten., pp. 15, 16.
273See note 44 of Lecture IV.
274Andrew Lang, Magic and Religion, p. 224, in Ladd, I, p. 153. Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturöblker, 1860, 11, pp. 168 ff. C. von Orelli, Allg. Religionsgesch., pp. 39, 745, 775 ff. Id., Die Eigenart der bibl. Religion, 1906, pp. 11, 12. Schroeder, in Beitrage zur Weiterentw. der Chr. Rel. 1905, pp. 1 ff. Jeremias, Monoth. Strömungen innerhalb der Babylon. Religion., 1904. Baentsch, Monoth. Strömungeit und der Monoth. Israels., 1907. Gloatz, Die vermutlichen Religionsanfänge und der Monoth., Religion und Geisteskultur, 1906, pp. 137-143. Söderblom, Die Allväter der Primitiven, ib., 1907, pp. 315-322. Lehmann, in: Die Kultur der Gegenwart, I, III, p. 26.
275James, Pragmatism, pp. 165, 169, 170, 171, 181 ff.
276Willmann, Gesch. des Ideal., I., pp. 119 ff.
277Jeremias, Monoth. Strömungen innerhalb der Babyl. Religion, 1904, p. 8.
278O. Weber, Theol. und Assyriologie, 1904, p. 4.
279Gen. 14:18-20, 20:3 ff., 21:22 ff., 23:6, 24:50, 26:19, 40:8, etc. Comp. also Dr M. Peisker, Die Beziehungen der Nicht-Israeliten zu Jahve, nach der Anschauung der altt. Quellen Giessen, 1907.
280Joz. 24:2, 14, 15; Deut. 26:5, etc.
281Ed. König, Schlaglichter auf dem Babel-Bibelstreit. Beweis des Glaubens, 1905, pp. 3-23.
282Biesterveld, De jongste Methode voor de Verklaring van het Nieuwe Testament, 1905.
283Willmann, Gesch. des Ideal., II., pp. 12 ff., 20 ff.
284Giesebrecht. Die Geschichtlichkeit des Sinaibundes. Königsberg, 1900. Lotz, Der Bund vom Sinai., Neue Kirchl. Zeits., 1901.
285Jer. 51:7, Comp. Fr. Delizsch, Mehr Licht, 1907, p. 45.
286Köberle, Oriental. Mythologie und Bibl. Religion, Neue Kirchl. Zeits., 1906, pp. 838-859. Ed. König, Altorient. Weltamschauung und Altes Test. Berlin, 1905.

Powered by ProofFactor - Social Proof Notifications