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THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL ^ 

To ONE who is accustomed to draw his knowledge of the 
Bible and of Biblical ideas from some of the more advanced 
German higher critics, it will be refreshing to turn to these 
books, which are entirely free of any bias or prejudice. Some of 
the German scholars are unable to dissociate their personal 
antipathies towards Israel of the present from their studies of the 
experiences and achievements of Israel of antiquity. They 
begrudge the credit due to Israel, because of their dislike for the 
descendants of Israel living in their midst. They therefore seek 
to discredit the contributions made by the Jewish people to the 
spiritual growth of humanity. Some of them (e.g. Friedrich 
Delitzsch in his Babel und Bibel series, and especially in his 
latest diatribe Die grosse Tauschung) would go to the extent of 
robbing ancient Israel of all moral excellence and even of religious 
genius. These American scholars, however, approach the sub- 
ject with reverence and with sympathy. While believing firmly 
in the superiority of their own faith, and neglecting no oppor- 
tunity to point out this superiority and to emphasize it, they 
nevertheless recognize the grandeur of the teachings of ancient 
Israel, and extol with genuine appreciation the achievements of 
our great prophets and seers. Some of the German Biblical 
scholars have not yet learned the lesson that Dr. Barton (p. 243) 
deduces from the Book of Esther. 'Modern lands suffer as 
acutely from race antagonism as did any country of the ancient 

' The Religion of Israel. By George A. Barton, Professor of Biblical 
Literature and Semitic Languages in Bryn Mawr College. New York : The 
Macmillan Company, 1918 (The Religious Science and Literature Series), 
pp. 289. 

The Religious Teachings of the Old Testament. By Albert C. Knudson, 
Professor in Boston University School of Theology. New York, Cincin- 
nati : The Abingdon Press, 1918. pp. 416. 



THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL — GREENSTONE 397 

world. This antagonism results in plots as bloody and cruel as 
that depicted in the Book of Esther, and, sometimes, in massacres 
and lynchings, which, if not as extensive as those portrayed 
in Esther, are no less barbarous. . . . We read in the pages of 
Esther how hate always begets hate, that violence begets violence, 
and that it may deflower the souls of those who participate in 
it of their fairest beauty and noblest spirit.' 

While dealing practically with the same subject, since Barton 
also does not carry his investigation any further than the period 
of the rise of Christianity, these two volumes differ widely in the 
manner of approach, in the attitude towards the subject under 
discussion, and in the form in which it is presented. Professor 
Barton's book is intended primarily for the college student, who 
' wishes to know the truth as fully and frankly as it can be known '. 
It is therefore really a text-book, not necessarily suggesting 
dryness and stiltedness, because the author's style is most charm- 
ing and his diction exceedingly lucid and attractive. It is a text- 
book, distinguished by precision and accuracy, by strict logical 
sequence, and by aij apparent effort at economy of space. 
Professor Knudson's book was written ' to meet the needs of the 
preacher and the general Bible student'. It is therefore sup- 
posed to be a popular book. The style is in consequence at 
times more emotional, less matter of fact, and sometimes even 
homiletic. Without detracting from its scientific value, the 
author succeeded in producing a volume that is most readable, 
that will appeal to the uninitiated, and will also be of value to the 
specialist. Because of the different aims that the authors had 
in mind, they also follow different methods in presentation. 
Dr. Barton follows the chronological order, preferring to dwell 
on the causes that led to the development of the various religious 
ideas among the ancient Israelites, although at the end of the 
book several chapters are devoted to the treatment of specific 
theological topics. Dr. Knudson, on the other hand, follows the 
topical method, taking up one after the other the chief theo- 
logical ideas and showing how these were gradually evolved in 
the course of Old Testament Jewish history. 



398 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Dr. Barton introduces his work with a study of the early 
Semitic religions and of the value of the Biblical narratives. This 
he regards necessary in order to establish the proper background 
for the investigation which is to follow. The author's theories 
regarding Semitic origins, which he elaborated in several other 
works and articles, are here boiled down into a few chapters and 
presented with clearness and precision. While discarding the 
fanciful allegorical interpretations of the Biblical stories advanced 
by Winckler and his followers on the one hand, and the equally 
ingenious inventions of Jensen and Zimmern and their followers 
on the other hand, the author still refrains from accepting the 
narratives regarding the beginnings of the Israelitish nation 
literally. He maintains that the early stories clustering about 
the patriarchal family are stray reminiscences of characters and 
events that may actually have existed, but were not necessarily in 
any way connected with the origin of Israel. The main stock of 
the early Israelites were the Leah tribes (cowboys?), who later 
entered into an alliance with the Rachel tribes (shepherds?), 
and still later with the Bilhah and Zilpah tribes. The Rachel 
tribes only lived in Egypt for a time, and after their deliverance 
from Egypt through Moses made a covenant with Yahweh. 
This was the first distinction between the relation of these 
tribes to their God and the relation of other peoples to their 
gods. While the latter regarded their gods as related to them 
in a physical way, the Rachel tribes looked upon their God 
as related to them by means of a covenant, which implied mutual 
responsibilities. When they settled in Canaan and became an 
agricultural people, the religion of these tribes underwent many 
changes, influenced by the religious notions and practices preva- 
lent in Canaan. Yahweh became the God of Canaan, owning 
the land and taking special interest in its cultivation. Hence 
many of the agricultural laws became prominent in the covenant 
with Yahweh and the festivals were given a new meaning, as a 
result of the agricultural conditions of the land. 

With the appearance of the great prophetic personalities in 
the eighth century b.c. e., as those of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and 



THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL— GREENSTONE 399 

Micah, a new epoch set in the development of the religious life 
of the people. Then the great ideas of monotheism, of an ethical 
and social religion, of God's love for His creatures, and later, in 
Isaiah, of the messianic hope, with all that this implied, came to 
the foreground and little by little sank into the consciousness of 
the mass of the people. These ideals were further developed by 
Jeremiah, who emphasized the universality of God and the idea 
of individual responsibility, and still later by the Second Isaiah, 
who gave new meaning to the notions of the Election of Israel, 
Israel's Mission, and Israel's Sufiferings. The priestly code was 
compiled during the Babylonian exile. This brought a puritan 
spirit into Jewish life and helped to transform the Jewish nation 
into a Jewish church. The law gradually endeared itself with the 
people, and the establishment of the synagogue, with its popular 
appeal, helped a great deal in strengthening the hold of the law 
on Jewish life. The Pharisees and the Rabbis still further 
developed the law in its application to every detail of life, and 
allowed it to become the ruling principle in the Jewish religion. 

In the course of this historical resume, Dr. Barton discusses 
the several religious ideas of ancient Israel, showing how they 
were influenced in their growth by the events and conditions, and 
how they in turn influenced Jewish life and conduct. The last 
few chapters of the book are devoted to the treatment of several 
specific subjects, as the development of the priesthood, the sub- 
ject of angels and demons, the religious ideas of the Psalms and 
of the wisdom books, the smaller books of the Bible and the 
Apocrypha. The last chapter is devoted to a discussion of 
the Jewish Dispersion. 

Although concise, the small volume contains a wealth of 
information and of suggestive thought. Every chapter is pro- 
vided at the end with Topics for Further Study, which include also 
references to standard volumes on the various subjects suggested. 
One need not accept all the conclusions of the author, but one 
will be greatly stimulated by the lucid presentation and the fair 
criticism of the subjects covered by the author. 

Much more conservative in tone, though maintaining through- 



400 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

out a scholarly and critical attitude, is the work of Professor 
Knudson. The author, at the very opening of the book, 
enunciates the principle ' that the literary prophets were not, 
in the proper sense of the term, the " creators of ethical mono- 
theism ". The higher faith of Israel may be traced back into the 
preprophetic period. Indeed its germ is to be found in the 
teaching of Moses'. This heresy, from the point of view of 
the most advanced critics of the Bible, is valiantly defended and 
repeatedly emphasized. The author does not hesitate occa- 
sionally to establish some relationship between the religious 
ideals of ancient Israel with modern thought and experience. 
Some might condemn such attempts as unscientific, but it is 
really these human touches that make the book so eminently 
readable and interesting. 

After an introductory chapter on the development of Old 
Testament Religion and Literature, the author begins the topical 
treatment of his subject. The book naturally divides itself into 
two large divisions : one treating of God and the other of man. 
In the first division, the author discusses the Personality of God, 
His Unity, Spirituality, Power, Holiness, Righteousness, and 
Love, concluding with a chapter on angels and other divine 
beings. The second section deals with the Nature of Man, the 
Doctrine of Sin, the Problem of Suffering, Forgiveness and 
Atonement, Nationalism and Individualism, the Messianic Hope, 
and the Future Life. Throughout the book the human element 
predominates. Copious quotations are given from the works of 
other authors, with which the author shows great familiarity, but 
the author's personality and his own convictions are manifest on 
each page. All technical terms and metaphysical expressions are 
first clearly explained before they are used in the text. With due 
modesty, the author does not hesitate to leave certain matters 
unsolved, admitting that he was unable to find a solution for 
them. 

In discussing the principle of the Unity of God, Dr. Knudson 
is naturally forced to consider the Christian belief in the Trinity. 
Recognizing the great advance of the monotheistic ideal in face of 



THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL — GREENSTONE 401 

the polytheistic worship of the ancients, Dr. Knudson still feels that 
' it failed permanently to provide for the complexity and richness 
of the divine nature which seems necessary to satisfy the deepest 
needs of the human heart. And so in the course of time there 
grew up the Christian doctrine of the Trinity or Tri-unity '. He 
then proceeds to show that even in the Old Testament we find a 
'number of tendencies towards the establishment of hypostatic 
distinctions in the divine nature'. For a non-Christian it is 
rather difficult to understand why the 'complexity and richness 
of the divine nature' cannot be conceived, as indeed it was 
conceived throughout Jewish history, to be inherent in God 
Himself, as the attributes applied to Him, without giving them 
each a separate existence. The assumption that the expressions 
Spirit of God, Word of God, and Wisdom of God, which occur in 
the Bible, are personified and conceived of as having true hypos- 
tasis is based on very flimsy proof. The deep Christian feelings 
of our author and his firm faith make him see things which are 
not quite patent to the impartial observer. He avoids, however, 
the old orthodox policy of trying to find in the Old Testament 
references to Jesus and to his advent. He lays great emphasis 
on the messianic hope as enunciated by the prophets, and believes 
that this hope coloured and stimulated their exalted ethical and 
social ideals. In agreement with most modern Biblical scholars, 
he interprets the ' servant ' passages in Isaiah to refer to the 
people of Israel as a whole, whose sufferings are regarded as 
' vicarious and redemptive '. The heathen nations, in the words 
of the prophet, realized that the affliction that befell Israel should 
have been their lot, and this realization carried with it wonderful 
redemptive qualities. ' It led to repentance and confession and 
the recognition of Israel's God as God of all the World.' Our 
author does not even find it necessary to add here, as does 
Dr. Barton (p. 131): 'It remained for Jesus of Nazareth, the 
ideal Israelite, to take up in his person and experience the work 
which the prophet had conceived as possible for the nation, and 
to make the ideal real.' The ideals held out for the nation by 
the prophet, the interpretation given by him to Israel's mission in 



402 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

the world, were the ideals and interpretation held and urged by 
the best Jewish minds throughout the centuries. It was not 
necessary for them to have these ideals incorporated in a person. 
The prophet's picture of Israel's election as an election for 
service, as an example to humanity, was to the Jews of all ages 
sufficiently clear and sufficiently concrete so as to mould their 
lives accordingly. Of course, the nation did not always live up 
to the ideal. But this did not in any way lessen its potent 
influence on Jewish life and thought. It even influenced the 
strictly legal enactments of the Rabbis of later ages, and, as 
Dr. Schechter puts it, the idea of the election of Israel 'always 
maintained in Jewish consciousness the character of at least an 
unformulated dogma' (Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, p. 57). 

Julius H. Greenstone. 
Gratz College, Philadelphia,