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No. XX.-JANUARY, 1868.
1.—THE CREATION. 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
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