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BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 291
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT.
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.
292 THE JEWISH QUAETEELY EEVIEW
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
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 293
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.
294 THE JEWISH QUARTEBLY REVIEW
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.
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 295
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,
296 THE JEWISH QUABTERLY REVIEW
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.
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 297
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
298 THE JEWISH QUAKTEKLY EEVIEW
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."
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 299
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,
300 THE JEWISH QUAKTERLY REVIEW
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
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 30I
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.
302 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
SHOULD BIBLICAL CRITICISM BE SPOKEN
OF IN JEWISH PULPITS 1
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
BIBLICAL CBITICISM AND THE PULPIT 303
•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
304 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 305
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
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,
VOL. XVIII. X
306 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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
BIBLICAL CBITICISM AND THE PULPIT 307
" 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
308 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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,
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 309
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
3IO THE JEWISH QUAKTEELY KEVIEW
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
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 311
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.
C. G. MONTETIORE.
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
312 THE JEWISH QUAETEKLY EEVIEW
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 '^
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
BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE PULPIT 313
"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
314 THE JEWISH QUABTERLY EEVIEW
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
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?
BIBLICAL CEITICISM AND THE PULPIT 315
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
3l6 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
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.