One of the greatest obstructions to an intelligent, rational, and systematic interpretation and understanding of the Bible has been, and is yet. indeed, for many people, the hard and fast notions which have been entertained on the subject of the literal or verbal inspiration of the Bible, its absolute inerrancy, and the almost superstitious veneration and awe with which the book has been regarded merely as a book, a feeling which, in some instances, seems to fall little short of fetishism. There are those who appear to take it for granted that our good King James version, with its division into books, chapters, verses, etc., must have been received from God pretty much as we received it from our ancestors. Most of us, however, are more or less familiar with the history of our English version. We know how it was first translated from foreign and dead languages into the English of the common people by Wycliffe and his associates, by Tyndale and others; with what fidelity and consecration of purpose these heroic men labored, against almost incredible difficulties, and at the imminent risk of their liberty and even their lives, in_ order that Englishmen everywhere might enjoy the privilege of reading the Word of God in their native tongue and around their own firesides. But with the earlier history of the sacred text and its gradual formation into our present Bible it is quite different. Not so many of us are aware, for instance, that so far from the books of the Old Testament having been dictated at one time to their ostensible authors by the Holy Spirit, as is commonly supposed, probably not one of its historic books was wholly written by the author whose name it bears, and many of its books bear evident marks of having been composed by many authors at different and greatly divergent periods of Hebrew development. Prof. S. R. Driver (An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, p. 3) says, —
"The historic books of the Old Testament form two series; ... no entire book in either series consists of a single original work; but older writings or sources have been combined by a compiler in such a manner that the points of juncture are often plainly discernible, and the sources are in consequence capable of being separated from one another. . . . The authors of the Hebrew historical books—except the shorter, as Ruth and Esther—do not rewrite the matter in their own language; they excerpt from the sources at their disposal such passages as are suitable to their purpose, and incorporate them in their work, sometimes adding matter of their own, but often (as it seems) introducing only such modifications of form as are necessary for the purpose of fitting them together, or accommodating them to their place. The Hebrew historiographer, as we know him, is essentially a compiler or arranger of pre-existent documents, he is not himself an original author."
The book of Genesis is an example in point. It and the Hexateuch of which it is a part are now clearly discerned to be composed of three great divisions, each contributed by different writers. The first embraces the first chapter of Genesis and to verse four inclusive of the second chapter, and other portions of the Hexateuch. It is known as the Elohistic division because it uses the word Elohim for God; and it is also designated by the letter P, which stands for Priest Code, because it prescribes certain ceremonial regulations, rituals, etc. Then there is the Jahvistic division, in which God is always addressed as Jahve, Jehovah, which is designated by the letter J; then the second Elohistic division, which, while using the name Elohim, yet resembles the Jahvistic writings, with which it became combined at an early date, and the two are designated by the letters JE. Inasmuch as the first Elohistic or P narrative embraces the first chapter of Genesis, which describes man as created in the image and likeness of God, and God as pronouncing "very good" all that He had created; and, on the other hand, the Jahvistic or JE narrative includes all that portion which represents man as created out of dust, and the equally crude and materialistic concept of a garden of Eden and man's expulsion therefrom, it cannot fail to be a matter of interest to Christian Scientists to observe the relative estimate in which the two narratives are held by learned men of our times who have written critically on the subject. Professor Driver thinks the two chapters of Genesis "contain a double narrative of the origin of man upon earth," which are conflicting and irreconcilable. So with Dillmann (Dillmann on Genesis) who says,—