Positive Testimony to the Pentateuch

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Objections do not destroy the historic character of the Pentateuch. But it is well to remember, that, independently of all solutions of difficulties, there is testimony sufficient to prove its genuineness and Divine origin. That testimony is found in the books of the Old and New Testament. It is possible to trace the existence of the Pentateuch in every age, from Malachi to Joshua: that is sufficient to prove its genuineness. It has the sanction of the Savior and His Apostles, and that will prove its Divine origin. The question may, however, occur to some minds, How do we know that the Pentateuch, which we now possess, is that referred to by our Lord, and cited by Hebrew writers?
To this the answer is, We have most satisfactory proof of the identity. The Pentateuch has descended to us in at least four independent channels. The whole people of the Jews, Rabbinists and Karaites; the Greek, Syrian, and Roman churches, all possess a Pentateuch. It stands at the beginning of their Sacred Scriptures. And those different copies—the Hebrew, Chaldee, Greek, Syriac, and Latin, all so wonderfully agree, as to leave no doubt of identity. The present Jews have received their Hebrew copies, and the Chaldee translations, from those who dwelt not only in Jerusalem, but in Babylon. The Pentateuch of Eastern, and Western, Indian, African, and Chinese Jews is the same. The translation possessed by the Greeks is that received at the time of their conversion, and has come down in a perfectly distinct channel from the Hebrew. There was no love between Jews and Greeks, so as to induce the latter to conform their Scriptures to those of the former, and yet the Greek Pentateuch is manifestly a translation of the Hebrew possessed by the Jews. The Syriac version agrees still more minutely with the Hebrew; and yet the intercourse of Syrian Christians with Jews was as little as that of the Greeks.
With regard to the Latin, there is the same agreement, and the same independence of transmission. Between Jews and Christians there was a wall of separation which entirely prevented either from borrowing of the other. Amongst Christians themselves there were differences, both in language and theology, sufficient to prevent collusion. The Greek translation was not made from the Syriac; nor the Syriac from the Greek. They are entirely independent one of the other; and yet all present to us, with a few unimportant differences, the same Pentateuch. The Hebrew is that which the Jews received from their fathers. The Greek existed before the Incarnation of the Savior. The Syriac version was made, as is generally supposed, early in the second century, probably before that time. We have, therefore, four independent witnesses to prove the identity of the Pentateuch which we possess, with that which was known to our Lord. And to these might be added the testimonies of Philo and Josephus, in whose writings sufficient portions of the Pentateuch are found to prove the identity of their copies with ours, and their belief that Moses was the author.
But, from the days of our Lord to the time of the last canonical Hebrew writer, there is a long interval. How can it be known, therefore, that the Pentateuch as then existing was that received from Malachi and his contemporaries? Here again there is a chain of sufficient testimonies. About one hundred and thirty years before Christ, the grandson of Jesus, the son of Sirach, translated the book of Ecclesiasticus into Greek.1 That book is acknowledged to be genuine, and has so many references to the Law as to prove the identity of the book so called. The first book of Maccabees, also received as authentic by modern critics, carries us nearly fifty years farther back. The mad efforts of Antiochus Epiphanes to destroy the book of the Law; and the zeal, not only of the priests, but of the common people, ready to die rather than disobey it, attest the existence of the book, and the popular belief that it was from God. That our Pentateuch existed, and was received as the law of Moses, one hundred years earlier, that is about two hundred and eighty years before Christ, is attested by the fact that it was then translated into Greek by Alexandrian Jews. Their version, commonly known as Septuagint, is that quoted by Evangelists and Apostles, and handed down to us by the Greek Fathers; and of whose agreement with the Hebrew we have already spoken.
Nor is this by any means all. The Providence of God has preserved a still more ancient testimony, in the Samaritan Pentateuch. Its existence was known to the Christian Fathers; but for a thousand years it lay concealed, and at last came forth as from the grave, to assure us of the identity of the Pentateuch. Suppose that in that long interval some doubter had said, The Samaritans were a distinct and rival sect, hated by the Jews, and hating in return. Josephus, and the Fathers of the Church, and the Rabbis, all bear witness that they had a copy of the Pentateuch: bring it forth and let us compare it with the Hebrew and Christian copies, and see whether they agree. How would he have triumphed had the Samaritan copy been produced, and found to differ altogether from those of Jews and Christians! But what is the fact? The Samaritan copy has been produced, written in a character equally unknown to Jews and Christians.
A little remnant of the people still exist to present it to the world. And lo! with the exception of a very few passages, it is the same in narrative and legislative enactment as that known to the Synagogue and the Church. This testimony carries us back to the erection of the Temple on Mount Gerizim, to the days of Sanballat, that is, to the time of Nehemiah,2 and the close of the canon of the Old Testament; and assures us not only that it existed, but that it was not and could not be a compilation of those times. Manasseh, of the family of the high priest, being excluded from the priesthood because he refused to dismiss his heathen wife as the Law required, does not protest against this Law as ungenuine, and therefore unworthy of obedience; but, when he leaves the Jewish people, imposes its yoke upon his Samaritan friends. Such conduct can only be explained by Manasseh's firm conviction that its origin was divine. Its acceptance by the Samaritans testifies a similar conviction on their part, produced by what they had already learned. At all events, the Pentateuch then existed, was ever afterward preserved by the Samaritans. and their copy now shows the identity of their Pentateuch with our own.3
(To be continued).