The Evolution of Theology HTML version

dislike rests with them and not with me.
We are all likely to be more familiar with the theological history
of the Israelites than with that of any other nation. We may
therefore fitly make it the first object of our studies; and it will be
convenient to commence with that period which lies between the
invasion of Canaan and the early days of the monarchy, and
answers to the eleventh and twelfth centuries B.C. or thereabouts.
The evidence on which any conclusion as to the nature of Israelitic
theology in those days must be based is wholly contained in the
Hebrew Scriptures—an agglomeration of documents which
certainly belong to very different ages, but of the exact dates and
authorship of any one of which (except perhaps a few of the
prophetical writings) there is no evidence, either internal or
external, so far as I can discover, of such a nature as to justify more
than a confession of ignorance, or, at most, an approximate
conclusion. In this venerable record of ancient life, miscalled a
book, when it is really a library comparable to a selection of works
from English literature between the times of Beda and those of
Milton, we have the stratified deposits (often confused and even
with their natural order inverted) left by the stream of the
intellectual and moral life of Israel during many centuries. And,
embedded in these strata, there are numerous remains of forms of
thought which once lived, and which, though often unfortunately
mere fragments, are of priceless value to the anthropologist. Our
task is to rescue these from their relatively unimportant
surroundings, and by careful comparison with existing forms of
theology to make the dead world which they record live again. In
other words, our problem is palaeontological, and the method
pursued must be the same as that employed in dealing with other
fossil remains.
Among the richest of the fossiliferous strata to which I have
alluded are the books of Judges and Samuel. 1 It has often been
observed that these writings stand out, in marked relief from those