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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/97

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Part II.
65
INTRODUCTION.

never reigned or lived on earth, but was the Creator and Preserver of the universe, living before all time, and extending beyond all space; though it must be confessed they have not always expressed this idea with the purity and distinctness which might be desired.

It is uncertain how far they adhered to this purity of belief in Assyria, where they were more mixed up with other races than they have ever been before or since. In Syria, where they were superimposed upon and mixed with a people of Turanian origin, they occasionally worshipped stones and groves, serpents, and even bulls; but they inevitably oscillated back to the true faith and retained it to the last. In Arabia, after they became dominant, they cast off their Turanian idolatries, and rallied as one man to the watchword of their race, "There is no God but God," expressed with a clearness that nothing can obscure, and clung to it with a tenacity that nothing could shake or change. Since then they have never represented God as man, and hardly ever looked upon Him as actuated by the feelings of humanity.

The channel of communication between God and man has always been, with all the Semitic races, by means of prophecy. Prophets are sent, or are inspired, by God, to communicate His will to man, to propound His laws, and sometimes to foretell events; but in all instances without losing their character as men, or becoming more than messengers for the special service for which they are sent.

With the Jews, but with them only, does there seem to have been a priest caste set aside for the special service of God; not selected from all the people, as would have been the case with the casteless Turanians, but deriving their sanctity from descent, as would have been the case with the Aryans; still they differed from the Aryan institution inasmuch as the Levites always retained the characteristics of a tribe, and never approached the form of an aristocracy. They may therefore be considered ethnographically as an intermediate institution, partaking of the characteristics of the other two races.

The one point in which the Semitic form of religion seems to come in contact with the Turanian is that of sacrifice—human, in early times perhaps, even till the time of Abraham, but afterwards only of oxen and sheep and goats in hecatombs; and this apparently not among the Arabs, but only with the Jews and the less pure Phœnicians.

From their having no human gods they avoided all the palatial temples or ceremonial forms of idolatrous worship. Strictly speaking, they have no temples. There was one holy place in the old world, the Hill of Zion at Jerusalem, and one in the new dispensation, the Kaaba at Mecca. Solomon, it is true, adorned the first to an extent but little consonant with the true feeling of his race, but the Kaaba remains in its primitive insignificance; and neither of these temples,