Monday, 27 January 2014

THE GREAT BIBLICAL CONTROVERSY.

In view of the extraordinary interest which is now manifested in all the civilised countries of the world as to the composition of the Bible, the following extract from the Literary Digest will keep our readers abreast of the latest information on the subject : —
BABYLONIAN ORIGIN OF THE BIBLE.  
Just one year ago Professor Delitzsch, of Berlin, in his capacity as president of the German Orientgesellschaft, that is conducting the archaeological researches in Babylon, delivered in the presence of the Emperor and the Empress an address on the relation of the thoughts of the Old Testament to those found in Babylonian literature. In this he maintained that the former, in its principal teachings, including the worship of Jehovah as God, was dependant on the latter, and that the Old Testament accordingly contains chiefly secondary and borrowed material. This address, which appeared in tens of thousands of copies, caused an international controversy in which the leading theologians and Assyriologists of the Continent participated. In view of this voluminous discussion, Professor Delitzsch, again early in the current year, in the presence of the Emperor and Empress, delivered an address on the same subject, in which he more plainly than before developed his views. We cite from the report found in the Vossische Zeitung (Berlin) :— There is no greater mistake that the human mind has made than to suppose that the Bible is the personal revelation of God. The contents of the Bible in many ways antagonize this view. The Book of Job contains passages that virtually amount to blasphemies. The Song of Songs is full of secular songs of carnal lust, and the efforts of prejudiced interpreters to find in it higher religious ideals signally fail. Scientific theology has long since recognised the truth that the Scriptures came into being by the gradual accretion of various literary documents into a canon. How do matters stand in reference to the Ten Commandments, in the light, of scientific research? It can be readily shown that changes and additions of an essential character were made in these at various times. If the Ten Commandments are the revelation of God, then Moses him self was one of the first sinners against them, not only by breaking tho stone tablets, but by giving different versions that do not harmonize. The real origin of the Ten Commandments is the following : From hoary antiquity there existed old customs and laws that were regarded as forms for trade and business and for divine worship. These were used by Moses for his ends. Now we know for a certainty that long before the days of Moses there existed in Babylon an organized State with a well regulated system of laws, as is made evident again by the recent discovery of the Code of Hammurabi. These laws in many respects reflect the same principles that are found in the Decalogue, and without a doubt Moses drew on these older sources for his code. It is folly accordingly to ascribe any originality or divine source to the Mosaic Decalogue. Future research must yet decide what portion of the Ten Commandments was derived from the Semitic peoples in general, what portion came directly from Babylonia, and what portions, if any, are specifically Israelitish.

Bunbury Herald 6 May 1903



THE OLDEST LAW BOOK IN THE WORLD,

All recent finds in Eastern countries have been eclipsed in interest and significance by a discovery made by the French explorer, M. J. de Morgan, amongst the ruins of Susa, daring the researches carried on under his superintendence in the years 1897-9, The German Assyriologist, Dr. Hugo Winckler, describes the textual part of the monument as the most important Babylonian record which has thus far been brought to light, The find consists of a diorite stele about seven feet high inscribed at the command of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, who is generally identified with Amraphel of Genesis, and is believed to have reigned about 2,300 B.C. The upper part bears a sculpture which represents the sun-god in the act of giving the king, who stands before him in a reverent posture with his right hand uplifted, what looks like a long roll. Below and on the other side is a cuneiform text of extraordinary length obtaining the contents of the roll. A portion has been chiselled out at the bidding of some Elamite conqueror who had carried away the block from Babylonia to his own capital, where it lay until unearthed by the French savant ; but the remainder is sufficient to fill twenty five closely-printed pages of an octavo volume. The whole of the extant text has been published with a French translation by Pere Schell, and this has been followed by a German translation by Winckler. According to that scholar's estimate, the complete text comprised 282 enactments, If he be right, the new find means the recovery of nearly nine-tenths of a comprehensive legal code drawn up many centuries, perhaps a thousand years, before the time to which Jewish tradition ascribes the legislation of Moses —a truly astonishing result of scientific research, on which our neighbors on the other side on the Channel may be heartily congratulated,

These Babylonian laws, which, like those in the Pentateuch, are ascribed to Divine suggestion, cover a very wide field. Many of them are of a penal character, but not a few relate to prices and wages, The punishments enacted are often severe, but they must be judged in the light of the period from which they date, not in the light of the New Testament. They include burning, drowning, killing of the offender's son or daughter, cutting off the hands or the ear or the tongue, tearing out the eye, flogging, of which, however, there is only one instance, expulsion from home, banishment from the place, and fines, Stern though he was, Hammurabi seems to have been just, and in a sense kindly, not wholly unworthy of the epithets which he gave himself—" The weal-bringing shepherd, whose sceptre is upright," " the good shadow spread over his city," "one who is like a father to his subjects." No doubt his reign of fifty-five years brought a considerable measure of prosperity to Babylon and the country round.

The following are a few of the provisions contained in this " oldest law book in the world." Sometimes the substance only is given. Dr. Winckler's translation has been followed.

If a man steals property from God or the court he shall be put to death, and the receiver is liable to the same penalty.

If a man steals a boy who is the son of another he shall be put to death.

If a man breaks into a house he shall be put to death and buried in front of the hole which he has made.

If a fire breaks out in a house and a person who comes to extinguish it casts his eye on the occupier's property and takes it, he shall be thrown into the burning house.

If a man neglects to keep his dam in order and a flood is the result, he must make compensation for the corn which has been destroyed. If he cannot do so he and his belongings must be sold, and the money divided amongst the people who have suffered through his neglect.

If a man cuts down trees without leave in another man's garden he must pay a heavy fine,

If a man sells his wife, his son, and his daughter for the payment of a debt the purchaser can keep them for three years, but must set them free in the fourth.

If a doctor perform an operation on a patient's eye and is successful, he can claim a fee of ten gold shekels for a free man, five shekels for a freedman, and two shekels for a slave, If the operation fail and the eye be destroyed, the   doctor shall lose his hands. 

If a doctor heals a broken bone, his fee is fixed at five, or three, or two shekels,

If an ox or ass doctor cures an ox or an ass his fee shall amount to one-sixth of a shekel.

It is rather surprising to find that there were veterinary surgeons in Babylonia in the days of Abraham, There seem to have been also jerry builders, for we find the following significant regulations:

If a builder builds a house, and builds it so insecurely that it falls and kills the oocupier, that builder shall be put to death,

If the occupier's son is killed, the builder's son shall be put to death,

If a slave is killed, the builder shall provide another slave, 

If property is destroyed, the builder shall not only give compensation, but shall rebuild the fallen structure, and do it well, 

The principle of "like for like," which is illustrated in several of these laws, is expressed elsewhere almost in the words used in the Bible: 

If a man destroy another's eye, his own shall be destroyed, 

If a man dashes out another's teeth, his own teeth shall be dashed out, 

If a man breaks another's bone, his own bone shall be broken. 

The concluding paragraphs give some striking specimens of the fluency of ancient Orientals in invoking curses of real and imaginary enemies, if any kind should interfere with his inscription Hammurabi prayed that his years might be few and full of sighing, that he might lead a life which resembles death, that his life might be poured out like water, that the earth might drink the blood of his warriors, and that he might be visited with grievous disease, with evil fever and with wounds that cannot be healed, the nature of which the doctor cannot understand, which he cannot control with a bandage, and which, like the bite of death, cannot be got rid of. The Elamite conqueror who gave orders for the erasure of part of the inscription was evidently not in the least afraid of Babylonian anathemas.
The full significance of this amazing discovery cannot as yet be completely realised. The elucidation and illustration of the difficult text, and the discussion of its bearing on the date and character of the legislation of the Pentateuch, will no doubt occupy scholars and theologians for many years to come. —The Christian World. 

Border Watch 14 January 1903

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