Foundationless theory on the origin of the Bible.

From: Allen Roy (
Date: Thu Aug 23 2001 - 02:56:03 EDT

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    I originally posted this on June 28, 2001. At the time it got no response.
    It describes how the JEPD theory is based on a now defunct anthopological
    theory. There is not podium pounding here.
    [Here in condensed form is Eternity in their hearts, by Don Richardson,1981,
    Ch. 4, "Scholars with Strange Theories". He makes some interesting points
    on the origin of Wellhousen's JEPD redactor theory. He makes frequent
    reference to: "Origin and Growth of Religion," Wilhelm Schmidt, 1931. ]
    p. 133
    When Charles Darwin applied and extended evolutionary principles to show how
    diverse biological forms could have emerged from simpler forms, the
    excitement increased. Other thinkers, working more or less concurrently with
    Darwin, hoped that principles of evolution would enable them to unlock
    mysteries of another kind of phenomena -- the origins of human society,
    culture, and religion.
    p. 134
    They dismissed the Bible's claim that the first religion to appear on earth
    was a monotheistic faith ..
    Nor did they accept another biblical insistence, that spiritism and
    polytheism in all their forms are "false" religions .... In other words
    evolutionists erased distinctions between "true" and "false" religion as
    scientifically meaningless. Lumping all religions in the same crucible, they
    advanced a bold hypothesis: that the very religions the Bible calls "false"
    originated first.
    For example, an Englishman named Edward B. Tylor theorized in a two-volume
    work called Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology,
    Philosophy, Religion, Art and Custom, that the idea of a human "soul" must
    have been the natural seed thought from which all other religious concepts
    Tylor continued, It dawned upon them that other entities -- animals, trees,
    rivers, mountains, the sky, and even forces of -- might be similarly
    endowed. Thus did spiritism (Tylor called it "animism") come to birth -- the
    first religion!
    Ages later, said Tylor, a new phenomenon emerged in some human societies --
    stratification of classes. Human aristocracies ruling over peasants
    suggested aristocracies of "gods' ruling over run-of-the-mill souls and
    spirits. Thus Polytheism, in Tylor's model, emerged from Spiritism -- but
    only where the social phenomenon of stratification of classes prompted it!
    p. 135
    Still later, ... one aristocrat was fortunate enough to be exalted above his
    peers as a monarch. Once again, theologically precocious minds projected
    this latest social development over their vision of the supernatural world.
    Result: one member of the local pantheon of gods began to gain stature above
    his fellow deities as a budding "supreme god." Thus monotheism, said Tylor,
    gradually evolved out of polytheism -- but only in areas where the social
    phenomenon of monarchy suggested it!
    At least four notions were implicit in Tylor's evolutionary model. First,
    ... religion's natural origin and subsequent evolutionary development had
    now been scientifically explained. Second, since monotheism marked the FINAL
    stage in religion's evolution, religion had now reached the end of a
    dead-end street. Third, ... the next step for people who wanted to stay on
    the crest of evolution's wave: abandon religion with its now defunct God,
    gods, or spirits.
    p. 136
    What ... was the fourth notion implicit in Tylor's theory? ... If Tylor was
    correct, primitive societies would be devoid of monotheistic
    presuppositions, ...
    Schmit wrote: "[Tylor's theory] ... left no room for opposition ... for the
    next three decades it remained 'the classical theory,' ... almost without
    any loss of prestige. Even [Herbert] Spencer's ghost-theory, which
    immediately succeeded it, could not deprive it of pride of place."
    "A notable proof of the extent to which Tylor's theory influenced the world
    is the fact that it was accepted by a number of prominent students of
    ethnology and religion almost without alteration. ..."
    p. 137
    Occasionally, even in the heyday of evolutionary theories like Tylor's, a
    few voices at least tried to call attention to scattered reports that even
    very primitive tribes acknowledged the existence of a Creator. But scholars
    paid little or no attention. Schmidt describes their attitude as follows:
    "The doctrine of progressive Evolution mastered the minds of all Europe, ...
    All framers of theories concerning fetishes, ghosts, animism, totemism and
    magic, if they agreed in nothing else, were at one in this, that the figure
    of the sky-god must be got rid of from the earliest stages of religion, as
    being too high and incomprehensible [for savage minds] ... unless it was
    preferred to deduce him from Christian influence. The strength of this
    universal current of thought was so great, and the resulting discredit into
    which it brought the notion of the great age of the sky-god so complete,
    that hardly anyone found courage to oppose it and to draw attention to the
    quite frequent examples of this exalted sky-god appearing among decidedly
    primitive peoples, where not the least trace of Christian influence was to
    be found."
    E. De Pressense, ... "I was struck ... with the increasing vehemence of the
    attacks made, not only on Christian theism, but on the very foundations of
    spiritual religion. ..."
    p. 138
    De Pressense went on to mention "the victory so loudly vaunted in the camps
    of materialism ... The promotion of a materialistic fanaticism at least as
    extravagant as any fanaticism of the theists. ... the premature triumph
    which materialism claims for itself in its popular manuals of science ..."
    [Then in 1898] Andrew Lang, allowed himself to read a missionary's report,
    sent home to supporting churches from a distant field. The missionary said
    that primitive inhabitants of that distant place already acknowledged the
    existence of a Creator God even before the missionaries arrived! ... Lang's
    reaction ... was that the missionary had made a mistake. But the further his
    studies took him the more examples of this kind he met with, and at last he
    came to the conclusion that this fundamental tenet of Tylor's would not hold
    p. 139
    Schmidt comments repeatedly throughout his work on the persistent tendency
    of scholars to ignore or discredit the sky-god phenomenon. Not until as late
    as 1922, did the first scientific monograph on the subject appear.
    p. 140
    Still Lang pressed his attack, relying especially on "the startling
    discoveries of A.W. Howitt ....
    Tylor himself had read Howitt's papers... "His only resource... was to ..
    question the native origin of these gods, referring them to European, and
    specifically to missionary influence."
    But Howitt, ... had already indicated to Tylor that no such "out" was
    It was the beginning of the end for Tylor's theory.
    Wilhelm Schmidt ... threw himself into one of the most extensive research
    projects ever undertaken by one man. Schmidt began documenting and compiling
    evidence for "native monotheism," evidence which was now beginning to flow
    in like a tide from all parts of the world. ... by 1955, he had accumulated
    more than 4,000 pages of evidence in a total of 12 large volumes!
    p. 141
    The entire thirteenth chapter of Schmidt's The Origin and Growth of Religion
    is devoted to quotations from dozens of anthropologists, showing that
    acceptance of Schmidt's research was virtually universal. The tide had
    turned! And yet ---
    Before it's downfall, Tylor's theory had inspired certain scholars to apply
    his ideas in other fields. One would think that refuting the "mother theory"
    would cause its "conceptual offspring" in other fields to decline as well.
    This has not been the case. Some of the conceptual offspring to Tylor's
    theory took on a life of their own, ... and managed to distance themselves
    from their mother. Thus when she was axed, they were spared and persist,
    however unjustifiably, to this very day!
    Tylor's Theory and Liberal Theology
    "A further important conquest for the animistic [spiritist] theory was the
    field of Old Testament theology. Here the agent was J. Lippert who ...
    declared the theory to hold good for the development of the Jewish people
    and [their] religion. This application of the theory was immediately
    accepted by two leading theologians of Liberal Protestantism: B. Stade . . .
    and F. Schwall . . .. They were joined by a long array of other authors,
    such as R. Smend, J. Benzinger, J. Wellhausen, A. Berthold and others, who
    sought support for their ideas, not only in the results of textual
    criticism, which they employed, but in these data provided by ethnological
    research, as transmitted to them by Tylor's theory.
    ... Schmidt quotes a Professor Brockelmann as claiming that 'Wellhausen . .
    . was more or less consciously under the influence of ... E.B. Tylor ...
    [and] . . supposed animism to be the only source of religious life."
    p. 142
    It was this Wellhausen who became prominent in developing a famous theory
    claiming that vestiges of the polytheism which, as required by Tylor's
    theory, must have preceded the development of biblical monotheism, can still
    be found in the Old Testament [the J.E.P.D. redactors theory]. He claimed
    that monotheistic priests later tried to expunge earlier statements
    consistent with polytheism from the Pentateuch, but they overlooked some!
    ... To my knowledge no liberal scholar has ever blown a whistle and said,
    "Wait! since we no longer endorse Tylor's theory, why are we still endorsing
    this orphaned offspring of Tylor's theory?"
    Even conservative theologians have often accorded Wellhausen's liberal
    theology an undeserved compliment by attacking it as if it were a
    conceptually independent structure. Their attacks might have been more
    effective had they publicly exposed the fact that Wellhausen's theology is
    based upon an anthropological theory which most anthropologists no longer

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