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Two mutually destructive theories are held by naturalistic critics as to the origin of Hebrew Monotheism.

The first is that of Renan, who traces it to a “Monotheistic instinct” said to be inherent in the Semitic race. “The Semitic consciousness,” he says, “is clear, but lacks breadth; it has a marvellous comprehension of unity, but cannot grasp multiplicity. Monotheism sums it up, and explains all its characters.”—Hist. generale des Langues semitiques, p.5. See this theory explained in the work cited, and in the more recent Histoire du Peuple d’Israel, I. chap. iv. It is a theory which scarcely requires discussion, so palpably contrary is it to all the facts. Cf. in regard to it, Max Muller’s essay on “Semitic Monotheism,” in vol. i. of his Chips from a German Workshop; Baethgen’s Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte; Godet’s Biblical Studies on the Old Testament, p. 68 (Eng. trans.); and an able article in the Edinburgh Review (April 1888).

The second theory is that of Kuenen and the newer school of critics (though it had many older representatives), viz., that the Israelites began as polytheists and idolaters like their neighbours, and only gradually attained to an “Ethical Monotheism” such as we find in the prophets. This theory, therefore, is the precise reverse of the former. See it explained in Kuenen’s Hibbert Lectures; in Wellhausen’s Prol. to the Hist. of Israel (Eng. trans.); and in Professor Robertson Smith’s Old Testament in the Jewish Church, and Religion of the Semites The arguments by which it is supported are plausible, yet, when carefully looked into, are found to be much more specious than solid. The most sifting examination 413is that of Baethgen, in the work above cited, Beiträge zur sem. Religionsgeschichte. See also Konig’s Hauptprobleme d. altisrael. Rel.; Robertson’s Early Religion of Israel (Baird Lectures); and Schultz’s Alttest. Theol. pp. 159–167 (1889). A good discussion of Hebrew Monotheism is found also in Vigouroux’s La Bible et les Decouvertes modernes, pp. 1–86, “La Religion primitive d’Israel” (1881). Baethgen sums up the results of an exhaustive inquiry, first, into the general character of Semitic Polytheism; and, second, into the question, “Whether, as Kuenen and others maintain, Israel’s faith in God was really, in the older and middle periods of its history, distinct in nothing from that of related tribes?” in the following words:—“The historical investigations of both parts lead to the result that Israel’s faith in God was from the oldest times specifically distinct from that of the related tribes; and the contention that the Old Testament Monotheism has originated out of Polytheism, in the way of natural development, is proved on closer examination to he untenable.”—Preface.

A strong argument against the development theory in question may be drawn from the results of the newer Pentateuch criticism itself. It is surely a remarkable circumstance that, not only in the time of the prophets, but in the documents J and E, originating in the early days of the kings (perhaps earlier), and embodying independently the oldest traditions of the nation, the history already rests on a completely Monotheistic basis, and expresses (e.g. in the call of Abraham) the clear consciousness of the nation’s universal mission and destiny. In the -documents referred to, e.g., we have as fundamental, underlying ideas, the creation of the world by Jehovah, the unity of the human family, the destruction of the whole race by a flood, a covenant with Noah embracing the earth, a new descent and distribution of mankind from one centre, the recognition of Jehovah as the God of all the earth, etc. Schultz, in his Alttestament. Theologie, also lays weight on these considerations, though with some preliminary qualifications and explanations that the Monotheism involved is a “religious” and not a “metaphysical” Monotheism. “In the old songs,” he says, “alongside of the expression, ‘who is like Jehovah?’ there stands clearly the other, ‘no God besides Jehovah no rock besides our rock ‘ (Ps. xviii. 32; 1 Sam. ii. 2). According to the Book of the Covenant, Jehovah has chosen Israel precisely because all the world is His (Ex. xix. 5), therefore not at all because He, as a particular God, was bound to this hand and people. Psalms such as the 8th, 19th, and 29th praise Him who has made heaven and earth, in whose holy palace the sons of God stand serving. In B and C [the J and E of the ordinary nomenclature], the same Jehovah who is the covenant God of Israel is likewise the Creator of the world, the God of the patriarchs, whom also, as a matter of course, the non-Israelites own as God, the God of the spirits of all flesh (Gen. ii. 4 if., iv. 3, 26, xii. 17, xxiv. 31, 50, xxvi. 29; Numb. xvi. 22, xxvii. 16). He proves Himself in His miracles and in His majesty the Judge and the Destroyer, the world-ruler in Egypt, Sodom, and 414Canaan In fact, therefore, the other Elohim step back as no-gods, who are not able to determine the course of time world. He alone is a God who can call forth faith, love, and trust. He will reveal His glory also to the heathen world, and He will not rest till it fills the whole earth (Ex. xv. 2). . . . But a people which itself worships only one God, and regards this God as the world-creator and the controller of all world destiny, is for that reason monotheistic. . . . A God whose rule is not bound to the land and people in which He is worshipped is no more a mere national God. Thus the particularism of the God-idea in Israel has already become only the sheltering husk under which the pure Monotheism of the Old Testament could unfold itself and mature.”—Pp. 166, 167.

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