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Obebun Theological Seminabt 


"What with Winckler, Jeremias, and Cheyne, and now Eerd- 
mans. Old Testament scholars have a good many new eras dawn- 
ing on them just now. Whether any of them will shine unto 
the perfect day, time will show." With these gently sarcastic 
words Dr. Skinner describes the situation which a commentator 
on Genesis must be prepared to face at the present time. But 
the dawn is the waking-up time. The reveille sounded by these 
various scholars is exhilarating. The war to which they chal- 
lenge Old Testament investigators may not prove to be a world- 
war, the critical map of the Old Testament may not be materially 
altered; but it is a good thing that the dominant school of criti- 
cism which follows Wellhausen should be compelled to meet 
antagonists equipped with all the resources of modern warfare. 
So long as their opponents were armed only with the weapons 
of the old apologetics, these critics had an easy time of it. 
After the publication of the great Prolegomena it seemed as if 
the last word had been spoken. Canaan had been conquered 
anew. All that remained for the victors to do was to settle 
down in the land, appropriate the high-places to themselves, 
and reduce the ancient inhabitants to Nethinim. But no sooner 
had they entered into possession than the temptation of the 
settled life began to beset them as it beset the Hebrews of old. 
They had driven out the traditions that had occupied the land 

' A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. By John Skinner, D.D., 
Hon. M.A. (Cantab.), Principal and Professor of Old Testament Language and 
Literature, Westminster College, Cambridge. New York, 1910. 


for millenniums, but the ancient inhabitants, as is so often the 
case, soon threatened to conquer the conquerors. Traditions 
began to assert themselves in new forms. A very pronounced 
exegetical tradition was developed, and a series of priests and 
prophets arose whose sole function it was to conserve this tra- 
dition. Any one who ventured to diflPer from the new critical 
orthodoxy did so at his peril. In these latter days, however, 
certain bold Rechabites have risen up to challenge the tenets 
of popular criticism, and in some cases they even dare to reassert 
the probability of an ancient Mosaic ideal of considerable ethical 
and religious significance. Welcome to all the Rechabites, to 
all the protestants, pan-babylonians, pan-egyptians, pan-jerach- 
meelites, or pan-amorites (the latest reforming sect)! Perhaps 
they will do again for the history of Israel what they did of old. 
It was only when the popular tradition was pressed from all 
sides by these various influences within and without that the 
new prophetic movement was bom. 

Genesis was the starting-point of the Old Testament criticism 
of the nineteenth century. But after all the scenes had been 
acted, and the plot had come to its conclusion, and the audience 
was ready to go home, suddenly the lights have all been turned 
on again and the play is resumed. In order to imderstand at 
just what point in the drama of criticism the commentary of 
Dr. Skinner makes its entrance, it will be necessary to give a 
brief resume of the plot.^ 

The critical movement of the nineteenth century was pre- 
dominantly a literary movement. That is, its attention was 
largely fixed upon the disentanglement and dating of the various 
sources within the Old Testament itself. The means with which 
it operated were primarily literary; and the language, the style, 
the subject-matter, of different portions of the Old Testament 
were its criteria. The most remarkable result of these literary 
operations was the analysis of the Hexateuch into three great 
and originally independent narratives, the Priestly Code (P) 

^ What follows was written before I had seen either Mr. Bumey's article "A 
Theory of the Development of Israelite Religion in Early Times," in the Journal 
of Theolo^cal Studies, April, 1908, or Mr. Stanley A. Cook's review of "The 
Present Stage of Old Testament Research," in Cambridge Biblical Essays, 1909. 


and the two histories of early Israel known as J and E. The 
critical analysis started from the peculiar use of the divine names 
in Genesis, and the most successful demonstration of its propriety 
and utility has been in Genesis. This movement culminated 
in the work of Kuenen and Wellhausen. Wellhausen's Pro- 
legomena marks "the final and decisive turning-point in the his- 
tory of the criticism of Genesis" (Gimkel). It was his distinctive 
merit, not so much to unravel the documents — that had largely 
been already done — as to date them, and thereby to construct 
a clear-cut and fascinating theory of the development of Israel's 
religion. The Priestly Code, which up to his time had been 
regarded as the oldest of the three main literary strands in the 
Hexateuch, was held by Wellhausen, and since his day by the 
great majority of Old Testament scholars, to be the youngest 
of the hexateuchal documents, and placed after the exile. Instead 
of "Moses and the prophets" we have been taught for upwards 
of a generation to say "the prophets and Moses." The rest of 
the Old Testament was examined through this readjusted binocu- 
lar, and the various documents appeared to arrange themselves 
in three great groups: those which reflected a pre-prophetic 
stage in the religion of Israel, those which reflected a prophetic 
stage, and those which represented a final, legalistic stage. In 
the last two stages we are on fairly firm historical ground. There 
are a sufficient number of contemporary documents to enable us 
to sketch out with considerable accuracy the main features of 
the prophetic religion of the later monarchy and of the legalistic 
religion of the post-exilic period. But what was the character 
of the pre-prophetic religion.'' Here was the place where conject- 
ure and speculation set in. And there was plenty of elbow- 
room for opinions. By the literary method nearly all the sources 
in the Old Testament had been brought down to later times. 
With the exception of some important sections in Samuel and 
Judges, it was held that only a few fragments of Hebrew literature 
had survived out of the period preceding the great literary proph- 
ets of the eighth and seventh centuries. The consequence was 
that these prophets, beginning with Amos, stood out as the real 
founders of the higher religion of Israel, the religion of ethical 
monotheism. In proportion as this view was held, the pre- 


prophetic religion, which ex hypothesi was largely without docu- 
ments, was regarded as on a much lower level. Those documents 
which expressed higher ideals having been removed by the critical 
process to later times, there were left to the pre-prophetic period 
only those passages which reflected a rawer, more barbaric type 
of religion, and it became the fashion to associate with the pre- 
prophetic period those phases which characterize the most primi- 
tive forms of worship — animism, totemism, fetishism, poly- 
daemonism. The pre-prophetic reUgion was considered to have 
two clearly marked stages, a nomadic stage of a very primitive 
type, when Israel was only a group of loosely connected tribes 
wandering through the desert, and an agricultural, or peasant, 
stage in which Israel, after its settlement in Canaan, was strongly 
influenced by the agricultural baal-worship of the Canaanites. 
In the formulation — Nomad Religion, Peasant Religion, Prophetic 
Religion, Legalistic Religion — sketched out with remarkable lu- 
cidity by Marti' and implied in the latest exposition of his 
views by Wellhausen himself,* the theory of the literary school of 
criticism corresponded with beautiful nicety to the theories of 
the development of religion in general which grew up in the 
nineteenth century in connection with the evolutionary hy- 

This great construction is without doubt one of the most remark- 
able achievements of historical investigation in the past century. 
In the process of its development the absolute untenableness of 
the old orthodox conceptions of the Bible was demonstrated. It 
is as impossible to return to them as it is to return to the Ptole- 
maic system of astronomy. The minute examination to which 
the Old Testament was subjected and the new angle from which 
it was surveyed revealed a vast mass of hitherto unsuspected ma- 
terial to be studied and classified. For this, future students of the 
Old Testament can never be too thankful. It must not be for- 
gotten, furthermore, that it is due to Wellhausen and his followers, 
more than to any other students of the Old Testament, that the 
prophets first came to their own. Here again these scholars have 

3 The Religion of the Old Testament, 1907. 

* "Die israelitisch-jUdische Religion," in Die Kultur der Gegenwart, 1906 
(2nd ed., 1909). 


laid all future investigators under lasting obligations. And the 
formula itself, "the prophets and Moses," is likely to stand the 
test of time, so far as its essential meaning is concerned. While 
it is probable that a large part of the legal material in the 
Hexateuch will be found to be much older than many have been 
willing to admit, yet the vital thing in their contention is not 
likely to be overthrown, — ^namely, that the Law in its present 
systematized formulations, and as the constitutive principle of 
the national life, in other words, Moses as a written authority, as 
a code, follows the Prophets. 

But within the last few years this critical school has been at- 
tacked at two vital points. First, its analysis of the documents 
has been questioned; and secondly, its views of the pre-prophetic 
stage of the religion of Israel have been challenged. The analy- 
sis started from the variation in the use of the divine names, 
Jahveh and Elohim, in Genesis. In general the correctness of the 
massoretic text in which these variations occur was assumed. 
But a number of scholars, among whom may be mentioned Dahse 
(1903), Wiener (1909), and especially Eerdmans (1908), have 
attacked this assumption. They raise the previous question. 
Is the massoretic text to be trusted? They point in particular 
to the differences in the occurrence of the divine names in the 
Septuagint. It is not my purpose to enter into this debate. 
Whether it is to be only an episode, a mere skirmish without 
importance, or is to develop into a general attack in force, re- 
mains to be seen. Its principal significance at present is as a 
symptom. In passing, however, attention may be called to 
Skinner's discussion of this newest phase of criticism in his intro- 
duction (p. xxxv). The discussion is a model of the pregnant 
brevity in which the limitations, evidently imposed upon the 
author by the publishers, have often compelled him to express 
himself. It is unfortunate that Mr. Wiener has seen fit to import 
the rabies theologorum into the debate, and to impute bad motive 
to Dr. Skinner and even to the general editors of the International 
Critical Commentary. 

The attack from the historical side upon the current critical 
conception of the pre-prophetic period is a far more serious affair 
than the literary skirmish just alluded to. It is at this point that 


these critics seem to be placed distinctly on the defensive, and it 
is here, if anywhere, that the positions occupied by them will 
have to be abandoned. 

There are three serious weaknesses in Wellhausen's construc- 
tion, which are revealed most clearly when one comes to his treat- 
ment of the pre-prophetic religion of Israel. The first is the tacit 
assumption that the first appearance of an idea in extant litera- 
ture is its first appearance in history. There is a tendency to make 
this assumption all along the line, and it is for this reason among 
others that the name of the "literary school" of criticism is 
appropriate. There is a certain amount of justification for this 
assumption, since the primary sources for the historian are the 
written documents, and it is proper for him to cling to these as 
long as he can. Nevertheless, where only fragments of a people's 
literature are left to us, as is the case with the Hebrews, the as- 
sumption is peculiarly unsafe. 

The second weakness, closely connected with the first and really 
growing out of it, is the inability of these historians adequately 
to account for the prophetic movement. Their attitude toward 
the prophetic movement is similar to Marcion's attitude toward 
Christianity. For them it comes as something entirely novel. 
It is sudden, historically unaccountable, organically unconnected 
with the past. But the prophetic movement is far too permanent 
a growth to belong to the genus cucurhitaceae; it must have had a 
tap-root. And they have failed to discover an adequate tap- 
root. When one turns from the traditional view of the Old Testa- 
ment to the Prolegomena, the latter presents a view relatively so 
intelligible and convincing that at first it seems to satisfy every 
demand. As a sanctuary of refuge after the impossibilities of the 
old positions, it appears to be immune to attack. Yet I think 
one cannot read dispassionately the latest expositions of the de- 
velopment of the religion of Israel which have come from these 
writers (for example, the sketches of Wellhausen and Marti men- 
tioned above) without realizing that the bridge which they throw 
over the gulf between the pre-prophetic and the prophetic relig- 
ion is of the most flimsy character. Wellhausen tacitly recog- 
nizes this when he falls back upon the mystery of the prophetic 
personality to account for things that his view of the evolutionary 


processes cannot explain.* In a construction that is avowedly 
evolutionary this is a fatal defect. 

In the third place this reconstruction is in the main an intra- 
canonical reconstruction; it has built primarily upon the literary 
analysis of the BibUcal sources. In this direction it has accom- 
plished wonderful results, and yet the strictly intra-canonical 
method is always in danger of arguing in a circle. When outside 
sources have been drawn on for the interpretation of the earlier 
periods of the history, these have been mainly taken from present 
or pre-islamic conditions in Arabia, or from peoples no farther 
advanced than the Bedouin in civilization. Since it is held that 
the early Hebrews were nomads, it is maintained that their relig- 
ion must be interpreted by Bedouin analogies. The result is that 
the early religion of Israel, the Mosaic religion, appears as dis- 
tinctly primitive. 

But discoveries have been made in the past twenty-five years 
which show us that an intra-canonical induction is not broad 
enough, if we are to understand the religion of Israel. The tra- 
ditional dogmatic orthodox view explained the Old Testament 
out of itself by following the surface indications, which were 
really due to its latest revisers. The orthodox critical view ex- 
plained the Old Testament out of itself by following those indica- 
tions which lay beneath the surface and which the latest revisers 
had not succeeded in altogether obscuring. This was an advance. 
But the period has now arrived to consider all the Old Testament 
material anew in the light of the ancient oriental civilization in 
and out of which it originated. The first edition of Wellhausen's 
Prolegomena, under the title. History of Israel, was published in 
1878. This was only six years after George Smith's publication of 
the Babylonian deluge-tablets and only two years after the pub- 
lication of the creation-tablets. Since that time the cuneiform 
material has been accumulating with such rapidity that the de- 
cipherers are almost overwhelmed by it. The really epoch- 
making discovery, however, which constitutes the watershed of 
Biblical criticism, was made in 1888, when the Tell-el-Amarna 
tablets were found in Egypt. At one stroke the veil was torn 
away from Moses' face. The Mosaic period, instead of being seen 
* "Die israelitisch-jadische Religion," in Die Kultur der Gegenwart, p. 15. 


in the dubious light of the dawn of history, or rather in the gloom 
of the prehistoric period, could now be examined in the broad 
daylight. A new school of investigators has grown up, called by 
their opponents the pan-babylonians, who have been endeavoring 
to reinterpret the Old Testament (and for that matter the New 
Testament also) in the light of the new material now accessible. 
Winckler is the head of the new school but his work has been 
brought to the attention of the general public principally through 
the more popular, though equally authoritative, exposition of it 
by Jeremias.^ 

Whatever exaggerations and unsound speculations Winckler 
and his followers may be guilty of in their natural enthusiasm for 
the new discoveries, the new premise in Biblical research from 
which they start, and which Winckler emphasizes and re-empha- 
sizes in his pamphlet, Religionsgeschichtlicher und geschichtlicher 
Orient (1906), must hereafter be reckoned with. The pre-pro- 
phetic stage in the history of the religion of Israel can no longer 
be examined simply from the point of view of primitive religious 
conceptions. We are not dealing with primitive man in the 
Mosaic period, nor even in the patriarchal period. In those eariy 
days we are already confronted by advanced civiUzations with 
millenniums of history behind them. This is true of Babylon, of 
Egypt, and of Arabia as well. The Bedouin of today are not 
necessarily replicas of the tribes out of which Israel emerged. 
In Arabia itself there were also great civilized kingdoms. In a 
word, Wellhausen's theory of the pre-prophetic religion of Israel 
is that it was primitive, that is, prehistoric in its general features; 
but we now know that it emerged in a late historic period, when 
civilization had reached a high degree of development. And not 
only so, we know also that Israel was not isolated from the great 
seats of ancient culture, but was closely connected with them, 
and has preserved in a remarkable degree a consciousness of 
this close relationship in its traditions of the migrations of Abra- 
ham from Mesopotamia, and of Joseph into Egypt, and in its 
recollection of Moses' connection with Egypt and through Jethro 
with Midian (that is, with the Minaean civilization). This is the 

• Das alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients, 2nd ed., 1906; English 
translation, 1911. 


first great new consideration with which the theory of the early 
religion of Israel must reckon. It can no longer be assumed 
that we are to construe the early religion of Israel in every respect 
as a primitive religion because it may have had nomad ante- 
cedents. There may well have been higher conceptions in it 
even in those early days. But as a matter of fact were there 
such elements? At this point we arrive at a discussion of the 
stories of Genesis, and these furnish the second important point 
of which account must be taken. 

Grenesis is the Biblical book primarily involved in the debate 
between the older literary school of Biblical criticism and the 
new pan-babylonian school. Commentaries on Grenesis, therefore, 
excite uncommon interest at this time. Four commentaries 
which have appeared in recent years require special mention. 
Holzinger's commentary (in Marti's Kurzer Hand-Commentar, 
1898) still represents in the main the older critical position. 
The newer points of view make themselves felt here and there, 
for Gunkel's remarkable book Schopfung und Chaos in Urzeit 
und Endzeit had already appeared in 1895; but the new ideas in 
no sense dominate the commentary. The Westminster Com- 
mentary on Genesis by Driver (8th edition, 1910) occupies a 
somewhat diflFerent field. It is written for a more popular audi- 
ence. Its aim is not to solve the more difficult scientific prob- 
lems of Genesis, but to give an interpretation of the book from 
the generally accepted positions of criticism. It discusses at 
length the old debates between dogma and science, — ^for example, 
the relationship of Genesis to the physical sciences; and this is 
done with the thoroughness, candor, and lucidity which make Dr. 
Driver the most successful guide among English and American 
scholars to all those who are seeking to effect a change of base 
from the old positions to the new. Gunkel's commentary (in 
Nowack's Handkommentar, 2nd ed. 1902, 3rd ed. 1910) is a differ- 
ent sort of work. It is epoch-making, as distinctly so as Well- 
hausen's Prolegomena itself. Those who accept its views would 
probably be inclined to say that it is the greatest commentary 
that has ever appeared on an Old Testament book. And with 
all its learning it yet reads like a novel; the style is as happy as 
that of Robertson Smith. In one way Gunkel has made it hard 


for his successors; it is difficult for those who agree with him 
not to copy him by the page. 

The fourth commentary is that of Dr. Skinner in the Inter- 
national Critical Commentary. The author does not give much 
attention to the old debates on Genesis and geology. For him 
these are dead issues, and his interest is in the problems of the 
present time. His commentary, therefore, forms an excellent sup- 
plement to Driver's work, and the two together will give the 
EngKsh and American student an adequate acquaintance with 
the problems of Genesis, past and present. In form Skinner's 
commentary is a model. The critical apparatus is not allowed 
to interfere with the easy flow of the exposition. The less ad- 
vanced student is thus enabled to learn the leading positions of 
the commentary without difficulty, and the masterly way in 
which the more technical material is handled and the really im- 
portant and decisive facts pushed to the front makes the work a 
joy to the advanced student. Skinner has the true expositor's 
faculty of knowing where a reader of Genesis needs enlightenment. 
He is a master of condensed and at the same time lucid argument. 
Altogether it is a genuine satisfaction to have at last a commen- 
tary on Genesis in English that is at once thorough, up with the 
times, and classic in form. In what follows, the positions of 
Gunkel and Skinner are treated together, and the attempt will 
be made to show wherein these commentaries mark an epoch in 
the history of the criticism of Genesis. 

The stories of Genesis fall into two main groups, — the stories of 
the dawn of the world, found in the first eleven chapters, and 
the stories of the patriarchs, found in the rest of the book. Now 
all these stories are mainly found in the JE documents of Genesis, 
and the JE documents are assigned by the various representatives 
of the critical hypothesis to the eighth or ninth centuries b.c. 
at the earliest, with of course larger or smaller accretions from 
a later period. In other words, the documents in which the 
stories of Genesis are found have been brought into proximity 
with the prophetic movement. But do they reflect this move- 
ment or did they anticipate it? The dates hitherto assigned to 
J and E show that this problem was not wholly solved. The 
contrast between Holzinger, on the one hand, and Gunkel and 
Skinner, on the other, is instructive. 


In Holzinger the question whether J and E are prophetic 
or pre-prophetic is not definitely formulated. The dates (J ca. 
850-700; E ca. middle or third quarter of the eighth century) 
suggest that these writings are prophetic in the sense that they 
reflect more or less accurately the views of eighth-century 
prophecy. In the case of E it is expressly stated that "the 
thoughts of the prophets are normative." In the case of J, 
Holzinger is perplexed. On the one side he discovers ideas 
closely allied to those of the literary prophets. On the other side 
he is "astonished" to discover ideas not at all consistent with 
these more developed conceptions. The position of Gunkel and 
Skinner marks a significant departure from that of Holzinger. 
Gunkel, followed by Skinner, lays down the proposition that the 
only way to fix the dates of J and E without becoming involved 
in an argument in a circle is to raise the question of their relation- 
ship to written prophecy. Both argue that the two documents 
as a whole (E as well as J) are pre-prophetic. This they do on 
grounds of which the cogency can scarcely be denied. But in 
this conclusion the first step has been taken toward the modifica- 
tion of the current critical views of pre-prophetic religion; and 
the step is a conscious one, as is shown by the following state- 
ment of Gunkel : 

No doubt there are in Genesis many points of contact with this 
[written] prophecy. But the supposition of many modems that this 
aflinity is due to the influence of written prophecy is in many cases 
anything but certain. We do not know the religion of Israel ade- 
quately enough to be able to maintain that certain ideas and feelings 
first entered the world through the men whose writings we now 
possess, that is, since the time of Amos. . . . Such feelings can have 
existed long before "the prophets." Indeed we must assume that 
they did so in order that we may understand the appearance of the 

In this paragraph we have very clearly expressed a conscious- 
ness of what we have seen to be two of the weaknesses of the 
general position of Wellhausen. Skinner expresses himself to 
similar eflFect, and adds a sentence of still greater significance: 

We must bear La mind that the 9th century witnessed a powerful 
prophetic movement which, commencing in N[orth] Israel, extended 


into Judah; and that any prophetic influences discoverable in 
Genesis are as likely to have come from the impulse of that move- 
ment as from the later development which is so much better known 
to us. But in truth it is questionable if any prophetic impulse at 
all, other than those inherent in the religion from its foundation by 
Moses, is necessary to account for the religious tone of the nar- 
ratives of Genesis (p. li). 

In the matter of fixing more exact dates for J and E, Gunkel 
and Skinner are exceedingly cautious. Gimkel contents him- 
self with arguing at length for their pre-prophetic character. 
He then concludes with the brief statement that J may be as- 
signed to the ninth century and E to the first half of the eighth; 
but he gives no arguments for these dates, and says expressly 
that "they must remain uncertain." Skinner is somewhat more 
definite. The date of E lies between the two limits, 750 on the 
one hand (the rise of written prophecy) and 930 on the other (the 
disruption of the kingdom), "if it be the case that 37 8 in E pre- 
supposes the monarchy of the house of Joseph. . . . Between 
these limits there is little to guide us to a more precise deter- 
mination. General considerations, such as the tone of political 
feeling, the advanced conceptions of God, and traces of the in- 
fluence of 9th century prophecy, seem to point to the latter 
part of the period, and in particular to the brilliant reign of 
Jeroboam II. (785-745) as the most likely time of composition" 
(p. liii). But in the passage previously cited Skinner had said 
that ninth-century prophecy need not be taken into accoimt 
in order to explain the religion of JE. As to the suitability of 
the reign of Jeroboam, Holzinger had urged the pessimistic ten- 
dency in E as a reason for bringing the date down to the time 
when North Israel was rapidly disintegrating. On the date of J, 
Skinner remarks, "In J there is no unequivocal allusion to the 
divided kingdom and nothing absolutely prevents us from put- 
ting its date as early as the reign of Solomon." But he does not 
accept this date (now advocated by some critics) on the ground 
that "it is improbable that J and E are separated by an interval 
of two centuries; if E belongs to the first half of the 8th century, 
J will hardly be earlier than the 9th." It is quite evident that 
there is nothing fixed here. The selection of the eighth and ninth 


centuries respectively is really hardly more than an adherence 
to a traditional formula, and when once the step implied in the 
assertion of the pre-prophetic character of the JE documents is 
taken, the whole question of a date earlier than the eighth and 
ninth centuries is thrown openJ 

But an even more important departure from the older treat- 
ment of J and E than the definite assignment of both of them to 
the pre-prophetic period must now be noticed. For many years 
the documents J and E had been largely treated as homogeneous 
works, due to authors and not simply to compilers. The older 
characterizations of J and E make the impression that we are 
dealing in these documents with the work of two renTarkable 
and dominant personalities. But Wellhausen himself had laid 
the foundation for a different conception, for in the J-sections 
of the primitive history (chaps. 1-11) he distinguished several 
strands; and the disintegration of J was carried still further by 
Budde. But how little the ultimate consequences of these ob- 
servations were at first realized is illustrated from the introduc- 
tion to Holzinger's commentary. In this he speaks in one short 
paragraph of "the gradual origin of this stratum [J] so that 
J must be regarded as derived not from one narrator, but from 
a circle or, cum grano salts, from a school." The composite 
character of E is barely referred to, and the characterization of 
both documents is in general in the old terms. What Holzinger 
admits cum grano salis is strongly emphasized by Gunkel, and lies 
at the basis of both his exegesis and his historical criticism. Ac- 
cording to him J and E are not homogeneous works of two authors, 
but collections of stories arising gradually in different schools. 
Our present documents are only the literary deposit of a long 
oral tradition. In this view of the JE material Skinner is at one 
with Gunkel. The result of this changed conception of J and E 
is shown in a characteristic way when the arrangement of material 
in the introductions to the commentaries of Holzinger on the one 

' In an exceedingly interesting essay in the Zeitschrift fUr alttestamentliche 
Wissenschaft, 1910, Gressmann maintains that "the time of Saul furnishes the 
terminus ad quern before which the legends of Genesis were in general complete, 
though individual traits were added later. . . . Prophetic influence nowhere makes 
itself felt" (p. 31). 


hand, and of Gunkel and Skinner on the other, is examined. Holz- 
inger starts with a history of the literary criticism of Genesis 
in the nineteenth century, and ends with a discussion of the doc- 
uments J, E, and P, their peculiarities and dates, in a thoroughly 
conventional fashion. Consequently the interest is concentrated 
upon J and E as documents. Gunkel and Skinner, on the other 
hand, begin, not with a history of the criticism which culminates 
in the recognition and chronological definition of these documents, 
but with the definition and analysis of the legend and its probable 
history in the oral tradition which was finally precipitated in J 
and E. With Holzinger J and E, as documents, are the all- 
important thing. With Gunkel and Skinner they are the least 
important thing. The final collections are now regarded only 
as the literary receptacles for the oral tradition, and as such 
are of minor importance for the piU"poses of historical interpre- 
tation. The interest is shifted, and the emphasis now falls, not 
on J and E, but on the oral tradition before it was stored away 
in J and E. This means that a new and fascinating perspective 
is opened up into the pre-prophetic religion of Israel. The J 
and E documents themselves are pre-prophetic, and the tra- 
dition behind them, upon which all the emphasis now falls, is 
still earlier. The stories of Genesis thus become the key to 
our understanding of the pre-prophetic religion of Israel. 

Having definitely assigned the J and E documents to the pre- 
prophetic era, and having next assumed a long history of the 
stories in the oral tradition prior to their deposit in the J and E 
collections, the next step is the attempt to trace, if possible, the 
history of the oral tradition itself. At this point we are largely 
thrown back upon conjecture. As might be expected, the bril- 
liant, speculative German is much more sure of what happened 
than the cautious, matter-of-fact Englishman. Hence a more 
precise sketch of the earlier history of the stories is attempted 
by Gunkel than Skinner ventures to give. Gunkel distinguishes 
three stages in the history of the stories: (1) the period of their 
formation, (2) the period of their transformation, and (3) the 
period of their more or less oflScial compilation. In following 
their history, two groups of stories must be kept distinct: (a) 
those contained in chapters 1-11, which, as a whole, have to do 


with the beginnmgs of universal history, and (b) those contained 
in the rest of the book, which deal with the patriarchal history. 
The former stories are intimately connected with similar stories 
in Babylonia, the latter show little Babylonian influence. In the 
first group of narratives the peculiar nature of the similarity 
to the Babylonian myths and legends points, according to both 
Gunkel and Skinner, to a dependence upon these latter. At 
this point Gunkel attaches the results of his studies in Genesis 
to the doctrines of the pan-baby lonians. He adopts their 
theory that in the pre-mosaic period the soil of Palestine was 
saturated with Babylonian culture. On the other hand, the 
Genesis narratives of chapters 1-11 also show traces of what 
seem to be Phoenician influence. Accordingly Gunkel pro- 
pounds the exceedingly interesting thesis that the Hebrews adopted 
these stories ultimately from the Babylonians, but through a 
Phoenician medium. Of course this could only be done after 
the conquest of Canaan, and hence a date after the settlement 
in Canaan is set for the formation, or rather, in this case, for the 
appropriation, of the stories in Genesis 1-11. 

To this view Skinner will not commit himself. He discusses 
briefly the arguments for and against Gunkel's position, and 
arrives at the negative conclusion that it is impossible to de- 
termine the precise chaimel or the approximate date of this in- 
fusion of Babylonian elements into the religious traditions of 
Israel. But in the course of his discussion of the theory he lets 
fall one statement which shows which way the wind is beginning 
to blow. In arguing against Stade's view that the monothe- 
istically colored myths of chapters 1-11 could not have been 
adopted by Israel before ethical monotheism had been established 
by the prophets. Skinner observes, "Monotheism had roots in 
Hebrew antiquity extending much further back than the age of 
written prophecy, and the present form of the legends is more 
intelligible as the product of an earlier phase of religion than that 
of the literary prophets" (p. x). 

With regard to the patriarchal legends, which are of such funda- 
mental importance for the interpretation of the beginnings of 
Israel's religion, Gunkel defends the thesis that the core of them 
was already in possession of the Hebrew tribes before the conquest. 


The scenes of these stories are mostly laid In the steppes to the 
east and south of Canaan, and not in Canaan itself. The life 
described in them is nomadic, not agricultural. All these traits 
are urged in favor of a very early date for the rise of the stories. 
The latest of them, it is maintained, do not, in the substance of 
their contents, reflect conditions later than the earlier part of 
the period of the Judges. The period of the formation of the 
legends is therefore held to have been closed about 1200 B.C., 
at which time the period of their transformation began. Finally, 
since scarcely any reflection of events later than the period of 
the early monarchy is to be found in these narratives, the period 
of their transformation in the oral tradition is defined by Gunkel 
to be 1200-900 B.C. There were some additions after this time 
which are prophetic in the strict sense of reflecting later written 
prophecy (for instance, Abraham's plea for Sodom), but, as we 
have seen, the gradual changes which were introduced into the 
stories are held by Gunkel to be in general pre-prophetic. 

Skinner proceeds by somewhat different and more general lines. 
He emphasizes the long interval which must have elapsed between 
the inception and the final compilation of the stories in J and E. 
But here two questions are raised. First, were these stories 
transmitted unofficially, "cast adrift upon the stream of popular 
talk," or was there more or less of an official transmission of them? 
On general principles Skinner inclines to the latter view, and 
though he does not finally decide between the theories that regard 
the local sanctuaries as the custodians of the traditions and those 
that ascribe this function to the prophetic guilds or (Gunkel) 
to professional story-tellers, he favors Gunkel's theory (pp. 
xxxi, xlvi). Secondly, what relation does this whole process 
of transmission bear to writing? Was the history of these 
legends altogether oral, before their final deposit in J and E, or 
were there written collections antecedent to them? Skinner 
strongly favors the latter view. The fact that the written docu- 
ments J and E run so nearly parallel suggests that there was a 
great national epos already "codified" before them, and it is held 
that "we have no reason for placing the unification of the tradi- 
tions later than the founding of the monarchy. From the age of 
Samuel at least all the essential conditions [for such a codifica- 
tion] were present." 


But when the J and E collections have been definitely assigned 
to the pre-prophetic period, and when the attention has been 
shifted from the documents themselves to the long tradition, both 
written (probably) and oral, that lies behind them, a new question 
of the greatest importance presses upon us. What is the historical 
significance of these views of the JE material? If the stories of 
Genesis are pushed so much farther back than was for a long 
time supposed to be possible, may they not have a far greater 
historical value, and reflect more accurately the patriarchal period, 
than has generally been admitted by critics? 

At the outset the literary character of the legends is to be con- 
sidered. In a masterly manner Gunkel has analyzed the stories 
of Genesis and has demonstrated the fact that they are legends. 
This part of his commentary has already become classic. He 
points out convincingly how the frank recognition of their leg- 
endary character is the indispensable prerequisite for the correct 
historical and religious estimate of the value of the narratives. 
Gunkel covered the ground so thoroughly in this connection 
that Skinner has been able to do little more than give a resume 
of the main facts as he had pointed them out. It is not my pur- 
pose to review the arguments used by these writers to establish 
their point of view, but two sentences from Skinner will serve 
to show that these views are not advanced in any destructive 

It is no question of the truth or religious value of the book that 
we are called to discuss, but only of the kind of truth and the p>ar- 
tieular mode of revelation which we are to find in it. . . . As a vehicle 
of religious ideas, poetic narrative [that is, legend] possesses obvious 
advantages over literal history. 

Now the legend, as distinct from the myth, originated on the 
plane of history, and therefore generally cherishes in its heart 
of hearts some historical reminiscence. The original fact which 
gave rise to the legend cannot always be discovered, but it is 
always worth while to attempt to discover it. In the case of the 
legends of Genesis it would seem to be peculiarly worth while in 
view, as both Gunkel and Skinner emphasize, of the highly con- 
servative attitude of the story-tellers with respect to their mate- 


rial. If we could adopt Skinner's suggestion of a semi-oflScial, 
"professional" oversight over these stories, the chance of discov- 
ering true historical reminiscences in them would be still stronger. 

In considering the historical value of the legends of Genesis, 
there are, as Skinner points out, two distinct questions. The first 
is as to the historical character of the persons and fortunes of the 
patriarchs. The second relates to the age of the religious ideals 
attributed to them. May not the prophetic ideals in the stories 
of Genesis, which have led earlier critics to bring them into the 
closest possible chronological contact with eighth-century proph- 
ecy, be after all centuries older? The first of these two questions 
can be analyzed into the further questions : Are the figures of the 
patriarchs to be interpreted as persons? and, if so, are they to be 
regarded as historical persons? 

In the treatment of these questions it is again interesting to 
observe the important departure from the original position of 
Wellhausen. Gunkel points out expressly how, on the assump- 
tion that the documents J and E belonged to the eighth and 
ninth centuries, Wellhausen denied all historical value to the 
legends of Genesis as reminiscences from an earlier period. The 
assumption was that no historical recollections could have per- 
sisted through so many centuries, — an a priori consideration, 
it is true, but one of considerable force. Accordingly Well- 
hausen sought to interpret the legends as reflections of events in 
the period of the monarchy. For example, the struggle between 
Jacob and Esau is a reflection of the wars between Israel and 
Edom, the struggle between Jacob and Laban a reflection of 
the Aramaean wars, and so on. But this method of interpre- 
tation has been thoroughly discredited in recent years,* and in 
consequence a step backward was taken. Since the legends 
could not be explained as reflections of the period of the mon- 
archy, they were explained as reflections of the earlier tribal 
relations. The patriarchs are tribal eponyms,' and their jour- 
neys, marriages, and other adventures are supposed to be figures 

' Cf . especially Eerdmans, Alttestamentliche Studien II. 1908. Gunkel 
goes so far as to cite a statement of B. Luther that " the logical application of 
the method used by Wellhausen would speedily lead to absurd results." 

• Cf . especially the constructions of Comill and Steuemagel. 


for tribal migrations, relationships, and the like. Undoubtedly 
there is a certain element of truth in this view. Moab, Ammon, 
Israel, Edom, are tribal names as well as personal names, and in 
some cases the legends themselves expressly state this view (cf . 
Gen. 25 23 ff.; 31 44 fl.). The legends have thus been regarded 
as furnishing information of the greatest historical value, but of 
"ethnographic," not personal, kind. This theory better satisfies 
the ancient character of the legends than does Wellhausen's 
theory, but it fails to do justice, as Skinner points out, to "the 
wealth of detail " in the stories. It is here that "the breakdown of 
the ethnographical method becomes complete" (p. xxi). Skinner 
lays down the canon that the ethnographic interpretation must 
be confined to those incidents where it is either expressly indicated 
by the narratives or confirmed by external evidence (p. 357). 
In these views Skinner is in line with recent criticism. Gunkel 
warns against the "pedantry" of the exclusive application of the 
ethnographic method of interpretation. Eduard Meyer, after 
apologizing for having sinned in this direction, describes Steuer- 
nagel's treatment of the legends of Genesis as a reductio ad 
ahsurdum of the method.^" 

Gunkel and Skinner are equally opposed to the mythologizing 
interpretation of the patriarchs, by which they are regarded as 
faded divinities. Two different lines of investigation have been 
followed by the mythologizers: that which sees in the patriarchs 
Canaanitic local numina and that which sees in them reflections 
of astral divinities. The former view has been supported by no 
less an authority than Eduard Meyer in the work above men- 
tioned, in reliance mainly on the evidence of the patriarchal 
names. His views, however, have been subjected to a searching 
criticism by Eerdmans*^ and Gressmann.^^ and they are rejected 
by Gunkel and Skinner, at least so far as Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob are concerned. Skinner says with justice that Meyer's 
earlier arguments for the tribal interpretation of the patriarchal 
names are more convincing than his later arguments for their 

'" Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstamme, 1906. This work has had a great 
influence upon recent criticism of Genesis. 

" AlttestamentUche Studien II. 

^ Zeitschrift ftir alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1910. 


mythological significance. "That names of this type frequently 
denote tribes is a fact; that they may denote deities is only a 

A much more plausible theory of the legends of Genesis is pro- 
pounded by Winckler and his followers. They start from the 
premise that the ancient Orient was dominated by an astral 
doctrine, the great thesis of which was that earth corresponds 
to heaven. Theoretically, everything that happens in the heav- 
ens has its counterpart on earth. Practically this means that 
everything that happens on earth has its counterpart in the 
heavens. But the movements of the heavens are described in 
mythological terms. For example, it is the god Marduk who over- 
comes the powers of winter and darkness when the sun arrives 
at the spring equinox. So it comes to pass that what happens 
on earth, as a counterpart of what happens in heaven, may also 
be described in mythological terms. According to Winckler's 
school of criticism this astral doctrine dominated all the ancient 
civilized world, and the Biblical writers thought in terms of it 
just as we today think in terms of evolution. The legends of 
Genesis cannot escape the influence of the stars. They too are 
supposed to be shot through with astral motifs. Thus Winckler 
regards Abraham as " the heroic precipitate of the moon-god." *' 
The name Abram (the Father is exalted) is pointed to. It re- 
minds us of the moon-god of Harran who was preferably called 
Father. Abraham was connected by tradition with Ur and 
Harran, the two great seats of the ancient moon-worship. Sarah, 
Abraham's wife, and Milcah, his sister-in-law, correspond to the 
Babylonian sarratu and malkatu, the titles of the moon-goddess of 
Harran and of Ishtar. The number 318 in Genesis 14 is the num- 
ber of the days in the year in which the moon is visible. This 
method of interpretation is not so absurd as it might seem. The 
legend of the birth of Moses would appear to be a convincing 
illustration of its propriety in certain cases. Nor does the method 
do away entirely with the historical nucleus of the legends of 
Genesis, as might be supposed at first sight. There has been con- 
siderable misunderstanding of Winckler's real position at this 
point, though his mode of presenting his views is probably largely 
^ Geschichte Israels, vol. ii. 1900, p. iS. 


responsible for it. In reality, the formula that earth corre- 
sponds to heaven allows the adoption of a very generous attitude 
toward the reliability of the tradition, as may be seen in the 
pages of Jeremias. Something did actually happen on the earth, 
although, according to Jeremias, the Biblical writers used mytho- 
logical formulas in describing it, just as a poet writes in metre or 
an artist paints in colors. 

But against the main principles of this astral mythologizing 
of Genesis Gunkel objects that the legends originally existed inde- 
pendently of each other. Hence we could hardly expect to find 
a system in them. Moreover, the spirit of the legends is popular, 
not scientific, as it would be if they were dominated by astral 
doctrine to the extent which Winckler's school supposes. Here 
Gunkel has decidedly the best of the argument. That J and E 
are to be compared with Manetho and Berossus, as Winckler 
actually compares them, is ridiculous. It implies an utterly im- 
possible literary judgment upon these simple narratives. But 
"without previous aesthetic analysis of the sagas," as Gunkel 
correctly observes, "this entire method of investigation hangs 
in the air." 

But if the patriarchs (and by the patriarchs must be under- 
stood primarily Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not Israel) are neither 
tribal eponyms nor faded deities, they must be persons. This 
is the only other possibility, as Skinner points out. Are they, 
then, historical or unhistorical persons.'' Siegfried, as Gunkel 
says, is an individual, but he is not historical. At this point a 
new factor enters into the discussion. In favor of the historicity 
of the patriarchs is urged the background in which they are set. 
Thus Jeremias contends that "the background of the patriarchal 
narratives agrees in all details with the ancient oriental con- 
ditions of civilization to which the monuments bear witness for 
this particular period." Gunkel himself, in arguing for the pre- 
mosaic origin of these legends, makes the strong statement that 
"the conditions of the nomad period are here described with 
such freshness and vividness that one cannot avoid admitting a 
real, even though of course idealized, reminiscence of the condi- 
tions in which the patriarchs lived." Jeremias frankly concedes 
that the truth of the historical background does not of itself prove 


the historicity of the patriarchs, but he urges with force that it 
undermines the assumption that the legends are historically im- 

There is, however, another important element in the stories 
which must be reckoned with. While they agree in the main 
with the historical situation in which they are set, on the 
other hand they idealize the situation in a way that belongs to 
legend rather than to exact history. This point is strongly urged 
by Skinner. "It seems to us," he says, "that the remarkable 
thing about these narratives is just the absence of background 
and their general compatibility with the universal conditions of 
ancient Eastern life." He refers in this connection with great ap- 
positeness to the Egyptian tale of Sinuhe, which describes the 
adventures of an Egyptian courtier in Palestine at about 2000 
B.C. In this tale everything is concrete and specific. In the 
patriarchal narratives there is "a washing out of the historical 
background." To the present reviewer this seems to be a just 
and significant contrast. In other words, a literary estimate 
of the stories of Genesis again compels the admission that they 
are legendary, not historical. We cannot, therefore, success- 
fully argue to the historical character of the patriarchs from the 
cultural background of the stories, for that is an idealized back- 
ground. Still, when real, even though idealized, reminiscences 
of the ancient past are admitted, and the distinction is remem- 
bered between a legend, which starts from the plane of history 
and presumably embodies some historical nucleus, and a myth, 
the question whether Abraham was a real person becomes not 

At this point Gunkel and Skinner part company. Gunkel, 
for his part, wholly rejects the historicity of the person of 
Abraham. "It is diflBcult to understand," he says, "what import- 
ance the contrary view has for religion or for the history of religion. 
For even if a man by the name of Abraham once lived, yet for 
every one who knows legendary history it must be certain that, 
after so many centuries, the legend cannot preserve a picture of 
the personal piety of Abraham. The religion of Abraham is in 
reality the religion of the narrators, which they ascribe to Abra- 
ham." Skinner, on the other hand, while admitting that in 


the nature of the ease only subjective considerations exist to 
guide us, contends that "in the absence of external criteria a 
subjective judgment has its value, and one in favour of the his- 
toric origin of the tradition is at least as valid as another to the 
contrary effect." He then proceeds to narrow the question 
down from the patriarchs generally to Abraham alone, whose 
name "represents no ethnological entity and occurs historically 
only as the name of an individual." Here he lays all the em- 
phasis on the character of Abraham. "The character has been 
idealised in accordance with the conceptions of a later age; but 
the impression remains that there must have been something in 
the actual Abraham which gave a direction to the idealisation." 
Therefore Skinner ventures, "in spite of the lack of decisive 
evidence, to regard him as a historic personage, however dim 
the surroundings of his life may be." The difference, however, 
between the position of Gimkel and that of Skinner on the ques- 
tion immediately at issue is not vital, since Skinner is willing 
to admit a considerable amount of idealization. A few pages 
earlier, in discussing Genesis 14, he remarks, "To us the Abra- 
ham of oral tradition is a far more important religious personality 
than Abram the Hebrew, the hero of the exploit recorded in 
ch. 14." This can only mean that the idealized Abraham of 
the tradition is more important than any possible historical 
nucleus. In that case Skinner would be occupying substantially 
the same position as Gunkel, who identifies the religion of Abra- 
ham with the religion of the narrators. 

While the difference between Gunkel and Skinner is thus seen 
to be of minor importance, the cause for the difference is of con- 
siderable importance. Gunkel has been influenced at this point 
by Gressmann, who had attempted on the basis of Wundt's 
Volkerpsychologie to carry one step further the analysis of the 
stories in Genesis. Back of the legend which attaches itself to 
some historical fact he posits the Mdrchen, or simple tale, told 
only to amuse. The originals of the stories of Genesis are 
Mdrchen. The absence of the definite and concrete details 
which Skinner attributes to later idealization is explained on 
Gressmann's theory by the original literary species of the nar- 
ratives. On this view there is no "washing out of the historical 


background," because there was no historical background to 
wash out. Abraham was originally only a figure in a tale. The 
name is assumed to be a typical story-name like Hansel or Gretel 
in the German folk-tale. The theory is presented by Gressmann 
with great attractiveness, yet I cannot feel that it has the in- 
herent probability of Skinner's view. While the name Abram 
has been found in Babylonia as a personal name, it is found in 
Israel attached only to the one person. If it had been a current 
story-name among the old Hebrew tribes, would its use in later 
times have been so concentrated upon one particular Kindlein? 
There is also the undoubtedly historical name "field of Abra- 
ham," in the list of Sheshonk I., to be accounted for. The name 
here would seem to suggest a figure altogether too substantial 
to be originally woven out of the moonshine of a tale. 

It is of no great importance that a man by the name of Abraham 
should once have lived. But did the religion for which Abraham 
stands exist as early as the time of Abraham? This is the second 
question raised by Skinner, and it is the vital question. 

"The central idea of the patriarchal tradition," according to 
Skinner, "is the conviction in the mind of Israel that as a nation 
it originated in a great religious movement, that the divine call 
which summoned Abraham from his home and kindred, and 
made him a stranger and sojourner on the earth, imported a new 
era in God's dealings with mankind and gave Israel its mission 
in the world." Can this conception be adhered to? In answer- 
ing this question. Skinner falls back upon two a priori considera- 
tions, (a) If Abraham really "had the importance assigned to 
him, the fact is just of the kind to impress itself indelibly" upon 
the tradition. (6) "The appearance of a prophetic personality, 
such as Abraham is represented to have been, is a phenomenon 
with many analogies in the history of religion . . . and nothing for- 
bids us to see in Abraham the first of that long series of prophets 
through whom God has communicated to mankind a saving 
knowledge of himself. ... It is diflBcult to think that so powerful 
a conception has grown out of nothing." These considerations 
are interesting, but unless some foundation in historical fact can 
be secured for them they are unable to support a belief in the 
Abraham of the tradition. At this point a serious omission would 


appear to be revealed in Skinner's argument. Can a religious 
movement of such epoch-making character be understood in the 
historical situation in which the tradition places Abraham? 
To the question as to what that historical situation is. Skinner 
adverts at the outset of his discussion of the historical value of 
the tradition, but he does not discuss the real points at issue. 
Granted that the patriarchs were nomads, what kind of nomads 
were they? Were they exposed to influences from a higher 
civilization? If so, from what kind of a civilization? The first 
of these questions is not formally treated by Skinner anywhere 
in his book, so far as I have been able to observe, though inci- 
dental statements indicate his general views. The last two are 
discussed, but in a distinctly skeptical spirit. 

That the patriarchs are nomads in the tradition is clear. But 
there were nomads and nomads; and Eduard Meyer has pointed 
out two distinct classes." There were the nomads proper, the 
Bedouin, the wandering desert tribes that never settled down 
anywhere. There were also the semi-nomads who occasionally 
settled down for a time at this place or that, and thus formed a 
class between the Bedouin proper and the peasants, or settled 
agricultural communities. The Hebrews belonged to the latter 
class. This view has been adopted by Gunkel and Gressmann. 
But it makes some difference, as Eerdmans has remarked, upon 
which connection of the semi-nomads with the other two classes 
the emphasis is laid, whether upon their connection with the Bed- 
ouin (as in the view of Gunkel and Gressmann, following earlier 
critics) or (as by Eerdmans) with the peasants. The point is that 
if the Hebrews, being semi-nomads, are thought of as more closely 
connected with the settled population than with the Bedouin, their 
religious ideas are to be interpreted in the light of what we know 
about the religion of the settled peoples of pre-mosaic time, as 
well as in the light of conditions in the desert. In that case it is 
easier to assume that they were exposed to influences from foreign 
civilization, although these influences are by no means to be ex- 
cluded even in the case of the pure Bedouin themselves. 

Gunkel and Gressmann, on the other hand, interpret the legends 
of Genesis in their original forms by the light of strictly nomadic 
conditions. These are, indeed, reflected with remarkable fidelity 
'*Die Israeliten und ihre NachbarstBmme, p. 301, ff. 


in the stories of Genesis (after later deposits of thought have been 
removed). The stories reveal neither an agricultural religion 
(note the absence of the name Baal in Genesis as the name of a 
god) nor a religion of Jahveh (the name does not occur in the per- 
sonal names of the patriarchs) but a religion of El, which Gunkel 
distinctly characterizes as "extra-israelitic or at least pre-jahvistic 
in its origin." This nomadic religion is not influenced by Baby- 
lon, and the patriarchal stories differ remarkably in this respect 
from the international myths which underlie Genesis 1-11. Thus 
far it might seem as if Gunkel and Gressmann had returned to the 
original theory of Wellhausen, which starts with the nomads. 
But, if I understand them, this is not the case. In the first place 
they insist upon the great historical importance of these legends 
as actual reflections of the ancient nomad life and thought. Well- 
hausen, by bringing them down to the monarchical period, was 
led to deprive them of all historical value. In the next place, 
and this is of especial importance, Gunkel, at least, does not pro- 
pose to interpret early Israelitic religion necessarily in terms of 
the pre-israelitic nomadic religion. This would seem to be the 
implication of the following very important passage, which I 
venture to quote at length: 

Just at this point [in the history of the religion implied in the 
Genesis stories] it is important to remember the extra- and pre- 
israelitic origin of these narratives, and not to explain off hand 
that view of God which stands lowest as the oldest faith of historical 
Israel, transferring the higher idea of God, seen in the primeval 
history, to a late period. Rather, as Gressmann has properly ob- 
served, is it true that the religion of Genesis is not simply the 
religion of Israel. ... If we would recognize what is peculiarly 
Israelitic, we must not look to the bare material of the sagas, but 
to what Israel has made out of it, or to the history that it has under- 
gone in Israel. But for this the observation is decisive that Israel 
has stamped its Jahveh upon all the manifold ideas of God that 
have been handed down in the legendary material, and has thus 
harmonized the inner differences. How developed its idea of Jahveh 
was, is seen in the fact that Israel was able to subsume under it 
the Canaanitic- Babylonian gods of the primeval history. It is 
Jahveh, as the most ancient Israel was able to maintain, who brought 
the flood upon the whole earth and scattered all peoples in Babylon. 
Universalistic ideas, accordingly, must have belonged to the earUest 


religion of Israel. But beside these the ideas of an earlier stage of 
religion were not entirely forgotten. Otherwise the old legends 
would not have been retained, but would have been destroyed. 
Genesis shows us how the higher ideas struggled with the lower 
material and gradually reshaped it. 

This remarkable paragraph was not found in the second edi- 
tion of the commentary, but it illustrates how the principles 
adopted in the second edition have in the third worked them- 
selves out to their logical conclusion. In this conclusion the 
break with Wellhausen's view of the earliest stage of the religion 
of Isra«l is complete. Instead of interpreting that stage by 
nomadic conditions, the religion of Israel is sharply distinguished 
from the religion of the desert. The Isra«litic forms of the 
legends of Genesis must be differentiated from the primitive 
nomadic forms. The Israelitic forms contain a much higher type 
of religion. 

The question then arises. What was the occasion of this differ- 
ence.? It would seem to the present writer logical to deduce 
from the premises of the above paragraph a pretty substantial 

But if Moses, as the personal symbol of the early religion of 
Isra«l, is not to be explained out of nomadic conditions as these 
are sketched by Gunkel, but rather represents a contrast to them, 
how can we account for him? Were these universalistic con- 
ceptions his peculiar property.? Is he as entirely inexplicable as 
Amos is on Wellhausen's theory? Has Moses' religion no his- 
torical substratum? It is at this point that the pan-babylonians 
undertake to enlighten us. They refer to the tradition of a con- 
nection of Moses with Egypt on the one hand and with Midian 
(through Jethro) on the other. They also point to the really 
remarkable fact that Mount Sinai, the scene of the revelations 
to Moses, is almost certainly to be connected with the moon-god 
Sin, who was worshipped at Ur and Harran. But in all the re- 
ligion of these regions there are fairly distinct monotheistic ten- 
dencies which grow out of the ancient oriental astral conceptions. 
These tendencies, as Baentsch^^ pointed out in the remarkable 
pamphlet in which he broke with Wellhausen's construction 

" Altorientalischer und israelitischer Monotheismus, 1906. 


after having been one of its ablest defenders, would form just the 
basis required to make Moses historically intelligible. But were 
these tendencies entirely unknown among his own Hebrew tribes, 
at least among the higher spirits in those tribes? Here the tra- 
dition must be recalled which associates Abraham with Ur and 
Harran, that is, with great civilized centres where an astral 
(limar) monotheism seems to have been recognized. How does 
this tradition agree with Gunkel's and Gressmann's view of the 
purely nomadic conditions of the patriarchs? Can the tradition 
be trusted? 

We are now able to appreciate where the weakness in Skinner's 
argument for a nucleus of truth in the tradition of Abraham 
lies. Meyer denied the trustworthiness of the tradition that 
Abraham was associated with the great civilized cities of Mesopo- 
tamia. He gave more weight to the genealogy of Gen. 22 20-24, 
in which Abraham's brother Nahor is the father of the Aramaean 
nomads of the Syro-arabian desert, than to the tradition that 
connected Abraham's family with the Aramaeans of Mesopotamia. 
The latter tradition was held by Meyer to be due to J, who mis- 
understood the reference to Aramaeans. In that case the con- 
nection with Babylonia and Babylonian thought suggested by 
the tradition would be broken, and we should be thrown back 
on an undiluted nomadic theory of the old Hebrew tribes. Skinner 
follows Meyer (p. 334), and in so doing robs himself of the one 
piece of evidence that would give support to his a priori arguments 
for the historical significance of Abraham. If Abraham, or the 
religious movement for which he stands, can be connected with 
Mesopotamia, that movement is not to be interpreted solely in 
the light of conditions in the desert. The ancient oriental doc- 
trine must come into consideration. Skinner is very skeptical 
of those lines of connection which have been worked out by 
Winckler, Jeremias, Baentsch, and others, although he recog- 
nizes the "ingenuity and breadth of conception" of Winckler's 
interesting pamphlet Abraham ah Babylonier, Joseph als Aegypter 
(1903). He remarks, "It is not unfair to suggest that it rests 
mostly on a combination of things that are not in the Bible with 
things that are not in the monuments." This may be true of 
specific details of Winckler's theory; indeed Eerdmans had 


already dealt certain details of it some staggering blows. But 
these criticisms leave untouched the essential thing in Winckler's 

If it should be satisfactorily established that there was such a 
thing as an ancient oriental Weltanschauung in which there were 
latent monotheistic tendencies (and this appears to be more and 
more recognized), the tradition of the connection of Abraham 
with Ur and Harran would become of signal importance as an 
historical basis for belief in the possibility of a higher form of re- 
ligion among the pre-israelitic Hebrew tribes. That this tradi- 
tion can be eliminated in the way proposed by Meyer is seri- 
ously to be questioned. Gunkel, at this point more circumspect 
than Skinner, admits that the whole problem is not yet ripe for 
settlement, but suggests the possibility of a double tradition of the 
origin of the patriarchs. This is interesting; and especially if 
the semi-nomadic theory of the Hebrew tribes is admitted, and 
a consequent connection more or less close with civilized com- 
munities is recognized, it is easily conceivable that a strain of 
higher thought and religious experience could enter into and 
elevate the ordinary low levels of the nomadic mind. To hold 
with Jeremias that Abraham is a kind of mahdi and his journey 
from Harran a hijra is to give to his figure a tangibility which 
is unwarranted, but the connection between the Hebrew tribes 
and Babylon which is vouched for by the tradition of Abraham's 
journey from Ur does justify the supposition that there may have 
been in these tribes tendencies toward higher thought than has 
commonly been ascribed to them. 

With this we arrive at the last observation which I desire to 
make upon the present disposition to break away from the 
tradition of Wellhausen and the earlier critics. As late as 1906 
Wellhausen said: "Deep and thoroughgoing contradictions are 
present [in the Old Testament] and they compel the assumption 
of a development of the religion of Israel, more especially of 
the Mosaic cultus. They cannot be understood as coexisting 
phenomena, but only as successive phenomena, as phases of an 
historical process in the history of civilization."" As a general 
statement this is of course true. But the proposition has too 
" " Die israeljtjsch-judische Religion," in Die Kultur der Gegenwart, p. 4. 


often been construed to mean that there is a regular progress 
from lower to higher throughout the history. Such a con- 
ception smacks too much of the study and too little of real 
life. We are again indebted to Winckler for emphasizing an- 
other consideration, namely the distinction between the Biblical 
religion — the higher, prophetic religion — and the religion of the 
common people, which is every day revealed more clearly by 
the excavations in Palestine. The higher religion was present in 
a tolerably pronounced form from the beginning of the national 
life. How far it reached back into the pre-mosaic period it is 
impossible now to say with any certainty, though the considera- 
tions advanced above show that a pre-mosaic higher religion 
among the Hebrew tribes is by no means inconceivable. But 
that it was there when the tribes became a nation, the combined 
results of a study of the cuneiform texts and of the legends of 
Genesis are making every day more probable. This fact is recog- 
nized in express terms by Gunkel in the last sentences of the 
paragraph cited above, and is also hinted at as possible by Skinner 
when, in speaking of the higher conceptions of E as compared 
with J, he says, "We cannot tell how far such diflferences are 
due to the general social milieu in which the writers lived, and 
how far to esoteric tendencies of the circles to which they be- 
longed." I would strike out the word "esoteric," for the cham- 
pions of the higher religion of Israel, unlike the priesthoods of 
other nations, did not seek to keep their higher conceptions 
to themselves, but made them the common property of all the 

If I have presented fairly the tendencies in the recent criticism 
of Genesis, especially as represented in the work of Gunkel and 
Skinner, it is clear that there is more basis for the traditional 
view of the history of the religion of Israel than has been com- 
monly admitted by critical scholars of the past generation. But 
to urge this as an earnest of ultimate complete vindication for 
the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and of rehabilitation 
of the dogmatic conception of the Old Testament is to per- 
vert the results of scientific investigation. It seems to me that 
this is the mistake which such good fighters as Professor James 
Orr are making. Granted that Moses should be proved by 


historical evidence to be more of a prophet as well as more 
of a law-giver than Wellhausen allowed him to be, and that 
we may in time see the patriarchs as trees walking, these would 
be important and interesting historical facts, and every candid 
scholar ought to be glad to recognize them. The mistake of Dr. 
Orr lies in supposing that he can vindicate the dogmatic view 
of the Bible by shoring up the traditions at this or that point. 
This is impossible, and so keen a critic of others as Dr. Orr 
should be able to discover the weakness in his own position. 
The critical movement of the nineteenth century, as it culmi- 
nated in the reconstruction of the history of Israel, was inci- 
dentally a refutation of the old dogmatic conception of Scripture 
and a completely successful one. But because of this conflict 
the partisan of the victorious side is at times chary of conceding 
points to his old enemies. He is tempted, also, to be unduly 
skeptical of new truth which conflicts with his old theories, and 
this attitude is less excusable in a critical scholar than it is in 
an apologist. Happily, the commentaries of Professors Gunkel 
and Skinner show that with these scholars historical facts have 
more weight than academic traditions. 



When we turn from the first to the last book in the Hebrew 
Bible, we are conscious of a different religious climate. In Gene- 
sis we are in the uplands. The fresh air of the early dawn is 
blowing freely, and springs of living water are bubbling all about 
us. In Chronicles we seem to be in a low, flat land. The air 
has lost its tonic qualities, and the waters are stagnant and rather 
brackish to the taste. In Genesis religion is in the making; 
there is about it all the freedom and flexibility and joy of a new 
experience. In Chronicles religion is made, labelled, boxed, and 

" A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Chronicles. By 
Edward Lewis Curtis, Ph.D., D.D., Professor of the Hebrew Language and Lit- 
erature in the Divinity School of Yale University, and Albert Alonzo Madsen, 
Ph.D., Pastor of the First Congregational Church at Newburgh, N.Y. New 
York, 1910. 

[Professor Curtis's lamented death occurred after this review was in the 
editor's hands. — Ed.] 


preserved as an heirloom. The story-tellers of Genesis are 
serious, but they are poets. The Chronicler is serious too, but 
he is a pedant. It is little wonder, therefore, that the Chronicler's 
work has never proved a very attractive subject for study, and 
that the literature upon it, especially in English, is meagre. 

Yet these strictures upon the Chronicler tell only half the 
story. With all his literary infelicities, with all his theological 
pedantries and ethical platitudes, the Chronicler, or the school 
which he represents, has exerted a profound influence upon sub- 
sequent generations. It is his view of the ancient history of 
his people that has prevailed in synagogue and church down to 
the nineteenth century. His work has been a corner-stone of the 
dogmatic, as contrasted with the historical, interpretation of 
the religion of Israel. When one considers the poverty of expres- 
sion and lack of originality of this writer, the influence which he 
has been able to exert is truly astonishing. The fact of his in- 
fluence furnishes an interesting criterion for appraising the intel- 
lectual level of popular Judaism and popular Christianity. 

But it is only within comparatively recent years that the full 
significance of the Chronicler as the historian of dogmatic Judaism 
has begun to be appreciated. Since the translation (1876) of 
Zockler's commentary in Lange's series, the commentary of 
Professor Curtis is the only one in English which undertakes to 
treat in full the textual, critical, and historical problems of Chron- 
icles; for the commentaries on Chronicles in the Expositor's Bible 
(1894), the Cambridge Bible (1900), and the Century Bible (1906) 
are much more restricted in scope. The commentary of Dr. 
Curtis stands by itself, and is likely to retain this unique posi- 
tion for years to come. It is of importance, therefore, to under- 
stand the attitude which this commentary assumes toward the 
problems of Chronicles and the nature of the contribution which 
it makes to the solution of these problems. 

The great problems of Chronicles are the problems of its 
sources and of its historical trustworthiness. The problem of 
sources is twofold: the relation of the Chronicler to his known, 
canonical sources, and to his unknown, non-canonical sources. 
The question of his trustworthiness will largely depend on his 
relation to these two groups of sources. 


We are happily in possession of certain of the Chronicler's 
sources, notably the books of Samuel and Kings and the memo- 
rabilia of Ezra and Nehemiah. We are thus enabled to observe 
his methods in using sources. From the beginning of the critical 
movement the comparison of Chronicles with these sources oc- 
cupied much attention, and it soon revealed the fundamental 
difference between the Chronicler's representations of the pre- 
exilic history and the picture that we find in Samuel and Kings. 
In the earlier period of investigation the war was waged about 
the question whether these two pictures could be harmonized. 
Since Wellhausen's brilliant chapter on Chronicles in his Pro- 
legomena the impossibility of reconciling Chronicles with Samuel 
and Kings has been generally recognized, and the inevitable 
corollary to this conclusion was the further recognition of the 
unhistorical character of Chronicles taken as a whole. This 
result has formed an important part of the foundation in the 
critical reconstruction of the history of Israel and of Israel's 
religion. Wellhausen's work, which investigated primarily the 
relationship of Chronicles to its known sources, may therefore be 
considered to mark the end of the first great stage in the inter- 
pretation of the book. In the present commentary the conclu- 
sions of Wellhausen are unhesitatingly accepted, and the student 
will find in it no attempt to bolster up by harmonistic devices 
the Chronicler's picture of the pre-exilic history. But when the 
apologetic study of Chronicles has been discarded, the way is 
open for the true estimate of the work. Useless for throwing 
any additional light of importance upon the ancient history of 
Israel, the book becomes of the greatest value as a record of 
what those who lived in post-exilic times thought about that his- 
tory. Its interest lies in its unconscious contribution to our 
knowledge of the beliefs and practices of post-exilic Judaism. 

At this point a new critical problem emerges, namely, the 
relation of the Chronicler to other, unknown sources. Are the 
beliefs and practices reflected in his pages consistent or not.? 
In other words, is the Book of Chronicles homogeneous, the work 
of one man, or does it betray chronologically different points of 
view such as to imply a composite origin? For the purpose 
that Wellhausen had in view it was necessary only to compare 


Chronicles as a whole with Samuel and Kings. As contrasted 
with these books. Chronicles may be treated as a unity. At first 
sight, also, the markedly uniform and individual style that pre- 
vails in those sections of Chronicles not found in Samuel and 
Kings was most naturally explained as due to unity of author- 
ship. Accordingly, Wellhausen and many since his day, notably 
Driver, and in our own country Professor Torrey of Yale, have 
maintained the essential unity of Chronicles. 

But meanwhile another critical movement set in. It started 
from the Chronicler's own claim that he had used various sources 
which are not to be identified with our canonical sources. It 
is at present conceded on all hands that the imposing critical 
apparatus which the Chronicler purports to have had at his com- 
mand (he cites some twenty works by name) is illusory, and 
that all may be reduced to two or three at the most. Of these 
residuary sources the main one would seem to be a history of the 
kings of Israel and Judah, not to be confounded with our ca- 
nonical Kings, but a work of distinctly midrashic character. Did 
the Chronicler simply refer to this uncanonical work as an au- 
thority or did he actually copy out of it as he did out of Samuel 
and Kings? In the latter event can any of this work be identified 
in the present book of Chronicles? 

In 1834 Movers advanced the view that most of the matter 
peculiar to Chronicles came from this midrashic source. His 
theory did not seem to attract much attention until in 1899 it 
was revived in a new form by Biichler in two articles of great 
suggestiveness in the Zeitschrift filr alttestamentliche Wissen- 
schaft entitled "The Histoiy of the Temple Music and the Temple 
Psalms." Benzinger in Marti's Kurzer Hand-Commentar (1901) 
and Kittel in Nowack's Handkommentar (1902) carried the in- 
vestigations of Biichler still further. They eliminated some of 
his more extreme contentions, but adopted his view that the 
main extra-canonical source or sources could be distinguished 
with tolerable certainty. They also thought that they could 
point out a good many glosses, or even accretions of greater length, 
to the Chronicler's own work. 

The difference between the position of Wellhausen and his 
followers and the position of Biichler, Benzinger, and Kittel is 


of far more importance than one might at first suppose. The 
former critics see in the Chronicler an author. The latter see 
in him a compiler. The first position, paradoxical as it may sound 
to say so, is the more radical position. If the Chronicler is an 
author, and if it is impossible to distinguish any sources in his 
work apart from the well-known canonical sources, the tendency 
is to regard his work as pure invention. Torrey carries out this 
view to its logical limit. For him the Chronicler is one of the 
most famous novelists in literature, a veritable Defoe in his 
ability to give the air of reality to imaginary history. Further, 
on the supposition that the work is a literary unity, the in- 
ternal discrepancies and discords which have been urged in favor 
of its composite character become so many additional charges 
against the trustworthiness and literary ability of the author. 
On the other theory of the book, a far longer historical per- 
spective is opened up. The work is given a deeper and richer 
background. It becomes a living organism whose growth covers 
a considerable period of time. On this theory, the lack of 
coherence in the book is not chargeable so much to the want of 
literary skill in the writer as to the constantly fluctuating condi- 
tions of the post-exilic period which his various sources reflect. 
On the compilatory theory, provided it can be established, it 
is evident that the good faith of the Chronicler can be more 
easily vindicated and his work made to yield a richer har- 
vest of historical results than on the theory of the unity of 
his book. It is quite conceivable that, if the Chronicler is 
relying on written sources, some of the things which he con- 
tributes may have floated down out of the past; and though they 
may be only the wreckage of veritable history, it might still be 
worth while to attempt to rescue them from the current of tra- 
dition in which they are found. Flotsam cast up by the tide 
sometimes has real interest and value. In other words, the way 
is opened to do for the legends of Chronicles what Gunkel and 
his school are doing for the legends of Genesis. This attempt 
would be justified even if nothing but oral tradition were behind 
the present form of the narratives, but the existence of preceding 
written documents would tend to give more solidity to the tra- 
dition. The theory of Torrey would in principle seem to deny 


all right to try to discover any nucleus of historical fact in the 
Chronicler's stories. In this connection it is interesting to ob- 
serve how much more inclined to find historical reminiscences 
back of the Chronicler's narratives Benzinger and Kittel are 
than was Wellhausen. 

The position of Curtis on these controverted topics, which 
governs all his exegesis, is best stated in his own words: 

In regard to the literary structure of 1 and 2 Chronicles I 
cannot follow the view of those who regard the author throughout 
as a mere copyist, nor yet of those who hold that apart from his 
Old Testament quotations he composed freely with no recourse 
for information to other written sources. I have given the view 
of a free composition but allowed a recourse to non-canonical 
written sources. 

Theoretically, this is certainly the most reasonable position to 
adopt. Practically, the all-important question is, upon which 
element in the last sentence quoted the emphasis falls, upon 
"free composition" or "written sources." In fact, the emphasis 
certainly falls upon "free composition," and the consequence is 
that the yield of historical material is comparatively poor. It 
is somewhat more abundant than Wellhausen's gleanings, but not 
so large as Kittel's or Benzinger's. Historical reminiscences are 
found at 2 Chron. 26 (Uzziah), 28 17 ff. (invasion of Edomites 
and Philistines in the reign of Ahaz), 2 Chron. 33 (the captivity, 
but not the repentance, of Manasseh), and a few passages else- 
where. I am inclined to think that somewhat more pre-exilic 
history, admittedly of the conjectural sort, may possibly be 
elicited from these stories in the future. For example, in the 
Chronicler's treatment of the reign of Ahaz we have a classic 
illustration of midrash. But in addition to the historical remi- 
niscence preserved in 28 17 ff. I would suggest that there is an 
historical background even in vss. 9-15. At first sight this 
description of the return of Jewish captives on the suggestion of 
the prophet Oded seems to be pure Tendenz. But the so-called 
Syro-ephraimitic war was an anti-jewish demonstration inti- 
mately connected with the anti-assyrian policy of Israel and the 
pro-assyrian policy of Judah. When Tiglath Pileser came on 


the scene, Hoshea seized the throne with the support of the 
Assyrian king, slew Pekah, and gained the upper hand in Israel. 
This meant that a pro-assyrian party now controlled the poli- 
cies of Israel. It would be very natural for such a party to 
attempt to re-establish friendly relations with pro-assyrian 
Judah, and vss. 9-15 may well be a distorted reminiscence of 
such a change in the politics of the northern kingdom. 

But the historical significance of the Chronicler does not lie in 
the few kernels of historical fact that he may have preserved 
out of the period of the monarchy in addition to what is already 
found in Samuel and Kings. It rather lies in the way he has 
served up these kernels to us. He has disguised them by a kind 
of levitical sauce which seems to have been greatly relished in 
the post-exilic period. This garnishing is the thing of real impor- 
tance in the Chronicler's work. The levitical revision of the old 
material and the genealogies which introduce it reflect more or 
less accurately the politico-ecclesiastical organization of the post- 
exilic community and are therefore of the greatest historical 
interest. But it is just at this point that the problem of sources, 
especially the relationship of the Chronicler to his uncanonical 
sources, becomes acute. Have we in Chronicles a homogeneous 
work, and is the picture of the post-exilic period which we find 
reflected in its pages a consistent picture? Or have we before us 
a compilation, and is the picture which it reflects a moving picture, 
changing with the changing times in which its various sources 
were composed? In order to illustrate the method and results of 
Curtis's work, I shall take a cross-section out of his commentary 
in which the passages bearing on the history of the musical guilds 
are discussed. These passages furnish, perhaps, the strongest 
evidence for the composite character of Chronicles. 

(1) One of the linguistic evidences for a source adduced by 
Biichler is in the varying use of the word "trumpet." The word 
is found nineteen times in Chronicles (three instances in Ezra- 
Nehemiah being included), and regularly these instruments are 
assigned to the priests, while cymbals, psalteries, and harps are 
assigned to the levites. The Chronicler is scrupulous in distrib- 
uting the musical instruments always in the same way and evi- 
dently attached much importance to this exact distribution. In 


three passages '* the Chronicler is obviously glossing his known 
sources. In the sources the reference is to lay music. But the 
Chronicler, as the contexts show, modulates it into a levitical 
key. Here, then, are two fixed facts, first, the consistent view of 
the trumpet in Chronicles as a priestly instrument and, secondly, 
the demonstrable glossing in a levitical interest of a known source 
which originally referred to lay music. From these premises 
Biichler argues that in the two passages in Chronicles where 
"trumpets" are found in the hands of the laity, we really have 
the Chronicler's source and not the Chronicler himself. If the 
position of Biichler should be accepted, a point of considerable 
importance in its bearing on the history of the temple music 
would be established. 

In the first of these passages (2 Chron. 20), if vs. 28 is inter- 
preted by vs. 27, the reference is to lay music. But at vs. 19 
there is a reference to levitical musicians ^° which tends to reflect 
a different meaning upon what follows. Verse 19, however, is a 
parenthesis, the subject of vs. 20 going back to vs. 18. Biichler 
argues that parenthesis is here equivalent to interpolation. In 
other words, we have at 2 Chron. 20 an analogy to the passages 
cited above,— a source (this time the uncanonical source) in which 
the original reference was to lay music, glossed by the Chronicler 
in a levitical interest. This conclusion is corroborated by the 
word rinna translated "sing" at vs. 22, a word found but 
once again in Chronicles and there copied from the source (2 
Chron. 6 19 = 1 Eangs 8 28). Since the Chronicler is most con- 
sistent in his use of musical terms, the occurrence of this word 
only here outside of the passage copied from Kings is held to 

i» I Chron. 15 28 = 2 Sam. 6 15; 1 Chron. 13 8 = 2 Sam. 6 5; 2 Chron. 
23 13 = 2 Kings 11 14. 

"In the commentary at p. 7 the "singers or musicians" are mentioned but 
I have observed no discussion of the exact force of the Hebrew word (meshorer) 
regularly translated in the R. V. by " singer." I am persuaded that a more accu- 
rate translation would be "musician." The question has a bearing upon the his- 
tory of temple psalmody. If we translate by "singer," we naturally think of 
psalms; if by "musicians," we think more of instrumental music, though psalmody 
is not necessarily excluded. But the emphasis of the Chronicler's evidence for 
psalmody would be quite different if "musician" were substituted in each case 
for "singer." Especially at 2 Chron. 29 28 there is no discussion of the very doubt- 
ful translation of hashshir meshorer by "the singers sang." 


betray a source. In the second passage where "trumpets" are 
found in the hands of the laity (2 Chron. 15 14) they are asso- 
ciated with "cornets." Now the word "cornet" is found again 
only at 1 Chron. 15 28, where it is borrowed from Samuel. This 
suggests that at 2 Chron. 15 14, where lay trumpets and cornets 
are combined, we are also dealing with a source. 

Curtis treats this argument of Biichler as follows, (a) The 
introduction of levites at 2 Chron. 20 19 is held to be "natural 
in connection with the praise to Jehovah, since the assembly is 
in the court of the temple." No notice is taken of the paren- 
thetical character of vs. 19. (b) The peculiar construction of 
rinna at vs. 22 is discussed, but not the singularity of its occur- 
rence, (c) The use of "trumpets" at 2 Chron. 15 14 is cited as 
one evidence among others of the Chronicler's style, whereas the 
point of Btichler's argument is that the use of the word here is 
in striking contrast with the Chronicler's use of it elsewhere.^" 

(2) 2 Chron. 5 llb-l3a is an obvious interpolation between 
1 Kings 8 lOa and lOb. The source speaks of no levitical music. 
The scene here described occurs before Solomon's prayer of dedi- 
cation. Then follows the prayer (1 Kings 8 12-53=2 Chron. 
6 1-42). At the end of the prayer the scene at the beginning 
is repeated in Chronicles (not in Kings), that is, 2 Chron. 7 1-3, 
which follows the prayer, is the equivalent of 2 Chron. 5 lla, 
I3b-l4 = l Kings 8 10-11 which precedes the prayer. The dupli- 
cation is unnatural; the two consecrations of the temple by the 
cloud negative each other. Bertheau long ago suggested that 
in 7 1-3 the Chronicler was following another source, and a new 
confirmation of this view was found by Buchler in the fact that 
at 2 Chron. 7 1-3 it is the laity, not the levites, who take part 
in the music. But at 7 4-6 = 1 Kings 8 62-63 the levitical music 

^"Curiously enough on p. 30 where the word "trumpets" is cited as a charac- 
teristic of the Chronicler, and all the cases of its occurrence are supposed to be 
given, 2 Chron. 15 14 is unfortunately omitted. In the same list the use of the 
word at 2 Kings 11 14 = 2 Chron. 23 13 is set off by itself as a "general use" 
(lay music?). This is true in the case of Kings but it is not true in the case of 
Chronicles. The relationship between the two passages in their use of the word 
"trumpets" is precisely the same as at 1 Chron. 15 28 = 2 Sam. 6 IS, where the 
trumpets are properly classified in the list as priestly, in spite of the fact that in 
Samuel the reference is to lay music. The analysis of the usage at this point 
must be considered misleading. 


is again interpolated (vs. 6). The distraction between sources, 
which either did not refer to music at all (Kings), or only re- 
ferred to lay music (2 Chron. 7 1-3, an uncanonical source), 
and the Chronicler, who emphasized levitical music, would here 
seem to be obvious. 

Curtis replies that "the Chronicler could have invented this 
narrative (7 1-3), even as he added the miraculous fire at 1 Chron. 
21 26 = 2 Sam. 24 25." The resort to "invention" at this point 
in order to avoid the admission of sources is not convincing. If 
1 Chron. 21 is also ascribed to the Chronicler, he must be held 
to have invented the same scene twice, and in the second instance 
he would have brought himself very unnecessarily into conflict 
with the narrative in Kings which he was following. This pro- 
cedure, which would be most artificial if the Chronicler were 
inventing, woidd be quite intelligible if he were following sources 
and wished, so far as he was able, to preserve all the traditions, 
even when they varied. The argument of Curtis might be 
reversed and 2 Chron. 7 1-3 might rather be utilized as evidence 
that 1 Chron. 21 with which it agrees is also a source. For this 
view a new consideration may be urged. When the Chronicler 
transcribes Samuel and Kings, he usually does so almost verba- 
tim (cf. 2 Chron. 10 = 1 Kings 12), the variations being almost 
always in the nature of tendency-glosses. But at times he varies 
considerably from these sources, when Tendenz is not so notice- 
able. Benzinger reasserts the canon of Movers that where the 
Chronicler departs from Samuel and Kings in a parallel account 
without the Tendenz of the differences being obvious, he is prob- 
ably following a source intermediate between the canonical source 
and himself. 1 Chron. 21 is an excellent illustration of such a 

In the above instances we are dealing with narrative sections. 
In these and similar instances, where sources are inferred by 
Buchler, Benzinger, and Kittel, Curtis falls back upon the argu- 
ment from style in opposition to the argument from content. 
But the argument from style in the present discussion is a double- 
edged weapon. On the one hand it must be freely admitted that 
the style of the Chronicler is uniform. No evidence for sources 
can be drawn from it except in a few cases like the use of the 


word for trumpets. On the other hand, if the Chronicler is a 
compiler, and the main portion of Chronicles is really taken 
from his uncanonical source, then the style of the Chronicler is 
resolved into the style of his source. Curtis expressly admits this 
difficulty (preface, pp. vii ff .). It is probably because of the ten- 
tative character of the entire discussion that he has regularly 
quoted the statements of Benzinger and Kittel in full in each 
important case where the assumption of sources is made by these 
writers. This fulness and fairness in the treatment of the views 
of those who differ from him is one of the greatest merits of 
Curtis's commentary. The student is thus aided to an impartial 

(3) It is when we turn from the narrative sections to the genea- 
logical sections that the failure of our author to recognize fully 
the composite character of Chronicles seems to the present reviewer 
most unfortunate.^^ It is in the discussion of the genealogies 
that the resources of a commentator on Chronicles are put to the 
severest test. These lists of names, which fill so large a part 
of the Chronicler's work, and which at first sight seem so unprom- 
ising, can often be made to yield most interesting historical ma- 
terial. This is especially true if the composite character of the 
genealogies is admitted. As an illustration of what is involved 
in the study of these genealogies and of the consequences of Cur- 
tis's failure to recognize the sources, I have selected his treatment 
of 1 Chron. 6. This chapter furnishes the key to the history 
of the temple musical guilds, and is of the greatest interest and 
historical importance. The chapter falls into the following 

(a) Vss. 1-15, a genealogy of high priests from Aaron to the 
Babylonian exile. 

(b) Vss. 16-30, a genealogy of the levitical families, Gershom, 
Kohath, and Merari. 

(c) Vss. 31-47, a genealogy of the three eponyms of the musical 
guilds, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan. 

^' According to the preface, Professor Curtis's co-worker. Dr. Madsen, has 
contributed especially to the genealogical sections of the commentary, the treat- 
ment of 1 Chron. 21-29, in particular, having formed the subject of his doctor's 


{d) Vss. 48, 49, the duties of priests and levites. 

(e) Vss. 50-53, a genealogy of high priests from Aaron to 
Ahimaaz (a contemporary of David). 

(/) Vss. 54-81, a list of levitical (including priestly) cities, taken 
from Josh. 21. 

The first thing that strikes the attention is the unnatural 
duplication of the genealogy of high priests (a and e). Both of 
these lists cannot be original. Benzinger and Kittel reject the 
first list as the later accretion; Curtis rejects the second.^^ Ben- 
zinger and Kittel appeal to the formal infelicity of vs. 1 before 
vs. 16; Curtis, to the formal infelicity of vss. 50-53 in their pres- 
ent context. This has not been sufficiently recognized by Ben- 
zinger and Kittel, but it is certainly not so obvious as is the 
awkwardness of vs. 1 before vs. 16. Benzinger and Kittel sug- 
gest as a motive for the later insertion of the first list the desire 
to carry down to the exile the genealogy (vss. 50-53), which 
originally only ran to the time of David. Curtis suggests as a 
motive for the insertion of the second list the desire of a scribe 
to incorporate it because he thought it proper that a list of priests 
should follow a statement of their duties. The motive suggested 
for the later insertion of the first list is far more intelligible. 
By eliminating list (e) instead of list (a) from the original geneal- 
ogy, one of the important clues to the interpretation of the 
chapter is lost. This clue is the fact that list (e) ends with a 
contemporary of David. 

The next thing that strikes the attention is that the genealogies 
of levitical families, Gershom, Kohath, and Merari (vss. 16-80), 
are repeated and enlarged in the genealogies of the eponyms of 
the musical guilds, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan (vss. 31-47). 

*^ Curtis argues that if vss. 50-53 were omitted, we should have a sort of chi- 
astic arrangement, which he holds to be characteristic of the Chronicler elsewhere, 
e.g. genealogy of priests and genealogy of levites, duties of levites and duties of 
priests, cities of priests and cities of levites. This arrangement assumes that 
vss. 64-81 stand in the order originally intended by the Chronicler. This cannot 
for a moment be admitted. A glance at Josh. 21 shows how senseless is the pres- 
ent order of 1 Chron. 6 54-81. This chiastic arrangement of the material is also 
supposed to be followed in chaps. 23-27 (cf. p. 260). It is assumed at this point 
in order to avoid the admission of the composite character of these chapters, but 
the assumption is most artificial and unsatisfactory. 



The following tabular arrangement of the chapter, based on 
Kittel, in which the guild genealogies (B, D, F) are placed in 
parallelism with their corresponding family genealogies (A, C, E) 
will make this clear. 







(6 20 f.) 

(6 39-43) 

(6 22-24, 25-28) 

(6 33-38) 







Amminadab (Izhar) 


























B'. Melchiah 





D''. Elkanah 





O*. Elkanah 



Amasai Ahimoth 













(6 29 f.) 

(6 44-47) 


























Into all the intricate text-critical questions of these lists it is 
unnecessary for our purposes to go, but, when certain necessary 
emendations ^ have been made, the following equations are ac- 
cepted by Curtis as well as by his predecessors: B^=A; D^=CS 

^^ The most important of these, which are generally accepted, are (a) the trans- 
position of Jahath and Shimei in B, thus showing that there was a variation in 
the tradition as to which of the sons of Gershom (Libni or Shimei, cf. vs. 17) stood 
at the head of the pedigrees A and B; (J) the deletion of Assir and Elkanah in C ; 
(c) the substitution of Izhar for Amminadab in C, the error being due to a remi- 
niscence of Ex. 6 23 (cf. the context); id) the emendation in vs. 26a to "Elkanah, 
his son," i.e. son of Ahimoth, instead of the present text. The genealogy repre- 
sented by C^ (vss. 25-28) is really a second genealogy traced back to Elkanah 
and down to Joel, the son of Samuel the prophet, and not a continuation of C. 


and 02 = 0. (For the relationship of F to E, see below.) Now 
the crucial point in the interpretation of the family genealogies, 
A, C, E, lies in the answer to the question. Why do these gene- 
alogies leave off where they do, at Jeaterai, Shaul, and Asaiah.!" 
The answer to this question will depend on our answer to the 
preliminary question, Are Jeaterai and Shaul original at the end 
of A and Ci? 

In place of Jeaterai (A) we find Ethni in B^ Ethni is cer- 
tainly a corruption of Ethan. Benzinger, Kittel, and Curtis all 
refuse to decide between Ethni-Ethan and Jeaterai, though 
they all hold that there is corruption here. But as Jeaterai 
is a wholly unintelligible name, occurring only here, the chances 
are that it is a corruption of Ethni-Ethan rather than the reverse. 
But it is not probable that Ethan itself was original in A. It is 
noticeable that Ethan has once before in B taken the place of 
Joah in A. It might be possible that Ethan was again substi- 
tuted, in the second case of its occurrence in B, either for Joah or 
for a name that looks like Joah and that could easily be confused 
with it. At 7 3 we actually find a certain Joel the son of Izrahiah 
(another form of Zerah).^ This would suggest that Joel was 
the original name at the end of A. Joel then became corrupted 
to Joah, and Ethan was substituted twice for Joah in list B. In 
the second case Ethan (Ethni) worked back into A in the cor- 
rupted form of Jeaterai, a complicated but entirely normal 
instance of progressive corruption of the text, every step of 
which is intelligible.^^ 

In C^ Uzziah is undoubtedly the same as Azariah of D^ the 
same king being called by these two names, 2 Kings 15, Isa. 
6 1. Shaul is usually equated with Joel. This leaves Uriel 
=Zephaniah unaccounted for. But Uriel is even more easily 
confused with Joel than is Shaul. I would suggest that there 
has been an accidental transposition in C^, and that the last 
three names in this list should be read in the order Shaxil (?), 

^* That 7 3 is dealing with Issacharites, not Levites, is of no consequence when 
one remembers how these names are shuffled about in Chronicles. Cf. 7 7 with 
25 4. 

'^ Benzinger conjectures that an original Joel at the end of A has been omitted. 
This would be less probable. 


Uzziah, Uriel (Joel).^' These suggested emendations are re- 
markably confirmed, and at the same time the clue is furnished 
to the interpretation of the family genealogies (A, C, E), by 
1 Chron. 15. This chapter is nearly related in several ways to 
1 Chron. 6. Benzinger pointed out that the Asaiah who is the 
representative of Merari at the transportation of the ark (15 6) 
must be the Asaiah at the end of E. At 15 5, 7 Uriel is the rep- 
resentative of Kohath and Joel of Gershom. These names corre- 
spond exactly to the names which we have conjecturally placed 
at the end of C and A. 

If the reader has threaded his way through the above argu- 
ment, his patience will be rewarded, for the aim of the family 
genealogies in chapter 6 now becomes clear. They seek to bring 
down the levitical pedigrees to the time of David, in harmony with 
what we have seen to be the more original list of high priests 
(vss. 50-53). Each list closes with the name of a contemporary 
of David (Ahimaaz the priest, Joel the Gershomite, Uriel the 
Kohathite, and Asaiah the Merarite)." In other words, these 
family genealogies have an independent significance. When 
this is once recognized the critical relationship of the guild gene- 
alogies (B, D, F) to the family genealogies (A, C, E) is also per- 
ceived. It is the purpose of the guild genealogies to establish 
the levitical descent of the musical guilds. This they do by 
attaching themselves to levitical family genealogies already in 
existence. This means that the family genealogies are older 
than the guild genealogies. But the chronological difference 
in the two sets of genealogies naturally means a difference in 
literary origin. This conclusion is borne out by the further fact 
that the guild genealogies are based, not on the exact form of 
the family genealogies found in chapter 6, but on a variant tra- 
dition of these genealogies. This is clearly seen (a) in the fact that 
A traces the genealogy through Libni, while B traces it through 

^*2 Chron. 29 12 has the Azariah-Joel of D'. But as Uriel is the rarer name, 
it is much more Hkely that it was original and that the more usual Joel was sub- 
stituted for it. 

^' By accepting with Curtis the first list of high priests, which brings the pedi- 
gree down to the exile, as the more original, the aim of the chapter would seem to 
be violated. 


his brother Shimei; (6) in the fact that F does not correspond at 
all to E, as we should expect it to do; and (c) in the very different 
chronological implications of the two sets of genealogies. While 
the family genealogies imply only eight or nine generations 
between Aaron and David, the guild genealogies put from thirteen 
to twenty-one generations into the same period, (d) Finally, 
when the subject of the general section, chapters 1-9, is examined, 
the guild genealogies are seen to be out of topical connection 
with the context. From every point of view, therefore, vss. 
31-47, which contain the guild genealogies, are to be considered 
an accretion. 

Now it is conceivable that the Chronicler himself, who is espe- 
cially interested in the temple music, added the guild genealogies 
to the family genealogies which had come to him from tradition, 
written or oral. In that case we should find here another instance 
in which the Chronicler had interpolated his levitical music into 
his source. But two considerations are opposed to this view, (a) 
1 Chron. 6 16-30 is an integral part of the great section, chapters 
1-9. This section is in all probability the work of the Chronicler. 
It follows that if vss. 31-47 are an addition to vss. 16-30, they 
must be later than the Chronicler, (b) This is confirmed by the 
position assigned to Heman in the guild genealogies. Here we 
arrive at a very interesting fact revealed in these genealogies. 
Everywhere else in the Bible, except at 1 Chron. 15, Asaph either 
stands alone or is placed first in the references to the singers. 
In chapter 6 Heman stands first .^* Not only so but he traces his 
descent from the priestly family of Kohath, and even claims the 
great prophet Samuel as his ancestor. These facts combine to 
push Heman into the position of greatest prominence. This 
is not accidental but intended; the artificiality of the guild 
genealogies, admitted on all hands, proves motive. If these 
genealogies were real genealogies, motive could not be imputed 
to them, but we can see how the Hemanite genealogy, D^ and 

^' It is true that Kohath, the priestly as well as levitical family from which 
Heman claims descent, sometimes precedes Gershom, the oldest-bom, but this is 
not the regular order, notably not in vss. 16-30 (another evidence of their critical 
distinction from vss. 31-47), and, as stated above, only here and at chap. 15 does 
the Kohathite guild of Heman precede the Gershomite guild of Asaph. 


D^, is formed by simply adding the parallel genealogies C and 
C^ together, so that Samuel is appropriated at the same time 
as an ancestor of Heman. Artifice that results in a certain 
definite thing, namely, the exaltation of Heman, must be pur- 
posed, and the guild genealogies of chapter 6 therefore reflect a 
time in which Heman had superseded Asaph. But a study of 
Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles shows very clearly that whether 
the Chronicler knew of these three guilds or not, he certainly 
did not regard Heman as the chief guild. Here, then, would 
seem to be proof of the strongest character that vss. 31-47 are 
later than the time of the Chronicler. This conclusion is at once 
seen to have the most important bearing upon the history of the 
development of the musical guilds.^' 

If the above criticism of chapter 6 is accepted, the treatment 
of the chapter in Curtis's commentary must be regarded as 
wholly inadequate. At three points in particular the positions 
adopted in the commentary seem to the present reviewer to be 
irreconcilable with the real significance of this chapter, (a) 
The elimination of the second list of high-priests, from Aaron 
to David, instead of the first list, (b) The failure to bring out 
the independent significance of the family genealogies, which 
almost certainly were intended to carry the pedigrees down to 
the time of David. These genealogies are treated as the equiv- 
alents of the guild genealogies. The Gershomite genealogy is 
actually called a fragment of the Asaphite genealogy. The break 
in the Kohathite genealogy at vs. 25 is observed, but the fact 
that we are here dealing with a parallel line is not brought out, 
and the Kohathite genealogy is treated as a unit on the basis of 
vss. 33-38, and hence regarded as a duplicate pedigree of Heman. 
In reality it is a double genealogy of Shaul-Uriel (CO and of 
Joel the son of Samuel (C^). The difficulty of Curtis's method 
of treating the family genealogies is fully revealed in the geneal- 

^' In the above the criticism of Benzinger and Kittel has been followed in the 
main, but the attempt has been made to formulate their positions somewhat more 
precisely and to strengthen them at certain points. The difference between the 
name Ethan for the third guild in chaps. 6 and 15, as contrasted with Jeduthuu 
elsewhere, properly enters into the discussion, and furnishes another argument 
for the later date of 6 31-47. But the treatment of this point would lead us too 
far afield. 


ogy of Merari. "This pedigree," he says, "should present a line 
of descent of Ethan, but a close similarity of names is wanting. 
Still they have been held sufficiently alike [by Bertheau] to war- 
rant this inference." This is anything but convincing. The 
fact is that the family genealogies when construed as guild gene- 
alogies are entirely meaningless. Twice Curtis seems on the 
point of recognizing what the present reviewer thinks is the true 
situation. On page 132 the identification of Asaiah at the end of 
list E with the Asaiah of 1 Chron. 15 6, suggested by Benzinger 
and in reality the clue to these genealogies, is tentatively allowed. 
Again on page 134 it is said that the guild genealogies are probably 
dependent upon the family genealogies, "which originally may 
have been of Levites not classified as singers," and on page 135, 
"the Chronicler may have utilised some current genealogies of 
the singers to supplement the Levitical tables of 6 20 ff." But 
these clues are not followed up, and are really in no organic con- 
nection with the general interpretation given of the chapter 
(pp. 130-135). (c) In the third place the intention to exalt 
Heman is denied. It is urged that Heman is not called chief, 
that Asaph's descent is traced from Gershom, who is the oldest 
son, and that he is given a place of honor on the right hand. 
But unfortunately it is at the right hand of Heman! The fact 
that Asaph is traced to Gershom is an interesting reminiscence 
of the orginal position of Asaph. Since Heman is placed first, 
it is not necessary to speak of him as chief. This attempt to 
deny the pre-eminence of Heman is probably due to the desire 
to save the passage to the Chronicler, whose authorship is urged 
on the basis of the names in the guild genealogies which are fre- 
quently found elsewhere in the Chronicler's writings, and on 
the ground of the style at vss. 31-33a, which point to the conclu- 
sion that "these genealogies of the singers were composed by 
the Chronicler or in his day." I should certainly choose the 
latter alternative; only I would stretch the term "day" so as to 
cover a somewhat longer period of time than Curtis probably 

The same aversion to the admission of a composite structure 
in Chronicles stands in the way of an adequate interpretation 
of 1 Chron. 25 (the musical courses) and of 1 Chron. 15-16. In 


the latter case a harmonistic method is employed ia the inter- 
pretation of the chapter which might be justified if it were not for 
the testimony of the other musical passages, especially 1 Chron. 
6. Curtis accepts, indeed, interpolation at 15 19-21, 23, 24b, 
yet holds that the difference between vss. 18b and 24 on the one 
hand, in which Obed-Edom and Jeiel are gate-keepers, and vss. 
21 and 23 on the other, in which Obed-Edom and Jeiel are singers 
and Berechiah and Elkanah are gate-keepers, is due to a mis- 
understanding of vs. 18 by the interpolator. Benzinger and 
Kittel hold that the difference is due to the changes in organiza- 
tion in the temple musical guilds. 

It will be seen that the present reviewer strongly inclines to 
the compilatory theory of Chronicles, and therefore has felt com- 
pelled to express his dissent from the positions taken in the com- 
mentary in a number of crucial passages. But he would not 
leave the impression upon the reader's mind that this work, 
which was completed with heroic perseverance under the most 
trying circumstances, is of relatively small importance. On the 
contrary, in its exhaustive text-critical apparatus, in its wealth 
of material, archaeological, exegetical, and critical, in which it 
far surpasses its two recent German competitors (Benzinger 
and Kittel), in its clear presentation and scrupulous objectivity, 
giving to views of the school of criticism it opposes a fair and full 
presentation, the commentary of Professor Curtis will remain 
for years to come the standard English commentary on Chroni- 
cles, and will worthily take its place among the most indispen- 
sable volumes of the International Critical Commentary. 



The problems connected with the Psalter are endless, but those 
most assiduously discussed during the past twenty-five years 
may be grouped under four heads: (1) the historical question 
of the origin of the Psalter as a collection, (2) the question of 
the origin of the individual psalms, (3) the literary question of 
the nature of Hebrew poetry, with its necessary accompaniment 
of problems in textual criticism, and (4) the exegetical question 
concerning the speaker in the psalms, whether the "I" of the 
Psalter has an individual or a collective reference. The scholar 
who can answer these questions successfully must be possessed 
of an historical sense, a literary feeling, and an exegetical tact 
of a very high order. Since the psalms are hymns, and as such 
for the most part deal only with generalized or idealized experi- 
ences, the problem of their date and place in the development of 
the religion of Israel is a singularly complicated one. The dating 
of the psalms must rest on established dates in the rest of Hebrew 
literature, and one who undertakes the criticism of the Psalter 
must have a very clear and well-balanced conception of the 
problems of the religion of Israel. Without it the attempt to 
discuss, for instance, the tradition of the Davidic authorship 
of the psalms, or even their pre-exilic origin, would lead to no 
secure results. Again, the question of the nature of Hebrew 
poetry and its bearing upon textual criticism is one of the most 
vexed questions of Old Testament study. Few combine a gift 
for textual criticism with a fine literary sense. Finally, the 
problem of the nature of the speaker in the Psalter is one of the 
most fascinating and important, but at the same time one of 
the most delicate of exegetical problems. 

The literature upon these various subjects, unlike the literature 
upon Chronicles, is enormous; but the recent commentaries, with 
which the work of Dr. Briggs would naturally be compared, are 

^"A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms. By 
Charles Augustus Briggs, D.D., D.Litt., Professor of Theological Encyclopaedia 
and Symbolics, Union Theological Seminary, New York, and Emily Grace Briggs, 
B.D. Two volumes. New York, 1906, 1907. 


those of Baethgen in the Handkommentar, Duhm in the Kurzer 
Hand-Commentar, and Kirkpatrick in the Cambridge Bible. The 
first of these is marked by solid learning, clear exposition, and a 
commendable agnosticism in the matter of dating the psalms, but 
is perhaps too cautious in its textual criticism, and it is in no sense 
a creative work. Kirkpatrick's commentary belongs to the more 
elaborate and ambitious commentaries in the Cambridge Bible. 
It is clear and informing on its exegetical side, though largely an 
echo of Baethgen, but seems to be distinctly defective in its his- 
torical criticism. Attempts to find suitable situations for the 
psalms in David's life (compare, for example, the remarks on 
Ps. 41) should be abandoned. Duhm's commentary is the work 
of an expository genius, compact, clear-cut, illuminating, marked 
by a speculative daring that often throws a flood of light upon 
obscure passages or gives to what had become a platitude the 
interest of a newly discovered truth. But it has the defects of its 
author's other work. It is very one-sided, and maintains a theory 
of the origin of the Psalter in the late Maccabean period which 
conflicts with the external evidence and involves serious intrinsic 
improbabilities.'^ Nevertheless, if the reader does not allow him- 
self to be dazzled by Duhm, he can probably learn from his preg- 
nant pages more about the crucial problems of the Psalter, and in 
a shorter space of time, than from any other commentary. 

As compared with the three works just mentioned, Briggs's 
commentary is a vast thesaurus of statistical facts. In its learn- 
ing it is like one of the post-reformation Biblical treatises rather 
than a modern work. One can well believe that the labor of 
forty years, as the author informs us, has been crammed into its 
more than one thousand closely printed pages. As an example 
of erudition, this commentary is likely to remain a monument to 
one of the most learned American scholars of this generation. 
But is it an illuminating commentary? Does it make stimulating 
and suggestive contributions to the solution of the problems above 
referred to? This, if the present reviewer may be permitted to 

'' For instance, the view that we have whole series of violently polemical 
psalms, both Pharisaic and Sadducean, incorporated in our Psalter. How both 
these hostile groups of psalms could have been inserted into the Psalter in the 
short space of time which Duhm allows for its compilation after they were writ- 
ten, is not made clear. 


express himself with absolute candor, it does not always appear 
to do. It is possible that Briggs's positions have not all been 
fully understood. The book is no easy reading. Its style is 
not infrequently opaque; the author's "buts" and "fors," when 
he provides them, often refer (like those of the Johannine gospel 
and epistles) to something in his own mind rather than to any- 
thing actually expressed, and the student is left to infer as best 
he can 'the connections which the writer may have had in mind. 
But those parts of the commentary which will be most severely 
criticised in what follows have been studied with care, and the 
effort honestly made to understand the positions to which excep- 
tion has been taken. 

Briggs's introduction treats at length of the Text, the Higher 
Criticism, the Canonicity, and the Interpretation of the Psalter. 
Under the caption "Higher Criticism" (pp. liv-xcii) are discussed 
the origin and growth of the Psalter as a collection, and an entirely 
new theory on this subject is advanced. Briefly, it is as follows: 
There was first an early collection of six miktam psalms (the word 
being explained after the rabbinic etymology as "golden" or 
"choice" psalms) made in the early Persian period. There was 
also a collection of thirteen maskil psalms (explained as "medita- 
tive poems") made in the late Persian period. About the same 
time (late Persian) the Davidic collection of psalms was formed, 
originally sixty-eight in number, although in the present Psalter 
we have seventy-four. This was the first of the muior psalters, 
andinto it were inserted all the miktam psalms and six of the mas- 
kilim. Next in order came the two originally independent col- 
lections of the Korah and Asaph psalms (late Persian or early 
Greek period). The Asaph collection adopted two of the mas- 
kilim not appropriated by the Davidic collection, and the Korah 
psalter adopted four others. The next stage in the evolution 
was the collection (early Greek period) of fifty-seven mizviorim 
(the technical word for "psalms"), which was a selection from the 
existing collections of certain of the Davidic, Asaph, and Korah 
psalms with the addition of a few others. This was apparently 
followed by the elohistic psalter (Pss. 42-83), a group of psalms 
in which the name Elohim is regularly used for God, although in 
their original form many of these psalms used Jahveh (middle 


Greek period). It is inferred from the use of the divine name 
Elohim that this psalter was composed in Babylonia (a very pre- 
carious inference). The elohistic psalter also was made up of se- 
lections from David, Korah, and the mizmorim, and included all 
of Asaph. About the same time there came into existence in Pal- 
estine another psalter, containing fifty-five psalms, and known as 
the "director's psalter," this being Briggs's interpretation of the 
phrase which the English Bible renders "for the chief musician." 
Then arose the groups of hallels and pilgrim psalms, which were 
mainly compiled in the Greek period. In the Maccabean period 
the Psalter received its final shape, being divided into the five 
books which we find at present. 

Both from the method and the results of this section of the 
introduction a thorough-going dissent must be recorded. In 
the first place, it seems to the present reviewer that the subject 
is approached from the wrong angle. The treatment is dominated 
by the chronological point of view, and an attempt is made to 
indicate the gradual growth of the Psalter out of preceding minor 
collections. This is all very well, but first of all it should be 
proved that such preceding minor collections existed. This is 
not done: we have merely the statement, "This is the way the 
Psalter grew," and the reader is left to guess which of the multi- 
tudinous facts presented in the course of the discussion would 
have been used to support the theory, if the author had chosen 
to state his argument. The complaint is not that the facts, or 
at least the more important ones, in support of a critical decom- 
position of the Psalter are not given, but rather that because of 
the chronological arrangement of the material facts which natu- 
rally go together and throw light upon each other and upon the 
critical structure of the Psalter, are violently separated and thus 
lose a large part of their evidential force. 

In order to illustrate the confusion which arises from the chrono- 
logical arrangement of the material, it may be well briefly to 
indicate the evidence commonly employed in the critical analysis 
of the Psalter, and then to show how this material is utilized by 
Dr. Briggs. 

Criticism has usually started, and with obvious propriety, 
from the division of the Psalter into five books, a division plainly 


indicated by the doxologies that stand at the end of the first 
four books. The doxologies, therefore, give us our first clue. 
On nearer inspection this fivefold division is seen to have been 
superimposed upon a more fundamental threefold division, the 
key to which is the alternation in the use of the divine names. 
Book I is a homogeneous collection of Davidic psalms, in which 
Jahveh is regularly used; in Books II-III, Elohim is regularly 
used; in Books IV-V, Jahveh is again used. Thus the elohistic 
redaction of the middle books of the Psalter furnishes our second 
important clue to the analysis. It will be observed that the 
doxology at the end of Book I coincides with a critical line of 
cleavage. If we turn to Books II-III, in which the elohistic 
psalms are found, four very distinct groups emerge: (a) a Korah 
Elohim-group (Pss. 42-49); (6) a Davidic Elohim-group (Pss. 
51-72); (c) an Asaph Elohim-group (Pss. 73-83); (d) a Korah 
Jahveh-group (Pss. 84-89) .'^ 

The first thing that strikes the attention in this analysis is that 
the elohistic redaction does not quite coincide with the division 
into books. We should expect the dividing line, marked by the 
doxology, to fall at the end of the elohistic psalms (that is, after 
Ps. 83), and that Psalms 84-89, which are Jahveh psalms, would 
be combined with the Jahveh psalms of Books IV-V. On the 
other hand, this Uttle group is principally a Korah group with 
close affinities to the elohistic Korah-group. The suggestion has 
been made that Psalms 84-89 are an appendix to the elohistic 
psalter. If so, the doxology at the end of Book III (Ps. 89 5i) 
is again seen to have critical significance. Further, it would 
seem proper to postulate a somewhat different literary history 
for the two groups of Korah psalms. Otherwise, it is difficxilt 
to see why they did not all suffer an elohistic redaction. 

In the second place, the elohistic redaction is unexpectedly 
broken in two by the division between Books II and III, again 
marked by the doxology, Ps. 72 18 f., and also by the remarkable 
editorial note, Ps. 72 20. Because of this division the Korah 
and Davidic Elohim-psalms are classed together and, with one 
Asaph psalm (Ps. 50), are separated from the group of Asaph 

'* Psalm 60 is an isolated Asaph psalm inserted between the Korah and Da- 
vidic psalms. The significance of its position is discussed below. 


Elohim-psalms. The anomalous position of Ps. 72 20 has always 
been recognized; but the very peculiarity of its position gives it 
an unusual critical significance. It points to the necessity of a 
critical analysis both of what precedes and of what follows. It 
proves that the Davidic group (Pss. 51-72) must have once existed 
apart from the Korah group (Pss. 42-49), for this note is only 
appropriate at the end of a homogeneous Davidic collection. 
And we may go a step further with considerable probability. 
The Korah group (Pss. 42-49) and the Asaph group (Pss. 73-83) 
are the psalms of the two great levitical singing-guilds. They 
would naturally, therefore, be grouped together. The fact that 
this is not the case, but that the Korah group is illogically combined 
with the Davidic group to form Book II, strongly suggests that 
a collection of Korah and Davidic psalms was made before these 
were combined with the Asaph psalms to make up the Elohim 
psalter. Probably, then, the homogeneous group of Asaph 
psalms also had at one time an independent existence. It thus 
appears that the collections of the Davidic, the Korah, and the 
Asaph elohistic psalms all had once an independent existence; 
that the Davidic and Korah psalms were then grouped together 
in our present Book II; and, finally, that these two groups were 
combined with the Asaph psalms into the present Elohim psalter 
(Pss. 42-83). 

But the editorial note, Ps. 72 20, enables us to draw still another 
inference. The writer of this note could not have known of any 
of the Davidic psalms that follow it in the present Psalter. Con- 
sequently, the scattered Davidic psalms in Books III and IV and 
the groups of Davidic psalms in Book V probably had a different 
literary history from the homogeneous Davidic Elohim-psalms of 
Book II. On the other hand, the relationship of the Davidic 
Elohim-group of Book II to the Davidic Jahveh-group of Book I 
is an unsettled question. Did these two groups originally form 
one collection, of which Ps. 72 20 was the conclusion, or are they 
independent parallel collections? To the present reviewer the 
latter view has always seemed more probable on general prin- 
ciples; but the relationship between the two Davidic psalters 
is further complicated by the fact that Psalm 16 is found, as 
Psalm 53, in an elohistic redaction — a positive proof that in the 
elohistic psalms we are dealing with a distinct psalter. 


It will be seen from the above that the doxologies at the end 
of Books I, II, and III indicate correct critical divisions of the 
Psalter. The case is different with Ps. 106 48, the final doxology 
of Book IV. It is admitted on all hands that this division is 
critically unsound. Psalms 105-107 form a very closely connected 
group of psalms. Their separation by the doxology into different 
books is unfortunate, and the division evidently artificial. Books 
IV-V are therefore generally regarded as in reality making up 
one collection. Within it, however, the pilgrim psalms (Pss. 
120-134) stand out very distinctly and can most probably be 
regarded as forming a minor psalter. 

In the above analysis, which sums up in general outline the 
evidence for a critical structure of the Psalter as it has been de- 
veloped in the last twenty-five years, the following collections 
emerge with distinctness: (1) a Davidic collection constituting 
Book I; (2) the Davidic collection of Book II (probably originally 
distinct from the collection of Book I) ; (3) the Korah and Asaph 
collections of Books II and III; (4) the elohistic psalter, which 
represents a combination of the second collection of Davidic 
psalms with the Korah and Asaph psalms, together with a Korah 
appendix; (5) a great collection of miscellaneous psalms (Books 
IV-V) ; within which (6) the pilgrim psalms stand out as a homo- 
geneous collection, also no doubt originally a minor psalter. 

Let us now turn to some illustrations of the way in which 
Briggs makes use of this material. In the first place, the dis- 
cussion of the doxologies, which we have seen to be the natural 
starting-point of the investigation, is deferred to the end of the 
analysis. This is due to the chronological arrangement of the 
material. Briggs believes that the doxologies were inserted by 
the final editor of the Psalter. Hence they are discussed last. 
Even granting that they are due to the final editor (though this 
is very much to be doubted in the case of the first three), they 
have been shown to mark lines of critical cleavage. Hence, if 
the object is to show how the Psalter should be analyzed into 
earlier minor psalters, the postponement of all mention of the 
doxologies to the end of the discussion is most unfortunate; it 
prevents any use of this first clue to the analysis. 

In the next place, the treatment of the elohistic psalter stands 


midway in the discussion, after the reader has already had 
to accept largely on faith the miktam, maskil, Davidic, Korah, 
Asaph, and mizmorim psalters. The discussion of the elohistic 
psalter (§ 32) is entirely separated from the discussion of the 
threefold division of the Psalter (§ 38), with which it would nat- 
urally be connected, because the compilation of the elohistic 
psalter preceded in point of time the present threefold arrange- 

Again, the critical use made of Ps. 72 20 must be regarded as 
wholly inadequate. It is used only to confirm the supposition 
of a Davidic psalter (§ 27). It is not used to disintegrate the 
elohistic psalter into its original elements. One might as well 
pass a current of electricity through water and say that the result 
was two parts of hydrogen, with the oxygen totally ignored. 
The domination of the chronological point of view would again 
seem to be responsible for this failure to make full use of 
Ps. 72 20. Each of the groups — Davidic, Korah, and Asaph — 
is treated by itself in the supposed chronological order of their 
origin and without reference to the other groups. As Ps. 72 20 
is attached to the Davidic group, it is mentioned only in connec- 
tion with that group, and the indirect bearing which its position 
gives it upon the separation of the Korah and Asaph groups is not 
mentioned. Thus the doxologies, the peculiarity of the elohistic 
psalter, and Ps. 72 20, which, taken together, are the clues to the 
critical analysis of the Psalter, lose almost all their evidential 
force through the chronological disposition of the material adopted 
by Briggs. 

But what, then, it may be asked, is the evidence which Briggs 
adduces in favor of the existence of minor psalters previous to 

" The threefold division of course implies the artificiality of the doxology 
at the end of Book IV (Ps. 106 48). But in discussing the threefold division, 
nothing is said as to this implication. The artificiality of the doxology as the 
closing doxology of Book IV is, indeed, implied at § 35, where the attempt is made 
to show that there was a hallel psalter, and at § 40, where the connection of Ps. 
106 48 with 1 Chron. 16 36 is discussed. But the bearing of Briggs's view of this 
doxology upon the book divisions is not brought out where we should expect it to 
be. Briggs further holds that this doxology was arbitrarily inserted by the final 
editor. This is by no means so probable as the view that the doxology originally 
belonged to the psalm, and that the unfortunate division into books was made at 
this point because the doxology already stood here. 


our present Psalter? Strictly speaking, none whatever. Let 
me not be misunderstood. I do not mean to convey the im- 
pression that no facts which might have been used as evidence 
are mentioned. I only mean that their evidential value is not 
pointed out. The nearest approach to an argument for a minor 
psalter is found in § 27, which treats of the Davidic psalter. 
Briggs starts from the phrase in the title of these psalms le-daidd, 
ambiguously translated in the Revised Version, "Of David." 
Until comparatively recent times it has been commonly held 
that the preposition le denoted authorship, and was to be trans- 
lated "by." Briggs departs from this traditional view, saying: 

The le is not the le of authorship, as has generally been supposed. 
The earliest collection of Pss. for use in the synagogue was made 
under the name of David, the traditional father of religious poetry 
and of the temple worship. The later editors left this name in the 
titles, with the preposition le attached, to indicate that these Psalms 
belonged to that collection. This explains all the facts of the case 
and the position of these Pss. in the Psalter. This view is con- 
firmed by Ps. 72 20, which states that this Ps. was the conclusion 
of the prayers of David, and implies that the collection was a prayer- 

The argument of this paragraph would seem to be that the prep- 
osition le implied a Davidic psalter, and that this is confirmed 
by Ps. 72 20. But this begs the whole question. The correctness 
of the interpretation of the le is assumed, not proved. Briggs's 
view of its meaning is a favorite one at the present time, and may 
be correct, but it is distinctly debatable, and has a number of 
weighty arguments against it. One of the objections to the as- 
sumed interpretation of le is found in the very passage cited in 
its support, Ps. 72 20. The editor who appended this note must 
certainly have thought that David was the author of the preceding 
psalms. But if so, the title le-david must already have stood 
at the head either of each psalm or of the collection, and must 
have been understood to imply authorship. As this editorial 
note would seem to be regarded by Briggs (and quite correctly) as 
appended to the original Davidic collection, it indicates that the 
theory of the meaning of le which he rejects existed as early as the 
first stages in the evolution of the Psalter. Since Briggs's inter- 
pretation of the le plays so large a part in his theory of the Psalter, 


surely it ought to have been exegetically and linguistically justi- 
fied, and not simply assumed.'* 

Whether the phrase lamenasseh usually translated, "For 
the chief musician," indicates a director's psalter, is again a de- 
batable question. The statement is simply made that the le 
has the same meaning in this phrase which Briggs assigns to it 
in the phrase le-david. But whether the le in these psalm- 
titles always has the same significance is just the problem which 
requires discussion. When, for example, in the title to Ps. 
51 we find both phrases, lamenasseh, le-david, the question 
presses as to whether we have a right to interpret le both times 
in the same way. What we want is proof, not assumption. 
Yet it is not impossible that there really may have been a di- 
rector's psalter, and this theory was also advocated by Beer. 
One piece of evidence for it is found in the fact that the obscure 
musical or liturgical directions are only found in these director- 
psalms, though they by no means occur in all of them. Briggs 
notices this fact, but as usual fails to point out its evidential 
force. So far as the miktam, mashil, mizmor, and hallel 
psalms are concerned, where the preposition le does not appear, 
no attempt whatever is made to prove that they once formed 
independent collections. It is simply asserted that they did so. 
There is a possibility that the hallel psalms which appear in cer- 
tain groups in Book V may have formed a psalter, but the contrast 

** When it is said in the above citation that the meaning of the le adopted 
"explains all the facts of the case and the position of these Pss. in the Psalter," 
we have an instance of one of those sovereign dicta which are altogether too fre- 
quent in this commentary, and whose effect is irritating rather than reassuring. 
In this connection it may be noted that from the theory that the le does not imply 
authorship the conclusion is reached that all the psalms are anonymous except 
Psalms 72, 88, 89, 90, and (strangely enough) 102. These are all held to be pseu- 
donymous. Even in the thirteen cases where historical notices are attached to 
the title le-david, it is denied that the editor understood the le of authorship, 
on the ground that "it is altogether improbable . . . that an editor of the middle 
Persian period could have thought that his references to experiences of David were 
historical." Briggs's theory is that by means of these historical notices the editor 
simply wished to illustrate the psalms, and not to express an opinion as to their 
author, a theory already tentatively suggested by Beer (Individual- und Gemeinde- 
Psalmen, p. Ixxxviii), but which is distinctly improbable in view of the strong 
Davidic tradition which is known to have existed at the time when most of the 
psalms were composed (cf. the Chronicler). 


with the very clearly defined pilgrim songs in the same book 
rather suggests the opposite view. The mihtam psalms also 
form a little group (Pss. 16, 56-60) ; but there is no critical reason, 
apart from the fact that they stand together, for holding that they 
formed an independent collection. The maskilim are, to be 
sure, mainly concentrated in Books II-III (eleven out of the thir- 
teen maskilim are found in these two books), but they are scat- 
tered through these books in a haphazard manner, while the 
mizmorim are shuffled through all the five books in a way that 
is now wholly unintelligible. There are no critical indications of 
psalters in the case of these psalms, which are not even clearly 
grouped, and the question presses whether in these cases Briggs 
is not following phantom psalters. 

At this point we meet with another of Briggs's assumptions. 
The objection just raised, drawn from the unmethodical distri- 
bution of the psalms in the psalters, is met by the assumption 
that all the psalms which had a common element in their titles 
once stood together, and that their present distribution through 
the Psalter is due to various revisions. So far as I have been 
able to observe, no evidence for this view is offered, and the unor- 
ganized character of the maskilim, mizmorim, and even the hallel 
psalms, where there are no critical evidences for the existence of 
independent psalters, as contrasted with the Davidic, Asaph, and 
Korah psalms, where there are such evidences, makes strongly 
against the theory. When the same theory is applied to the 
Korah and Davidic psalms, it is equally gratuitous. Briggs 
assumes that the elohistic Korah-psalms and the Jahvistic Korah- 
psalms once stood together, but that the present position of the 
Jahvistic Korah-group (Pss. 84-89) was due to the final redactor. 
Why all the Korah psalms were not adopted into the elohistic 
psalter, if they once stood together, he does not tell us.'* In 
the same way, he assumes that the Davidic Jahveh group of 
Book I and the Davidic Elohim group of Book II once stood 
together, though it is again diflBcult to see why only a part of the 
Davidic psalms were selected from the original psalter for elo- 

'5 We have seen that the greater probability is that the two groups of psalms 
had a different literary history, and that the Jahveh group was an appendix to 
the Elohim psalter, not an insertion by the final editor. 


histic redaction.'* He further assumes that the Davidic psalms 
of Books III-IV also stood in the same general collection, and 
therefore transfers them in imagination to a place before the 
editorial note, Ps. 72 20. This procedure would of course over- 
turn the argument advanced above from this note, that the 
Davidic psalms in the later books were unknown to the editor 
who was responsible for Ps. 72 20; but at the same time it calmly 
ignores what has usually been held to be one of the best clews to 
a true analysis of the Psalter. As a matter of fact, as we shall 
see, Briggs himself distinguishes certain Davidic psalms in Book V 
from the other Davidic psalms in the later books, and denies that 
they stood in the original Davidic psalter.'^ 

If a true presentation of Briggs's method of discussion has been 
given thus far, it is clear that the student who wishes to find any 
formal justification of the critical analysis advocated in the com- 
mentary will be disappointed. Briefly stated, the argument can 
be reduced to the following: In the titles to a number of psalms 
the name of David occurs. Therefore there was a Davidic psalter. 
In another series of psalms mizmor is found in the title. There- 
fore there was a mizmor collection. Sometimes both the name 
of David and mizmor occur in the same title; in such cases the 
editor of the mizmor psalter took over the psalm from the Davidic 
psalter. If, in addition to le-david and mizmor the phrase 

" The fact that Psalm 16 appears, as Psalm 53, in an elohistic redaction, and 
the bearing of this upon the right to assume an independent elohistic psalter, 
is not even referred to in the chapter on Higher Criticism, though it is noted in 
the chapter on the Text. This omission shows how oblivious our author is of the 
necessity of first proving the existence of independent minor psalters in the 
present compilation. 

" Much labor is given to the estabhshment of the supposed original order of 
the Davidic Psalms (p. Ixiv), but the results are far from convincing, and do not 
seem to throw any light either upon the critical analysis of the Psalter or upon 
the interpretation of the psalms. It may also be noted that Psalm 50 is supposed 
to have originally stood with the other Asaph psalms (Psalms 73-83). This is 
possible; its present position is at first sight anomalous. It is variously explained 
by our author as due to the desire of an editor " to make an appropriate concluding 
Ps. to the first division of 50" (p. Ixvi), and as "giving an appropriate liturgical 
close [in what respect is Psalm 50 liturgical?] to this [Korah] group before the peni- 
tential Psalm 51" (p. bxii). The propriety of the word "appropriate" in these 
citations may be questioned. The real reason for the present position of the 
psalm would seem to be its topical connection with the present form of Psalm 61. 
Both psalms are anti-sacrificial. 


lamenasseh is found, this means that the psalm was first in 
the Davidic, then in the mizmor, and finally in the director's 
psalter (cf. Psalm 62), and so on indefinitely. All this is stated 
as if it were self-evident; no proof is given for the theory advocated. 
The discussion is so formulated as to show, not that there were 
original minor psalters behind our present Psalter, but, such 
psalters being assumed, their chronological relationships are 
stated, and thus is indicated the growth of the present Psalter 
from its first beginnings to its final form. 

The criticism thus far made has been upon this chronological 
method of approach. This method does not allow the evidence 
for the existence of previous psalters to be marshalled in any 
adequate way. But has not our criticism after all been some- 
what captious? Is it fair to judge a writer by what he does 
not set out to do, rather than by what he actually undertakes? 
Briggs sets out to show what he believes to be the chronological 
stages of the growth of the Psalter. This he does very clearly. 
The reader can easily follow the orderly sequence, miktamim, 
mashilim, David, Korah, Asaph, mizmorim, and the rest. 
May not the advantages of this method of presenting the subject, 
by which the student is enabled to grasp without difficulty the 
theory propounded, compensate for the disadvantages which have 
been noted? 

But even if we thus consider this chronological mode of treat- 
ment simply on its positive side, and judge it by what it does 
do and not by what it fails to do, we immediately encounter 
a grave difficulty. Turn again to the title of Psalm 62. The 
three elements in this title are chief-musician, mizmor, David, 
arranged in this order. On Briggs's theory of the titles these 
represent three minor psalters. But this order is not the 
chronological order of the psalters. Briggs adopts the order 
David, mizmor, director. What are the principles upon which 
he bases his view of the chronological relationship of the various 

It is noteworthy that only once in Briggs's entire discussion 
does he make use of any external evidence. In discussing, namely, 
the date of the director's psalter, he refers to the fact that the 
term lamenasseh is found again in Habakkuk 3 19. This, 


he says, was taken from the director's psalter, though he gives 
no proof of this statement. Hence Habakkuk 3 is subsequent to 
the director. But since the prophetic canon was closed by the 
time of Ben Sira (219-198 B.C.), therefore the director's psalter 
also must have been composed before this time, that is, in the 
middle Greek period. 

This almost total neglect of the external evidence in determining 
the date of the Psalter is in the present reviewer's estimation 
a very serious omission." The formula for the use of internal 
evidences of date is a simple one: the date of the latest psalm 
in an assumed collection is the terminus ad quern of the com- 
pilation of that collection. 

But at this point a new difficulty emerges. The Davidic psalter 
is held to have been closed in the late Persian period, because on 
grounds of internal evidence no Davidic psalms were composed 
later than this period. But there are psalms with le-david in 
their titles which are assigned by Briggs himself, again on the 
basis of internal evidence, to the Greek period. How is this 
contradiction avoided? By supposing that the Davidic titles 
in the Greek psalms are not genuine old titles. Attention is also 
called in this connection to the tendency present in later times, 
as is evidenced by the versions, to ascribe psalms to David. Now 
if evidence independent of the internal criteria of the psalms 
themselves had been advanced for the completion of the Davidic 
psalter in the Persian period, it would perhaps be legitimate to 
exclude psalms of the Greek period from the original Davidic 
psalter of the Persian period. But if the dates of the minor 
psalters are regularly determined by the dates of the latest psalms 
in them, it seems distinctly fallacious, to put it very mildly, to 
assign the Davidic psalter to the Persian period in spite of the fact 
that some psalms with Davidic titles admittedly date from the 
Greek period. 

The entire theory of the evolution of the Psalter as elaborated 

" It is not treated even in the section on Canonicity, where the omission of 
any reference to external evidence is even more striking. The whole section on 
Canonicity is, it may be remarked, rather elementary, and is mainly taken up 
with a defence of the imprecatory psalms. The discussion seems to move upon 
the old assumption that the canonicity of a Biblical book can be vindicated by 
means of its religious, doctrinal, and ethical contents. 


in the introduction thus turns out to be built exclusively upon the 
criticism of the individual psalms which compose the several 
subsidiary collections. But, unfortunately, the discussion of the 
dates of the psalms is rigorously excluded from the introduction. 
Only the tabular results of the conclusions reached in the body 
of the commentary are presented. It is a pity that the reader 
could not have been apprised at the outset of some of the general 
landmarks by which the attempt is made to date the psalms in 
the ensuing detailed discussions. If only a few words could have 
been said, for example, on the relation of the Psalter to the Law 
or to Second Isaiah or to Job, to the development of Individualism 
or ethical monotheism, if it could have been shown toward which 
of the two poles, to the JE narratives of Genesis or to Chronicles, 
the Psalter inclines, the student could have formed some idea 
of what to expect in the following pages. As it is, he must plunge 
unprepared into the swollen stream of detailed criticism that 
flows through the nine hundred and sixty-seven pages of the com- 
mentary proper. It must be said that the very important section 
on the Higher Criticism of the Psalter is thoroughly unsatisfac- 
tory. The method of presentation adopted results in a complete 
disorganization of the proofs of the evolution of the Psalter in 
the interest of a formally clear presentation of the assumed chro- 
nological stages of evolution. But when the chronological theory 
thus propounded is examined, it is found to be based on a me- 
chanical principle, which the author himself does not always ad- 
here to, and for proof of which the reader is referred to the body 
of the commentary. The process is nothing short of bewilder- 
ing to one who is not already acquainted with the criticism of 
the Psalter, while to one who is acquainted with this the result 
carries no conviction. 

With regard to Briggs's actual theory of the dates of the psalms, 
only the results of his investigation and one or two tests of his 
method can be here given. 

Briggs assigns seven psalms to the early monarchy before 
Jehoshaphat, seven to the middle monarchy, thirteen to the late 
monarchy (altogether twenty-seven pre-exilic psalms, a goodly 
proportion as modern critics go), thirteen to the exile, thirty- 
three to the early Persian period, sixteen to the times of Nehe- 


miah, eleven to the late Persian period, fourteen to the early 
Greek period, forty-one to the later Greek period, and eight to 
the period of the Maccabees. These results seem precise. But 
for that very reason they awaken suspicion; can the psalms be 
so accurately distributed over all these centuries of development? 
This suspicion is strengthened when one observes that the miJctam 
psalms (Pss. 16, 56-60) are distributed over several centuries. 
If any group of psalms bear on their face the marks of homo- 
geneity, it is these. Duhm assigns Psalms 56-59 tentatively to 
one author, certainly to the same period. 

The attitude which a commentator assumes toward the ques- 
tion of Maccabean and pre-exilic psalms is one of the surest touch- 
stones of his critical ability. On the one hand, the fact that 
only eight Maccabean psalms (Pss. 33, 102b, 109b, 118, 139c, 
147, 149, 129) are accepted represents a wholesome and timely 
reaction against Duhm and his followers, who would bring the 
larger part of the Psalter down to the Maccabean period, and 
much of it to the latter part of the period. On the other hand, 
the assignment of twenty-seven psalms to the pre-exilic period, 
and seven of these (Pss. 7, 13, 18, 23, 24b, 60a, and 110) to the 
very early monarchy, is most precarious. A few illustrations of 
the method of dating these earlier psalms will show what weight 
is to be attached to some, at least, of Briggs's conclusions. On 
Psalm 7, which the conservative Baethgen assigns to the Persian 
period and Duhm to a very late period, Briggs observes that there 
is nothing to prevent its being as early as David. In this par- 
ticular case his judgment seems to be somewhat influenced by 
the title, though in general he rejects the titles as authoritative. 
Regarding Psalm 13, which Baethgen and Duhm make no at- 
tempt to date exactly but which is closely related to the other 
psalms of persecution or martyrdom in Book I, it is stated that 
there is no internal evidence against a date as early as David, 
and the claim is actually made that "the author of 2 Sam. 1 
19-27 might have written it." The attempt to fix the date of 
Psalm 23 must be regarded as a peculiarly striking instance of 
ineffective argument. "The language and syntax of the Ps.," 
says Dr. Briggs, "and all its ideals are early. There is not the 
slightest trace of anything that is post-deuteronomic. The his- 


torical circumstances of the poet must have been peaceful and 
prosperous." On the basis of this characterization of the psalm, 
the possibility of its composition in the prosperous Greek or late 
Persian periods is denied. The exile and early restoration are 
ruled out because they are times of sorrow and because the singer 
is able to resort to the temple.^' The reference to the temple 
also rules out David, and properly so. The troubled times of 
the Assyrian and Babylonian periods are dismissed for the same 
reason as the exile. Hence the psalm is assigned to "an earlier 
and simpler period, the days of the early monarchy, not earlier 
than Solomon, or later than Jehoshaphat." So far as the lan- 
guage of the psalm is concerned, this does not prevent Baethgen 
from assigning it to the post-exilic period or Duhm from regard- 
ing it as Maccabean. Apart from the argument from language, 
is it really to be supposed that no pious Israelite or Jew could 
have spoken with the quiet confidence of this psalm except in 
the period between Solomon and Jehoshaphat? As to its ideals, 
Briggs expressly admits that "the three figures, shepherd, guide, 
host, are all simple, natural, and characteristic of the life in 
Jerusalem and its vicinity at any period in Biblical history." 
As a matter of fact the figure of the shepherd is especially promi- 
nent in Second Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and might suggest 
that the psalm was subsequent to these writers. That a psalm 
of only six verses should be dated before Deuteronomy because 
it lacks any post-deuteronomic characteristics, is surely a most 
fragile argument from silence. In fact Psalm 23 cannot be 
dated by itself alone. The only safe method of procedure is to 
attempt to fix the approximate date of the group of psalms with 
which it is most naturally associated.*" These illustrations do not 
awaken much confidence in the principles of historical criticism 
underlying them, and doubt becomes despair when we find Psalm 
110 tentatively brought into connection with the victory of Je- 
hoshaphat recounted in 2 Chron. 20. Moreover, many of 
Briggs's results are only obtained by the assumption of more or 

»» The reading of the LXX at vs. 6b is adopted, cf . R. V. 

*• Psalm 23 is very closely related to Psalm 27, so closely in fact that it is 
not impossible that they had a common author (cf. Duhm). But Briggs ascribes 
Psahn 27 to the middle monarchy. 


less extensive glosses or accretions.*^ Psalms which in their pres- 
ent form are shown either by language or by religious and other 
ideas to be late, may be dated earlier if these modernisms can be 
eliminated as glosses. The assumption of the possibility of 
glosses is theoretically entirely legitimate. Hymns are notori- 
ously tinkered with, and it can be demonstrated in the case of 
the duplicate psalms that the hymns of the Psalter are no excep- 
tion. The question is whether the glosses and accretions can be 
successfully detected. It is at this point that we touch Briggs's 
metrical analyses of the psalms. It is poetical considerations, 
metre and strophical arrangement, that are most often used as 
clues to the detection of glosses. It will therefore be necessary 
to turn our attention for a few moments to the next great prob- 
lem which confronts us in the Psalter, the problem of Hebrew 

Hebrew metrics forms one of the most technical and most 
vexed questions in Old Testament study. Briggs has been for a 
generation a valiant champion of the existence of Hebrew metre, 
and has contributed perhaps more than any other American 
scholar to the advancement of this particular subject. It has 
been more and more recognized that in Hebrew poetry we 
have on a priori grounds every right to expect some sort of a 
metrical system. The difficulty has been to determine what 
are the exact principles of that system. Briggs long ago adopted 
the principles of the German scholar, Julius Ley, in which the 
accents or tone-syllables are laid at the foundation of Hebrew 
metre, and he has lived to see these principles, which were at 
first regarded with great skepticism, adopted by a steadily in- 
creasing number of scholars. Yet there is a weakness in the 
so-called accentual system of Ley and Briggs. If accents or tones 
alone are counted, we do not get any real metre. This defect 
was pointed out by Sievers, who insisted that the falls and pauses, 
as well as the accents or rises, must be counted in. Ley himself, 
in articles published since his death in 1901, seems finally to have 

*' So, in the case of Psalm 110 just cited, and most notably in the case of 
Psalm 18. The two other parts of psalms assigned to the early monarchy, Ps. 
24 7 ff. and 60 6 ff. have perhaps a more defensible claim to antiquity than those 
which have been noticed. 


recognized this defect, but Briggs seems to be still skeptical of 
the value of Sievers's supplement to Ley's system (p. xli). 

Our author does not go into the technicalities of this subject 
beyond giving a few general rules for counting the tones.^^ He 
holds that there are four measures in the Psalms: trimeters or 
three-toned lines (these being the most frequent), tetrameters, 
pentameters (a measure particularly investigated by Budde, and 
with great success), and hexameters. The existence of two- 
toned lines is denied (against Duhm). All the psalms are 
stretched or contracted to fit these measures. 

Briggs also holds to a strophical arrangement of most of the 
psalms. The strophes are primarily determined "by a more 
decided separation in the thought of the poem," and by noting 
the relationships of the several poetical parallelisms. In other 
words, while the metre of the different lines is closely connected 
with textual criticism, the determination of the strophe is in- 
timately allied with exegesis. 

The present reviewer cannot claim to be an expert in the de- 
partment of Hebrew metres; his judgments are those of a layman. 
But his impressions are that a very large amount of truth must 
be admitted in Briggs's metrical system. Many of the psalms 
lend themselves with but little emendation to a consistent met- 
rical scheme. In many the emendations which are supported, 
independently of the metre, by purely text-critical or exegetical 
considerations enable the student to recover the strophical 
analysis, and therewith restore the original beauty and meaning 
of the psalm. In such cases the result justifies the process. In 
seeing the psalm assume shape and color the student finds the 
same pleasure which a critic of paintings might take in watching 
the gradual restoration of an old masterpiece of which the lines 
and colors had become confused and dulled by the grime of ages. 
The exegetical and aesthetic value of such successful restorations 
can scarcely be overestimated. But there are a large number of 
instances in which it does not seem as if the accentual system 

*^ For instance, monosyllabic words are not usually to be accented. Words 
of four or more syllables have a secondary accent, which is counted in the measure. 
The insertion of the conjunction ve before a monosyllable will justify giving to 
the latter the force of a tone. 


or any other had as yet solved the metrical problem, and in which 
the strophical arrangement is correspondingly obscure. The 
hammering and sawing of the lines which at times Briggs finds 
necessary in order to bring his metres into accord, makes such a 
tremendous din that the music of the reconstructed psalm is 
fairly drowned out.'*' 

What Smend says in reference to the interpretation of the 
psalms generally has a particular application to their metrical 
reconstruction and strophical analysis: "Every expert knows 
that many a psalm is like a fortress which defies a regular siege 
and can only be conquered by a lucky chance." In the present 
uncertainty in the field of Hebrew metre successful restorations 
or emendations depend more on deftness of exegesis, soundness 
of judgment in textual criticism, and poetic divination than on 
the system of metre adopted. In the two illustrations which I 
shall give of Briggs's poetical analyses, the criticisms will be 
made from the exegetical point of view. In the one case his 
siege-works seem to me to have utterly failed to reduce the for- 
tress. In the other he has captured it with brilliant success. 

Psalm 18 has always been a touchstone of the commentator's 
principles of historical criticism and of his exegetical tact. Upon 
it all those fall back who wish to defend the Davidic authorship 
of any of the psalms. At the present time no scholar who has 
been at all influenced by historical criticism will undertake to 
defend the psalm as it stands. Those who defend its Davidic 
authorship can only do so at the expense of its integrity. This 
is the course adopted by Briggs. The psalm is Davidic, but 
only after all that in his judgment is non-davidic has been elimi- 
nated. The question is whether these eliminations can be exe- 
getically and text-critically justified. By the battering-rams of 
metre and strophe Briggs proposes to break through the outer 
bastions and get back to the old Davidic wall. 

The metre of the psalm is the trimeter, and forms one of the 
most obvious examples of this measure to be found anywhere. 
It is in general so clear and consistent that departures from it 

*• As an example, note the carpentry-work that must be done on the miklam 
psahns. Psalm 59 has practically to be rewritten in order to bring it into a metrical 
scheme. Whether the result is poetry is another question. 


at once arouse suspicion. In the majority of the emendations 
necessary to preserve the metre, considerations of textual criti- 
cism and exegesis enable us to cut out intruding elements with 
considerable assurance.^ But these metrical emendations have 
little direct bearing upon Briggs's reconstruction of the psalm, 
except as they affect the structure of the strophes. It is the 
strophical analysis which is made the basis of Briggs's critical 

We have seen that the strophical analysis depends primarily 
upon the understanding of the course of thought in the poem. 
In Psalm 18 there are two very clearly marked divisions: Part I, 
vss. 1-26, and Part II, vss. 32-50. Part I describes the deliver- 
ance of the singer from some great danger; the description is 
highly figurative and the precise nature of the danger is not 
revealed. Part II treats of the equipment for war of the singer 
by his God and his complete triumph over his enemies; the 
theme of Part II recalls Homer. Between these two sharply dis- 
tinguished parts stands the obscure passage vss. 27-31. 

If we examine Part I more attentively, it is found to break up 
into three clearly marked sections: (1) vss. 1-3, gratitude to God 
for deliverance; (2) vss. 4-19, the description of the singer's dan- 
ger (very rhetorical and ornate) ; (3) vss. 20-26, the religious and 
ethical significance of the deliverance. This last section is an 
amplification of the closing thought of the second section (vs. 
19b). In Part II the equipment of the warrior, his pursmt of 
the enemy, his triumph, and thanksgiving for victory follow in 
natural order; the whole, however, is woven more closely to- 
gether, so that the transitions of thought are not quite so distinct 
as in Part I. 

Is it possible to take one further step and discover a strophical 
analysis which will coincide with the logical analysis just made? 
If the student will turn to the second section of Part I (vss. 4- 
19), and read vss. 4, 5; vs. 6; vss. 9, 10; vss. 11, 12; vss. 13, 14 
(omitting 13c, with LXX, as an accidental repetition of vs. 12b) ; 
vs. 15; vss. 16, 17; and vss. 18, 19, he will find that the subordi- 
nate divisions of the section naturally make little stanzas of four 

** In the case of Psalm 18 we are happily in possession of four different recen- 
sions. Psalm 18, 2 Sam. 22, and the translation of both in the LXX. 


lines each (quatrains). Only at vss. 7, 8, is this regular scheme 
interrupted. In these verses we have six lines; and it is not at 
all impossible that originally there was a quatrain here also.^^ 
Again, if the third section (vss. 20-26) be examined, and the 
reader count backward from the very perfect final quatrain (vss. 
25, 26), it will be seen that vss. 23, 24, and 21, 22, will also give 
two excellent quatrains (the symmetry is still more evident in 
the Hebrew). This, to be sure, leaves vs. 20 hanging in the air; 
but vs. 20 is almost an exact duplicate of vs. 24, and may safely 
be rejected altogether. With the elimination of this verse the 
division into quatrains in vss. 4-26 becomes the most obvious 
division; and when it is once observed, it is also exegetically 
illuminating. The thoughts of the psalm are now seen to be 
chiselled out with great care, and their outlines are sharp and 
distinct. In the introductory section (vss. 1-3) we do not find 
the quatrain which we certainly should expect there; but a com- 
parison with 2 Sam. 22 2-4 again shows that the text of the 
section is greatly corrupted, and the conjecture is entirely proper 
that it originally harmonized strophically with what follows.^* In 
passing, the completeness of Part I, taken by itself, should be 
noticed. It is a rounded whole, composed with much artistic 

Now let us turn to Part II (vss. 32-50). If for the moment 
we omit vs. 32 from our reckoning and examine vss. 33-42, a 
beautiful quatrain division can be recognized: vss. 33-34, God's 
training of the feet and hands (participial construction in the 
Hebrew) ; vss. 35, 36, God's further equipment of the hero (second 
person; vs. 35 is admittedly corrupted and one line must be 
omitted, cf . 2 Sam. 22 36) ; vss. 37, 38, the warrior's pursuit 
(first person) ; vss. 39, 40, God's assistance in the pursuit (second 
person again; vs. 40b probably to be emended to second person 
with LXX [codices A and B] and Jerome); vss. 41, 42. With 

*^ In the Hebrew there is metrical difficulty also at vss. 11, 12. But the text 
at this point is notoriously corrupt, as its inherent difficulties and a comparison 
with 2 Sam. 22 12, 13, testify. 

*' Whether the exact wording ot the introduction can be recovered is another 
question. Emendations thus far proposed are not very convincing. Duhm's 
suggestion that there were originally eight lines (two quatrains) here would seem 
to be in the right direction. 


the extra line omitted at vs. 35, for which there is warrant on 
other grounds, nothing could be more smooth, regular, and 
obvious than the division into quatrains in vss. 33-42. Yet this 
arrangement leaves vs. 32 hanging in the air just as the obvious 
arrangement of vss. 21-26 left vs. 20. But, curiously enough, 
just as vs. 20 was seen to be a duplicate of vs. 24, so vs. 32a is 
a duplicate of vs. 39a. Further, the thought and phraseology of 
vs. 32b are in well-marked antithesis to vs. 30a, that is, to a verse 
which we shall find to be a very suspicious element in a very sus- 
picious passage. There is therefore good critical warrant for 
suspecting that vs. 32, at least in its present form, is not to be 
taken with what follows, although its thought is in keeping with 
the succeeding verses. 

The strophical arrangement of vss. 43-50 presents considerable 
difficulties, which cannot be overcome without resort to the knife. 
The verses fall into two clearly marked sections: vss. 43-45 and 
vss. 46-50. If quatrains are found, they must agree with this 
division into sections, and the sections themselves be kept 
strophically distinct. In the case of vss. 43-45, verses 44 and 
45 give a good quatrain; while vs. 43 contains only three lines. 
Is there any way to recover the missing line? To answer, we 
must turn to the other section. 

In vss. 46-50, verses 46 and 47 will give a quatrain. Verse 49 
is exegetically suspicious, for its spirit is wholly inconsistent with 
the context. In the context the speaker is distinctly hostile to 
the nations. Verse 49 is animated by benevolence toward the 
nations. Further, verses 48 and 50 are closely connected in 
the Hebrew by their grammatical construction. Those two 
facts suggest that vs. 49 is an interpolation. But even if verse 
49 is eliminated, six lines still remain, whereas only four are de- 
sired. Accordingly, the suggestion has been made that the extra 
line at vs. 48 (either 48b or 48c) should be transposed to a place 
after vs. 43a, where it would fit admirably. The only other 
line that can be lopped ofiE is vs. 50c; and there is justification for 
rejecting it, for this clause may well be an interpretative gloss 
by some editor who thought that David was the author of the 
psalm. Critically, this clause is on a level with the title. 

The arrangement here suggested for vss. 43-50 is of course con- 


jectural. Yet each step of the process has its own good reason, 
and the result is attractive, even if not entirely convincing. Part 
II of the psalm thus falls into a consistent series of quatrains, 
which, as in Part I, correspond admirably to the thought. But 
we cannot call Part 11 a consistent whole like Part I. It can- 
not originally have begun with vs. 33. The introduction must 
therefore be found in vss. 27-32, or else we must suppose it to 
be lost. 

This leads us to the consideration of vss. 27-31 (32). These 
verses are exegetically unintelligible, and strophically impossible. 
Verse 31 is a formulation of the doctrine of monotheism in no 
organic connection with the context, which, whether we look at 
Part I or Part II, treats of God's relation to the singer, not of 
what God is in himself. Verse 30 might be regarded as a general- 
ization based on the singer's experience, though why "the word 
of Jahveh " should be emphasized in Psalm 18 does not appear, 
and it is suspicious that clauses b and c are also found in Prov. 
30 5. Moreover, difficulty has always been found with the text 
and the relation of vss. 27 and 28 (cf. 2 Sam. 22 28, 29). Verse 
27 tells what God does for an afflicted people; vs. 28 what he 
does for the speaker. In what relation do these two thoughts 
stand? Again, vss. 27, 28, taken together, seem to be an appli- 
cation of the ethical principles embodied in vss. 21-26; but such 
an application is entirely unexpected and unnecessary, since vss. 
20-26, as we have seen, fully explain what goes before. Verses 
27, 28, thus form a sort of limping appendix. Of all these verses 
only vs. 29 seems in its picturesque concreteness to have any 
connection with Part II. Strophically also, this passage is hope- 
less. Verses 27, 28, might form a quatrain, if we could suppose 
that the speaker identified himself with the afflicted people; 
but vs. 29 is an isolated couplet, vs. 30 a three-line stanza, and 
vs. 31 a tetrameter couplet. 

What, then, is the significance of this passage.'' Observe that 
vs. 27 unexpectedly refers to "the afflicted people"; vs. 30 is 
also a generalization (note the plural, "all them that take 
refuge"); and at vs. 31 we actually meet with the first person 
plural. Light at once dawns upon the passage if it is interpreted 
as a bit of liturgical padding inserted between the two main parts 


of the psalm. But when this Is once recognized, a further conse- 
quence is seen to follow. Since the introduction to Part II cannot 
be found in vss. 27-31 (32), it must be lost, and vs. 29 is probably 
a fragment of it. Further, when we ask ourselves what is the 
relation between the two main parts of the psalm, we fail 
to find any. The last part is usually taken as the interpretation 
of the first part, but in that case all real progress and movement 
must be denied to the psalm. We have seen that Part I is a 
self-consistent and artistically perfect whole, and so is Part II, 
with the exception of the missing introduction. The subject, 
spirit, and style of the two parts are entirely different. We have, 
therefore, two originally distinct psalms, and the liturgical pas- 
sage vss. 27-31 was inserted when they were united.*' 

Let us now examine the analysis proposed by Briggs. 

He also recognizes two parts, but they do not coincide with 
the two outlined above. His first part is found in vss. 1-19, his 
second in vss. 27-50. The intervening verses, 20-27, are elimi- 
nated, being themselves broken up into two little sections, (a) 
vss. 20-23 (eight lines), a legal gloss from the Persian period; 
(6) vss. 25-27 (eight lines), an ethical gloss from the Greek period. 
The elimination of these verses would appear to have no exegeti- 
cal or strophical justification. Exegetically, they attach them- 
selves immediately to vs. 19b, and amplify that clause in a way 
to round out the whole poem. Strophically, Briggs's view re- 
quires that vs. 24 go with what follows it, and vs. 27 with what 
precedes it. Since vss. 25, 26, form a perfect quatrain, we then 
have to suppose that it was preceded and followed by a couplet, — 
a supposition which we have seen to be not only unnecessary 
but improbable.*' 

The motive for the elimination of these verses is clear. They 
are, as Briggs says, inconsistent with the Davidic authorship of 
the psalm, hence they must go out. But another conclusion 

*' There have been many attempts to explain the critical difficulties of this 
psalm. I have used the scaffolding which others have reared, but I hope to have 
pointed out the real architectural outlines of Ps. 18 somewhat more clearly than 
has previously been done. 

*' Why Dr. Briggs should characterize one gloss as legal and Persian, and the 
other as ethical and Greek, when both begin with exactly the same sentence (vs. 
20= vs. ii), is hard to understand. 


would seem to be the more natural one. Verses 20-37 are inti- 
mately connected with what precedes; and therefore at least the 
first part of the psalm cannot be by David. The only way this 
argument can be met is by showing that vss. 1-19 are so clearly 
Davidic that the rejection of vss. 20-26 becomes a necessity. 
Briggs accordingly argues for the primitive character of vss. 
1-19, and compares the theophany in these verses to Judges 5. 
The comparison suggests to me just the opposite view. Verses 
1-19 are good poetry, but only in the sense of being good con- 
ventionalized poetry; they are too formally correct to be primi- 
tive; Part I is in no sense creative. This, however, is a judg- 
ment of taste, and as such may or may not have argumentative 

Briggs further breaks up each of his two parts into three 
fourteen-line (!) strophes. Without following this analysis into 
all its details, some of its more conspicuous infelicities may be 
pointed out. His first strophe of Part I combines vss. 4-6 with 
vss. 1-3. This is bad, for the description of the distress is then 
blended with the initial thanksgivings, whereas in reality there 
is a sharp break between vss. 1-3 and vss. 4 ff. Again, his first 
strophe of Part II combines vss. 28-32 with vss. 33, 34. This is 
worse, for the liturgical generalizations of vss. 28-31 should not 
be combined with the highly concrete and intimate descriptions 
which begin at vs. 33. But even in the form which Briggs gives 
to it this first strophe cannot be hewed out without resort to the 
most improbable suppositions. For example, vs. 30b is rejected 
while 30c is accepted. Yet both clauses are found together in 
Prov. 30 5; and why should they be torn apart here? So vs. 31 
is admittedly a tetrameter, and admittedly monotheistic and as 
such out of relation with the context and inconsistent with Davidic 
authorship. If there was ever a good case for a gloss, one would 
think it would be found here. But Briggs emends the line into 
a trimeter, and turns its monotheism into henotheism in the 

For who is a God (like) Yahweh? 

And who is a Rock (like) our God? 

It is difficult to follow such a procedure. Is it really responsible 
criticism? Furthermore, out of vss. 43-50 Briggs makes one of 


his long stanzas. This is accomplished by the elimination, not 
only of vs. 49, for which there is good reason, but also of vss. 
44b and 45. On the other hand, vs. 50c is retained, and thus the 
necessity of the transposition suggested above is avoided. The 
greater simplicity of this theory is an advantage, but the pro- 
priety of eliminating vss. 44b, 45, rather than vs. 50c, may be 
doubted, and we have already seen that the division into f ourteen- 
line stanzas has broken down completely at two crucial points. 
Elsewhere it is so awkward as compared with the division into 
quatrains that no adequate justification for attempting to find 
a fourteen-line stanza in vss. 43-50 can be drawn from the fact 
that the rest of the psalm is so divided. To the present reviewer 
Briggs's poetical analysis of Psalm 18 appears to have no exe- 
getical basis in the text, but on the contrary is opposed to all the 
exegetical probabilities of the case. The attempt to save the 
Davidic authorship by the supposition of glosses and accretions 
is in the present instance a failure.*' 

It is a pleasure to turn from Briggs's analysis of Psalm 18 to 
his restoration of Psalm 73. Psalm 73 is one of the greatest of 
the whole collection; it is the hymn of an original religious genius. 
In his work upon this psalm we see Briggs's poetical analysis at 
its best, and we cannot be too grateful to him for the thorough 
and convincing way in which he has restored to us this master- 
piece in all its rugged grandeur. 

Psalm 73, like Psalm 18, falls into two parts: Part I, vss. 1-12, 
the recognition by the poet of the prosperity of the wicked; Part 
II, vss. 13-28, the effect of this recognition upon the poet's faith. 
Can these two parts again be broken up into exegetically justified 
strophical divisions? In the present instance this question is 
complicated with that of the identification of the speaker. From 
vs. 1 it might be argued that the "I" of the speaker is collective, 
and refers to the personified congregation of the godly. On the 

*' The only portion of the psalm which might lay claim to Davidic authorship 
is Part II. Here there are a number of details which would seem to fit David, or 
an idealized David, better than any other character in Israel's history, but here 
language and literary connections (compare vss. 44, 45, with Micah 7 17, especially 
in the peculiarities of the Hebrew) make the Davidic authorship very dubious, 
even if the authenticity of this psalm were treated solely by itself and apart from 
considerations of the growth of the Psalter as a whole. 


other hand, an examination of the rest of the psalm would suggest 
that if there is an individual speaker anywhere in the Psalter, 
it is here. The feeling in the psalm is poignant and personal to 
the last degree. Briggs rightly feels this, and accordingly holds 
that vs. 1 is a liturgical gloss. The strophical analysis will there- 
fore begin with vs. 2. A division into quatrains can be readily 
followed through the rest of Part I (vss. 2, 3; vss. 4, 5; vss. 6, 7; 
vss. 8, 9) until we reach vss. 10-12. Here there are two lines 
too many. Verse 10 is eliminated by Briggs, and on good grounds. 
The verse is very obscure (it would seem to be promissory); 
and it interrupts the connection, since vs. 11 naturally tells what 
the wicked men of vs. 9 say. With vss. 1 and 10 thus elimi- 
nated on entirely intelligible grounds,^" Part I is seen to fall into 
five quatrains. 

In Part II there is an exegetical difficulty. The "for" at vs. 
21 does not attach itself readily to what immediately precedes, 
and would seem rather to refer to vss. 15, 16. Thus the syntax 
suggests that vss. 17-20 may be an interpolation. The verses 
contain a description of the final lot of the wicked in terms of the 
theology of Job's friends. If they are retained, the poet, though 
cast down by the thought of the present prosperity of the wicked, 
yet takes comfort in the belief that they will ultimately be pun- 
ished. After this he is ready to cast himself upon God, vss. 
23 ff. But how much the psalm gains in power when vss. 17-20 
are omitted! The psalmist realizes the great theological diffi- 
culties which the prosperity of the wicked presents, and has no 
solution for them. All he can do is to make the great venture of 
faith, and unreservedly trust in God. How the wonderful glow 
of the living faith, created by the friction of doubt, which finds 
expression in vss. 23 ff., is chilled into a formal dogma by vss. 
17-20! But if these verses are removed, it is probable that vss. 
27, 28, are also to be pruned away. In them the same doctrine 
emerges as in vss. 17—20. Also, the psalm reaches its radiant 
climax in vss. 21-26: vss. 27, 28, are only embers. It is prob- 

"■» Briggs's assumed glosses are not always so convincing. When he says, for 
example, of Ps. 59 14, "A prosaic editor made the couplet into a prose sentence," 
one can but ask what the editor's object was in doing this. Thfa sort of explana- 
tion that does not explain is found again and again. 


able that here again we have liturgical accretions, and the LXX 
adds still another line, "In the gates of the Daughter of Zion," 
which indicates that the present end of the psalm, like the 
beginning (vs. 1), was adapted to congregational use. If 
vss. 17-20 and 27, 28, be rejected, Part II will also be found 
to have exactly five quatrains (vss. 13, 14; vss. 15, 16; vss. 21, 
22; vss. 23, 24; vss. 25, 26). In this reconstruction the psalm 
stands out in all its original perfection of form and nobility of 

I have thought it more instructive to show the reader in detail 
in the case of the two important psalms just discussed how 
Briggs applies his metrical and strophical theories to the restora- 
tion of the psalms rather than to make bare reference to a larger 
number of examples. What is true of his exposition of these 
psalms is true for the others. In some cases he takes the fortress, 
in some he fails. The interesting thing to observe is that even 
an approximately correct theory of Hebrew metre does not guar- 
antee convincing results in criticism. These depend after all very 
largely upon skilful exegesis and textual criticism. Without 
these a metrical theory is a dangerous tool, as apt to do damage 
as to be serviceable. With them a metrical theory can often be 
used with excellent effect when other tools fail. 

It will be interesting, therefore, to look at Briggs's treatment 
of questions which are fundamentally exegetical rather than his- 
torical or critical. For this purpose I have selected his discus- 
sion of certain typical "I-psalms," because, while criticism often 
enters into this discussion, yet in the main the definition of the 
"I" is a distinctively exegetical question; and it is here that the 
exegetical skill of a commentator can most readily be discerned. 

It will be well at the outset to give a brief sketch of the history 
of this problem, and to indicate its signal importance. The 
tendency to explain the "I" collectively of the Jewish people 
is already to be seen in the Septuagint, for instance in the title 
of Psalm 56. The Targum interprets in this way Psalms 23, 38, 
56, and 88. In the Talmud the problem was clearly formulated: 
"R. Eliezer says: David spoke all the psalms in his own interest; 
R. Joshua thinks : In the interest of the congregation. The Wise 
on the other hand explain: He spoke some in his own interest, 


some in the interest of the congregation." ^^ The church fathers, 
notably Theodore of Mopsuestia, at times adopted the collec- 
tive theory, and the great Jewish commentators of the Middle 
Ages maintained it, although in varying degrees. On the other 
hand, Calvin, an exegete greater than them all, interpreted the 
"I" individualistically, no doubt because of his hostility to 
everything that savored of the allegorical method of exegesis. 
But it was reserved for the nineteenth century to discuss the 
problem of the exact identification of the speaker in the Psalms 
at length and in all its bearings. Only then did the fundamental 
significance of the problem for the interpretation of the Psalter 
fully reveal itself. Passing over Olshausen's commentary on the 
Psalms (1853), in which the Psalter was regarded as the song-book 
of the Second Temple, and the Psalms treated as hymns primarily 
designed for public worship, the "I" being therefore collective, 
attention must be called to the epoch-making essay of Smend, 
"tJber das Ich in den Psalmen" in the Zeitschrift filr alttestament- 
liche Wissenschaft (1888). Since the appearance of this paper, 
and largely because of it, an extensive literature on the subject 
has developed. The monographs of Beer (1894) and Coblenz 
(1897), already mentioned, and the discussion of the subject in 
Cheyne's Historical Origin and Religious Ideas of the Psalter 
(1891), are among the main contributions; but since Smend's 
essay every Old Testament scholar has had to define his own 
attitude toward the problem. How far-reaching this exegetical 
question may become may be briefly illustrated. 

(1) Smend argues on a priori grounds that the "I" of the 
Psalter must be collective, because the Psalter is a temple hymn- 
book. But was it so.'' At least, was it only a temple hymn-book.'' 
Briggs holds that it was used in the synagogue also; Duhm be- 
lieves that it was designed for private as well as public devotion. 
The so-called "anti-sacrificial psalms" certainly do not favor 
the idea of exclusive use in the temple service. The identifica- 
tion of the "I" is thus closely related to the question of the 

'^ Cited from Coblenz, tJber das betende Ich in den Psalmen, p. 2. [Coblenz 
has not quoted the whole passage; it continues: "Those which are expressed in 
the singular number refer to himself, those in the plural to the community" 
(Pesahim 117 a).— Ed.] 


purpose of the Psalter, and so we are led into a new series of 

(2) In by far the largest number of the "I-psalms" the speaker 
is surrounded by enemies. Whp are these enemies? Are they 
private enemies of a private individual, or public enemies of a 
public individual, or the public enemies, whether foreign or do- 
mestic, of the community.' Have we, that is, in these psalms 
reflections of private quarrels, or of wars, or of party contests? 
It will readily be seen what importance the answer to these ques- 
tions may have for the dating of these psalms. 

(3) If the speaker should prove to be a collective person, the 
religion of the speaker is the religion of the community. Then, 
since the religion of the Psalter is in general of the same type 
throughout, the natural inference is that the psalms originated 
in the same general period, and a community-religion of that 
type can only be understood in the conditions of the post-exilic 
period. The identification of the "I" is thus brought, as Smend 
expressly urges, into direct connection with the dating of the 

(4) The ethics of the Psalms assumes a very different complexion 
according as the "I" is interpreted individualistically or col- 
lectively. The difficulties of the imprecatory psalms, for ex- 
ample, are relieved, even if not altogether removed, if it is held 
that the curses are not expressions of individual hatred against 
other individuals but rather of community feeling against other 
parties or nations. Community hatred may be very bitter, 
and yet be coupled at times with generous consideration for 
individuals of the opposite party; and thus the fierceness of 
these psalms may not always represent personal hatred. 

(5) The same question enters in a crucial way into some of 
our judgments upon the religious significance of the Psalter. For 
example, under the individualistic interpretation Ps. 16 10, 11, 
probably refers to personal immortality. On the collective in- 
terpretation it refers only to the preservation of the community. 
Again, under the individualistic interpretation, the sense of sin 
in Psalm 51 would be a sense of personal sin, and would approxi- 
mate to the Pauline conception. On the collective theory it 
would be the confession of the sin of the community. 


(6) Finally, the interpretation of the "I" is of great impor- 
tance for the proper interpretation of the Messianic passages in 
the Psalter. On the usual patristic theory it is Christ himself 
who speaks in the Psalms. Thus Psalm 22 becomes a direct 
description by Christ himself of his own passion. On the collec- 
tive theory such an interpretation of Psalm 22 is impossible. 
On the other hand, passages which would have no messianic 
significance under the individualistic interpretation may acquire 
such significance under the collective view. The confidence ex- 
pressed in Psalm 6, if the speaker is Israel, is a confidence in the 
messianic future. On the individualistic interpretation there is 
no messianic reference whatever in this psalm. 

It wUl be seen that the problem of the identification of the 
"I" is really the fundamental exegetical problem in the great 
majority of the Psalms. Does this problem stand out clearly 
in our present commentary? Far from it. In the introduction 
no allusion is made to it. Even in the section on Interpre- 
tation it is not mentioned, though this would have been a fit- 
ting place for some information upon the subject. The student 
stumbles upon the problem for the first time at Psalm 5, in 
which the "I" is interpreted collectively by Briggs. The omis- 
sion of any preliminary discussion of so important a topic puts 
the student at a serious disadvantage. Not even when Briggs 
comes to the detailed exposition of the "I-psalms" in the com- 
mentary does he make good the omission by enlarging upon 
the subject. At Psalm 5, where the question of the identification 
of the "I" is first raised, the collective theory which is adopted 
is not proved, but is simply assumed. Inasmuch as there are no 
very clear individualizing traits in the psalm apart from the use 
of the first person, this might be allowed to pass, but when we 
come to Psalm 6 and its kindred "invalid psalms" (Psalms 38, 41, 
22, 30, 69, 88, and 102) we are confronted with an exegetical 
problem of the most delicate description. In the interpretation 
of these psalms failure to set forth the reasons for the theory 
adopted is fatal. 

Take for example Psalm 6. In vss. l-7a the speaker describes 
himseK as a sick man, in vs. 7 specifically referring to his bed, 
and prays that God may deliver him from his sickness. On the 


other hand, in vss. 7b-10 all reference to sickness is dropped, and 
enemies take the place of sickness. Further, in these last verses 
there is no prayer for deliverance, but an assurance that God has 
already heard the psalmist's prayer and will deliver him from his 
enemies; the past tenses in vss. 8, 9, are "perfects of assurance." 
At first sight it seems as if the two parts could have nothing to 
do with each other and as if the psalm were composite. If unity 
is to be brought into the psalm, the most natural method is to 
hold that the sickness described in the first part is a figure for 
the persecution implied in the second part. Then the prayer for 
deliverance from sickness in vss. l-7a becomes the prayer which 
is answered in vss. 7b-10, where the figure is dropped, and unity 
of subject is introduced into the psalm. But if the "I" is an 
individual, the poet has in the first part needlessly hidden his 
meaning. The reference certainly seems to be to actual sickness, 
and the sudden change in the last part to enemies is unmediated 
and confusing, and therefore bad from a literary point of view. 
If, on the other hand, the "I" is collective, it would be 
understood at once that sickness is only a figure, and hence the 
transition from the figure in vss. l-7a to the thing figured in vss. 
7b-10 would be natural and easy. 

But there is another exegetical difficulty in this psalm. How 
can the sudden change from almost despairing entreaty in vss. 
l-7a to confidence in vss. 7b-10 be accounted for? Why is the 
speaker so sure that God will stand by him as against his ene- 
mies? Why is he so certain that he is in the right? On the 
individualistic theory this is hard to explain. It is usually sup- 
posed that in the very expression of his despair the speaker in- 
duces a reaction and finds relief. Hope takes the place of agony. 
Of course this is psychologically possible, but it would seem far 
simpler to hold to the collective interpretation of the "I." In 
that case the community can be easily thought of as persuaded 
that the cause of the religion of Jahveh was so bound up in its 
own redemption that God must deliver it from its enemies. Thus, 
under the collective interpretation of the "I," the hope in vss. 
8-10 becomes messianic. 

The collective interpretation of Psalm 6 is strongly confirmed 
when we turn to Psalm 38. Here we meet with the same curious 


difference between the first and last parts of the psalm. In 
vss. 1-11 the speaker describes himself as sick, but in vss. 12-22 
(except vs. 17b) only persecution by enemies is referred to. In 
Psalm 38 there is not the change from despair to assurance which 
is found in Psalm 6, but there are several new and important 
factors which bear upon the interpretation of the "I." The 
description of the sickness is given in such varied terms that it 
can hardly refer to a real sickness, and the phraseology of verses 
3, 5, and 7 seems to be consciously reminiscent of Isaiah 1 6, 
where the nation is described as sick. Most important of all, 
there is a remarkable, and at first sight unaccountable, paradox 
in the psalm. In the first half the singer acknowledges his guilt; 
it is because of his sin that all his troubles have come upon him. 
But in the second half (with the exception of vs. 18) he appears 
to be innocent and wrongfully persecuted by his enemies. It is 
hard to explain this paradox if the speaker is an individual, but 
simple if the "I" is collective. A community, especially if it be 
the community of the pious, can acknowledge its guilt, since it 
is a part of the nation, and can explain its sufferings accordingly. 
But as against the nations or the ungodly among the Jews them- 
selves the congregation of the pious can maintain its inno- 

These, in outline, are the arguments which have been advanced 
to prove a collective "I" in these two very interesting, but at 
first sight perplexing, psalms. Does Briggs use any of these argu- 
ments or contribute anything new to the discussion.'' On Psalm 
6 he merely remarks in the introductory note, "The Ps. was 
composed for the congregation, and there is no trace in it of the 
experience of an individual." In the exposition proper the col- 
lective theory is assumed, no exegetical argument being advanced 
for it. 

No reference whatever is made to the peculiar relationship of 
the two parts of the psalm, and on the abrupt change from 
despair to assurance at vs. 8 we have the merely passing note 
that the congregation's "prayer receives its answer while they 
are making it." This would seem to imply the psychological 
explanation of the transition offered by the advocates of the 
individualistic interpretation, — an explanation which is unneces- 


sary and even unnatural on the collective theory. The comment 
on the sympathetic relationship between the singer's trouble 
and his aching bones also agrees with Beer's individualistic in- 
terpretation of the psalm, but is hardly pertinent on the col- 
lective view. Again, vs. 5 must be interpreted figuratively if 
the "I" is collective, but no explanation of its figurative sig- 
nificance is forthcoming. To the statement that there is no trace 
of the experience of an individual in Psalm 6 an advocate of the 
opposite view might urge vs. 6; so Coblenz, though sympathetic 
toward the collective interpretation in many of the psalms, holds 
to the individualistic interpretation of Psalm 6 mainly on ac- 
count of this one verse. Briggs ignores the difficulty which 
it presents to his theory. 

On Psalm 38, again, there is not an argument advanced for the 
collective theory. On the contrary, our author robs himself of 
a very strong confirmatory argument furnished by this psalm, 
namely the paradox of the simultaneous confession of sin and the 
assertion of innocence by the speaker. On metrical grounds 
vss. 2-5 and vs. 18, in which the confession of sin is found, are 
rejected as accretions, and the paradox is thus removed; but at 
the same time the interesting argument from it for the collective 
theory is lost. On vs. 18b the suggestion is made that a later 
editor inserted this verse, "in order to adapt the psalm to public 
worship." But if the "I" is collective, the psalm must havebeen 
originally designed for public worship; the comment is really 
inconsistent with the view taken of the "I." On the collective 
theory some attempt should be made to identify the lovers and 
friends of vs. 11 and the enemies of vs. 12, but the comment 
on vs. 11 is simply the paraphrase "those upon whom I could 
ordinarily rely for sympathy and aid."'^ Nothing is distinctly 
said on the identification of the enemies. One might infer from 

'^ A considerable portion of the exposition printed in large type is devoted to 
just such tautological paraphrases of the Biblical phraseology. For instance, in 
the present psalm, vs. 6, "I am bent || bowed down], by a weight of care, anxiety, 
and suffering, and this, exceedingly, to the utmost degree of intensity"; vs. 8, 
"/ am benumbed and crushed]. Strength has so departed from him that he has 
become, as it were, paralysed and incapable of effort"; vs. 10, " The light of mine 
eyes], the light that illumines the eyes, enabling them to see what is to be done, 
giving confidence and courage." 


the time at which the psalm is dated (in the restoration before 
Nehemiah) that foreign enemies were thought of, but this is not 
certain. As a matter of fact, in the comment on Psalm 6 the 
enemies are explained as "workers of trouble in Israel itself." 

In Psalm 41 the various factors that entered into the identi- 
fication of the "I" in Psalms 6 and 38 are again all present, but 
this time the concreteness of expression is so striking that the 
psalm would be almost unintelligible did we not have the two 
former psalms to guide us. Sickness and persecution are again 
found, but intermingled in a most confusing way. The enemies 
are represented as gathered around the bedside of the dying 
man, malignantly slandering him and devising evil against him 
(vs. 8). There is also the confession of guilt (vs. 4) and the 
assertion of innocence (vss. 11, 12) already found in Psalm 38, 
and the sudden transition from despair (vss. 1-9) to hope (vss. 
10-12) found in Psalm 6, though in Psalm 41 an additional venge- 
ful cry is sent up to the Lord for recovery in order that the speaker 
may requite his enemies. The individualizing traits of the psalm 
are especially pronoimced. Smend says of it, " One can learn from 
this song how far the personification of the community can go." 
Duhm, on the other hand, who follows the individualistic inter- 
pretation throughout, draws a repulsive picture of the state of 
society reflected by this psalm, — with the sick man on his death- 
bed, surrounded by hypocritical friends who, like Job's comforters, 
argue from his sufferings to his wickedness and, dominated by 
their wretched dogmas, fairly gloat over his condition, while the 
dying man himself with his last breath cries to God for recovery 
so that he may avenge himself upon them. It is a lovely death- 
bed scene of one of the people of God ! 

Surely in the case of such a psalm there ought to be some dis- 
cussion of the identification of the "I," with a defence of the col- 
lective theory, if that is adopted. But as usual there is simply 
the statement, "The Ps. is national . . . and there is no reference 
to an individual." This time Briggs seems to have felt that some 
explanation of vs. 9 on the collective theory is due. It is in- 
terpreted (in all probability correctly) of "nations in covenant, 
who have treacherously broken covenant and become bitter 
enemies," but unfortunately there is no reference to Obadiah 7 


which supports the nationalistic interpretation, at least if the 
text of that passage can be trusted.^ As in Psalm 38, the clause 
in which sin is confessed (vs. 4b) is rejected. It may be noted 
also that vs. 10b is dropped on metrical grounds. 

An equal obliviousness to the need of any exegetical defence of 
the collective theory of the "I" is found in the exposition of Psalm 
30, though here Sheol in verse 3, cf. verse 9, is interpreted of 
national exile, with reference to Ezekiel 37. This is the explana- 
tion which we looked for at the parallel passage Psalm 6 5. It 
was just as much needed there, but was not given. 

On Psalm 88 there is a somewhat clearer exposition of the details 
of the psalm on the basis of the collective theory, and at vs. 15 
there is the first exegetical argument for the collective "I" to be 
met with anywhere in the comment on the five psalms thus far 
reviewed. It is urged that the reference to "youth" in this verse 
cannot be satisfactorily explained if the "I" is an individual." 

In the case of Psalms 22, 69, and 102 the identification of the 
speaker is complicated by the serious critical problem of the 
integrity of these psalms. Psalm 69 I shall pass by, since the 
analysis of this psalm, both logically and poetically, is too un- 
certain to allow of a clear formulation of our problem. Attention 
need only be called to the fact that it is analyzed by Briggs 
into two distinct psalms, in one of which the "I" seems to be an 
individual prophet, and in the other the ideal community. The 
grounds for the analysis are metrical, and of doubtful cogency. 
Duhm, for example, has a different metrical theory of the psalm. 
Briggs makes no attempt to explain why the "I" is interpreted 
differently in the two parts which he thinks he can distinguish 
in the psalm. 

^ The crucial objection to the collective interpretation of Psalm 41 is found 
in vss. 1-3, a didactic observation and strongly individualizing. Briggs notes 
that these verses are "in a strange sort of isolation"; he adopts a new translation 
in order to connect them with what follows, but the translation is more than doubt- 
ful. If the collective theory is adopted, it is probable that vss. 1-3 will have to 
be eliminated. It is difficult to connect them with the rest of the psalm, even 
on the individualistic interpretation. 

^ The only meaning it could possibly have on the individualistic interpretation 
would be that the speaker had been all his life a chronic invalid. Duhm seeks 
by emendation to avoid this objection to the individuaUstic interpretation. 


In the case of Psalms 22 and 102 the bearing of the critical 
problem upon the identification of the "I" can be much more 
readily grasped by the reader. Psalm 22 1-21 contrasts strik- 
ingly with vss. 22-31, and even the Revised Version separates 
the two parts by a space. On the supposition of the unity of 
the psalm, the praise for the deliverance of the afflicted in vss. 
22-31 can be naturally interpreted only as praise for the deliver- 
ance of the afflicted speaker in vss. 1-21. Now this deliverance 
not only has a national significance (vs. 23), but has a world-wide 
application (vs. 27), in fact a messianic significance in the largest 
sense. The nations are to be converted to Jahveh because of 
this deliverance, and its effects will be felt upon nations yet 
unborn, vss. 27-31. If we allow vss. 22-31 to govern our theory 
of the personality of the speaker in the first part of the psalm, 
he must be either a most extraordinary individual, who yet can- 
not be identified with any person known in Jewish history, or he 
is the personified community.^^ The advocates of the collective 
"I" urge vss. 22-31 as one of the strongest arguments in support 
of their theory. This is said to be corroborated by the fact that 
in vs. 4 the personification is dropped for a moment and the 
actual "we" of the congregation appears ("Our fathers trusted 
in thee"), and by the further fact that the present condition of 
the "I" in vs. 6 (very emphatic in the Hebrew) seems to contrast 
with the previous condition of the nation in vss. 4, 5, which would 
be unnatural except on the collective theory. It might be thought 
that at vss. 22 and 25 the speaker separates himself from the 
community and is accordingly an individual. There is a diffi- 
culty here for the collective interpretation, but it is by no means 
fatal. We may explain it with Smend by the theory that "Israel 
is distinct from the Israelites, cf. Hosea 1 and 2," or we may 
suppose with Coblenz that in verses 22 and 25 the individual 
members of the congregation are speaking. 

In our commentary the collective theory of the speaker seems to 
be adopted, but the unity of the psalm is denied, and of the last 
part only verses 22 and 25 are admitted to belong to the origi- 
nal. Herein is a marvellous thing. That part of the psalm which 

^ Even Calvin did not venture to identify the speaker in this psalm directly 
with Christ. 


can be urged most forcibly for the collective theory is rejected, 
but those verses which bear most strongly against the theory are 
retained. Yet the collective theory is adopted without one word 
of explanation as to the bearing of either of these points upon it. 
In this psalm, however, we meet with the second instance thus 
far observed of an exegetical argument for the collective theory 
of the "I." In the introduction to the psalm it is said that "the 
description is too varied for any individual experience." But no 
inference as to the nature of the "I" is drawn from the first 
person plural in vss. 4, 5.^^ 

Finally, with regard to Psalm 102, if its unity is accepted, the 
case for the collective "I" may be considered to be proved be- 
yond peradventiu-e. In vss. 13 ff. Zion stands out in her own 
proper person. If there is any connection at all between these 
verses and what has gone before, the "I" of the first part of 
the psalm must be collective. As for Psalm 22, the collective 
theory is maintained ("the author wrote in the person of af- 
flicted Israel"), but the unity of the psalm, which is the strong- 
est support of the theory, is denied. It must be confessed that 
the argument for the composite character of Psalm 102 is particu- 
larly strong, but the point is that our author seems quite oblivi- 
ous of the bearing of the critical question upon the exegesis. 

The present reviewer cannot pretend to have examined the 
treatment accorded to all the "I-psalms" in the present com- 
mentary. But a typical group of them has been selected in which 
the exegetical problem of the identification of the "I" is pe- 
culiarly acute and demands at least an attempt at solution. 
For not one of these psalms is there anything that can be called 
a discussion of the question. Only two exegetical arguments in 
favor of the collective "I" have been found in the sixty-two 

^ The unity of Psalm 22 is a fairly debatable question. The transition from 
the first part to the second is certainly abrupt. Yet it has its analogy in Psalm 6, 
the integrity of which is universally admitted. Further, the relation of the last 
part to the first corresponds so strikingly with Isa. 53 (cf. Beer's illuminating ex- 
position) that it seems hardly due to chance compilation. But even if the original 
unity of the psalm is denied, the present combination of the two parts can hardly 
have been made on any other than a collective theory of the "I" (unless we hold 
that it is due simply to accident), and hence it may be argued that at the time of 
the redaction of this psalm the collective theory of the "I" was prevalent (a point 
not noticed by Briggs). 


pages devoted to the exposition of these psalms. The theory is 
regularly assumed, but the arguments for it are either ignored 
or are actually invalidated, as by the critical theories adopted 
in the case of Psalms 22, 69, and 102. The diflSculties in the way 
of the theory, especially those presented by the detailed personifica- 
tions which must be assumed, are largely passed over without 
a word of explanation. This means that the really vital problems 
in the interpretation of these interesting and important psalms 
are scarcely touched, for they can only be revealed in a discussion 
of the identification of the "I."^^ 

It is unnecessary to sum up the general results of our review. 
The dissent from the methods followed in this commentary may 
seem to some to have been emphasized too strongly; yet I trust 
that the discussion has made it evident that the dissent is an 
honest and not a captious one. Of the four topics which have 
been reviewed, the interest and permanent value of the com- 
mentary, apart from the vast collection of material, word-studies, 
and discussions of the literary relationships of the psalms, lie 
in the treatment of the poetical form of the psalms. The establish- 
ment of the original poetic forms of the psalms is the one domi- 
nant interest of the commentary. Here many valuable sugges- 
tions have undoubtedly been made of which the professional 
student of the future will make grateful use. But in the nature 

" In the above discussion as to the nature of the speaker no notice has been 
taken of the hght which the Babylonian penitential psalms may throw upon the 
problem. These psalms would seem to have been originally individualistic, though 
afterwards adapted to liturgical purposes. In many respects they are very sim- 
ilar to the Hebrew "invalid psalms" (compare the end of the truly remarkable 
psalm cited in Jeremias, "Das Alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients," 
pp. 210 ff., with Ps. 41), and might suggest that after all the "I" in the latter 
psalms was originally individualistic, though its exegetical argument is strongly 
in favor of a collective theory. Briggs does not refer to the Babylonian analogies in 
his comments on the psalms which have been examined above. In general, the 
analogies between the Hebrew Psalter and other ancient Oriental literature do not 
seem greatly to interest him. He does not once mention the great hymn of Chue- 
naten in his exposition of Ps. 104. He alludes to the Babylonian Tiamat-myth 
in connection with Ps. 89 10 ft., but unfortunately explains the very similar passage 
Ps. 74 12 £f. of the redemption from Egypt, whereas it almost certainly refers 
to the creation-myth. On the other hand, it is interesting to notice that Briggs 
inclines to an original mythological background for Ps. 19. In this view he agrees 
with Gunkel, though the two scholars arrived at it quite independently of one 


of the case those results are not exact or final, but are necessarily 
conjectural. The lay reader or minister or theological student 
who may use this book must constantly keep in mind the tentative 
nature of the poetical analysis, and always test the reconstruction 
by the requirements of exegesis. Unfortimately, on the side of 
exegesis the commentary does not inspire confidence.