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PRIMITIVE MONOTHEISM AND THE RELIGION OF MOSES THEOPHILE J. MEEK SO many students at present are being led astray by the widely publicized claims of primitive monotheism that it has become a veritable menace to clear thinking and a challenge to real scholarship . When its advocates assert that their methodology is absolutely objective and scientific, reaching results that are completely authoritative and final, although contradicting all previous results, it behooves us to take. notice of the theory; and when a writer like Marston berates critical scholarship in the words, HIt is surely time that distinguished scholars gave up the habit of representing exploded theories as historical facts,"l it is surely time to turn the tables on him. Sir Charles Marston may not be a writer to whom scholars give serious attention, but he is a writer "nevertheless whose books sell in thousands where theirs ~ell in hundreds, and his case is symptomatic of the impression that is being made by the theory of primitive monotheism. In his latest book, The Bible Comes Alive (1937), he makes this astounding statement: "In the year 1931 these two Sciences [viz., Archaeology and Anthropology] simultaneously reached the conclusion that the evidence in their possession pointed to the fact that Monotheism was the original Religion of Man" (p. 24). That is a sweeping statement, and it becomes still more sweeping and extravagant when we discover that one man is made to speak for the whole science of archaeology and one man for that of anthropology. The man who is to be accepted as the sole and final authority in archaeology, the most inexact of all the sciences, is one who himself never professed to be an archaeologist, but an Assyriologist, and who in all his work was notoriously inexact, the late Professor Langdon of Oxford; while the authority who is to speak for the whole of anthropology, even though the most eminent anthropologists repudiate his theories, js ' the Catholic ethnologist, Professor Wilhelm Schmidt IMarston, The Bible Comes .AlifJe~ p. 250. Although definitely disagreeing with Marston in his interpretation of archaeology, we heartily applaud his generous support of archaeology in helping to finance several expeditions in the field, particularly those of Jericho and Lachish. 180 PRIMITIVE MONOTHEISM 181 of Vienna. Let us examine these two men to see how strongly they can speak for themselves, not to mention the two sciences which they are made to represent. Of all the advocates of primitive monotheism Schmidt is the one who makes the most extravagant claims for his method and its results. His most elaborate work, Dey Ursprung der Gottesidee (1926-37), already runs to six large volumes, each 'comprising over a thousand pages, but his theories are most succinctly presented. in his Origin and Growth oj Religion (1931).2 Schmidt is harshly critical of all methods but his own, and particularly so of any method connected with evolution, as being totally subjective, quite innocent of historical research (p. 158), and leading to "cloud-castles lacking positive, exact, and concrete support" (p.156). In contrast, his own method, the ethnological, or'historical, as he often calls it, is absolutely objective, scientific, and authoritative --so he says. According to Schmidt the true origin and primitive character of religion are to be discovered from the study of the aborigines still found in remote corners of the world, and that study, he states dogmatically, shows that the further back one carries his ethnological investigation the less of magic he finds and the more of monotheism, proving that man's original religion was absolute monotheism) untainted by magic. The tools and weapons of prehistoric man, and those of the ethnologically oldest peoples of today, viz., the Pygmies, show primitive man to have been of a high order: "His mental powers made their way through nature and analysed her phenomena; his synthetic activities mastered her by forming generalizing and classificatory ideas; he grasped , the conception of cause and effect, and then adapted that to the relationship of means to end" (p. 136). The desire to find a cause, combined with the tendency to personify, led man to the recognition of a Suprem.e Being back of all and the Cause of all...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 180-197
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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