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CHAP. To discuss it we must enter on a rigorous examination of the facts themselves; and with a view to such investigation, I shall here arrange all possible affinities in two separate classes1: (1) the minor points of ritualism which may have been inherited in common, or externally derived from one system to the other, without implying any true internal sympathy; and (2) the cardinal points of doctrine which must ever have determined the character of those systems, and have proved the real secret of their weakness or their strength.
§ I. Ritual Resemblances.
Before entering on the criticism of any particuancient lar instances, it is important to recal attention to symbolism. remarks already made in reference to the offices discharged by symbolism in the religions of antiquity. The lack of any clear ideas on this point has tended more than other causes to becloud the whole of the discussions opened in the present chapter. I have urged that since the ancient Hebrew was in temperament, as also in the measure of his intellectual training, not unlike the native of surrounding countries, symbolism of some kind or other was most needful in that early period to the planting of religious truth and its development within him. He was far less capable than his remote descendants of all abstract and unearthly contemplation; he was living more than they in the impressions made upon the eyesight; and ac
1 All inquiries into merely civil and political arrangements are passed over as not directly bearing on the
2 Part I. pp. 100 sq.
cordingly it was the part of wisdom in obtaining CHAP. from him the acceptance of a supersensuous truth to represent, or, one might say, embody it in concrete shapes, to clothe it in more visible and sensuous drapery, and enforce it by suggestive actions and symbolical institutions. Here, as in the case of teaching by parable or allegory, a pure thought has been invested in expressive forms which bring it more directly under the cognisance of every human mind endowed with the most elementary of religious intuitions. Symbol was, in other words, Character a species of primeval language: the symbolic insti- Mosaic intutions were the illustrated and illuminated books, stitute. in which the early generations of the human family might learn the rudiments of true religion: and, aided as it was among the Hebrews by a series of collateral expositions ever guarding it from misconstruction and reverting to the spiritual principles on which it had been framed, the ritual law was one of God's chief agents in the education of the elder Church. It deepened in man's heart the consciousness of his dependence and degeneracy; it taught the need of a redemption and foreshadowed the Redeemer; while by it the grand conception of one holy God had been associated with the homeliest of man's actions, and diffused into the very midst of the popular life.' Compared with Christianity, indeed, that ritual system of the Hebrew was unripe and rudimentary; it was made up of 'weak and beggarly elements;' it proved itself a Pædagogue and not the Teacher; the result to which it ever pointed the aspirations of its worthier subjects was not actually achieved until the fulness of the times had come,' until the Incarna
CHAP. tion of the Son of God and the effusion of the quickening Spirit: yet in reference to the stage of progress then attainable by man, it offered an effectual apparatus for evoking and conserving the religious principle; and when at last the sentence of abrogation was pronounced, the law of ordinances fell, as scaffolding falls off, because the edifice it served to rear had reached the full proportions, and because a system not inglorious in itself has 'no glory in this respect by reason of the glory that excelleth.'
If, then, sacred emblems of the ancient world were thus peculiarly significant; if symbolic institutions were a species of necessity arising out of and hea- the capacities and condition of the human mind, tems might and so were common to the rituals both of Jew correspond. and heathen, all objections to the Bible which depend upon the mere existence of resemblances between these rituals, irrespectively, that is, of the ideas therein embodied, fall entirely to the ground. It would be equally presumptuous to disparage or reject the doctrines of the Gospel, prior to all scrutiny of its contents, because these doctrines are transmitted to us in the ordinary characters made use of in the printing of the other writings of antiquity, or else because particular forms of speech are found to be employed alike by the Apostle of the Gentiles, and the orators, the poets or the moralists of ancient Greece. The same outward act or emblem might continue to embody the same primitive truth and so be equally innocuous in both systems, which are made the subjects of comparison. Or, upon the other hand, it might be gradually connected in the lapse of ages with
divergent if not opposite and contradictory ideas1. CHAP. But wherever any emblem had been consciously transferred from one ancient people to another, care would doubtless be employed to rescue it from all supposed perversions then attaching to it, so that in its fresh position it might harmonise instead of jarring with the other members of the ritual system. Let this only be effected, and a symbol used extensively in heathen countries for the representation of a thing reputed holy might be also chosen as an apt exponent of a thing more lofty and more holy still; the freedom of the symbol from profane associations facilitating the adoption of it, and imparting to it an especial fitness for its new office.
It is, therefore, highly probable that if the Probable Hebrew legislator, acting here as always under the sued by supreme direction of Jehovah, were induced to sanction rites and ceremonies current in the land of Egypt, or in other nations of antiquity, he was influenced by no wish to gratify the merely 'puerile superstitions' of his followers, but by reasons more exalted in themselves and more befitting his exalted
1 The following observations of Kurtz (Gesch. des Alten Bundes, I. 310), though not expressing the exact view here advocated, are well worthy of attention: 'In der hohen Blüthe ägyptischer Weisheit, Cultur und Industrie hatte Israel die beste Schule menschlicher Bildung, deren es für seine künftige Bestimmung bedurfte; durch die Bekanntschaft mit der tiefen Anschauung der Aegypter, die das ganze Leben mit allen seinen Aeusserungen und Verzweigungen unter religiösen Gesichtspunkt stellte, konnte selbst Israels religiöse Anschauung mehr
fach bereichert werden, und in der
CHAP. character. He engrafted them into the legal institutions either because they were the uncorrupted heirloom of the patriarchal age, or else because, from their inherent fitness and expressiveness, they were commended to him as at once convertible in aid of the great project he was called to carry out.
Examples here chosen.
The number of these ritual correspondencies is stated with considerable variety by different writers. Some', however, I shall scarcely glance at; first, because the facts on which it is attempted to support them are extremely vague and problematical, and, secondly, because those facts, when fully ascertained, admit of a more simple and more rational explanation. In selecting the examples here subjoined for more minute analysis, I take the points which have been universally esteemed the most important of the series, and which century after century have furnished his main arguments to the impugner of the Books of Moses.
(1) The rite of circumcision, though practised by the Hebrews from an earlier epoch, was per
1 Thus, the division of the Hebrews into twelve tribes, alleged by some writers as analogous to the territorial divisions of Egypt, naturally resulted from the number of Jacob's children. The distinction between clean and unclean meats, was pre-Mosaic and patriarchal, reaching backward to the Deluge. Hence may also be explained the strong repugnance felt to swine among the Israelites as well as the Egyptians, and the feeling of contempt with which they both regarded swineherds. The Levitical hierarchy had, moreover, several points of close resemblance to the various orders
of Egyptian priests; yet most important differences are also traceable; for instance, in the perpetual exclusion of the Hebrew priesthood from all grants of territory. (Cf. Prichard, Egypt. Mythol. pp. 409 sq.) In this class of merely accidental correspondencies I am inclined to place the 'holy women' of the Israelites, a kind of nuns or female Nazarites, distinct from priestesses, but nevertheless devoted to ascetic modes of life (Ex. xxxviii. 8; 1 Sam. ii. 22): with whom may be compared the holy women of Egypt and Phonicia (Herod. II. 54, 56).