Page images

ourselves back into the age of the writer, and look at his narrative not from our present position, but from that which he occupied.

But when we have done this, no man may lawfully forbid our comparing the record, thus grammatically interpreted, with the discoveries of modern science, and gaining from modern science new and deeper views respecting the truths which underlie its statements. To make this plain, let us take a declaration of the Old Testament familiar to all : “ The world also is established, that it cannot be moved.”] One class of expositors, rightly understanding the terms of this proposition in their natural and ordinary signification, but incorrectly receiving it as a statement, in scientific form, of an astronomical truth, feel bound to condemn, as heretical, the Copernican system, which places the sun in the centre, and assigns to the earth two motions. Our readers all understand that this is no ideal case, but a simple statement of the decision of a congregation of cardinals, in the seventeenth century. If, now, there should be another class of interpreters, receiving the modern doctrines of astronomy as indubitably true, but still holding on to the error that the words of the Psalmist under consideration must be taken in a scientific sense, they would, as the certain result, either reject the proposition as false, or set themselves, perhaps unconsciously, to the work of forcing its terms into an agreement with the discoveries of science, by false exegesis like the following : “ Is established (Heb. 709); that is, not made immovable, but made constant or steady in its course — in its two motions, on its axis and around the sun; compare 7 man; not a spirit that never moves, but one that is steady in its motions.” Again, on the words," that it cannot be moved," we might have such a note as this : “ cannot be moved; that is, cannot be disturbed in its two revolutions." The error of such exegesis consists in its bringing into the sacred text scientific forms of truth. Here we beg leave to introduce a just remark of Prof. Lewis, in respect to the three forms of language, the simply phenomenal, the scientific, and the poetical.

1 Psalm 93: 1.

“Now in reference to these three kinds of language, we may say that the Bible can employ, and does employ, most copiously, the first and the third ; but it cannot make use of the second. The reason is, that the adoption of scientific language, as above defined, would be an endorsement of its absolute correctness, whilst the responsibility of no such endorsement could be ever implied in the use of the others.”ı

The moment we disentangle ourselves from the error of considering the passage in question as pledged to a scientific form of truth, all difficulty vanishes. In its relations to man, “ the world is established, that it cannot be moved.” To his apprehension, and to his uses, it is as firm and immovable now as it was in the Psalmist's day. The scientific discovery that the earth is continually moving in her orbit around the sun, at the rate of sixty-eight thousand miles an hour, while she revolves on her own axis once every day, does not make her one whit the less immovable to us, who dwell upon her surface. We have now brought science into harmony with the inspired record, without sacrificing either to the other. We have neither denied the authority of the Scriptures, nor perverted their plain meaning, that astronomical discoveries might stand; nor have we rejected these as repugnant to revelation.

What has long since been achieved in the domain of astronomy, needs to be accomplished in that of geology. We say not that the adjustment can be wholly effected in the same specific way, that of regarding the Mosaic narrative as simply phenomenal. We think that, in respect to the element of time, it will be necessary to bring in some other principle or principles. Perhaps we are not yet far enough advanced in our investigations to determine where the full harmony is to be found; but we may confidently say that it is to be sought mainly in the direction of those broad and general principles of interpretation that pervade the sacred volume, and not in that of mere philological research. Philology is indispensable to the work; for it gives us, as already remarked, the true contents of the record with which

Six Days of Creation, Chap. V. p. 42.

the discoveries of science are to be harmonized; but it does not, in all cases at least, itself furnish the principles of ad. justment."

In pursuance of the general plan which we have indicated, we propose to connect with the grammatical interpretation of the different sections of the Mosaic narrative, more or less discussion respecting their relations to science, reserving for special consideration, in a subsequent Article, the difficulties which grow out of the modern science of geology.


Gen. 1: 1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning. In interpreting these words, metaphysical subtilty is out of place. The beginning here spoken of, is plainly that of the heavens and the earth ; though we need not supply these words, or anything else. The writer means

1 Of this the work of Prof. Lewis, to which reference has already been made, furnishes many striking illustrations. What he says in regard to the meaning of the word *73, and of Gen. 1: 2, first clause; particularly the question discussed in the eighteenth chapter: "What is meant by God's making the plant before it was in the earth ?" — all these, and many other discussions in the book, rest on previous grammatical interpretations; while at the same time the main body of the work is occupied not with philology, but with the discussion of philosophical principles of interpretation. The present article is not intended to be a review of Prof. Lewis's treatise, but as we shall have frequent occasion to refer to it in the course of our remarks, we would here say, once for all, that, while we fully sympathize with him in his reverence for the Divine record as paramount to all human authority, and are, moreover, indebted to him for many valuable suggestions, we feel constrained to dissent from his views in some very important respects, on grounds which the reader will find stated in their proper place.

2 Prof. Turner notices a refinement of some Jewish Rabbis, approved by Jarchi, who would render: “In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and the earth, then the earth was empty and void,” etc., on the ground that non is always in the construct state. On this Aben Ezra well remarks: “They have forgotten the passage. Deut. 33: 21, 43 ? ??." There is no ground for ascribing to noso any such peculiarity. In the great majority of cases it is used either literally or figuratively of first-fruits, where, almost as a matter of course, a specifying genitive is added, as “the first fruits of thy corn," etc. Yet in this signification it can stand absolutely, as well as any other noun; e.g." The oblation of the first fruits," Lev. 2: 12; " He provided the first part for himself," Deut. 33: 21 ; “For the first fruits, and for the tithes" (with the article), Neh. 12:

to assert, as we shall see under the word created, that God brought them into being by his ci, itive power; and, as this was their beginning, so the act must necessarily have been in the beginning. The heavens and the earth. These words are to be understood, in their usual popular signification, of the whole material creation which comes under the observation of our senses. They commit the sacred record to no doctrine respecting the time when angelic beings were created.

It remains to consider the force of the word created (Heb. 17). Prof. Lewis has taken the position that this word never denotes making something out of nothing, but always the fashioning of something which already exists. On this point, his assertions are very explicit and abundant. 66 We do not at all deny," he says, “ the fact of such creation out of nothing, but it is a metaphysical tenet, to which we are driven by the demands of the reason."1 He fully admits that the material universe must have had its beginning in a primordial act of creation, but thinks that the beginning spoken of in the present verse was not the beginning of matter, but the beginning of the fashioning of matter.

“ The language seems not to denote a separate primordial act, but to cover the whole process that follows. It suggests to us the fashioning of something which, as far as the material is concerned, is already in existence as the subject of the operation, or series of operations, afterwards described. The beginning, then, is the beginning of this fashioning."

He elsewhere suggests that the chaos described in the second verse (which he takes the liberty of transposing, and putting before instead of after the beginning) " may have been a rudimentary chaos, which had never yet assumed order - such as we may suppose to have been the condition of many an elemental world ; or it may have been a chaos

44. In the sense of beginning it also naturally takes a specifying genitive; as, "In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim," etc., but here too it can stand absolutely. An example of crystalline clearness is Isa. 46: 10: ?? ???, " declaring from the beginning the end." There is no necessity, then, for departing from the simple and obvious construction of our version, and assuming here the construct state before the finite verb. i Six Days of Creation, Chap. VI. p. 50.

2 Ibid. pp. 45, 46.

to which some world or system had been reduced from some previously better state.” 1

In accordance with this idea of the Mosaic creation, he tells us that “the Hebrew word xyz, rendered create, has nothing abstract or metaphysical about it. It is as clearly phenomenal as any word in the language. Its primary meaning is to cut, hence to share, shape, form, fashion." He compares it with the German word schaffen, by which Luther translates the Hebrew word, without seeming to understand how completely this works against the theory he is maintaining. And he adds : “ It is this idea of making, which consists in cutting, separation, and arrangement, by division of what previously exists in a confused and disorderly state, rather than a combining or a constructing of new and scattered elements."2 Again : " It is the fashioning, constructing, forming, or making of something which already exists to be formed, fashioned, etc., and is brought into order through steps or degrees following each other in a regular methodical series."To crown all, he puts the Hebrew word x (create) lower than (form). After quoting Jer. 1: 5, " Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee,” he adds: “ The word 3, here employed, has more of the idea of fabrication, or direct workmanship, than either n (make) or 479;" in evidence of which he quotes Ps. 94: 9. Gen. 2: 19. Amos 4: 13. Jer. 10: 16.4

The same views he reasfirms in the Bibliotheca Sacra.

answer to Prof. Dana's question : “ We would ask Prof. Lewis what Hebrew word he would substitute for the one used, that would convey the precise idea of creation out of nothing ?” he answers : “ There is no such Hebrew word or root; there is none such in the old Shemitic languages; and the reason is, there is no such idea (working at least) in the old Shemitic mind. The root bara is sometimes taken to denote the making of a new thing in the earth, but it is ever as a new thing, not new matter."' 5

i Six Days of Creation, Chap. VII. pp. 57, 58. 2 Ibid. Chap. VI. p. 48. 3 Ibid p. 50.

4 Ibid. Chap. X. pp. 113, 114. 5 Vol. XIII. April, 1856, p. 475.

« PreviousContinue »