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Is Biblical Criticism a proper subject for pulpit treatment ? 
This is the question I am asked to answer, and I may say 
at once that my answer is No. But before proceeding to 
justify that answer I should like to make two points clear. 

In the first place my objection applies to the discussion 
of the subject on ordinary occasions only. I am far from 
desiring to lay down a hard-and-fast rule, and declare 
such discussion taboo always and under all circumstances. 
I should be the last to afiirm that Biblical Criticism is an 
unclean thing whose intrusion would inevitably defile the 
sanctuary. There are occasions doubtless when the preacher 
may properly take it as his theme, inasmuch as some passing 
event has, for the moment, fixed the attention of his 
congregation upon it. The pulpit could hardly have been 
silent two or three years ago, for example, when Prof. 
Friedrich Delitzsch's famous lectures gave rise to the " Babel 
und Bibel " controversy, of which the echoes are still cling- 
ing to the air. Whether that utterance, which seemed to 
the calm observer to say little that had not been said 
many times already, would have attracted such widespread 
attention if the intervention of "the mailed fist" had not 
lent the incident an adventitious piquancy, may well be 
doubted. But that it did attract widespread attention is 
certain. The newspapers were full of it. The ordinary 
man breakfasted on it. And the Jewish cleric who made 
it the topic of his Sabbath discourse was strictly within his 
rights, for probably it was what his congregation expected 
and desired him to do. I say "probably," because I am 
not quite certain. I preached on the incident at the time, 
but cannot affirm positively that my hearers were interested. 

V 3 


There was certainly no protest, as far as I know, against 
the introduction of the subject ; but, on the otber hand, 
I heard no expression of satisfaction at its introduction. 
My reason for referring to this point the sequel will show. 

Mr. Montefiore has somehow conceived the idea that we 
Jewish ministers have entered into an informal conspiracy 
to keep criticism out of the pulpit. He almost charges us 
with obscurantism in this matter. Thus on page 10 of 
a published sermon on " Great is Truth, and Strong above 
all Things," delivered to the Jewish Religious Union last 
March, he says, " The condition of affairs in our own religious 
community is not without alarming elements. In official 
Judaism, the newer truths of science, history, and criticism 
are almost completely ignored. ... In the synagogue, 
a policy of silence and abstention is still pursued. The 
young are taught, and, so far as I know, our budding 
ministers are trained, as they might have been trained and 
taught eighty years ago, before Darwin or Colenso. This 
is surely serious. The divorce between officialism and 
truth is becoming greater in each decade, and the results 
of that divorce are also becoming more serious. Specious 
arguments are used about not disturbing the innocent faith 
of uneducated persons, about preserving unity in Judaism . . . 
about all things under heaven except one. And that one 
omitted argument or subject is : ' What do we owe to 

It is a formidable indictment ; is it well-founded 1 Let 
us have the truth by all means ; but about all things and 
all men — even about the clergy. Mr. Montefiore thinks 
that " in the synagogue, a policy of silence and abstention 
is still pursued." I cannot understand how he has come 
by the notion. In my synagogue, sermons have been 
preached from time to time in which the critical standpoint 
has been frankly adopted. Literary criticism, historical 
criticism, scientific criticism — all have been used in dealing 
with the Bible. I cannot claim to have delivered many of 
those discourses ; but the fact remains that they have been 


delivered. What is done inside the synagogue by "orthodox" 
ministers, I am unable to say. But, outside it, their attitude 
is anything but obscurantist. One instance, and that the 
most convincing, seeing that it is furnished by the head of 
the Anglo-Jewish hierarchy, -will suffice to establish my 
point. Challenged to disavow the Hampstead " Symposium" 
on Biblical Criticism, the Chief Rabbi spoke, in reply, to 
the following effect at the last distribution of prizes to the 
students of Jews' College : — " We do not live in a monastery 
from which the literature of the world is shut out, and 
placed on an index librorum prohibitorum. ... It is the 
main object of the studies which the pupils of this institu- 
tion receive here to give them the intellectual and spiritual 
equipment that should steel them against every doubt, and 
fortify them with strong and convincing arguments. We 
do not desire to send out into the world a band of conceited 
obscurantists out of touch with modern thought and out 
of sympathy with modern needs. The so-called Higher 
Criticism must of necessity form a branch of the studies 
within the walls of this College \" 

This is a notable utterance, and it effectually disposes of 
the charge preferred by Mr. Montefiore against the repre- 
sentatives of " official Judaism " in this country. 

Secondly, I would say that my answer to the question 
with which I started is in no wise influenced by my 
personal views as to the truth or the falsehood of the 
Critical position. What I am concerned with is the 
expediency, under ordinary circumstances, of introducing 
the subject into the Sabbath sermon. My opinions about 
the Higher Criticism are pretty well known. At least 
I should like to think so, for I have expressed them in my 
last published book. " There can be no question," I there 
say, "that, like every new idea, the Critical Theory has 
been carried to undue lengths, and we shall do well to be 
on our guard against many of its developments. But the 
soundness of the Theory itself is unaffected by the improper 
* Jewish Chronicle for May 19, 1905. 


uses to which it has sometimes been put. . . . No one can 
read the Pentateuch without perceiving that its sacred 
fabric is woven out of many and diverse threads. Even 
those who are unable to discern two independent accounts 
of the Creation in the first and second chapters of Genesis 
respectively, cannot possibly fail to see that there are 
two distinct versions of the Ten Commandments in the 
Pentateuch, one in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, the 
other in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy^." 

With the fundamental thesis of Criticism on its literary 
side I am thus seen to be in agreement. That I adopt its 
standpoint on historical and scientific questions is no less 
evident. " We must be prepared," I say, " to meet in the 
Bible with partial and even diverse representations of 
religious truth and with allegories and legends. The Bible 
is not a book about science or any other branch of profane 
knowledge. In regard to scientific matters it reflects only 
the knowledge of the age in which each wiiter lived "." 

I call attention to these statements not because of their 
novelty, for they have been anticipated, as I have been at 
the pains to show, by the utterances of eminent Jewish 
teachers of past ages, but in order to make my position 
clear on the question immediately before us. I am on the 
side of the critics in their general conclusions. But, in 
spite of this, I am with those who deprecate the discussion, 
as a general rule, of critical topics in the pulpit. It is now 
time to give my reasons. 

I, The ordinary Sabbath congregant does not want such 
subjects discussed, even from the conservative standpoint. 
Indeed, he does not much care for controversy of any kind. 
He goes to synagogue to pray — to pray, that is to say, in 
the larger sense of the expression, which includes meditation. 
He wants to commune with his own heart and be still. 
He wants — though he may not formulate the need so 

' Judaism as Creed and Life, pp. 25, 27. 
2 Op. cit., pp. 20, 23. 


clearly — to gain a firmer grip on the real meaning and 
significance of life, to get the true perspective, so that the 
worries and disappointments which have loomed so large 
during the week may fall hack into their proper place in 
his thoughts. This is no mere guess-work of mine, but 
sober truth. It represents what many a congregant has 
told me about his personal needs. " I go to synagogue on 
Sabbath to reflect" — that is the phrase. What it means is 
clear enough. It implies a temper which has little tolerance 
for discussions, and none for Criticism. Here are people 
who long to be quiet, whose one desire is to be let alone ; 
will the debate of burning questions satisfy that desire? 
They would be shown how to live their lives ; they would 
be heartened for the great fight; what help will they get 
from learned disquisitions about JE and P ? This is what 
they feel. The Biblical critic deems them foolish and guilty 
of bad taste. Fancy their not wanting to hear about JE 
and P, or about Gunkel's latest theory ! This will never 
do ; they must be enlightened. But why ? First of all, we 
are told, for the sake of truth itself, which is a sacred thing, 
and which it is our duty to communicate irrespective of 
consequences ; and, secondly, for the sake of the greater 
vitality which the personal Judaism of many a man will 
gain from the dissemination of truth. But, assuming — it 
is a very large assumption — that all the conclusions of 
Criticism are true, is the duty of declaring the truth 
absolute ? Are there not circumstances which dispense us 
from the obligation? Some stern moralists think so. 
Mr. Bradley, for example. "There are duties," he says, 
" above truth-speaking, and many offences against morality 
which are worse, though they may be less painful, than 
a lie. Homicide may be excusable, rebellion in the subject 
and disobedience in the soldier all morally justifiable, and 
every one of them clear breaches of categorical imperatives, 
in obedience to a higher law. All that it comes to is this 
(and it is, we must remember, a very important truth), that 
you must never break a law of duty to please yourself, 


never for the sake of an end not duty, but only for the 
sake of a superior and overruling duty ^." 

Conceding that suppression of the truth is to be placed 
in the same category as lying, I ask, Does not the case 
before us come within the rule thus laid down — a rule 
which the critic himself respects every day in the reticence 
he observes when imparting knowledge to his children, or 
in his concealment of her danger from a stricken wife 
or daughter 1 The ordinary Sabbath worshipper, with his 
simple yet imperious needs, with his touching plea for 
repose, deserves to have his wants respected. His peace of 
mind, his happiness, are important enough to justify our 
withholding the truth from him, even if we are sure that 
we have got it beyond the slightest chance of mistake. 
And the critic can scarcely be said to have that certitude. 

But we are told that truth assuredly benefits its possessor. 
The people perish, we are warned, for lack of knowledge. 
" The longer the ministers of a religion are not allowed to 
officially speak about the newer conquests of truth, the 
greater will be the number of those who will become 
alienated from or indifferent to the religion of their fathers, 
the larger the number of those who wiU think Judaism 
a mere religious curiosity and anachronism, incapable of 
change or transformation ^." But however true this may 
be generally, it has no application to the particular case 
under discussion. We are thinking exclusively of the 
ordinary Sabbath worshipper, and he surely is in no danger 
of becoming " alienated " or " indifferent." His attachment 
to the ancestral religion is unquestionably strong, seeing 
that he is a synagogue-goer, and a Sabbath observer to 
boot. No ; he does not need the help of the critics, and 
therefore ought not to have it thrust upon him. Others 
may possibly have recourse to it with advantage — those 
actually estranged from the synagogue, the " intellectuals " 
as they take pride in considering themselves, the emanci- 

^ Mhical studies, p. 142. 

' Sermon on Qreai is Truth, p. 11. 


pated ; but for them there are the reviews, and the Jewish 
Religious Union, and Hampstead "Symposia." They can 
drink of the Pierian spring to their hearts' content. Not 
one word would I say to deter them. Why should I, seeing 
that I have drunk at the same source ? Let the inquirers 
be free to inquire. But let my little band of Sabbath 
worshippers have their freedom too — freedom from dis- 
cussions that would disturb their Sabbath peace. They 
may be called fossils, anachronisms, "moth-eaten angels" 
as Philipps Brooks is said to have styled some ultra-orthodox 
old ladies of his congregation. No matter. They are on 
the safe side. They have faith, hope, religion ; can Criticism 
give them more ? For none save the most fanatical critic 
will contend that Criticism is an end in itself, that Scriptural 
vivisection is the whole duty of man. Its sole justification 
is that it may haply help to bless human lives. 

a. The Sabbath worshipper is not interested in Biblical 
Criticism. I go a great deal among my flock, and I can 
hardly recall an occasion when the subject has formed the 
topic of conversation. Immortality, Sabbath observance, 
the Synagogue Service, Jewish separatism, Zionism — ^yes. 
These questions do exercise the average mind; Criticism 
does not. I am sorry to have to say this, for I know it 
will wound the amour propre of the critics. But " great is 
truth and it shall prevail," as the critics themselves take 
care to impress upon us. Of Criticism it may be said that 
it pleases those who like such things. For other people -it 
possesses no attractions. Some of them know nothing, 
and want to know nothing, about it. For others, more 
thoughtful, it has no actuality. They see clearly enough 
that the authority of the Bible is purely intrinsic, resting 
upon its appeal to the conscience and the heart. Its 
science may be primitive ; its books may be compilations ; 
some of its history may be legend. But its truth remains 
unaffected, for its teachings about God and Duty remain 
unaffected. Suppose there were twenty Isaiahs, is the 
sublimity of the Prophecies diminished by the smallest 


fraction? This is what people think, and this is why 
Criticism is for them an idle beating of the air. Shall we 
preachers refuse to recognize the fact 1 The Pulpit is voted 
dull even now ; why lend greater colour to the charge by 
discoursing on a question that no one cares two pins about ? 
It is possible for a preacher to be too new as well as too 
old ; he may be too much ahead of his hearers, as well as 
too much behind them, or above them. In either case he 
is uninteresting. And this obviously holds good whichever 
attitude he takes up towards Criticism. If he attacks its 
conclusions he is wrong, because he is gi-atuitously dis- 
respectful to an important movement of thought. If he 
champions them he is also wrong, for he forces unpalatable 
doctrine down the throats of his hearers. In the one case 
he plays at ninepins ; in the other he uses his congregation 
as a corpus vile to experiment upon. 

Let Mr. Montefiore and his school be content. They 
have the lecture-room and the Press at their command ; 
why sigh for the pulpit, or desire to win over the handful 
of more or less earnest souls that sit under it? What 
ordinary congregations need even in these days is not 
critical but constructive preaching. They do not want the 
last thing in philosophy or science. They do not want 
intellectual subtleties, or a cinematograph of the preacher's 
own doubts and mental balancings of pros and corhs. 
What they do want is a plain, simple message which, 
because it comes from the heart, goes straight to the heart. 
It is possible that, later on, the average man will be more 
interested in critical problems than he is at present. The 
day may come when they will read the Law in the 
synagogue, not from the old-world parchment scroll, but 
from a " rainbow Bible " ! But that day is a long way off. 
Until it does come, let us leave the Sabbath worshipper in 
peace, nor even 

" With shadow'd hint confuse 
A life that leads melodious days." 

MoRBis Joseph. 



Since the above was written I have been permitted to 
read Mr. Montefiore's article, and have only to add the 
following observations : — 

That the " results," as distinct from the " processes " of 
Criticism may properly tincture a sermon I freely admit. 
But Mr. Montefiore evidently wants more than this. The 
Judaism which is fashioned by Criticism must be shown, 
he savs, to be "truer and better than the old." But how 
is this to be done except by a formal exposition of the new 
Judaism and an explanation and a justification of the 
processes by which it has been evolved ? This is something 
more than a mere utilization of results. It is highly 
controversial and disturbing. And it is just this to which 
the ordinary Sabbath worshipper strongly objects. 

And is the justification of the new Judaism as vital 
a necessity as Mr. Montefiore believes? Criticism is ex 
hypothed a judgment of the Bible. But latter-day doubt — 
Jewish doubt at any rate — is not chiefly centred in the 
Bible. It is mainly concerned with problems far larger 
and more fundamental than those raised by Criticism, 
problems that Criticism does not profess to touch. In 
my humble judgment Maimonides' Thirteen Articles are 
not the stumbling-block Mr. Montefiore imagines them to 
be. Doubtless there are many Jews nowadays who find it 
hard to accept them all in their literal significance. But of 
these only a minority, I think, need to be shown how they 
may keep their theological standpoint and still remain 
believing Jews. To afibrd them that enlightenment is 
unquestionably to do a great service both to them and 
to Judaism. But Mr. Montefiore's Liberal Judaism has 
accomplished the task in the case of the more advanced 
minds among them. The pulpit, for the reasons I have 
given above, is not, I submit, the place for attempting it. 
But those who need help and enlightenment, as I have said, 


are the minority. Of those who cannot conscientiously 
accept Maimonides' Creed as it stands, the greater number 
have already made the necessary mental adjustment for 
themselves. "If," they say, "Moses did not write every 
word of the Pentateuch, his spirit at least informs it " ; 
and so they can see the scroll elevated in the synagogue, 
and hear the words recited, " This is the Law which Moses 
set before the children of Israel," without the slightest 
discomfort. And so with the other articles of the Creed. 
The dogma of the Immutability of the Law becomes for 
such persons the imperishability of the great religious and 
ethical principles of Mosaism, principles like the Divine 
Unity and Spirituality, on the one hand, and the Brother- 
hood of Man, on the other, which Criticism cannot shake 
because they are confessedly beyond its reach. In some 
such way people have come to regard Maimonides' scheme 
of belief. They deal with it themselves, each man in 
accordance with his intellectual and spiritual temperament 
and with the measure of his capacity. Some with a feeling 
for historical perspective take yet another line. They 
will argue that Maimonides, in putting forth his Thirteen 
Articles, spoke for himself only, and not for the Jewish 
Church, and that other teachers of equal authority formu- 
lated other schemes at variance with it and with each other. 
And so they will say that, since clearly none of these 
schemes is authoritative, it is possible to have a religion 
which does not absolutely coincide with any one of them 
and yet legitimately to call it Judaism. But, whichever 
class of thinkers we have in view, the point is that each 
man makes the needful reconciliation between the old and 
the new for himself. In the majority of cases outside help 
is superfluous. Criticism, whatever its implications, has less 
actuality for the average mind than the critics believe. Our 
young people have ceased to wonder — if they have ever 
wondered at all — whether Abraham is an historic character, 
or only the personification of a great ethnical movement, 
or how two variants of the Ten Commandments could have 


been simultaneously delivered at Sinai, or whether David 
wrote the Psalms, or Isaiah his fortieth chapter. They are 
exercised about other and far deeper things — about the 
necessity of any Judaism whatsoever, about the sanctions 
of Duty, about the existence of God. Criticism cannot 
give them any assurance on these questions. You may 
modify your definition of Judaism, your notion of Duty, 
your conception of Deity, as the consequence of your 
critical attitude ; but in the last resort you have to justify 
them to the intellect and the conscience exactly as the 
orthodox teacher has to justify his doctrine. And it is 
this justification, and the appeal to the heart which is its 
inevitable sequel, that constitute the essential part of the 
preacher's business, and upon the success of which the moral 
and religious life of his hearers largely depends. 

In short, what is at stake is not Judaism, but Religion. 
Every Jew makes his own Judaism, with or without 
Criticism. What the preacher has to do is to help him to 
build up a stable religious life. 

M, J. 




The question whether the investigations and results of 
Biblical criticism should be referred to in Jewish pulpits 
is not so simple or so easily answered as at first thinking 
it might appear. A comprehensive Yes, at least, is less 
possible than a comprehensive No. 

First of all, it is fairly obvious that the question is 
likely to be answered differently by those who believe 
that the main results of criticism are false, by those who 
believe that they are true, and by those who honestly have 
not made up their minds. 

For instance, take the case of a minister in an orthodox 
synagogue who believes that the results of criticism are 
wholly false. He fears that some of his flock may be led 
astray by the false, but specious arguments of the critics. 
Why should he not now and again aUude to those argu- 
ments, and, so far as this may seem possible to him within 
the limits of a sermon, convincingly refute them ? The 
creed which he recites and in which he believes declares 
that all Leviticus, no less than nearly all Deuteronomy, 
was written down by Moses. Why should he not attempt 
to show doubting men and women that this cardinal 
dogma of orthodox Judaism — the dogma by which it 
must stand or fall — is wholly and completely true ? 

The case of the minister who believes that the main 
results of criticism are true is far more difficult. It is the 
only one with which I need concern myself ; the only one 
perhaps about which I have a right to say a word. 

The " case " is difficult mainly because one has to distin- 
guish and divide. There is only one criticism with which 


•we have to deal, and its main results are well known. 
But there are many Judaisms, and the question is different, 
or must be answered differently, in each of them. Broadly 
speaking, there are three Judaisms — at least for our present 
purpose. On the extreme right there is genuine orthodox 
Judaism, which, I take it, does not demand less from its 
followers, as regards faith, than a sincere belief in the 
Thirteen Articles of Maimonides. It is not easy, I admit, 
at the present time to get official representatives of orthodox 
and traditional Judaism to speak up and out, and when 
they do so they are often called rude or bigoted or other 
unfavourable names ; it is not easy to get them to tell 
us quite simply and fully what the faith of traditional 
and orthodox Judaism (apart from its practice) includes 
and involves : I may therefore be mistaken ; and if I am 
mistaken, my whole subsequent argument is vitiated. But 
till I am better informed I must assume that orthodox 
Judaism accepts and proclaims the dogmas of the Thirteen 
Articles in a natural and not in a sublimated and ex- 
plained away sort of sense. This, then, is one Judaism, 
and at the opposite end of the scale, on the extreme 
left, there stands the thorough-going Reform Judaism of 
America. Between these two Judaisms there are doubtless 
several others. For simplicity's sake I will, however, 
class them together, and call them In-between Judaism, 
as if they were not many but one. 

Now, as I have not myself yot been in America, and 
only know of the conditions obtaining there from reading 
and conversation, I am very liable to make mistakes. 
But I believe that there are a large number of "Reformed" 
synagogues in America where the results of criticism are 
as much assumed and as generally accepted as they are 
among Unitarian churches in England. In these con- 
gregations you caimot give "offence" to anybody by 
asserting that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, 
because nobody believes that he did. The literal ac- 
curacy of the statements made in Exodus xix is not 


part of the general belief. To speak of the legends 
of the books of Genesis or Exodus excites no surprise or 
perplexity. A Judaism has been fashioned or developed 
which accepts these " results " of criticism, and does not 
fight shy of them. The children are, I believe, taught in 
the religious classes on critical lines, such "lines," for 
example, as I have roughly indicated myself in the " Bible 
for Home Beading." 

Now to the ministers of such a Judaism the question 
whether Biblical criticism and its results should be re- 
ferred to in the pulpits is tolerably meaningless. It is 
at any rate uninteresting. A man may reasonably enough 
say: "Critical discussions are unsuited to the pulpit. 
Sermons must be edifying. They must not be essays. 
They must speak of goodness and sin, of the higher life 
and the future life, of duty and desire, of ideals and 
aspirations ; not whether the laws of Leviticus were 
written down in the seventh or the fifth century B.C., or 
whether there were two Isaiahs or twenty." And so on. 
But the " Reform " minister would say this, as the Uni- 
tarian minister in England may say it, because his religion 
is independent of criticism, or because, from another point 
of view, it squares with and includes it His sermons 
may not discuss " results " of criticism, but they will 
assv/me them. Between him and his congregation there 
is agreement and understanding: their religion as well 
as his is independent of Biblical criticism and of the 
miraculous. Why, then, needs the preacher to dwell 
persistently upon these subjects ? They are rather literary, 
philosophical, archaeological, or historical, than religious. 
There is nothing spiritual or uplifting in the statement: 
Moses did not write the Pentateuch. The preacher will 
not ignore " criticism " if it fits in with the subject of his 
discourse, but he will not harp upon it. Like his Unitarian 
colleague, he is perfectly comfortable and free. 

So much for the Beformed synagogues of the extreme 
left. And now for the Orthodox synagogues of the extreme 


right. It seems to me that in these synagogues criticism 
can only be referred to by those ministers who honestly 
disbelieve in it. Their case was alluded to at the outset. 
A compromise between orthodox Judaism and the results 
of criticism seems to me impossible. In theory and em- 
bodiment, in faith and practice, orthodox Judaism is the 
negation of criticism ; if the results of criticism are true, 
orthodox Judaism (as a whole) is false, and vice vei'sa. 
To deny these propositions seems to involve an ignorance 
or misapprehension of either criticism or orthodox Judaism 
or both. 

We might devise the following antithesis : In " reformed" 
synagogues it is unnecessary to discuss approvingly the 
results of criticism; in orthodox synagogues it is impos- 
sible. I do not think there is much exaggeration in either 
branch of this antithesis. 

Thus for a whole quantity of synagogues the question is 
disposed of. It is disposed of for all synagogues in England 
(except, at most, three) and for a heap of synagogues in 
America. Before thinking the matter out it seemed to 
me interesting and important. But I am bound to confess 
that it now seems to me hardly one or the other, for in so 
very many instances (either for one reason or the other) it 
is quite devoid of actuality. It is not a question of practical 

There are, however, to be considered the synagogues of 
In-between Judaism. These are synagogues which do not 
accept the creed of Maimonides, but which are neither 
clearly "reform" nor clearly "orthodox." For these 
synagogues, which may possibly come down on either side 
of the fence, which may develop, that is into either ortho- 
doxy or reform, the question has more importance and 
actuality. There are, I fancy, a few synagogues of this 
kind in Germany, and there are some, I fancy, in America. 
There are very few elsewhere — not more than three, for 
instance, in all England, and none that I am aware of in 
France. In the large majority of German synagogues, 



whethei" tkey have an organ or no organ, and much 
German, little German, or no German in the liturgy, the 
orthodox beliefs of Judaism are, I fancy, assumed. In 
them no preacher may say that Moses did not write the 
Pentateuch, or that the narratives in Exodus are legendary. 
Whatever the beliefs of the laymen may be who pay for 
the upkeep of the synagogues, the teaching in them has to 
be orthodox as regards the Pentateuch. There is, indeed, 
a minority. I have before me a small but excellent collec- 
tion of sermons by Dr. Coblenz, rabbi in Bielefeld (1904). 
In a sermon preached in 1896 at the festival of Passover, 
the results of criticism as touching the Pentateuch are 
freely assumed, and the miracles are freely surrendered. 
Dr. Coblenz urges that the value of the Bible is thereby 
increased. The sermon is so unusual in a Jewish pulpit 
that I will interrupt the thread of my own argument to 
quote a few salient passages. 

" Wollen wir die Bibel recht verstehen und wiirdigen, dann miissen 
wir sie in ihrem Entwickelungsgange, in ihrer Entstehungsgeschichte 
zu erfassen versuchen. Grerade der Pentateuch bekundet uns so 
reeht bezeichnend den Werdegang der biblisclien Bucher. Denn er ist 
nicht das Werk eines Einzelnen, nicht im Laufe weniger Jahre 
entstanden, sondern er ist der Niederschlag der Entwicklung, die die 
israelitische Gemeinschaft im Laufe vieler Jahrhunderte durch- 
gemacbt hat ; er ist das Geschichtsbuch Israels ; aus ihm spricht 
die Stimme des ganzen Volkes. Nicht Mose hat die Thora verfasst, 
nicht seinem Geiste sind die darin niedergelegten Gesetze ent- 
sprungen, nicht seine Hand hat ihren Wortlaut aufgezeichnet, son- 
dern erst viele, viele Jahrhunderte nach seinem Tode haben Manner 
des jiidisch-israelitischen Volkes sie niedergeschrieben und dadurch 
verewigt, was im Volke gelebt, was von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht 
sich fortgeerbt als heilige miindliche Uberlieferung, oder was sich im 
Laufe der Zeit aus dem Volke heraus entwickelt hat. Wie einfach 
und ungezwungen erklaren sich bei dieser Auffassung all die wunder- 
baren und aussergewOhnlichen Begebenheiten, von denen die Thora 
uns berichtet! Sie sind dann nichts welter als der poetische Glanz, 
mit welchem die dichtende Volksseele die Geschichte der Urzeit 
verklart ; sie sind liebliche Sagen, mit denen die rege, nie rastende 
Phantasie des Volkes das Wirken seiner grossen Manner geschmiickt 


" Dock mancher mag tier zweifelnd fragen : sollte wirklich diese 
Auffassung des biblisehen Wortes geeignet sein, die heilige Schrifb 
uns lieb und wert zu machen ? Wird nicht im Gegentheil der 
Grloriensehein dadurch zerstOrt, mit dem das Bueh der Bucher stets 
umgeben war? Ich halte diese Befiirelitung nicht fiir berechtigt. 
Mir will vielmehr scheinen, als ob gerade durch eine derartige 
Auffassung der biblisehen Wunder unsere Thora nur gewinnen 
kSnnte. Denn der Sagenkreis der heiligen Schrift ist ein schSnes 
Zeugnis fur die poe ische Gestaltungskraft unserer Vater. Wir 
diirfen uns als Juden dieses Sagenkranzes ebenso freuen, wie wir 
uns als Deutsche der lieblichen Sage vom Kyffhauser und anderer 
Sagen freuen, in denen deutsche Dankbarkeit und deutsche Treue 
sinnigen Ausdruok finden. 

" Und nun nehmet diesen poetischen Schmuck hinweg, befreit den 
biblisehen Stoff von den zahlreichen Wundern, die wir erst jetzt recht 
zu wflrdigen verstehen, und welch' reicher Schatz grosser Gredanken 
bleibt uns dann noch ubrig ! Welche Fiille herrlicher Gesetze und 
unvergleichlicher Lehren, die das Buch der Bucher uns bietet, und 
die vorbildlich bleiben werden fiir alle Zeiten und Geschlechter ! 
Auf diesen Gesetzen vor allem beruht der sittliche Wert der Bibel, 
und dieser Wert wird noch wesentlich erhOht durch das Bewusstsein, 
dass die Gesetze nicht von Mose herriihren, sondem aus dem Volke 
heraus sich entwickelt haben und im Laufe der Jahrhunderte allmah' 
lich entstanden sind. 

" Wie ganz anders klingt es doch, wenn wir sagen konnen : Israel 
selbst hat diese Lehren geschaffen und nachher im Buche der Biicher 
festgelegt ! Nicht Mose, sondern der jtidisehe Volksgeist hat den Gott- 
einheitsgedanken geprjlgt und jenes gross© Wort gesprochen : ' Liebe 
deinen Nachsten wie dieh selbst ; liebe den Fremdling wie dich 
selbst.' Was wir in unserer Thora lesen, das ist das lebendig 
gewordene israelitische Volksbewusstsein, das ist der Niederschlag 
dessen, was ini Volke Jahrhunderte lang geiibt wurde, und woran 
jeder Einzelne mitgearbeitet hat. Mag Israel ddbei immerhin von 
den Kulturen anderer Vdlker heeinflusst worden sein — kein Denkender 
wird das hestreiten — das eigentUmliche Gepr&ge unserer Lehre, der reine 
sittliche Monotheismus des Judentums ist unser eigenstes Werk t Auf 
welch' hoher sittlicher Stufe muss doch ein Volk gestanden habeo,, 
das seiche Anschauungen aua sich selbst heraus entwicfceln kannte 
in einer Zeit, in welcher die Nationen noch in Heidenthum und 
GStzendienst versunken waren und Hartherzigkeit und Lieblosigkeit 
gegen Fremde lehrten und ubten. Ja, mit freudigem Herzen und 
mit stolzem Selbstgefiihl bekennen wir : die Gesetze der Bibel sind 
unsere Gesetze, sind Pleisch von unserem Fleisch und Bein von 

X a 


unserem Bein; und all die bedeutsamen Lehren, welche durch die 
Tochterreligion sich die Welt erobert haben, sind dem israelitischen 
Geiste entsprossen, die israelitische Volksseele hat sie geachaffen." 

Personally I think that Dr. Coblenz's arguments slur 
over the implications of criticism a little cavalierly. But 
their interest and value can hardly b© denied. And it is 
pleasant to think that though they were spoken in 1896, 
and have doubtless been often repeated since, Dr. Coblenz 
is still rabbi in Bielefeld. In his synagogue, and possibly 
in some others, the question whether the results of Biblical 
criticism shall be alluded to in sermons has actuality. 
And for synagogues which are so situated, and for ministers 
who may speak their minds, the following few suggestions 
may be offered. 

Though it may be freely allowed that the sttbject matter 
of criticism is neither ethical nor spiritual, it is nevertheless 
the fact that criticism has religious implications. Judaism 
is greatly affected according as the " results " of criticism 
are assumed to be false or assumed to be true. It is a very 
different religion one way or the other. Obligations of 
belief and practice are imposed upon us if we accept the 
Thiiteen Articles, from which, if we reject some of them, 
we are free. One's whole conception of God and of his 
relation to man, one's whole conception of the growth 
and development of religion, and of the destiny of Judaism, 
are profoundly modified according as one accepts or rejects 
the results of criticism and the implications of those results. 
How can one put all this aside if one believes in it ? It 
would be only a maimed and imperfect, and therefore an 
inaccurate and misleading view of religion and of God 
which one could put before one's congregants if, believing 
in the results and implications of criticism, one must keep 
silence about them in the pulpit. For it is not the process 
but the results about which one wants to talk. It is not 
a question of scientific discussion of dates and authorships, 
of philosophic and historic arguments for and against 
miracles. For elaborate scientific discussions the pulpit is, 


indeed, unfitted. But to avoid all subjects in which the 
results and implications of criticism come in is a very- 
different thing. That would mean that the preacher could 
not fully set forth his mind upon matteris of urgency and 
moment. He must often halt and pull up short. By sup- 
pression of the whole truth he will give impression of 
untruth. As, for instance, when he talks of Abraham it 
will appear as if he thought him as much an historical 
character as the Duke of Wellington, and the events 
recorded of him as historic as the battles of the Peninsula 
War. Two things must be shown, and both require free- 
dom. First it must be shown what the implications of 
criticism are ; how widely a Judaism which accepts differs 
from a Judaism which denies them. It must be shown 
that this newer Judaism is truer, better, larger,, freer than 
the old ; how it is less hampered by difficulties, not com- 
pelled to defend the indefensible, to justify the imperfect, 
to call black white, and inconsistencies consistent. And, 
on the other hand, it must be shown that this newer 
Judaism is Judaism still, that it deserves the namje, and 
that it intends to keep it. If the pulpit is not the spot in 
which all this must be shown, I do not know what place is. 
It may be argued that while you must not in the pulpit 
say anything you do not believe, you need not say all you 
do believe. In the In-between synagogues, which are the 
only ones where the subject can or need be discussed, 
there wiU presumably be a mixed audience. Some of the 
congregants will like and agree with what you say ;, others 
will not. Some will belong to the left ; others, and perhaps 
the most regular worshippers, will belong to th© right. 
The former you will satisfy; the latter you will offend, 
hurt, agitate, shock, and annoy. What is the good of 
this? Why not speak that which pleases all parties? 
Why needlessly cause strife and dissension ? It is an old 
argument. It has its force. But it has its dangers. It is 
not always weU to prophesy smooth things; not always 
well to cry, " Peace, peace." It may be bad to shock a few 


conservative minds. And the tender consciences of all, 
whether young or old, male or female, must be respected. 
But it may be of still greater moment to strengthen the 
weak, to confirm the doubting. It may be of still greater 
importance to give men and women sometimes the strong 
meat by which they can live. If there are some who 
for lack of this leave the synagogue and drift away from 
Judaism, may not the fault, in some cases, be within the 
synagogue and not wholly in themselves ? It cannot be 
said that the issues of criticism are of small importance. 
They can only be ignored with peril. Some misunderstand 
them. Reform Judaism has many enemies. The orthodox 
on the one hand, many outsiders upon the other, deny its 
cohesive power, its right to be called "Judaism," its 
religious efficiency. A brief allusion, a casual and un- 
reasoned optimism, will not suffice to refute their argu- 
ments. Criticism does not deal so tenderly with Judaism, 
nor is it so esoteric and obscure a subject that it is easy 
to live and teach as if it did not exist. A small patch upon 
the old bulwarks will not serve our turn. Of such inade- 
quate defenders shall it not be said when the wall is fallen, 
" Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it ? " 

Preachers have to remember that the minds of their 
congregants must be dealt with as well as their hearts. 
Even for the sake of variety it is good to preach occa- 
sionally sermons which speak to the intellect rather than 
to the emotions. At the present time the questions raised 
by criticism are in the air. They are alluded to in magazine 
articles; they are discussed in conversation. The intel- 
lectual conscience, especially of the younger men and 
women, is being stirred. They are no longer willing or 
able to accept without question the creeds which satisfied 
their parents. Moral, critical, and even metaphysical 
puzzles confront them. They ask for a reasonable faith ; 
it is for the preacher to point out to them how they may 
obtain it. They will not go to him in his private study 
until he has spoken to them from the pulpit. How is the old 


religion to be fitted to the new requirements? Can we 
still be Jews by creed as well as by race ? Such are the 
far-reaching problems which assail many a young man and 
woman, and many an adult. Among these problems those 
of Biblical criticism take a prominent place. It is for the 
preacher who is also a teacher to help such persons to 
attain a Judaism which shall reconcile the old with the 

Thus in the " In-between " synagogues, if the preacher 
believes in the results of criticism and may freely speak 
his mind, the arguments for speech seem to me far more 
cogent than the arguments for silence. Nor need speech 
imply crude, violent, and offensive utterances. There need 
be no evasion. The preacher's whole mind may be ex- 
pressed upon the most important and far-reaching problems. 
And yet here too the adage fortiter in re, suaviter in modo 
may be fitly and constantly applied. 



When Mr. Joseph and I planned the friendly debate 
contained in the two preceding articles, we thought it 
might be interesting if each read the arguments of the 
other, and then commented on them in a postscript. 
Mr. Joseph has given his postscript : here follows mine. 

I cannot reply in detail to Mr. Joseph's article, other- 
wise I fear my postscript would be longer than my article. 
It will be seen that we are not really quite so far apart 
as it might have seemed, even though the one answers the 
question we both discuss in the negative, the other in the 
affirmative. No other Jewish minister in London could 
have ventured to write upon the subject of criticism as 
openly and frankly as Mr. Joseph has done; no other 


could have gone so far in concessions to the critical point 
of view, or in meeting the results of criticism halfway. 
It is indeed something to belong to an " In-between '^ 
synagogue ! 

Mr. Joseph uses several very different arguments to 
support his main thesis that biblical criticism should not 
be discussed in the pulpit. First, we have the usual 
argument that one must not give offence, that one must 
not suggest doubts in pious minds where no doubts exist. 
The article closes with a familiar line from Tennyson 
which has its value. I have alluded to the relative justi- 
fication of the argument in my own article, and need not 
further refer to it here. 

Next comes the contention that people come to 
synagogue "to think," and this "thinking" apparently 
means that they "long to be quiet, to be let alone." 
Hence their repose must not be disturbed by anything 
which would upset their peaceful calm. "Burning ques- 
tions " must not be alluded to in the pulpit. I fully admit 
that they need not be constantly discussed there. I fully 
admit that many sermons must be purely ethical; others 
must be concerned with those great and simple religious 
subjects which lie beyond " criticism." But if the minister 
be really free to speak (and Mr. Joseph asserts that he at 
least is), then a burning question which touches the 
supposed basis of Judaism, as Judaism has been con- 
ceived for two thousand years, should not, I think, be 
always and consistently avoided. People come to synagogue 
to think, it is said; well, let them have something to 
think about. It is true that during many sermons they 
can be (intellectually) *' quiet " ; they are " let alone." But 
is this always desirable ? And is " to think " the same as 
« to be quiet " and " to be let alone " ? 

The third argument put forward by Mr. Joseph is of 
a totally different kind. In the second argument he had 
objected to discussions about criticism and its implications, 
because the pulpit must steer clear of " controverey " and 


"burning questions." In the third argument he tells us 
that these subjects must be avoided because for most 
persons they have no interest. Criticism is a subject 
"which no one cares two pins about." So far from it 
being a " burning question," it is an extremely dull one. 
Mr. Joseph says be has found that this is so from personal 
experience. Why this statement should wound the aTnowr 
propre of the critics I cannot conceive. I receive it with 
the utmost respect. It does not quite tally with my own 
experience, but then there may be special reasons for 
this difference. It is, I fully admit, a most important 
argument, and one to be most earnestly taken into account. 
But now comes the most surprising thing of all. I 
might even call it the fourth argument, though it is 
perhaps more accurately described as a variety and ex- 
planation of the third. Why is criticism, with its results 
and its implications, uninteresting to so many persons? 
For two reasons. Some persons are frankly bored by it. 
" They know nothing, and want to know nothing about 
it." For them it is neither burning nor obvious. It is 
simply non-existent. These persons, then, are to be 
carefully suffered to continue in their ignorance. Their 
holy calm must not be disturbed. I am fain to confess 
that I should be inclined to be less tender to these 
uninterested ignoramuses. But we will pass them by, for 
the second reason is so far more interesting and important. 
Criticism to many persons has "no actuality." In other 
words, they are above it. They are, in fact, in the same 
position as the persons in the reform synagogues of 
America, or in the Unitarian churches at home, to whom 
I have already alluded. These persons " see clearly enough 
that the authority of the Bible is purely intrinsic, resting 
upon its appeal to the conscience and the heart. Its 
science may be primitive ; its books may be compilations ; 
some of its history may be legend. But its truth remains 
unaffected, for its teachings about God and Duty remain 
imaffected." [I suppose Mr. Joseph means some of, or its 


highest, "teachings about God and Duty remain un- 
affected," for there are a great variety and diversity of 
"teachings" in the "Bible," and if we judge them by 
intrinsic authority only, we shall choose only the good, 
and reject the bad and the inferior.] Again, in the post- 
script Mr. Joseph assures us that even the young in these 
latter days are far beyond critical difficulties. Their doubts 
touch fundamentals " about the necessity of any Judaism 
whatsoever, about the sanctions of Duty, about the ex- 
istence of God." We poor critics are very behindhand 
if we think that anybody cares about our problems or 
their results. 

I cannot help feeling a little doubtful about these 
assertions. I feel astonished when I am told that so many 
persons have reached the critical result that " the 
authority of the Bible is purely intrinsic." In other words, 
the sanction of the Ten Commandments rests solely upon 
their religious excellence and their ethical merit. It does 
not rest upon the "legend" that they were spoken amid 
thunder and lightning by the very voice of God himself. 
I had fancied that the "sanction of duty" was dimmed 
when we are no longer able to believe that the content 
of duty is given us by an infallible guide — given to us, 
and recorded for ua and for all time, in a religiously and 
ethically perfect code. I should have thought that if 
the "sanction of duty" be a question which "exercises" 
the minds of young Jews or Jewesses, this is just because 
they can no longer believe the simple faith of their parents 
about the Pentateuch and the Bible. And I should have 
thought that, if this be so, they cannot yet " clearly " see 
that the Bible still has an authority, though "intrinsic,'' 
and not extrinsic. Does not their very doubt about " the 
sanctions of Duty and the existence of God" show that 
they do not clearly realize this "intrinsic" authority, 
which though intrinsic and not extrinsic, has still its 
powerful word to say for the sanction of duty and for 
the existence of God? 


Finally, Mr. Joseph seems to me to use rather too easy 
examples of criticism. And I too, I think, am to blame 
in that I use criticism in somewhat too extended a sense. 
1 have, indeed, tried to indicate my meaning by speaking 
repeatedly of the implications of criticism. The " higher 
criticism " has primarily only to do with dates and authori- 
ties. It has nothing in itself to do with questions of fact and 
miracle. For instance, criticism might show that chapters 
xix and xx of the Book of Exodus constitute a compilation, 
wi'itten down five or six hundred years after the events 
they profess to describe. But it would not follow that 
the miracles they record did not happen; they might be 
whoUy accurate from beginning to end. Nevertheless 
criticism of dates and authorships stands in close relation 
to the historical criticism of facts and stories. If Exodus 
xix and xx were written down by Moses, they are perhaps 
quite accurate transcripts of actual events ; if they were 
written five or six hundred years after his time, they are 
almost certainly not. Hence the need to deal with the 
implications of criticism rather than with criticism itself. 

Now what are the examples of critical results mentioned 
by Mr. Joseph ? We hear of the two versions of the Ten 
Commandments, of the two independent accounts of the 
creation in Genesis, of the question whether " David wrote 
the Psalms, or Isaiah his fortieth chapter." I fully allow 
that we have advanced beyond these trifles, and that they 
do not greatly matter or concern us. But I do not think 
that the same can be said of the questions whether Moses 
wrote the Pentateuch, whether God gave to Israel for all 
time through Moses a perfect, homogeneous, and immutable 
law. We have also to remember that among the difficulties 
connected with the Bible are many moral questions of 
puzzling perplexity. If the authority of the Bible is 
"purely intrinsic," what are we to say about such laws, 
e.g. as Exod. xxi. ai, xxii. 18, or Deut. xx. 13-16? What 
sort of " appeal " do they make to the " conscience and the 
heart"? It is precisely because I feel that through 


criticism and its implications we can be freed from these 
difficulties, even though it may be criticism which partially 
has raised them, because I believe that the old Judaism 
is confronted with moral and religious, as well as with 
merely literary and historic difficulties, which must, but 
which also (as I think) can, be solved, that I have urged 
it as one of the duties of those who share my views to 
show, both in the pulpit and outside it, that " the newer 
Judaism is truer, better, larger, and freer than the old." 

0. G. M.