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" He must be a man of little faith who would fear to subject his 
own religion to the same critical tests to which the historian subjects 
all other religions." 

Max Mulleb. 

It may be deemed presumptuous on my part to take up 
the gage thrown down by Mr. C. Montefiore before "his 
old and dear friend," and to anticipate the reply that will 
doubtless be given in due course to the question propounded 
by Mr. Montefiore in the current number of the Jewish 
Quarteely Review. My justification and my apology 
must be that, very probably, the great interest excited by 
Mr. Montefiore's admirable paper will evoke many criticisms ; 
and among the many I submit my humble effort as a 
small contribution to the anticipated discussion. In the 
main, I agree with the views expressed by the author of 
the article, although I think he has much underestimated 
the effects of that which may be styled, in general terms, the 
Modernity of Ideas, and also the immense influence of 
the recent and still continuing dissemination of scientific 
knowledge. Moreover, it seems to me that Mr. Montefiore 
has made no allowance for the changes that have un- 
doubtedly taken place in recent years in the methods of 
investigation and in the enormous rise in the standard 
of historic accuracy. 

It is far easier to give a reply to the simple question 
which Mr. Montefiore submits to " his old and dear friend" 
than to follow him through the intricacies of thought which 


lead to the fundamental question, whether Judaism is or 
is not fitted to modern thought and practice. The reply 
to Mr. Montefiore's question is, in my own case, simple 
enough. I do not attend the Synagogue because (apart 
from the historic interests connected with the ancient 
cult) I have no sympathy with and cannot realize the 
benefits that can be derived from the services performed in 
the Synagogue or with the recitals of narratives relating 
to the early history, which, being miraculous and of the 
highest improbability, I cannot regard as true or, to speak 
frankly, of any value whatever. The theories of ethics 
that I hear are not those which I believe, and, to use 
general terms, my mind is transferred into a totally different 
sphere of thought. And as I am unable to accept the 
doctrines inculcated within the Synagogue, I, as every 
honest thinker would do, absent myself from attendance 
at the services. The position I am bound to assume, is, 
I regret to say, not only absence of sympathy with, but 
actual repugnance to, the whole scheme of Judaism. I 
cannot accept the chief dogmas which underlie historic 
Judaism. I cannot comprehend the " Chosen People." It 
is a phrase that has no meaning to me. The Divine 
Revelation at Sinai is to me a legendary epic of unknown 
authorship. The miraculous element is to my mind 
injurious to piety, and creates in me the sentiment of 
repulsion. Without considering whether miracles can or 
cannot take place, it is no exaggeration to allege that no 
recorded miracle rests on evidence sufficiently trustworthy 
to convince any but the most credulous of mankind. 
Judaism rests on the " Book " and on tradition — neither 
support can be regarded at the present day as valid. 
Mr. Montefiore admits that the law is not the law " which 
God gave unto Moses." That is an admission of immense 
importance. That the Pentateuch or Hexateuch is not the 
work of Moses or of the age of Moses is maintained by 
many of the most learned and best qualified authorities, and 
that admission carries with it a great part of early Jewish 


history. The Patriarchs may or may not be historic 
characters, but their lives are given in tribal tales of little 
value. The legislative part of the Pentateuch is of more 
serious importance. The laws, especially those of Leviticus, 
are, in form, tribal laws, and, like most legal systems, the 
outcome of the age in which they were promulgated — 
many of such laws being formulated ad hoc, while others 
are adaptations or actual copies of the laws of neighbour- 
ing nations. It is hardly doubtful that the legislation 
concerning the Sabbath or seventh day of rest was adopted 
from the Babylonians. But the point of view which 
I desire readers of the Review to accept is the entire loss 
of authority, as the inevitable result of the recent biblical 
criticism. At the time when the Sacred Books of the 
Hebrews were regarded as the work of Moses inspired by 
God the authority of such books was supreme. If the 
books can claim no kind of authority from divine in- 
spiration, or even from famous authorship, they are re- 
legated to that great mass of sacred and ancient records 
which have been collected, and which teach us many 
important matters respecting the religious aspirations of 
ancient peoples. It is asserted — I will hardly say yet that 
it is estabbshed — that not only is Moses not the author of 
the Pentateuch, but that the authorship as well as the dates 
of publication of the constituent parts are unknown, or not 
known with any degree of accuracy. The sacred literature is 
therefore anonymous — and anonymity is fatal to authority. 
Moreover the authority of the Sacred Books is further 
diminished by the appropriation of extensive contributions 
from the legends or sacred books of other nations — the 
chief contributions coming, as might be expected, from 
Babylon and from Egypt ; while the three Great Festivals, 
to the celebration of which so much importance is attached 
in the Pentateuch, are sun festivals of immense antiquity 
and it would seem of almost universal acceptance. Of all 
festivals that of the Pentecost is perhaps the most universal. 
The celebration of the " First Fruits " is hallowed alike by all 


ancient and still by most modern nations ; and the absurd 
ceremonies on the First of May, with Jack-in-the-Green, 
are but survivals of the ancient feast commemorating the 
return of summer. 

The history of the Hebrews, so remarkable and so unique, 
obtains no corroboration from external sources. A notable 
fact is, that for more than a century diligent search has 
been made among Egyptian monuments and records, with 
the earnest desire to discover some confirmation of the 
miraculous narrative of the Exodus, but as yet no such 
evidence has been obtained. Therefore the history of the 
greatest and most important migration of all time fails to 
be confirmed in any particular — and is still dependent 
upon the narratives found in the Pentateuch, written by 
an unknown author or authors at a date or dates probably 
never less than 800 years after the events related had 

The great national Festival of the Passover is celebrated 
every year, with much enthusiasm in all the synagogues 
of the world where Jews do congregate. There are 
already many absentees, who are unable to accept the 
miraculous character of the narratives of the Exodus ; and 
such number is likely to increase. 

I should wish that sensible men, and women also, would 
ask themselves whether a history loaded with wonderful 
and supernatural incidents is likely to be a fair account of 
the events that happened. A general acceptance of such 
a history, wholly without corroboration from external 
authorities, is little like the careful practices of modern 
historians in separating truth from the mass of material 
which is often available. No subject during the last 
generation has been studied with more marked success 
than history, both ancient and modern. The principal 
object of the modern historian has been to correct the 
errors of previous generations and, by careful verification of 
facts, strive to arrive at truth, and withiJiis important 
addition — wherever it is impossible to obtain verification 


and corroboration, to submit to suspension of judgment. 
The standard of verification has been thus greatly raised. 
By these means there is some chance of reaching truth, 
a chance that the blind reception of tradition rendered 
impossible. Tradition, passing orally through a chain of 
witnesses none of whom left a record, is, to the modern 
historian, of very small value ; and it is on this species of 
evidence that Jews rely for the truth of some of the most 
astounding events ever alleged to have taken place. It is 
impossible for men of thought and learning to listen to 
evidence of this kind, without denial and protest : are they 
to be blamed if in the employment of the same methods of 
inquiry, which they and others use in the study of profane 
history, they arrive at the same sceptical conclusions in their 
inquiries concerning the events recorded in sacred history ? 
The legends of Greece and Rome have been separated from 
serious history by Grote and Niebuhr and others, and the 
same methods of verification which those distinguished 
authors have employed are now being used in the separa- 
tion of truth from fable in the histories of the ancient 
Hebrews. The results obtained already give an earnest of 
that which may be expected. The sacred records teem 
with unhistoric wonders and divine interferences ; but it is 
no presumption to predict that the ultimate conclusion, 
when reached, will be to reduce the history to a more 
commonplace position, and to explain it by a reference to 
the characters of the Hebrew people and to their active 
imagination and poetic nature. The methods of history, 
like the methods of science, produce an intellectual result, 
which is a constant, it is a mental evolution, carrying 
the powers of the human mind to a higher level. The 
student of history or of science cannot within the Syna- 
gogue put aside his love of truth and his knowledge of the 
methods by which he is accustomed to attain it. It is 
not desirable that he should do so. A sacrifice of honesty 
and of truth can never be otherwise than deprecated ; and 
if he arrive at conclusions in opposition to the conventional 

F 3 


beliefs, he is more to be honoured than reviled. He is un- 
able from his mental attitude to accept universal tradition 
as absolute truth, or the infringements of natural law as 
the well-proved results of scientific investigations. The 
great discoverers of this fast-ebbing century did not attain 
that knowledge which is alike the glory of the age and 
immense benefit to the world by lax acceptance of the 
traditions of the past or by loose verification of the results 
of their experiments. Their triumphs were attained only 
by careful inquiry and still more careful verification — and 
by those means alone can truth be obtained. 

To return to the subject of tradition, which is so impor- 
tant in this inquiry. The value of tradition as history is 
declining — it has declined almost to vanishing-point. It 
has been and still is held by many learned Jews, who 
maintain that it is the foundation of Jewish belief. If 
it be so, it is a broken reed on which to rely. Now it is 
clear that all historic statements rest on evidence, whether 
good or bad, and as such must be criticized and classed like 
other kinds of evidence. To support a historical statement 
it is necessary to get a record of the facts, as soon after the 
occurrence as possible. It is obvious that, cross-examina- 
tion of material witnesses being impossible, the next 
best evidence is the written record of an eye-witness im- 
mediately after the event. The record, if it is written at the 
end of a chain of oral transmissions, is worthless ; and that 
is what we now possess. The Exodus may or may not 
have taken place in the way described by the writers in the 
Books of Deuteronomy and Exodus ; but we possess no 
document written at a period nearer to the events than the 
descriptions of those writers. It is impossible to say 
whether there were ever contemporary historical documents 
or not. There are none in existence. The earliest written 
documents which we possess were written about 700 years 
in the case of Deuteronomy and still longer in the case 
of Exodus, after the events therein respectively narrated. 
Recent discoveries at the city of Nippur, on the banks of 


the Euphrates, show the extreme antiquity of some records. 
Those found were probably written on clay tablets 5,000 
years before the Christian Era. There are no difficulties 
respecting the reduction of the oral tradition into writing 
at so early a date ; but the non-existence of any early 
written documents is a fatal difficulty with regard to our 
reception of an uncorroborated Hebrew tradition. 

Compared with other nations of antiquity there are no 
early Hebrew documents or monumental inscriptions of 
much importance. The records, both monumental and 
documentary, already discovered in Egypt carry back the 
history of that country more than 5,000 years, and such 
records in Assyria and Babylonia carry back the history of 
those countries nearly 7,000 years ; but we possess no early 
Hebrew records of any kind, and references to older 
writings in more recent books do not carry back consecutive 
history to the early days of the tribe. Records, to be 
regarded as of historic value and containing important 
narratives, must possess some approach to contemporaneity, 
and this advantage no Hebrew book or record possesses. 
It is not alleged that written documents never existed con- 
cerning the early history of the Hebrews. It is quite 
probable that such did exist from the prevalent habit of 
their kindred Semites to record events. But none have 
survived to later times ; and for the purposes of the his- 
torian non-existence is sufficient. Complete disbelief or 
suspension of judgment are the alternatives in these cir- 
cumstances. On the other hand, the resolute believer relies 
on the traditions of his race as taking the place of docu- 
mentary evidence, and as a complete substitute for that 
which the historian requires in dealing with profane 
subjects. In face of such contradictory views the philo- 
sophic thinker regards with feelings of dismay the high 
value attributed to tradition, and asks Where are the 
safeguards against error, when the simplest and most 
elementary rules of evidence are so thoughtlessly set aside ? 
The entry into the Synagogue gives rise to many thoughts 


and to many doubts respecting the value and authenticity 
of the Hebrew Sacred Books ; and there are many whose 
minds, dwelling on and not doubting the noble thoughts 
and high aims contained in such books, feel doubts 
absolutely overwhelming concerning their authenticity, 
while being deeply impressed with the wholly human 
character of their contents. These conclusions separate and 
divide the believers from the non-believers, and can furnish 
many more reasons " Why the Liberal Jews do not attend 
the Synagogue." 

The great change that has taken place in opinion during 
recent years, and the general decline in this generation of 
religious modes of thought, are doubtless due to various 
causes, but the most potent cause is the immense advance 
in scientific knowledge. It has both widened our intellec- 
tual horizon and sharpened our intellectual faculties. The 
knowledge we have obtained of the Jaws of nature and her 
modes and processes have been the Revelation of this 
century — attained, not by a divine act, and given in words 
on a remote mountain to an obscure people, but as the 
result of long and arduous work by many great minds in 
various countries, under many and various conditions. 
The difficulties that surrounded these philosophers in their 
work, and the amazing results obtained, make all humanity 
proud indeed of the men and their achievements. Mr. A. 
Balfour, in a recent speech, said that "the development 
of the mechanical conception of the physical world has 
given an impulse to materialistic speculation." It has 
achieved results of far higher importance than advocacy 
of a possible mechanical theory of the world. It has 
established by overwhelming proof the certainty of uni- 
versal law and order — the co-ordination of all phenomena 
and the immensity of space — while exciting in our minds, 
whether we regard the cosmos or microcosm, the highest 
conceptions of power, wisdom and beneficence. 

Many years ago Harriet Martineau said that all the sciences 
were arrayed against the Bible, and she wrongly predicted 


that in fifty years the biblical narratives would be regarded 
as legendary. As a prediction in point of time she antici- 
pated results, but as a prediction of that which will eventu- 
ally come, she was not far from the trath. The first of the 
sciences to deal a heavy blow at the biblical narratives was 
geology. The contention, so long carried on and so hostile in 
its character concerning the early chapters of the Book of 
Genesis, was the type of the greater and equally hostile 
contention between " science and theology," the literature 
of which is hardly pleasant reading. Happily in recent 
years the form of the contest has become decidedly more 
amicable, and as the victory greatly inclines to the side of 
science, the war, so barren of practical results, may soon be 
abandoned altogether. The discovery of the tablets at 
Babylon containing written records of the Creation legend 
and others with stories of the Flood indicated the sources 
from which the Hebrew writers obtained their information. 
The discoveries at Babylon and in Assyria also compel us to 
alter the biblical chronology considerably, and render the 
biblical accounts of the early age of the world of no value or 
importance. It is now generally admitted that geology and 
other sciences can be more relied on for data regarding the 
age of the earth than any early records of the ancient 
nations and the estimate of geology exceeds enormously the 
limited age of 5,000 to 6,000 years which Hebrew chrono- 
logy allows to the planet and to the existence of man 
upon it. But the recent discoveries in astronomy reduce 
the inadequate narrative of Genesis almost to imbecility. 
"And he created the stars also," is the remark used as 
a sufficient description of the multitude of suns, planets, 
moons, comets and other bodies which fill the heavens 
with light and beauty. Did the inspired writer possess 
any knowledge that the multitude was beyond computation 
and consisted of millions and millions of stars, of which 
over 100 millions have already been counted? and did such 
inspired writer suspect that every improvement in optical 
instruments (of which he knew nothing) would disclose 


more millions of heavenly bodies, which he described in his 
ignorance as " the stars also " ? Is it possible for a man 
possessing a particle of critical power to adopt as a serious 
contribution to knowledge the information found in such 
writings? Now I venture to urge the following general 
criticism. If the writer who originally introduced the Baby- 
lonian legends into the Book of Genesis is, from the 
extreme antiquity of the Book (which is doubtful), not to 
be blamed for his display of astronomical ignorance, the 
later editor or editors of that and other Pentateuchal Books 
cannot escape from condemnation. A subsequent editor 
who endorses the statements of an earlier writer is equally 
responsible for the truth of such statements as the writer. 
The importance of this criticism is that, assuming that the 
Book of Genesis is very ancient, and that it contains foreign 
legends, the editors of the other Books at the time of the 
exile adopted the legends as true history (and much belief 
depends on such adoption), and by such adoption prove 
themselves to be untrustworthy witnesses and editors who 
possess little or no authority. 

Turning from these considerations respecting the Creation 
and the age of the world to the extremely important inquiry 
as to the possession of moral codes by the nations of antiquity, 
we find no evidence that the ancient peoples had no moral 
laws until the Revelation at Sinai ; on the contrary, we can 
discover among the Egyptians and the great Mesopotamian 
Powers ample proof that the ancient nations of the East 
were quite as well equipped with moral laws and, as far 
as we know, practised morality with quite as much success 
as the ancient Hebrews. There is sufficient evidence that 
the Egyptians possessed moral laws equal to any code of 
morals that existed among the Hebrews. The ancient Book 
of the Dead, which was held in great estimation in Egypt, 
existed from the very early ages ; and although it received 
additions in later times the 125th chapter contains moral 
doctrines similar to those contained in the Ten Command- 
ments. It is believed by many persons conversant with 



Egyptian theology that even the grand conception of 
unity can be found in ancient Egyptian records. The 
Assyrians and Babylonians also possessed moral laws of 
similar character to those found in the Bible. Indeed it 
is difficult how a great state with a large and prosperous 
population carrying on trade and commerce with foreign 
nations could exist without the fundamental moral precepts 
of the Decalogue, and we know beyond doubt that the 
Babylonian and the Egyptian monarchies existed long 
before there was a Hebrew polity or any codes of morality 
connected with that tribe. 

In my judgment that which keeps away from the 
Synagogue the largest number of possible worshippers 
is the extreme anthropomorphism of the entire cult. 
This form of thought exists in the Bible to an extent 
that in many minds causes actual distress. It destroys 
and banishes every form of piety. The ritual cannot 
avoid sharing with the Scriptures the same defects and 
the same evils. To students of nature accustomed to the 
grand generalizations which science yields it is not less 
than a blasphemy to conceive of the Author and Governor 
of the universe in terms of the ritual. It is no doubt 
unjust to blame the authors of the ritual when the fault is 
that of the authors of the religion. The religion was doubt- 
less in accord, centuries and centuries ago, with the aspira- 
tions and knowledge of the worshippers. It is not so 
now. Religious ideas are, like all other ideas, only mental 
pictures which we form in our minds. Such ideas are part 
of ourselves, dependent on our own environment as our 
environment is dependent on the knowledge, the education 
and the training of the age. The environment changes as 
the ages change; and absolute permanence can never be 
expected either in ideas or in institutions, for, as our minds 
change with the advance of knowledge, so do our ideas 
and our conceptions become wider and higher — and this 
means intellectual progress. The anthropomorphism of 
conventional Jewish beliefs is repulsive to the cultured 
roan Qf the present day. 


There are many Jewish doctrines and practices so un- 
reasonable in themselves and so opposed to modern thought 
that they, in like manner, excite repulsion in our minds. 
Mr. C. Montefiore has referred to one, viz. Circumcision. 
I shall take leave to refer to another repulsive doctrine, viz. 
the doctrine of Atonement by Blood. 

With regard to circumcision, it is quite impossible to 
say much. Its indecent character saves it from much 
adverse criticism, while its undoubted connexion in some 
way with the repulsive worship of the Phallus protects it 
from any attempt at explanation of its origin. I may, 
however, be permitted to refer to the rite from the historic 
point of view. It is called in the Old Testament a " mark 
and a sign." Now if it were introduced in Abraham's 
times it was neither the one nor the other : in Abraham's 
times it is supposed that nearly all Palestine was inhabited 
by circumcised peoples (not including the Hittites, who 
were not circumcised). If, as is probable, the Hebrews 
on entering Syria at the time of the exodus adopted the 
Syrians' rite its introduction would be accounted for. 
Centuries, later when the Hebrews left Babylon after the 
exile and returned to Syria, they carried with them their 
peculiar rite, and since then it has been permanent among 
the Jews. The Babylonians and Persians whom they quitted 
like the Assyrians were uncircumcised peoples, and it 
was only after the captivity that the rite became a mark 
and a sign, the conquests of Assyria and Babylon having 
in the meantime greatly modified the populations in Pales- 
tine. The story of the circumcision of the Jews escaping 
from Egypt is another proof that the rite was not regarded 
by the early Hebrews as either obligatory or general, and 
it is probable that it was one of the practices followed by 
them according to the environment. 

With regard to the doctrine of the Atonement it is 
necessary to say that, independently of the Atonement by 
Blood — which is in my mind a doctrine of terrible portent, 
arising out of entirely misconceived ideas of God and his 


mercy — I believe in the wisdom and usefulness of setting 
apart a day in the year as a day for introspection and 
review of one's actions during the year. The results of an 
honest review and introspection are likely to lead to 
amendment of conduct both in the abandonment of evil 
ways and in the formation of good resolutions. But that 
hopeful and repentant frame of mind is not atonement. 
1 am quite unable to realize the meaning of the atonement. 
It is, of course, part of the doctrine of the propitiation of the 
Creator by sacrifices and by the Shedding of Blood : but these 
are ancient rites of which we cannot feel or understand the 
full force and meaning or the sacredness which the ancients 
attributed to them. We do not wish to. We abhor the 
idea of shedding blood in honour of God, and we regard it 
as a blasphemy to countenance the idea that blood is 
acceptable to him and Washes away sin. I protest that men 
of science cannot be expected to sanction the doctrine that 
God is propitiated by the blood of animals, or that the 
blood of animals carries the remission of sin. Surely these 
archaic ideas are fatal to true piety ; and one regards the 
connexion between blood and repentance as a disgrace to 
ourselves and a repulsive feature in our belief. It is needless 
to point out that the later prophetical writers also regarded 
these sacrifices with little respect; but it is nevertheless 
true, and must be admitted, that during the whole existence 
of the Second Temple these sacrifices continued, and only 
ceased after the wars with Titus. The details of these 
sacrifices and the form of atonement are still appealed to 
with reverence on the day of atonement. 

The Jewish festivals on examination appear to be the 
result of a combination of extremely ancient Semite rites 
with peculiar celebrations of the Hebrew tribe. This 
combination is especially discoverable in the festivals of 
Passover and Pentecost. The spring festival at the time 
of the Vernal Equinox was held in great honour by the 
early Semites, and was a festival to commemorate the 
"lambing" season — following the practice of expressing 


gratitude to Almighty God for giving for another year the 
increase of the flock. The early Semites celebrated the 
return of spring, and the birth of these lambs, by a sacrifice. 
The Paschal lamb was killed, and the blood of the sacrifice 
was sprinkled on the entrance to the tent or hut as 
evidence that the owner of the flock had performed his 
sacrifice, and had made his peace with his God. The 
sacrifice was eaten with unleavened bread by the whole 
family and household of the owner. Why unleavened 
bread ? Because unleavened bread was the earliest and most 
ancient form of bread, and it reminded those who partook 
of it of the immense antiquity of the festival. This is, 
I believe, a true explanation of the Feast of Unleavened 
Cakes. The connexion of the celebration of this ancient rite 
with the Hebrew migration from Egypt is not apparent. 
However, it would seem that the founders of Judaism 
selected the day specially sacred to the herdsmen from 
early times as the day for celebrating the great anniversary 
of the exodus — the day of the birth of the Hebrew 

The festival of Pentecost partakes in a similar manner 
of the mixed characters of the Passover. The feast of 
Pentecost is a celebration of the return of summer, and 
was a festival also held in great esteem by the early 
Semite agriculturists. It was essentially a floral festival, 
and has been retained to the present day in various forms. 
This day was also selected by the founders of Judaism as 
appropriate on which to celebrate the amazing events 
alleged to have taken place on Mount Sinai. Thus two 
of the most ancient feasts of the early Semites were made 
to serve the purposes of the Hebrews as national festivals. 
The reconciliation or explanation of these curious details 
is to be discovered in the fact that Judaism, as we now 
understand it, was instituted and the laws regarding the 
celebration of festivals promulgated so long after the 
events to which they refer that there only remained a 
vague recollection of the ancient practices (for other 


Semitic cults had taken the place of the ancient practices) 
and an earnest desire to give antiquity and additional 
respect to the national features the celebrations of which 
had been recently introduced. It is my wish not to push 
conclusions farther than the facts will reasonably permit, 
but I can discover no celebration of these festivals anterior 
to the time of King Josiah, and moreover there is no 
evidence of the regular and annual celebration of these 
holy days until the age of the Second Temple. 

The little book which Mr. Montefiore quotes with com- 
mendation (Maccann, Formation of Character) contains many 
admirable remarks on the value of examples. He says, 
"they (examples) serve to purify and elevate our moral 
estimate of thought and actions." The greatest value of 
the New Testament is probably to be found in the perfect 
character attributed to Jesus Christ. For the purposes 
of example, it is unnecessary to decide whether the life 
and character of Jesus Christ are historically true or not. 
The example of the beauty and righteousness of the 
character as presented in the New Testament furnishes 
ideals which no other history can equal. The personages 
in the Old Testament fail to supply any kind of ideal 
that can serve as an example either of the highest morality 
or the greatest virtue. 

I shall select three prominent and typical Hebrews, whose 
lives are given in some detail in the Old Testament 
records — Abraham, Moses, and David. Not one of these 
can be accepted as providing an ideal of any value. Only 
one virtue stands prominent and significant, and that is 
obedience to the will of God, and that virtue even is 
not represented in an acceptable form. Obedience to the 
will of a superior is often, but not always, to be regarded 
as virtuous. In the case of Abraham and the alleged 
command of God to sacrifice his son his obedience is of 
a very doubtful quality. It is very difficult to recover 
the meaning of the whole transaction, but it seems to me 
that the duty of Abraham was to decline to carry out the 


command of a cruel Deity. Abraham should have replied 
that, whilst professing perfect obedience to God, he could 
not stain his hands with the blood of his own offspring, 
and should have added, if the child must die he should 
be slain by God, and not by him, the father of the child. 
It is obviously extremely difficult to criticize either the 
command or the nature of the sacrifice demanded, but if 
similar circumstances occurred in savage Africa (as would 
not be impossible), for a cruel chief to order a father to 
kill his child, the reply of the father should be as suggested 
above. It would appear that in the case of Abraham, as 
well as in the probable case referred to, obedience forms 
only part of the object in view; the exhibition, of power, 
unreasonable and incontestable, likewise comes into an 
explanation of the whole scene. Abraham's conduct in the 
denial of his own wife and in his relations to his concubine, 
Hagar, will hardly be regarded as worthy of imitation. 
Even allowing a great deal for oriental notions concerning 
women, Abraham's treatment of the latter was both mean 
and cruel. 

It is difficult, with the material at our disposal, to recon- 
struct the character of Moses. Presumably the leader of a 
great migration, the heroic advocate of a persecuted people, 
the founder of a new religion, was a high-minded and 
noble personage, but he is badly served by his historian. 
It is impossible to ascertain when the history of the 
Exodus was written, or by whom. It cannot have been 
written by Moses, and the detail of the Exodus, from the 
intrinsic difficulties of the story, cannot approach contem- 
poraneity or truth. It must be borne in mind also that 
the historian of Moses cannot be relied on, because he 
convicts himself as being incompetent as a witness. For 
the history of Moses we have no authority, no information 
whatever, except from the sacred Scriptures. Moses is 
associated in that history with the performance of several 
acts of magic. He was, according to the record, an 
Egyptian magician and a rival of other Egyptian magicians. 


At the present day, there is only one explanation of ancient 
magic. It was wholly and entirely deception. It therefore is 
apparent that the only credentials of Moses' share in the 
Exodus, with all its wonders and marvels, come from a 
writer so credulous and so little worthy as to be a believer 
in the reality of Egyptian magic. The history of this 
credulous writer stands alone. The frequent reference to 
the Rod in Moses' hands, the emblem and instrument 
of magical power, are confirmatory of this view. 

Of the story of the Exodus and of the grand career of 
Moses there is no confirmation from external sources. The 
Egyptian records and monuments reveal nothing con- 
cerning Moses or his life. The only reference to "Israel" 
occurs, according to Prof. Petrie, on a monument erected 
by the Pharaoh of the Exodus before that event, and 
narrates how he had defeated a force in Syria (not in 
Egypt) of allies, among whom were " children of Israel." 
There are many indications that the historian of Moses 
wrote many centuries after the events he describes and 
when much of the detail of the great migration was lost. 
There is in the Book of Exodus no mention of the name 
of a single Pharaoh. If the names had been known they 
would have been used. They were probably, from lapse 
of time, forgotten. There is also an anachronism introduced 
by the writer of Miriam's song of exultation on the success- 
ful crossing of the Red Sea. It is a small matter, but 
points to the later years after the events. " The horse and 
his rider " is incorrect, inasmuch as horses were not ridden 
in Egypt so early as the Exodus. It is true they were at 
that time driven in chariots, but ridden horses, as cavalry, 
were not then used, and were copied from the Assyrians 
some time after. The conclusion we are forced to adopt, 
both from the history of Moses and the narrative of the 
Exodus, is that we do not find contemporaneity of the 
story and the events that would give credibility, and we 
cannot regard the writer from internal considerations to 
be entitled to implicit credit. Therefore, in default of 


reliable history, we fail to appreciate very highly the life 
and character of the great leader. 

The last typical character to which I propose to refer 
is the greatest personage in Jewish history — the hero who, 
although he was not the first king, practically founded 
the monarchy and the only enduring dynasty, King David. 
For the purposes of example he is impossible. The favourite 
of God possessed doubtless many good if not great qualities, 
but his cruelty to his enemies and his crimes preclude 
him altogether being used as an example. The crime he 
committed in order to obtain possession of a woman, the 
wife of another, is, even as an act of an oriental despot, 
peculiarly mean as well as cruel. In their relations with 
women the Bourbon kings of France practised immo- 
ralities on a large scale, but they were usually gentlemen. 
Allowing for the difference in period, King David was 
equally immoral, but he added cruelty and treachery. 

Mr. Montefiore's question can be answered in many 
ways, but the most destructive of all arguments against 
the Judaic system is the sacerdotal system and sacrificial 
practices connected with it. The modern thinker feels 
very strongly on this subject. It seems impossible to 
estimate too highly the numerous objections to priestly 
rule and a priestly system. The believer in human progress 
has no phrases too strong with which to denounce sacer- 
dotalism in all its manifestations. Sacerdotalism is the 
enemy of progress, and as a social force it has been found 
everywhere tyrannical and corrupt. The maintenance of 
a numerous hereditary priesthood would be a crushing 
burden on the people in a small and not wealthy country 
like Palestine. But I prefer to direct attention more to the 
intellectual than to the economic evils which a sacerdotal 
system like the Jewish would produce. Priestly rule 
causes intellectual sterility wherever and whenever it 
has been attempted. The influences of a priesthood not 
recruited from the people would be more pernicious even 
than any of these systems with which we are better 


acquainted. But an hereditary caste of priests would be 
a curse to the people who unhappily supported them. 
And this sacerdotal system is the groundwork of the 
Mosaic polity. It was a poor contrivance at best to perform 
public services, but when it became a great power in 
the administration of public affairs, and in fact was the 
Government during the period of the second Temple, its 
evil methods became apparent. I should hope that the 
most orthodox of Jews would pause before accepting such 
a system, so fatal and so pernicious in all its influences, 
as the revealed will of God, and as a system to be preserved 
and revered. It unhappily exists in an extremely modified 
form to this day ; and a reply may be given to Mr. Monte- 
fiore's question in the terms that the ceremony of the 
blessing of the Cohanim is so great an absurdity, that an 
earnest man cannot sanction by his presence the public 
performance of persons, of mean lives and possibly doubtful 
character, solely because their name is Cohen, as the 
delegates of the Almighty, speaking in his name and con- 
ferring his blessing. In all seriousness, these are practices 
which are much more honoured in the breach than in the 

The Pentateuch sanctions and legalizes the greatest 
hindrances to progress and civilization in permitting poly- 
gamy and in maintaining slavery. The Hebrew form of 
slavery compared unfavoui'ably with the Egyptian slavery, 
the evils of which have lingered so long in the minds of 
our race. The master of a Hebrew slave was little punished 
for the murder of the slave, and then only if the death 
occurred within a very short time after receiving the 
injury. The master of an Egyptian slave suffered the 
punishment of death for the murder of his slave ; and, 
moreover, in Egypt there were temples left open for the 
reception of fugitive slaves. The practice of polygamy was 
permitted by the Mosaic Law. In fact the Mosaic legisla- 
tion was, as a whole, only occasionally marked by a higher 
standard of morals than existed in the surrounding nations. 

vol. xiii. a 


The Egyptians were a merciful people towards animals 
and the Jews followed them in this direction. 

The Jews have long since abandoned the practice of 
polygamy and other oriental customs, to their great benefit 
and advantage, but the truth remains untouched by these 
changes, viz. that the Jews possess a law, which they 
regard as of divine origin, which sanctions many practices 
wholly opposed to modern civilization and injurious, accord- 
ing to our modern ideas, both to the family and to the 
State, and that this law is in the Synagogue taught as a 
perfect law, and the scroll of the Law is still held up during 
the Synagogue services, as Mr. Montefiore points out, and 
declared to be God's law and a perfect law. 

Mr. Montefiore contributes some excellent remarks as 
to "what Judaism stands for." I refer to his passages 
without quoting them. I quite agree with all he has said, 
but he suppresses a great deal. Judaism undoubtedly stands 
for two great doctrines, the belief in the unity of God and 
the belief in the moral government of the world, and those 
doctrines liberal Jews wholly accept. Judaism stands for 
a great deal more, to which general acceptance cannot be 
given. Judaism as a faith rests on authority. It is built 
up on divine revelation. It has its inspired advocates. It 
deals largely in miracles. It cherishes a doctrine of chosen 
people. It establishes a priesthood, possessing powers by 
inheritance. It ordains a sacrificial system of great com- 
plexity. It imposes numerous ceremonies and repulsive 
rites ; and, lastly, it separates the Jewish people, for whom 
the religion is established, from the remainder of man- 
kind. Every one of these doctrines, laws, and institutions 
the modern thinker wholly repudiates. The liberal Jews, 
if they accept the modem methods and modes of thought, 
deny authority such as is claimed for Judaism. They 
deny revelation and inspiration, and cynically suggest 
that there is too much of both in the world to be- 
lieve in any. The liberal Jews do not accept miracles. 
They cease as the knowledge of natural phenomena in- 


creases. The claim to be a chosen people is denied as 
unproved and unprovable, and is as repulsive as the rite 
associated with that doctrine. On these great questions 
the position of the liberal Jews is perfectly clear. That 
position may be summed up as that of the modern thinker, 
deeply impressed with the results of modern discovery and 
modern thought, with pride in the vast conquests over 
ignorance in the recent past, and with unlimited hope and 
defiant exultation in the expected victories of the future. 
And what is the present attitude of the ancient faith? 
It is truly a fossil, possessing the form though not the 
activities of a living body striving to maintain a belief 
that is passing away, but still hostile in thought, if not 
in words, to modern progress, and most pathetically hoping 
for changes that will never come, and for the support and 
strength that the future will never bring. 

I had intended to express an opinion on the question of 
mixed marriages, as on that subject I cannot agree with 
Mr. Montefiore. But space is limited, and I must content 
myself with the remark that, as I regard the separation 
of Jews from all other peoples an unmixed evil — and I class 
the maintenance of a type in the same category — 1 strongly 
advocate mixed marriages. We have outgrown the belief 
in restraints of the kind, and I venture to think the illustra- 
tion of the disapprobation of the Roman Church to mixed 
marriages used by Mr. Montefiore is not comparable to the 
tribal or racial restraints imposed by Judaism. Mr. Monte- 
fiore in conclusion speaks of the mission of the Jews. I 
object to the phrase, but I willingly accept the precept. 
The Jews represent undoubtedly the grand doctrine of the 
Unity of God.. Among all thoughtful Jews it is a passion 
as much as a belief. I do not believe that the Jews are 
played out. I do not urge that they have no uses in the 
world. I am opposed, perhaps hostile, to historic Judaism, 
with its ancient usages, customs, and rites. I have said in 
this Review that they are still the oldest, most consistent, 
and most zealous advocates of the most fundamental of 

G 2 


all religious doctrines. The real difficulty lies with the 
Scriptures. Without the unreasonable belief in the sacred 
writings, almost peculiar to Jews, they would be simple 
Theists. To that end liberal Jews must strive. The 
thoughtful and sceptical student cannot rest content with 
negations ; a positive faith is an essential to most men. 
Liberal Judaism or Theism, call it as you will, supplies 
that need. 

There are some valuable observations in Mr. Montefiore's 
article on the advantages of an historic belief, or a belief 
with an ancient origin. It gives the idea of permanence 
which a new religion would not possess. The time, too, 
is appropriate for the advocacy of such views. The study 
of nature has become of late much more theistic than 
materialistic. The old teleology has reappeared, but much 
changed. It is not the "thing," but the "plan," which 
indicates mind and will. These opinions the liberal Jew 
has long held. I can conceive no higher or grander pro- 
gramme than that of the ancient people preaching not a new 
religion, but a new interpretation of an old and revered 
faith. It has been the opprobrium of Jews that their 
attachment to their old beliefs prevented them marching 
with the times. To some extent that taunt is true ; how 
much so it is needless to inquire. But great changes may 
come in the future, and, if liberal Jews or Jewish Theists 
desire it earnestly and seriously, will come, and Jews 
will again become the religious teachers of the world. 
They will not reappear as teachers of supernatural doctrines 
contained in a supernatural book, but as diligent and 
serious students as well as teachers of nature and of the 
wonders of the universe. They will teach, too, the highest 
morality, illustrated by the lives of the greatest and best 
of mankind throughout all recorded time, and the ultimate 
object of all their teaching will be to influence conduct 
and to eradicate evil. And one great doctrine taught will 
be the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of peoples. 
Favourites of the Almighty, either individuals or peoples, 


will fail to be held up as examples. But universal justice 
will be preached and, let us hope, ultimately practised. 
For worship, the student of nature never hesitates or 
doubts; he rises necessarily to the contemplation of, and with 
deep reverence for, the Author of the Universe, regarding 
him alone as the Creator of matter and Governor and Con- 
troller of all things, but, above and beyond these concep- 
tions, as the just and merciful Father of all. 

Alfeed G. Henriques.