Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

rate a claim to have the money thus taken from them by the Government applied for their special benefit. At present, nearly the whole taxable income of the Irish people is, in fact, absorbed by the State. The taxable income being about 15,000,000l. only, the Imperial Government, as we have seen, takes nearly 7,000,000l., and the local taxes are over 3,000,000l. more, or about 10,000,000l. in all. So large a proportion of taxation to taxable income would be a serious fact for any country, and there can be little accumulation in Ireland. under such conditions. Considerations like these, which are so material, have however made no impression in the Imperial Parliament hitherto, and that this has been the case is one reason, among many others, why on this side of St. George's Channel we should speak with some modesty of the Imperial Parliament being capable of dealing with Irish affairs. Here is certainly a matter on which, with no intention to be unjust, with an apparent willingness to be more than fair to Ireland, as is shown by the exemption of Ireland specially from certain taxes, we have nevertheless acted unjustly and to the injury of Ireland. I may commend Mr. Senior's evidence on this head, in the Blue Book of 1864 already referred to, to those who care to study the subject. Surely the whole blunder clearly suggests the expediency of devising some form of government for Ireland, under which the special needs and circumstances of the country and people would receive more and better attention than they do under present arrangements, although the attention which they do get disturbs and disorganises the management of Imperial affairs themselves.

ROBERT GIFfen.

VOL. XIX.-No. 109

A A

THE EVOLUTION OF THEOLOGY:

AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDY.

I CONCEIVE that the origin, the growth, the decline, and the fall of those speculations respecting the existence, the powers, and the dispositions of beings analogous to men, but more or less devoid of corporeal qualities, which may be broadly included under the head of theology, are phenomena the study of which legitimately falls within the province of the anthropologist. And it is purely as a question of anthropology (a department of biology to which I have at various times given a good deal of attention) that I propose to treat of the evolution of theology in the following pages.

With theology as a code of dogmas which are to be believed, or at any rate repeated, under penalty of present or future punishment, or as a storehouse of anæsthetics for those who find the pains of life too hard to bear, I have nothing to do; and, so far as it may be possible, I shall avoid the expression of any opinion as to the objective truth or falsehood of the systems of theological speculation of which I may find occasion to speak. From my present point of view, theology is regarded as a natural product of the operations of the human mind, under the conditions of its existence, just as any other branch of science, or the arts of architecture, or music, or painting are such products. Like them, theology has a history. Like them also, it is to be met with in certain simple and rudimentary forms; and these can be connected by a multitude of gradations, which exist or have existed, among people of various ages and races, with the most highly developed theologies of past and present times. It is not my object to interfere, even in the slightest degree, with beliefs which anybody holds sacred; or to alter the conviction of any one who is of opinion that, in dealing with theology, we ought to be guided by considerations different from those which would be thought appropriate if the problem lay in the province of chemistry or of mineralogy. And if people of these ways of thinking choose to read beyond the present paragraph, the responsibility for meeting with anything they may dislike rests with them and not with me.

We are all likely to be more familiar with the theological history of the Israelites than with that of any other nation. We may therefore fitly make it the first object of our studies; and it will be convenient to commence with that period which lies between the invasion

of Canaan and the early days of the monarchy, and answers to the eleventh and twelfth centuries B.C. or thereabouts. The evidence on which any conclusion as to the nature of Israelitic theology in those days must be based is wholly contained in the Hebrew Scripturesan agglomeration of documents which certainly belong to very different ages, but of the exact dates and authorship of any one of which (except perhaps one or two of the prophetical writings) there is not evidence, either internal or external, so far as I can discover, of such a nature as to justify more than a confession of ignorance or, at most, an approximate conclusion. In this venerable record of ancient life, miscalled a book, when it is really a library comparable to a selection of works from English literature between the times of Beda and those of Milton, we have the stratified deposits (often confused and even with their natural order inverted) left by the stream of the intellectual and moral life of Israel during many centuries. Imbedded in these strata, there are numerous remains of forms of thought which once lived, and which, though often unfortunately mere fragments, are of priceless value to the anthropologist. Our task is to rescue these from their relatively unimportant surroundings, and by careful comparison with existing forms of theology to make the dead world which they record live again. In other words, our problem is palæontological, and the method pursued must be the same as that employed in dealing with other fossil remains.

Among the richest of the fossiliferous strata to which I have alluded are the books of Judges and Samuel.' It has often been observed that these writings stand out in marked relief from those which precede and follow them, in virtue of a certain archaic freshness and of a greater freedom from traces of late interpolation and editorial trimming. Jephthah, Gideon, and Samson are men of old heroic stamp, who would look as much in place in a Norse Saga as where they are; and if the varnish-brush of later respectability has passed over these memoirs of the mighty men of a wild age, here and there, it has not succeeded in effacing, or even in seriously obscuring, the essential characteristics of the theology traditionally ascribed to their epoch.

There is nothing that I have met with in the results of biblical criticism inconsistent with the conviction that these books give us a fairly trustworthy account of Israelitic life and thought in the times which they cover; and, as such, apart from the great literary merit of many of their episodes, they possess the interest of being perhaps

Even the most sturdy believers in the popular theory that the proper or titular names attached to the books of the Bible are those of their authors will hardly be prepared to maintain that Jephthah, Gideon, and their colleagues wrote the book of Judges. Nor is it easily admissible that Samuel wrote the two books which pass under his name, one of which deals entirely with events which took place after his death. In fact, no one knows who wrote either Judges or Samuel, nor when, within the range of 100 years, their present form was given to these books.

the oldest genuine history, as apart from mere chronicles on the one hand and mere legends on the other, at present accessible to us

But it is often said with exultation by writers of one party, and often admitted more or less unwillingly by their opponents, that these books are untrustworthy, by reason of being full of obviously unhistoric tales. And, as a notable example, the narrative of Saul's visit to the so-called witch of Endor' is often cited. As I have already intimated, I have nothing to do with theological partisanship either heterodox or orthodox, nor, for my present purpose, does it matter very much whether the story is historically true, or whether it merely shows what the writer believed; but, looking at the matter solely from the point of view of an anthropologist, I beg leave to express the opinion that the account of Saul's necromantic expedition is quite consistent with probability. That is to say, I see no reason whatever to doubt, firstly, that Saul made such a visit; and, secondly, that he and all who were present, including the wise-woman of Endor herself, would have given, with entire sincerity, very much the same account of the business as that which we now read in the twenty-eighth chapter of the first book of Samuel; and I am further of opinion that this story is one of the most important of those fossils to which I have referred in the material which it offers for the reconstruction of the theology of the time. Let us therefore study it attentively-not merely as a narrative which, in the dramatic force of its gruesome simplicity, is not surpassed, if it is equalled, by the witch scenes in Macbeth—but as a piece of evidence bearing on an important anthropological problem.

6

6

We are told (1 Sam. xxviii.) that Saul, encamped at Gilboa, became alarmed by the strength of the Philistine army gathered at Shunem. He therefore inquired of Jahveh,' but Jahveh answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.' 2 Thus deserted by Jahveh, Saul, in his extremity, bethought him of 'those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards,' whom he is said, at some previous time, to have put out of the land;' but who seem, nevertheless, to have been very imperfectly banished, since Saul's servants, in answer to his command to seek him a woman that hath a familiar spirit,' reply without a sign of hesitation or of fear, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor;' just as, in some parts of England, a countryman might tell any one who did not look like a magistrate or a policeman, where a 'wise-woman' was to be met with. Saul goes to this woman, who, after being assured of immunity, asks, Whom shall I bring up to thee?' whereupon Saul says, 'Bring me up Samuel.' The woman immediately sees an apparition. But to Saul nothing is visible, for he asks, 'What seest thou?' And the woman replies, I see Elohim coming up out of the earth.' Still the spectre remains invisible to Saul, for he asks, 'What form is he of?' And

2

[ocr errors]

My citations are taken from the Revised Version; but for LORD and GOD I have substituted Jahreh and Elohim.

she replies, An old man cometh up, and he is covered with a robe.' So far, therefore, the wise-woman unquestionably plays the part of a 'medium,' and Saul is dependent upon her version of what happens. The account continues:

And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did obeisance. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed: for the Philistines make war against me, and Elohim is departed from me and answereth me no more, neither by prophets nor by dreams; therefore I have called thee that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. And Samuel said, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing that Jahveh is departed from thee and is become thine adversary? And Jahveh hath wrought for himself, as he spake by me, and Jahveh hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand and given it to thy neighbour, even to David. Because thou obeyedst not the voice of Jahveh and didst not execute his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath Jahveh done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover, Jahveh will deliver Israel also with thee into the hand of the Philistines; and to-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: Jahveh shall deliver the host of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines. Then Saul fell straightway his full length upon the earth and was sore afraid because of the words of Samuel. (v. 14-20).

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The statement that Saul 'perceived' that it was Samuel is not to be taken to imply that, even now, Saul actually saw the shade of the prophet, but only that the woman's allusion to the prophetic mantle and to the aged appearance of the spectre convinced him that it was Samuel. Reuss3 in fact translates the passage Alors Saul reconnut que c'était Samuel.' Nor does the dialogue between Saul and Samuel necessarily, or probably, signify that Samuel spoke otherwise than by the voice of the wise-woman--the Septuagint does not hesitate to call her eyyaσтpípulos, that is to say a ventriloquist, implying that it was she who spoke and this view of the matter is in harmony with the fact that the exact sense of the Hebrew words which are translated as 'a woman that hath a familiar spirit' is a woman mistress of Ob.' Ob means primitively a leather bottle, such as a wine-skin, and is applied alike to the necromancer and to the spirit evoked. Its use in these senses appears to have been suggested by the likeness of the hollow sound emitted by a half-empty bottle of this kind, when struck, to the sepulchral tones in which the oracles of the evoked spirits were uttered by the medium. It is most probable that, in accordance with the general theory of spiritual influences which obtained among the old Israelites, the spirit of Samuel was conceived to pass into the body of the wise-woman, and to use her vocal organs to speak in his own name -for I cannot discover that they drew any clear distinction between possession and inspiration.

I need hardly say that I depend upon authoritative Biblical critics, whenever a question of interpretation of the text arises. As Reuss appears to me to be one of the most learned, acute, and fair-minded of those whose works I have studied, I have made most use of the commentary and dissertations in his splendid French edition of the Bible. But I have also had recourse to the works of Dillman, Kalisch, Kuenen, Thenius, Tuch, and others, in cases in which another opinion seemed desirable.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »