conceptions, every superstitious and idolatrous element. It will be the task of the following notes on the first chapters to prove this proposition. We have cleared the way for a plain and unsophisticated interpretation. We are fettered by no preconceived dogmatical views. We shall be enabled to attempt a conscientious penetration into the notions of the Hebrew historian; and shall in no instance be induced to force upon his words, by a contorting and delusive mode of exposition, our modern systems of philosophy. Thus may we hope to secure a positive advantage for Biblical science.


SUMMARY.—God created the matter of which heaven and earth consist (ver.1); He

brought the chaotic mass into shape and order; in six days He produced successively light, the heaven, the seas, the dry land and vegetation; the celestial orbs; the fishes and birds; the beasts and man (ver. 2—30). He approved of His works, both individually and collectively (ver.31). He rested on the seventh day, and blessed and sanctified it (ii, 1–3). 1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 1. The very opening sentence of Ge- nor cheers him in his despair; who neither nesis manifests the infinite saperiority of feels nor rouses sympathy; who is a shadow the Mosaic notions over all the systems of rather than a personal spirit; and who, in antiquity; it separates distinctly mono- order to be accessible to the human capatheism from the blind rule of physical cities, is compelled to produce the two powers, and from that dualism which re- inimical deities Ormuzd and Ahriman, cognises a good and an evil principle in who, similar to the Osiris and Typhon of the creation of the world; it marks the the Egyptians, dispute with each other the eternal division between Mosaism and government of the world, and thus perpaganism, between God and Nature; for petuate on earth the din and fury of init evidently represents God as the Creator

testine war. and primary Cause of the Universe; per- The Creator of the world is also its haps in intentional opposition to the very Ruler; for to Him alone belongs all far-spread ancient theory of an original power from eternity to eternity. The Bible mutter, out of which the world was sup- does not, like the systems of philosophy, posed to have been framed, or of the eter- commence with a

proof of the nity of heaven and earth. The world, with existence of a Creator; this truth is the its objects, is generated; it is neither iden- very foundation on which it rests; it is astical with God; nor a part of His sub- sumed as undisputed, and requires no destance; nor the product of chance or of monstration: the Hebrew cosmogony alone stern fate; nor the result of an internal is not preceded by a theogony. It is a falor external necessity, “as though God lacy to think, that the Egyptian cosmogony needed anything"; it is the free emanation is essentially similar to that of Moses, who of the will of God; it is the spontaneous

is still too often represented as nothing work of His love. He alone was before all more than the expounder of the ordinary time, from all eternity;“ before the moun- Egyptian wisdom. It is true, that in a tains were brought forth, and before the most interesting Egyptian document, the earth and the world were formed.” But celebrated Book of the Dead, Osiris is yet, He is not a lifeless abstraction of described as the creator of the world and Time, as the Zeruane Akerene of the Per- of mankind; as the preserver of all creasians, who neither animates man's hopes tures; as the eternal ruler and judge of the universe; and the holy avenger of Nile and the Indus; that he forced him every crime and impiety; but that Osiris into a chest, and brought it to the river, is far from being an immaterial deity; he from whence it was carried into the sea; is the sun and his light; he produces, that, however, Isis, the faithful wife of therefore, first the other seven great pla- Osiris, contrired to recover the chest; but netary gods; then the twelve minor deities that Typhon found it again, and cut who represent the twelve parts of the the body into many pieces which he scatZodiac, and who, in their turn, produce tered over the land, but which Isis buried the twenty-eight gods who preside over wherever she found them, except one the stations of the moon, the seventy-two

member which the fishes had eaten, and companions of the sun, and other deities. in honour of which an annual festival was Osiris is, hence, denominated the creator celebrated: at last Osiris returned from and king of the gods; and, if he is called the lower world, and instructed his son “light of the world,” this is no figurative, Horus to avenge him; Typhon was now but a strictly literal expression. It is, attacked, and perfectly defeated. In whattherefore, incorrect to infer that, in the ever way these myths may be interpreted, belief of the Egyptians, God created the whether Osiris and Isis are regarded as world out of nothing; that there was no the sun and moon; or as the Nile and the chaos; and that He was-from eternity. earth; or as the representatives of the early -But, further, Osiris is, in the later mytho- civilisation of Egypt,which was from thence logy of the Egyptians only, the creator spread over the whole ancient world, whilst of the world, and the highest god; in the Typhon is the symbol of the destructive carlier myths this was Kneph who pro- hot wind (samoom); or of the tyrannical duceď the germ of the world from his winter; or of dark ignorance: it is evident mouth; or Phtha, corresponding with the that all these conceptions lie entirely withGreek Vulcan; or Pan; or Ammon, who in the circle of paganism, and that they represents the productive power of the sun were no more the source of the Mosaic (Ra), who is most frequently called tho doctrine than any other eastern tradition. creator of the universe, who was worship

For, the God of Moses is not only allped throughout all Egypt, but had his chief powerful and all-wise, which qualities eve temple in Heliopolis or On (light), and

rude and barbarous tribes have bestowed who wus, from the earliest times, viewed upon their deities, but He is also all-loving; as a trinity of gods, consisting of Ammon independent of any other existence,creating Ra (the crcator), Osiris Ra (the fructify- all, Himself not created; and, therefore, ing power), and Horus Ra (the dispenser unchangeable; a free and absolute Being, of light). And ancient Greek writers because subject to no necessity; omnigive a very different account of the Egyp- present, because He watches with provitian cosmogony; they affirm expressly, dent care over His works. He is at once that the ancient inhabitants of Egypt, the most perfect Ideal, and the completest when they looked with astonishment at Reality; His thoughts are creations: the wonders of creation, were induced to thus, the very beginning of the Biblical the belief that there are two eternal gods, canon reveals the highest, the most sublime the authors of all things; namely, the sun

attributes of God; it contains, as it were, and the moon, or Osiris and Isis; they in- the leading principle on which the whole troduce a complete theogony, and narrate Scriptural system is based, the vigorous how Phtha (Vulcan), the inventor of the root from which the imperishable stem of fire, was succeeded by Saturn, who begat, religious truth has sprung. with Rhea, the principal deities, Osiris and God is the author not only of matter Isis, Typhon and Nephytis; they relate, that (ver. 1), but of its wise and wonderful the wicked Typhon attempted to destroy distribution in heaven and earth (ver. 2 et Osiris, who had undertaken a distant ex- seq.). He called the universe into being out pedition to all the countries between the of nothing, not out of formless matter

2. And the earth was dreariness and emptiness, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.

co-eval in existence with Himself. He world of order and blessing; what did alone is the fountain and the origin of the the primeval night of the classical Greeks world. Nor did He resign his power as generate? It brought forth cruel fate, Creator after having produced matter terrible necessity, and death; it engenwith its eternal attributes. The same will dered mocking Momus and woeful care, which has created the universe, suffices to the ruthless Parcæ and terrible Nemesis, reduce it into absoluto nothing, or to sus- and fraud, and criminal love, and strife; pend its laws, and temporarily to change it was the parent of labour and trouble its course, that is, to perform miracles. of tearful sorrow, and struggle, and death

2. Matter was created, but it was a -of famine, war, and carnage --of falseshapeless mass; the elements were mixed hood, perjury, and contempt of the laws in irregular confusion; it was a chaos. - and of every crime. The Greek gods This gloomy state of things prevailed produce evil out of evil; to the God of through the whole universe, both in the Hebrews there exists no evil, for He that part which later formed the heaven has created all things for the purposes of and in that which was to constitute His wisdom, and He converts confusion the earth. But the framing of the latter into harmony.—The Chaldeans believed is the first object of our text; the arrange- that during the chaos all was darkness ment of the heaven is reserved to a later and water, peopled by mis-shapeh monact of creation (vers. 6–8, 14—19).- sters; the Egyptians express it by a conThis elementary state of nature is thus fusion of the limbs and parts of various described by Ovid (Metam. i. 6—9) — animals; and the Phoenicians describe it “One was the face of Nature, if a face;

as boundless, through many ages, and Rather a rude and indigested mass,

pervaded by a wind of black air, and A lifeless lump, unfashioned and un- dark as hell. framed,

The ancient and purer Hindoo religion, Of jarring seeds, and justly chaos

as expounded in the Vedas and in the laws named.”

of Manu, teaches that originally the uniThe chief characteristic of the indistinct verse was involved in darkness; there was and dreary chaos is darkness; matter no visible trace of a world, or of water, or was still deprived of the rays of light, sky, nor aught above it; all was imperwhich can alone manifest order and ceptible, destitute of every distinct attribeauty.

bute, neither accessible to reason nor to

the senses, and entirely immersed in sleep; No Sun was lighted up, the world to

that, however, after the expiration of a view; No Moon did yet her blunted horns

day of Brahman, which is equivalent to renew."

4320 millions of human years, the great

Taat, existing through itself, immaterial, It is true, that heathen writers introduce and undistinguishable by mortal eyes, the same feature; the Orohic songs do- breathing without afflation, infinite and scribe chaos as a black right, enveloping eternal, the soul of all beings and the everyobjectwith its gloomy wings; they mystery of all understandings, felt a destate that at first, primeval night reigned sire in his mind which became the original supreme; and sometimes they even men- productive seed; he dispersed the darktion night as the mother of the gods, and ness; removed the husk in which the of men. The chaos of the Bible produced, universe was enveloped; and, by the by the word of God, this beautiful power of contemplation, made visible the


world, with its five elements and other principles, so that it shone in resplendent brilliancy and purity. The Hindoo legends approach, indeed, the Mosaic narrative perhaps more nearly than any other Eastern tradition; for they further narrate, that the original soul of the universe thought: “I will create worlds;" and water was called into existence; into its floods the spirit deposited a germ, which developed itself into an egg of beautiful lustre; and in this egg Brahman, or the Supreme Being, created himself; the waters bore the appellation, Spirit of God (Nara); and as they were his first place of motion (or Ayana), he is designated “moving on the waters” (or Naruyana). These striking analogies remind us that, even with regard to the highest religious ideas, the historical student is justified in searching for their common national source, and that it is the philosopher's task to investigate psychologically their common mental origin. But we must not suppose that the Hebrew writings lose by such comparisons; they easily maintain their indisputable superiority: for in the Hindoo cosmogony, the great invisible God produced Brahman, and it was Brahman only who became the parent of all rational beings and of the cosmos: the Supreme Spirit and the Creator are two distinct persons. Thus the purity of the conception is destroyed; a leaning towards pantheisin is the pervading principle; the highest god created also a number of inferior deities (devas), with divine attributes and pure souls, bearing, like man, the divine image, mortal like him, and dependent on human actions; and a host of invisible genii (sadyas). And the Creator, how different is he from the God of Moses! He did not only produce the founders of the four principal Hindoo castes from his mouth, his arm, his thigh, and his foot, respectively; not only did the sun spring from his eye, the moon from his mind, the air from his ear, and fire from his mouth-so that every element was, in a grossly pantheistic manner, considered as himself, or as a part of his existence: but he divided his body,

into two parts, a male and a female half, and begat thus the divine Viradj, called “I”; who, on his part, through himself, by a rigid devotion, and by also dividing himself into two moieties, produced Manu; the latter, in the same manner, called the ten great saints (maharshis) into existence; who, under Manu's direction, created again seven other Manus, the gods, and a great number of powerful saints, the gnomes, giants, vampyres, a great variety of other creatures, the celestial phenomena,

and mankind. Thus the direct sovereignty and majesty of the great Spirit is entirely lost by the vast number of intermediate agencies; the Creator and the creatures are not discriminated; a hundred and one gods assisted in framing the universe; the prayers of the Vedas tcem with mythological allusions to the personified elements and planets; and many gods are subsequent to the production of the world.

Now Brahman is indeed defined as That whence all beings are produced, by which they live, and towards which they all tend; but even wise and holy men were uncertain whether this That was food, or life, or intellect, or happiness. Brahman is further, indeed, the great intelligence, the lord of creatures; but the gods are likewise he, and so are the five primary elements; he is only the first-born; he shares his divine nature with the sun, the moon, the air, and the water. It is, therefore, scarcely more than an isolated and transitory conception, if Brahman is occasionally described with the purest and sublimest attributes: none can comprehend him; his glory is so great that no image can express it; he pervades all regions; he is the immortal soul, eternally merged in profound contemplation; he is imperishablo, incorporeal, and invisible, without form and quality, unaffected by worldly passions, unchangeable and omnipresent; in him the universe perpetually exists; in him this world is absorbed; he alone knows the mystery of creation, preservation, and destruction; he is the providence which governs all worlds. But these elevated notions are incessantly

mixed with the grossest superstitions and which at their original creation was asthe most palpably pantheistic views: the signed to them, whether this be malice or Hindoo religion has a tendency to the kindness, virtue or vice, noble veracity highest truth, but it has not sufficient or base falsehood. Thus man is the energy to follow that difficult path with victim of the most oppressive fatalism. undeviating attention; it stops and hesi- And just as the world has been created tates at every cross-way, and not unfre- by accident, so it will be dissolved, when qnently goes astray into barren deserts, the Great Soul falls asleep and rests in or dark, entangled forests. Again, it is profound slumber; until having gathered admitted even by philosophical inquirers in again all elementary principles, it enters into the literature of the Hindoos, that into a vegetable or animal seed, assumes a those abstract ideas do not represent the new form, awakes again, and after the expopular views, but are the speculations of piration of 4320 millions of years, or one some gifted sages, who strove to rise day of Brahman, reproduces the world, above the degrading materialism of the which is thus alternately brought forth and multitude. This remark holds true to destroyed, according to the condition such a degree, that Brahman never be- and nature of the Supreme Spirit: but came the god of the people; that he never after the lapse of a hundred years, conobtained a public worship; and that no sisting each of 360 days of Brahman, the temples were erected to his honour. He universal destruction takes place, and was exclusively the god of the priests and Brahman himself will cease to exist. of the theologians, who from him as- Whereas, therefore, in the Bible, the sumed the name of Brahmans. How dif- world, and everything that is created, is ferent is all this from the God of the by God Himself declared to be perfect Hebrews, and His relation to people and and excellent, in the laws of Manu the priests! — But we remark further, with world is called a horrible creation, which peculiar emphasis, that, according to a be- unavoidably and incessantly works its lief of the Hindoo philosophers, the whole own destruction. creation was not the result of spontaneous We cannot, therefore, be surprised to love, but of a momentary forgetfulness of find in the later Hindoo literature the the Supreme Spirit, who once accidentally most extravagant notions as the natural was stirred from his usual motionless rest development of such cosmogonic theories; and sleep-like contemplation: the world the world was believed to owe its origin is the result of a mistake, which can only to the desire of the deity “to diversify be corrected by its destruction; the things himself”; or it was thought that man are but created in order to perish. This and the universe were nothing but the tragical and gloomy idea pervades the mockery of a dream; idle shadows, whole life of the Hindoos; its first conse- which disturb the serenity of god; quence was the notion of the transmigra- his ideal delusions, or Mayas, and des. tion of souls; for as the latter are ultimate- tined to exist only so long as he is in a ly to be swallowed up in Brahman, who, state of reverie. The later Buddhists however, receives them only when they regarded as the Creator Tao, or the imhave attained a state of moral perfection, measurable Space, which produced one; they again and again enter a material after which one produced two, and two form, until they are entirely purified; but three, till three brought forth all being3: even these renewed attempts at a higher this Tao is without action, and without moral state are a vain and hopeless effort; thought; calm and self-subsistent. Such a for it is tanght, that with the same immu- motionless creating principle leads natutable necessity as the same seasons always rally to the inactive quietism which is produce the like kind of vegetation, the the ideal of Buddhist felicity and perfecsouls spontaneously follow, at each suc- tion, but which is the reverse of that lise cessive return on earth, the same course of useful but unselfish activity which the

« ElőzőTovább »