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What, therefore, are our conclusions ? As we hold no authentic records of Hebrew antiquity, we necessarily assign to patriarchal supernaturalism a place among the myths of ancient Greece and Rome. Assuming that Abraham was the founder of the Hebrew race, and honestly accepted dreams and visions as divine revelation, his conceptions of Divinity fall infinitely short of the higher ideal of Aryan races, as defined in the Sacred Scriptures of India ; and we doubt the monotheism of a man whose Deity partakes of a feast so much less worthy of Divinity' than the ambrosial banquets of Olympian gods. It is true that Abraham's mysterious Guest claims jurisdiction over the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; but when he exclaims, ‘I will go down now and see whether they have done according to the cry of it which is come unto me, and if not I will know,' we miss the characteristic attributes of the Supreme Ruler of the universe.
We do not question that the children of Israel once lived in Egypt, and went forth under the leadership of Moses in search of other settlements; but the sensational miracles of the Exodus and the desert are the obvious creations of imaginative Piety, traditionally glorifying
1 Gen. xviii.
the national God, in generations remote from the alleged marvels of Egypt and Sinai.
A national Deity being indispensable to the success of his enterprise, Moses selected an Egyptian god for Hebrew worship, depicted as the imageless Theban Deity, and introduced to his expectant votaries as the great I AM–a title borrowed from the inscription in front of the temple of the Egyptian Isis : 'I am all that hath been, and that is, and that shall be. We must not, however, assume that the Jehovah of the prophets came out of Egypt as depicted in their pages.
Contact with the inhabitants of Palestine had considerably modified Hebrew ideals of Divinity by the time of Samuel and David ; and could Moses have then risen from the dead, he would scarcely have recognised his Egyptian Deity in a God conjured by music instead of Urim and Thummim.
The theological studies of Moses in the divinity school of Heliopolis had obviously resulted in scepticism as to the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. He therefore excluded these Egyptian doctrines from Hebrew creeds, and substituted Jehovah's promise of worldly prosperity as the sole reward of piety—a scepticism which we find reproduced in the language of David, Solomon,2 and Hezekiah, but abandoned after the Restoration by all but those faithful disciples of Moses, the unbelieving Sadducees.
In the legendary compilations of Ezra, Moses is depicted in direct personal communication with Jehovah; but as the prophet followed the example of the heathen by establishing a system of divination, the scriptural
3 Isaiah xxxviii. 18.
1 Psalms vi. 5.
2 Eccl s. ix. 10.
formula, Thus saith the Lord,' was obviously nothing more than the oracular response of Urim and Thummim, and the theory of theocratic government an ignis fatuus which lured the nation to destruction.
As the policy of Moses involved religious intolerance, the character of the Hebrew Deity harmonised with the design of the prophet. The compilers of Genesis tell us that Elohim created man in His own image; but the Hebrew prophet depicts the Hebrew God in the image of Man, capricious, vainglorious, jealous, wrathful, cruel, revengeful, favouring the Chosen Race under ceremonial conditions, and persecuting all without the pale of Judaism, with a sanguinary ferocity characteristic of the savage barbarism of primitive Humanity.
A Deity of this type could have no pretensions to the supreme government of the universe, for the order of nature demands providential immutability; and divine partisanship is the negation of divine justice. Jehovah was, therefore, the tribal Deity of the Hebrews, admitting the existence of other gods through jealousy of their pretensions. Hebrew annals, from Exodus to the Captivity, record the prevalence of intermittent idolatry among the children of Israel, which meant, not disbelief in Jehovah, but desire to participate in the favours of alien gods, apparently lavished with generous profusion on their peculiar people.
When the children of Israel feared, in the absence of Moses, that Jehovah had abandoned them in the wilderness, they did not disavow His existence, but appealed to an old Egyptian friend, Apis, symbolised by a golden calf. When Solomon, in deference to his foreign wives, erected altars to alien gods, his divided allegiance
simply shows universal belief in polytheism. When the king of Assyria colonised Samaria with strangers from Babylon and Cutha, their neglect of Jehovah, the local Deity, evoked devouring lions, which disappeared on their combining Hebrew with heathen worship. The theory of divine partisanship and a chosen race could, in fact, only have originated in an age of universal belief in local and tribal deities, and proved the very mainstay of constructive polytheism ; for is it not more rational to assume a plurality of gods, severally devoted to the interests of various communities, than to limit Divinity to one God, negligent of all the world's inhabitants but the favoured members of a Semitic tribe?
Do we therefore revive the Gnostic theory of primitive Christian sects who accepted Jehovah as inferior God ? On the contrary, we see in him as imaginative a creation as the Egyptian Osiris or the Grecian Jove, and read the fabulous records of his Theocracy as we study the poetic imagery of Homer, depicting the action of the Olympian gods.
How, therefore, if the ancient Hebrews were polytheists, did they become the confirmed monotheists of later generations ? After centuries of polytheistic worship, shared with Jehovah, Apis, Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, and any other god or goddess through whose favour they hoped to attain prosperity or escape disaster, the Hebrews entered Babylon, and, on its conquest by the Persians, came in contact with an Aryan race of monotheists, worshippers of Aura-mazda (Ormazd), “the great Giver of Life,' who created the heavens, the earth, and its inhabitants, placed the Persian kings upon their
2 Kings xvii.
thrones, and sustained their victorious empire. The Hebrews embraced the great principle of monotheism ; Cyrus identified Ormazd with Jehovah, and thus Aryan and Semitic piety united in sympathetic worship of one supreme Creator and Controller of the universe, who still remains the God of modern Jews and Gentiles.
The Aryan Ormazd was a Deity of infinite beneficence: the Persians, therefore, attributed evil to Ahriman, the Death-dealing Spirit,' the source of frost, poverty, disease, crime, death, and all the other evils which afflict humanity. The Jews also introduced this dual principle into their theology, as dramatised in the Book of Job; and the Persian Ahriman, surrounded by malevolent spirits, became the Hebrew Satan and his fallen angels, whose malign influence evokes calamity; whilst the sanguinary Jehovah of more remote antiquity, deprived of the authorship of evil,' was gradually transformed into the heavenly Father of the age of Jesus.
Thus, on the friendly contact of Aryan and Semitic races, stood the Deistical problem. The Persians worship one God. The Hebrews worship one God. Therefore Ormazd and Jehovah are one.
Let us test the inference by introducing another ancient race of monotheists on the scene. Herodotus informs us that the Getes believed in the immortality of the soul, and worshipped Zamolxis as the only true God. Ormazd, Jehovah, and Zamolxis are therefore one. But how shall we establish their unity ? Ormazd, a beneficent Deity ; Jehovah, a ferocious God ; Zamolxis, appeased by human sacrifice! Are not these uncongenial Divinities but ideal phantoms fashioned in har
Isa. xlv. 7; Amos iii. 6.