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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/641

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MOSAIC


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MOSAIC


the use made of it may have been as time went on, it seems right to conclude that its originators had more than a faint perception of tlie distinction between the different classes of law, and of their respective binding force. If, in given cases, equal penalties were meted out for delinquencies from the moral and ceremonial laws, it was because the nearness of the latter to the national God by reason of their universal character, seemed to give offences against them a peculiar hei- nousness, not found in other crimes. The legislators understood well that when monotheistic ceremonies declined, polytheistic institutions would supplant them, and then there would be no morality left to guard.

Origin. — The Torah, as a whole, was neither mir- aculously communicated from heaven, nor was it laboriously thought out and put together by Moses independently of external influences. It is some- times hazardously asserted that it antedated Moses by a thousand years or more, since much that is in the Torah is found also in the Code of Ham- murabi. Indeed, certain decrees in the Babylonian code are more excellent than their Mosaic parallels; in more important ones, however, the Torah takes precedenoe. It was the primitive condition of He- brew society that dictated Israel's first laws, by lead- ing to the establishment of family and tribal customs. Yet it would be wrong to maintain with too much as- surance that the same or a similar collection of laws would have resulted spontaneously and independently from the same natural conditions in any other pe- riod or clime. There had been precedents of just such customs and practices as Israel adopted, among other races with which the founders of Israel's laws had come in contact, and it seems an irresistible conclu- sion that, since Israel borrowed its language from its neighbours and could be so easily won over to heathen rites as to defy the vigilance of judges, priests, and prophets, it could not but be influenced by the social and political life of the neighbouring peoples.

The possibilities then, are the following: the migra- tion of Abraham from Chaldea would be responsible for the nucleus of Mosaic Legislation, which is pecu- liarly Semitic. The sojourn of the patriarchs among the Canaanites, coupled with their relations with the Pharaohs, would impart a foreign colouring, with a slight strengthening of the original stock during Jacob's retreat to Mesopotamia. The Egyptian op- pression would certainly elicit some well-defined views regarding justice and right. The education of Moses by Pharaoh's daughter would prepare a master-mind for tribal unification, while his experiences among the Semitic Midianites would teach him the necessity of certain institutions peculiar to desert life, with a due respect for established usages, such as must be taken into account even to-day in dealing with the Sinaitic tribes. Any real influence from the Code of Ham- murabi would have to operate, as it likely did, through one or other of these channels. The direct result of these antecedents would be a transmission of principles through the knowledge of concrete exam- ples illustrating them, the primitive mind not being capable of grasping or forming bare abstractions. What these traditionary laws were, and how they were reduced to practice in domestic and political life, is set forth at large in the article on Biblical An- tiquities.

No matter how much, or how little can be ex- plained in this way, room must always be left for direct, external, and Divine intervention, that is for an historic revelation made by God of Himself to the chosen people, in such a way as to guarantee them a special Providence and direction in working out their high destiny. Since such direction could be secured to future generations only through the Law by which they would be governed, the Sinaitic manifesta- tions must be explained as placing a Divine seal upon


existing laws, which they did not abrogate, and upon any normal development of them in the future which would be calculated to carry out the designs of Jehovah more efficiently. Then, too, there must have been something settled and fixed on the spot, as a norm to which subsequent prophets might appeal in their judgments of future laws and contingencies. It would be strange if some such remote preparation had not been made for a stupendous event like the Incarnation. Hence it is that the more reflecting among Christian critics, whatever be their views as to the literary composition of the Pentateuch, are at one in asserting that the Pentateuehal laws, even those of a ceremonial character, are traceable back to Moses as their founder; hence, too, the pecuHar psychological phenomenon all through Israel's history, that observ- ance of the law or any of its parts was superior to (non-compulsory) sacrifice, because it was a homage of obedience paid directly to the nation's God.

Codification. — In its present form the Mosaic Leg- islation appears without logical order, and inter- spersed with historical reminiscences. It is largely casuistic, as might be expected from the manner of its early transmission. (1) The Decalogue, with its two versions (Ex., xx, 2-17; Deut., v, 6-21) is basic, setting forth, as it does, the sovereignty and spiritual- ity of God, together with the sacredness of His and the neighbour's rights. (2) The "Book of the Cove- nant", so called in Ex., xxiv, 7, embraces Ex., xxi- xxiii, 19 (or xx, 20-xxiii, 33), and contains judicial, moral, and religious regulations for people living in primitive agricultural conditions. It is remarkable for its humanitarian character. (3) The Deuterono- mic code amplifies the preceding and adapts it to new conditions. (4) The "Law of Holiness" as contained in Lev., xvii-xxvi has reference chiefly to holiness of a moral and ceremonial nature. It forms a small part of what is now critically styled the (5) "Priest's Code". This last group abounds in ceremonial enactments, and comprises nearly all Leviticus and Numbers, with a few chapters of Exodus. In the fight of criticism there is no need of abandoning the tra- ditional beUef that Moses compiled, under the influ- ence of inspiration, any or all of these codes as they stood originally, or in that stage of development they had attained in his time. The literary peculiarities of the Pentateuch merely entitle us to assert that these various divisions were by later writers revised, enlarged, and brought up to date, while the changes in Israel's life, from a nomadic to a sedentary state, from a dispersed to a king-ruled nation, explain full well the appearance, as time went on, of a limited amount of new legislation quite consonant with the soul and spirit of the old. Common Law, as it were, grew and developed, but the statutory enactments remained inviolable.

Contents. — Abstracting from the distinction of codes, the Torah exhibits a dogmatic system that is rigorously monotheistic. A moral standard issues from this, having as its peculiar feature the identifi- cation of civil, social, and religious observance, with service performed directly and immediately for Jahweh, and at His bidding. A ceremonial charac- terized by its picturesqueness and wealth of detail follows, the evident purpose of which was to keep the people constantly in mind of the Covenant into which they or their ancestors had entered, and to as- sure them of God's fidelity to His promises, if only they would do their part. The civil and criminal enactments are sufficiently well explained elsewhere. The article on Biblical Antiquities dispenses us from treating in detail any of these topics save the ceremonial. Even that is largely dealt with in the paragraph on Sacreil Antiqiiilii-s (loc. cit.) and the articles Atonement, Dedication, Jubilee, Pasch, Pentecost, Purim, Sabbath, Tabernacles, Trum- pets.