The custom of looking upon the record of the experiences of the Hebrews as sacred history and upon the transactions of the rest of the world as profane history is responsible for much of the confusion existing in the human mind as to the interpretation of history. And this difficulty arises because there is no secular history of the Jews. After the priests of the Babylonian exile had prepared their new record of God’s supposedly miraculous dealings with the Hebrews, the sacred history of Israel as portrayed in the Old Testament, they carefully and completely destroyed the existing records of Hebrew affairs—such books as “The Doings of the Kings of Israel” and “The Doings of the Kings of Judah,” together with several other more or less accurate records of Hebrew history.
In order to understand how the devastating pressure and the inescapable coercion of secular history so terrorized the captive and alien-ruled Jews that they attempted the complete rewriting and recasting of their history, we should briefly survey the record of their perplexing national experience. It must be remembered that the Jews failed to evolve an adequate nontheologic philosophy of life. They struggled with their original and Egyptian concept of divine rewards for righteousness coupled with dire punishments for sin. The drama of Job was something of a protest against this erroneous philosophy. The frank pessimism of Ecclesiastes was a worldly wise reaction to these overoptimistic beliefs in Providence.
But five hundred years of the overlordship of alien rulers was too much for even the patient and long-suffering Jews. The prophets and priests began to cry: “How long, O Lord, how long?” As the honest Jew searched the Scriptures, his confusion became worse confounded. An olden seer promised that God would protect and deliver his “chosen people.” Amos had threatened that God would abandon Israel unless they re-established their standards of national righteousness. The scribe of Deuteronomy had portrayed the Great Choice—as between the good and the evil, the blessing and the curse. Isaiah the first had preached a beneficent king-deliverer. Jeremiah had proclaimed an era of inner righteousness—the covenant written on the tablets of the heart. The second Isaiah talked about salvation by sacrifice and redemption. Ezekiel proclaimed deliverance through the service of devotion, and Ezra promised prosperity by adherence to the law. But in spite of all this they lingered on in bondage, and deliverance was deferred. Then Daniel presented the drama of the impending “crisis”—the smiting of the great image and the immediate establishment of the everlasting reign of righteousness, the Messianic kingdom.
And all of this false hope led to such a degree of racial disappointment and frustration that the leaders of the Jews were so confused they failed to recognize and accept the mission and ministry of a divine Son of Paradise when he presently came to them in the likeness of mortal flesh—incarnated as the Son of Man.
All modern religions have seriously blundered in the attempt to put a miraculous interpretation on certain epochs of human history. While it is true that God has many times thrust a Father’s hand of providential intervention into the stream of human affairs, it is a mistake to regard theologic dogmas and religious superstition as a supernatural sedimentation appearing by miraculous action in this stream of human history. The fact that the “Most Highs rule in the kingdoms of men” does not convert secular history into so-called sacred history.
New Testament authors and later Christian writers further complicated the distortion of Hebrew history by their well-meant attempts to transcendentalize the Jewish prophets. Thus has Hebrew history been disastrously exploited by both Jewish and Christian writers. Secular Hebrew history has been thoroughly dogmatized. It has been converted into a fiction of sacred history and has become inextricably bound up with the moral concepts and religious teachings of the so-called Christian nations.
A brief recital of the high points in Hebrew history will illustrate how the facts of the record were so altered in Babylon by the Jewish priests as to turn the everyday secular history of their people into a fictitious and sacred history.