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Old Testament Documents and the Cuneiform

SINCE the discovery of the Amarna tablets proved that Palestinian documents in the fifteenth pre-Christian century were in cuneiform script, scholars have faced the possibility that the earliest documents inIcluded in the Old Testament may originally have existed in that script. Professor Naville made a definite effort to show this in his Archæology of the Old Testament (1913). A further indication is found by Professor Sayce in the "Land of Nod" (Gen. 4:16), formulated in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology, Vol. XXXVIII, part 1. The reasoning is as


The Sumerian account of the "Garden" and the "Fall" given by Mr. Langdon places that garden in "Dilmun," which in Sumerian is often written in a form which must be read Ni-du ("The End [of the World]"). This word in Hebrew would be written Nd

(later nud, w=0), the vowel being added by the Masoretes in the fifth Christian century, or later, the original pronunciation being forgotten. Professor Sayce refers, then, to verse 14 of Genesis fourteen, to the words "a fugitive and a wanderer." The Hebrew for these words is na' wa-nad. In the second word wa means "and," leaving nad, meaning "wanderer." But na wanad represents exactly the Assyrian nu'u u nidu (final u is formative), "weakling and castaway." Professor Sayce brings the two verses together, and sees in the "Land of Nod" (verse 16) a "punning" reference to the na' wanad of verse 14. Bible students recall at once the fact that this kind of word-play is common. Curiously enough, Ps. 56:9 contains a wordplay based upon this same root, nodi ("my wanderings") being punned on in another word of the same verse (no'd, in the form b no' deka "thy bottle").

The interesting fact is that the word-play is immediate and obvious if it is carried back to an original written in the cuneiform character.



Professor JAMES MOFFATT, D.D., D.Litt., United Free Church College, Glasgow, Scotland

July 2-Paul at Thessalonica

and Beroea

(Acts 17:1-15)

PAUL and his companions had to travel about a hundred miles southwest along the great Roman road before they reached a second center for their European mission. Thessalonica, which has become suddenly familiar to us under its modern name of Saloniki, was the capital of Macedonia, however, and drew the evangelists past all smaller towns. Its population was mainly Greek, and the majority of the first converts were Greek; some of them, no doubt, had already belonged to the local synagog, but Paul was never troubled at Thessalonica as he had been in Galatia by Jewish controversy; the predominant note of the local church was Greek, not Semitic. The local Jews, however, raised a riot, and succeeded in getting the authorities to banish the apostles. The ostensible charge was sedition (verse 7, cf. 1 Thess. 2:12), and the apostles

probably yielded, in order not to endanger

the lives of their hosts.

This short mission at Thessalonica-it can hardly have lasted for much more than a month or two (verse 2)-proved to the Thessalonians, as Paul argues (1 Thess. 2:1-2), the genuine character of their evangelists, who, instead of being discouraged and embittered by their bad treatment at Philippi, persevered in the service of God. Their efforts were rewarded, for no churches showed such loyalty and affection to Paul as the Macedonian. It was with great reluctance that the missionaries left this promising sphere. At Berea, Paul and Silas found the local Jews more open-minded than at Thessalonica; they were willing to discuss the Old Testament's witness to Jesus as the Christ, and many converts were made from both sexes, inside and outside the synagog. But the Thessalonian Jews interfered, and Paul had to retire from Berea to Athens, still yearning for his friends in the north, but unable to rejoin them.

So the first Macedonian mission closed.

1 These studies follow the lesson topics and passages of the International Sunday-school Series.

Note (1) the importance of personal contact for the development of the Christian life. Paul's longing to rejoin the Thessalonians was not simply the wish to gratify his and their delight in mutual intercourse; it was prompted by the sense that beginners could not safely be left to themselves without supervision and organization. Paul felt that he and his friends stood for Christianity; they were the first Christians whom these converts had ever seen, and, while God's Spirit is independent of such ties, they can not be neglected with immunity. (2) This was all the more important, since Paul's absence was being misinterpreted at Thessalonica; malignant sneers were current, probably voiced by the local Jews, that he had run away, that he had no longer any interest in the converts whom he had left in the lurch, and so forth. The ordeal of the Thessalonians was twofold (1 Thess. 2:112); they had to suffer at the hands of the local Jews, and they had also the internal pain of being tempted to doubt the good faith of Paul and to listen to these calumnies against his character.

July 9-The Thessalonian

(1 Thess. 1; 2:17-20; 4:13-18) These three passages throw some light on the character and position of the Christians at Thessalonica shortly after Paul had left them. Note (1) the impression which their Christianity had already made on the neighborhood (1:7-8). They had taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by the city for disseminating the news of their faith along the trade-routes. Christianity was to them not a weak flame to be carefully sheltered in a corner, but a torch which flamed the more brightly as it was held out to others.

"Heaven doth with us, as we with torches do, Not light them for themselves."

(2) Their attraction for Paul (2:17-20). Whether "Satan hindered us" means some illness or some exigency of his mission at Corinth, Paul's language is intended to answer them that no other church had ousted them from his heart. Of none other was he so proud as of the Thessalonians! In glowing language he declares that he coveted no higher glory at the second advent than the prestige of having won these Christians to

the truth. (3) Their perplexity about death and the future (4:13-18). It was their affection for the living (4:9-12) that raised the problem of the future; since Paul left, some local Christians had died, and the survivors were acutely concerned lest these should occupy an inferior position at the second advent. The mere fact that this anxiety arose is a fresh proof of the native and eager faith in the near end, which had from the first (1:10) dominated their Christian outlook. Unlike the Corinthian Christians, they had no doubt as to the resurrection. Paul therefore has to encourage them, and he does so by quoting a revelation made to himself ("this we say unto you by the word of the Lord") to the effect that, so far from being relegated to a secondary position, the faithful dead are to rise first, and then, joined by the faithful living, they are all to meet the Lord in the air as he descends for judgment. The bliss of the future is therefore a reunion of Christians and a union with Christ which is to be permanent. Paul's prophetic word is couched in the scenic language of Jewish apocalyptic, and he does not profess to give any complete program of the end; but his words convey the religious assurance that the relation between the Lord and Christians is unbroken by death. "So shall we ever be with the Lord." The "we" includes both the departed and the survivors. This is the sentence of the passage which remains with us, in our truer view of the universe; of the imaginative prophecy this is all that is left to us, but it is everything.

July 16-Paul at Athens

(Acts 17:16-34)

Paul was "waiting" at Athens for Silas and Timothy, but he kept his eyes open to the local situation, and his soul was stirred to indignation by the sight of the numerous idols in the city. "So he reasoned..." He acted on his impressions, and his propaganda was in the market-place or public square as well as in the synagog. Luke says nothing of the discussions with the Jews, but preserves notes of a speech delivered by Paul to a private gathering of Athenians including some local philosophers, who imagined that he was the herald of two new deities, Jesus and Resurrection. Paul took advantage of their natural curiosity and half-contemptuous interest, and his speech starts

from the common ground of theism, not from Scripture (as in the case of synagog preaching).

He begins by complimenting them on their extraordinary devotion to religion. "You are a most religious people," so religious that you even put up an altar "to an unknown God." Then he declares that he brings to them the knowledge of the true God. This he develops on the basis of natural religion (verses 24-29), before passing on to the distinctively Christian revelation (verses 30-31). With the Parthenon before him, he declares that the Deity is not a dweller in human shrines, but the giver of life to all the universe, a God of all nations, accessible to all men, and too spiritual to be bodied forth in any idols. Human nature is the nearest thing akin to God, and it is only ignorance which thinks otherwise. This negative disproof of idols is followed up by the positive revelation of God in "a man"; but before Paul can develop his testimony to Jesus or even name him, the speech is interrupted. The mention of resurrection from the dead was too much for the Athenians (verse 32), and Paul had to withdraw. He had begun to argue, as he had done at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:9-10), that future judgment was imminent, and that the moral obligation was to repent. But the Athenians would not turn from their idols. Only a few listened and believed, two of whom are named-one a man, one a


The words, "now he commandeth men everywhere to repent," are the turning-point of the address. This is an age or period of repentance, of repentance for all, Jews and non-Jews, and of repentance in view of a coming judgment. Repentance is a command of God, but it is a command with promise; it implies freedom in man, for unless he had the power of changing his mind and life the command would be meaningless, and it denotes graciousness in God, for repentance is assumed to carry with it acquittal. But men can repent only in the light of a revelation from God; repentance means a truer view of God's nature, and that is gained by the conviction of the risen Christ.

July 23-Paul at Corinth
(Acts 18:1-22)

When Paul crossed from Athens to the trading-center of Corinth, he found less

philosophy and more faith; even within the synagog, where he began his mission as usual, there was a deeper susceptibility than he had met since he left Thessalonica and Berca. Corinth was destined to play a part in the history of the Church which far outshone any contribution made by Athens.

1. Paul made new friends at Corinth-a husband and wife who had been recently exiled from Italy. Probably they were still Jews when Paul joined them and shared their trade and lodging, but they must have been brought over by him to the Christian faith, and from this time forward they were among his most useful coadjutors. At some period they actually risked their lives to save him from death (Rom. 16:3-4); everything recorded of them speaks of their generosity and diligence.

2. By the time Silas and Timothy joined him, Paul was deep in his mission to the local Jews, which was so trenchant and successful that it roused appreciation, and finally drove the apostle to wide work among the non-Jewish population. The rupture endangered his position in the city. But a vision and voice of God encouraged him to persevere for a period of eighteen months, during which the local church was securely planted. The divine voice-‘I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to harm thee; for I have much people in this city"-means that Paul may be sure of God's presence as he responds to God's call; the fact that God has many people even in Corinth is a claim upon Paul's loyalty to the mission, and an assurance that his work will not be fruitless. A just employment, as some one once said, is a good insurance.

3. When the storm broke, it failed to injure Paul, thanks to the judicial rectitude of Gallio, who refused to let the local Jews make a tool of Roman law for their malicious ends. Why the bystanders flogged Sosthenes in front of the tribunal is not quite clear; their action was an outburst of popular disgust, and it may have been due to antiSemitic feeling. The Greeks were only too glad to see the Jews baffled and humiliated, and if Sosthenes had succeeded Crispus (verse 8), he probably was active in the antiPauline movement. "Gallio cared for none of these things," and his refusal to take any notice of the charge or of the disturbance was a proof of his impartiality. It was not his place to interfere in the internal discus

sions of Judaism. Renan calls attention to the opportunity which he missed, of learning about the new religion. Here were two men brought together, and the cultured official failed to recognize the most original and strong man in the city! The man of the world, for all his politeness and correctness of demeanor, may continually pass those who are to create the future, and be blinded by fastidiousness to the forces which, just because they do not belong to his "world," are disparaged.

4. Paul withdraws from Corinth (verse 18) for a time, but Apollos arises soon to water what he had planted (verse 27, cf. 1 Cor. 3:6). Note that it is probably Aquila, not Paul, who had his head shaved at Cenchrea, the local port, in fulfilment of a Nazarite vow.

July 30-The Word of the Cross

(1 Cor. 1:1-2:5)

Paul's letter begins by acknowledging the grace and presence of God in the local church (1:1-9). Blame is best conveyed on the back of praise; a frank recognition of the good qualities in any person or community is the sweet way to gain a hearing for advice and reproach.

The Corinthian Christians were falling into cliques and parties, pitting Paul against Apollos, for example, and tending to set more value on rhetoric and learning than was wise. This Greek love of oratory and knowledge leads Paul (verse 17) to defend his own practise of preaching the gospel "not with fine rhetoric," but simply. The "word, or story, of the cross" is a significant phrase. The cross is not a blank mystery, nor an isolated historical fact. It can be and must be made intelligible. The gospel is not a defiance of human reason. At the same time, it is not to be evaporated into intellectualism. The crucified Christ is "Wisdom"-to use the catchword of the Corinthians, but Paul defines that "wisdom"

as equivalent to "righteousness, consecration, and redemption" (verse 30); the fundamental thing is the personal relation with Christ in the moral and spiritual life. There were cultured Corinthians who regarded the preaching of a crucified Christ as "sheer folly" (verse 21), and longed for speculative lectures on religion, priding themselves on their superior acuteness. Paul insists that men are saved, not by what they think they are clever enough to see in Christ, but by what he sees in them; they are called (verses 2, 24) and chosen (verse 27) by him; that is the saving point.

In the light of this, Paul views the position of the Church and his own method of preaching. (1) He appeals to their experience. It had not been culture which swelled the ranks of the Church; the divine gospel had reached men and women irrespective of education and social position (verse 26). A Christian aristocrat once thanked God publicly for the letter "m" in the "many" of this verse, and the gratitude was sincere; rank and learning are no barrier to the faith, any more than they are essential to its reception. But it is the latter point which Paul is eager to make, in view of the Corinthian tendency to idolize intellect. (2) This justifies his own method (2:1-5) of concentrating upon the gospel of the crucifixion, to begin with. He had not come to Corinth like a lecturing sophist or a man clad in the panoply of ecclesiastical authority, but humbly tho earnestly. He had laid the foundations of their faith not on a sense of how clever his own arguments were, but on an experience of the saving power of the crucified Christ. And he had done so deliberately, to prevent his hearers from resting satisfied with admiration of any elaborate and plausible arguments-an admission which failed to reach and change the heart. Selfishness and self-conceit are said to be the supreme sources of human evil. The preaching of a crucified Christ, who humbled himself for the sake of men, is the main force in eradicating these evils.

The Rev. HAROLD E. BRIERLEY, London, England

He hath set the world (eternity) in their
heart.-Eccles. 3:11.

It is necessary to a proper understanding of these words to begin with a textual emendation. The word translated "world" in the text really means indefinite time or eternity. Those of you who have the Revised Version will see that while the revisers have retained "world" in the text, they have put "eternity" in the margin. Why they did not adopt the course of putting the more appropriate word in the text itself, I do not know. But in expounding the text I want you to cross out, at least in your minds, that word "world" and insert "eternity." "He hath set eternity in their heart." Now clearly this change makes all the difference. It helps us to follow, as otherwise we couldn't, the movement of the writer's thought. And, further, it transforms an apparently unnoteworthy and obscure text into one of the deepest moment and significance.

Now let us begin by trying to get the drift of the writer's argument. This chapter opens in a fashion altogether characteristic of the author of Ecclesiastes. Of course, as you know, the whole complexion of this book is what we call pessimistic. There is an underlying note or almost a wail-of religious sentiment running through it: but on the surface there is always the gloom of a somewhat jaded and embittered mind. "Then said I in my heart: as it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me: why was I then more wise? . . . this also is vanity. . . . Therefore I hated life: because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous to me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. . . . For what hath man of all his labor and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath labored under the sun? For all his days are sorrows and his travail grief." And the chapter from which our text is taken is pitched in the same key. To his pessimism the writer adds fatalism; or rather, I suppose he is a pessimist because he is a fatalist. "To everything there is a

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season and a time
and a time to die
a time to laugh
time to lose a time to love and a time
to hate..." In other words, everything
comes as fate appoints it. The conclusion
is, therefore, inevitable-"What profit hath
he that worketh in that wherein he labor-
eth?" What's the good of working and wor-
rying and struggling and hoping in a life
which is one unceasing round of disappoint-
ment and vexation, which is unchangingly
changeful, and whose only certainty is de-
cay? What's the good? It is an old refrain
and a new one. It has had its prophets in
all ages, some of them hauntingly musical:
and in this age of chronic indigestion it is
very necessary to enter the warning that we
do not mistake the music of these prophets
of pessimism for truth. There is Omar
Khayyam, an eleventh-century echo of Ec-
clesiastes, whose haunting quatrains are read
by neurotic young ladies and hypochondria-
cal young gentlemen with a diligence that
they altogether fail to bestow upon their
bibles. "We came like water and like wind
we go."

"One moment in annihilation's waste,

One moment of the well of life to taste;
The stars are setting: and the caravan
Starts for the Dawn of Nothing. Oh!
make haste."

But it is not about pessimism that I want to talk to-day-tho it was necessary to spend a few moments over the general outlook of our writer in order to realize the larger significance of the text we have chosen. Now the author of Ecclesiastes, while he takes a distorted view of life, does his best apparently to be an honest observer of life. And so, as he looks round upon human experience, in spite of all the uncertainty and decay of life, in spite of the disappointment and weariness-he sees and, therefore, he chronicles a further deep and penetrating fact. As he looks round him, as he searches the chronicles of the past, indeed possibly

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