The Making of Religion eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 351 pages of information about The Making of Religion.

[Footnote 18:  Op. cit. p. 269.]

[Footnote 19:  Op. cit. p. 277.]

[Footnote 20:  Op. cit. p. 343.  Citing Gen. xxii 2 Kings xxi. 6, Micah vi. 7, 2 Kings iii. 27.]

[Footnote 21:  I mean, does not occur to my knowledge.  New evidence is always upsetting anthropological theories.]

XVI

THEORIES OF JEHOVAH

All speculation on the curly history of religion is apt to end in the endeavour to see how far the conclusions can be made to illustrate the faith of Israel.  Thus, the theorist who believes in ancestor-worship as the key of all the creeds will see in Jehovah a developed ancestral ghost, or a kind of fetish-god, attached to a stone—­perhaps an ancient sepulchral stele of some desert sheikh.

The exclusive admirer of the hypothesis of Totemism will find evidence for his belief in worship of the golden calf and the bulls.  The partisan of nature-worship will insist on Jehovah’s connection with storm, thunder, and the fire of Sinai.  On the other hand, whoever accepts our suggestions will incline to see, in the early forms of belief in Jehovah, a shape of the widely diffused conception of a Moral Supreme Being, at first (or, at least, when our information begins) envisaged in anthropomorphic form, but gradually purged of all local traits by the unexampled and unique inspiration of the great Prophets.  They, as far as our knowledge extends, were strangely indifferent to the animistic element in religion, to the doctrine of surviving human souls, and so, of course, to that element of Animism which is priceless—­the purification of the soul in the light of the hope of eternal life.  Just as the hunger after righteousness of the Prophets is intense, so their hope of finally sating that hunger in an eternity of sinless bliss and enjoyment of God is confessedly inconspicuous.  In short, they have carried Theism to its austere extreme—­’though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’—­while unconcerned about the rewards of Animism.  This is certainly a strange result of a religion which, according to the anthropological theory, has Animism for its basis.

We therefore examine certain forms of the animistic hypothesis as applied to account for the religion of Israel.  The topic is one in which special knowledge of Hebrew and other Oriental languages seems absolutely indispensable; but anthropological speculators have not been Oriental scholars (with rare exceptions), while some Oriental scholars have borrowed from popular anthropology without much critical discrimination.  These circumstances must be our excuse for venturing on to this difficult ground.

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