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No. XX.—JANUARY, 1868.
The story of the Creation given in the first chapter of Genesis has been made the field of such battles as surely no other passage of the same number of lines has ever witnessed. It is a Representative story, as Emerson might say; it is the foremost and best known of the many quasihistorical passages in the Old Testament. When the “credibility of the Hebrew Scriptures” is spoken of, this chapter is generally nearest to the mind of the speaker; and when that credibility is assailed or defended, we have not to wait long before the controversy arrives at this chapter, and, having arrived at it, is in no hurry to advance further. When “Genesis"—its age, authorship or credibility—is specially named, we may be sure that the stories of the Creation, with perhaps those of the Deluge thrown in, are mainly, if not exclusively, meant. The great contest of “Geology versus the Bible, or, more mildly, “ Modern Science in its relation to the Bible,” would hardly exist if this one chapter were cancelled.
It is desirable to remember these facts for several reasons. Genesis is a book of fifty chapters; and it is a little hard that the forty-nine should, through mere looseness of language in those who speak of the one only, be the victims of a scepticism not intended for them; more especially as the first chapter (or, more strictly, from the beginning to ii. 3) stands alone as a complete and independent story, and is scarcely even referred to afterwards; so that it might be struck off with absolute impunity to the rest of the book. Much, if not the larger part, of the history of the great Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, followed by that of VOL. V.
Joseph, occupying chapters xi. to l., has an undoubted historical basis, however elaborated by the influences of national affection, national prejudice, proneness to exaggeration and poetic fancy, into the variety and amplitude of the existing narrative. There is no community of subject between the story of the Creation and the Patriarchal history. The former has its account to settle solely with physical science, with the mathematical and geological knowledge of our age. The latter is brought face to face with history alone; it is questioned whether it agrees with events of that age as known from other sources, and whether it offers a probable explanation of the distribution and mutual relations of races as we find them in later and well-known ages. The question is but little affected by that of common or separate authorship. The biographer of the Patriarchs may have faithfully recorded all accessible traditions—they again being faithful —of his heroes; and yet may have speculated on the origin of all things in a way which the progress of science proves to be erroneous. The question, therefore, of the truth of the first chapter of Genesis draws with it that respecting the other chapters of that book only in the same sense in which it implicates all the rest of the Bible in so far as it threatens to withdraw from the dogmatic erection of verbal infallibility one stone, which may bring the whole building down.
At the same time, the question, though affecting in the first instance one chapter only, is quite as momentous as it is generally considered. The second story of Creation, or at least of the creation and life of the first man and woman (ii. 4—iv. end), though an imaginative rather than a scientific narrative, also contains some stumbling-blocks for science; and other stories are scattered through the Old Testament which offer like difficulties. The first chapter of Genesis is therefore a Representative chapter. If Science conquer that, she will encounter no opposition from the others. And, on the other hand, if the Biblical order of creation can carry the day, it will be only through the most uncompromising admission of irregularities called miracles in the physical history of the world, which will render impossible further opposition on other points, such as Joshua's stopping the sun and moon. And if any of the many compromises proposed on the question of the Creation by men like Hugh Miller, who cannot but believe the scientific truth which they have gained with so much labour, yet from the influence of early education and social surroundings can scarcely bring themselves to break with the literal truth of Scripture, should prevail, that would supply a mode of interpretation which would be then applied to all other passages beset by similar difficulties.
It is a question which most of us have settled for ourselves. A great literature has been piled up on this one chapter, and nearly all has been said which the present state of knowledge renders possible. No one has read all the books, but most have read some, and the same arguments are so constantly repeated that any one interested in the subject must know them, whatever be the work he has consulted. Little more now remains but what Time will do. The discussion will flag for lack of new matter, but the one view will gradually and without any open defeat drop out of being, and the other without any visible victory be adopted as the only true; and our posterity will wonder how so much fighting could take place where the one side was so palpably right and the other so palpably wrong. The Church actually condemned Galileo, and the world had to acquiesce; but Time has proved stronger than the Church, and Galileo's truth lives absolutely unquestioned by wise or simple.
I do not therefore invite attention to a treatment of the scientific question. But there are many points of interest in that chapter, which are extremely important for the correct understanding of it, which are, to say the least, not generally known. It is very unfortunate that the scientific gentlemen who treat this subject, take the chapter as they find it in the English Bible. One would have expected better things from them; the high culture and the cautious habits of weighing evidence of one sort, ought surely to suggest to them that a translation is no evidence where the original is accessible. Other writers, chiefly among the clergy, are not insensible to the necessity of founding their arguments on the original Hebrew, but, through defective knowledge or peculiar crotchets, execute a work which is mainly waste of time, and, what is worse, calculated to mislead others. I regret very much that this observation is to some extent true of Mr. Quarry's recent work, excellent as it is in spirit, and partially in argument and execution. I propose, therefore, to offer a short commentary on the first account of the Creation, the results of which may be given by anticipation in the following translation.
? In the beginning of God's forming the heavens and the earth, ? when the earth had been shapeless and waste, and darkness over the face of the Abyss, and while the breath of God was brooding over the face of the water, 3 God said : “Let Light be !” and Light
4 And God saw the light, that it was good ; and God made a division between the light and the darkness; 5 and God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening, and there was morning : First Day.
6 And God said : " Let there be a FIRMAMENT in the middle of the water, and let it be so as to divide between water and water." 7 And God made the Firmament; and it divided between the water that was under the firmament and the water that was above the firmament: and so it was. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening, and there was morning : SECOND Day.
9 And God said : “Let the water under the heaven be gathered into one place, and let the DRY GROUND appear.” And so it was. 10 And God called the dry ground Land, and the gathering of the water he called Seas : and he saw that it was good.
11 And God said : “Let the land put forth GRASS, Herbs yielding seed, FruitTREES producing fruit which has its own seed within it, after their kind, upon the earth.” And so it was. 12 And the land raised grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees producing fruit which has its own seed within it, after their kind : and God saw that it was good. 18 And there was evening, and there was morning : THIRD Day,
14 And God said: “Let there be LUMINARIES in the Firmament of heaven, so as to make a division between the day and the night; that they may serve for signs, and for feasts, and for days and
years, 15 and that they may serve as luminaries in the Firmament of heaven, to shine upon the earth.” And so it was. God made the two great Luminaries—the greater luminary to rule the day, and the lesser luminary to rule the night,—and the stars ; 17 and God put them in the firmament of heaven, to shine upon the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to make a division between the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning : FOURTH DAY.
20 And God said: “Let the water swarm with a SWARM OF ANIMAL LIFE; and let Birds fly over the earth, over the face of the firmament of heaven.” 21 And God formed the great sea
monsters, and all the creeping animal life with which the water swarmed, after their kinds, and all the winged birds after their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying : "Be ye fruitful, and multiply, and fill the water in the seas; and the birds, let them multiply on the land.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning : Fifth Day.
24 And God said : “Let the land put forth animal life after its kind : Cattle, and REPTILES, and LAND-ANIMALS, after their kind.” And so it was. 25 And God made the land-animals after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and all the land-reptiles after their kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 And God said: “We will make Men, in our image, after our likeness, so that they may bear rule over the fishes of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the reptiles that creep upon the earth.” 27 And God formed men in his image [in the image of God he formed them); male and female, he formed them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them : “Be fruitful, and be many, and fill the earth and subdue it, and bear rule over the fishes of the sea,
and the birds of the sky, and over all the beasts that creep upon the earth.”
29 And God said: “LO, I give to you all herbs yielding seed which are on the face of the whole earth, and all the trees on which is tree-fruit yielding seed, that they may be to you for food ; 30 and to all the beasts of the earth, and to all the birds of the sky, and to all things that creep on the earth which have animal life, all green herbs for food.” And so it was. 31 And God saw all that he had made, and it looked very good. And there was evening, and there was morning : Sixth Day.
Ch. ii. 1 And the heavens and the earth and all their host were ended, " and on the seventh day God ended his work which he had done, and rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it he rested from all his work, which God by working created.
It is now necessary to justify this translation, which differs very considerably not only from the English Authorized Version, but from most of those revised or new translations which are mainly based on that Version, and only depart from it when the difference between it and the Hebrew is too great to be got over by a slight change of words. It is here of course necessary to speak of Hebrew grammar, and readers who have no knowledge of that language are therefore requested to pass to p. 9, and to omit the paragraph commencing on p. 14.
There are several different modes or degrees of under