ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
transmission originally advanced in 1867 by Gregory Mendel, a Czech monk, added an essential mechanism to Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Most educated Europeans and Americans were soon convinced by Darwin’s arguments, although, from the appearance of Origins of the Species to the present day, there has been substantial opposition on the part of those Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Moslems who insist on the literal accuracy of the Bible. The position of the opposers was also challenged by the school of Biblical studies pioneered at the German University of Tübingen, which began with the work of Julian Wellhausen. This was the so-called Higher Criticism, which applied the techniques of literary analysis to Biblical texts and produced what is sometimes called the “documentary school.” This system of studying the Bible consists of identifying the component texts of which the various books of the Bible are composed, as scholars do when studying any ancient document. The effect of these studies, based chiefly on linguistic analysis, was to show that the books which make up the Pentateuch, for instance, are composed of a number of documents which were pieced together by editors whom the Biblical scholars call redactors. In particular, the higher critics showed that the Book of Genesis begins with two distinct creation stories (Genesis 1-2:4a and Genesis 2:4b-3). The first tells of the creation of the cosmos in six days, on the last of which the Lord God added: “In his own image, male and female created he them.” This passage, by the way, has become important for the feminist movement and New Age as well, in that it indicates that the divine was regarded as being both masculine and feminine. This story of creation, according to the scholars, was composed in the fourth century B.C., after the Babylonian Captivity. It is followed by the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which, on linguistic and other grounds, is considerably older, probably composed around 800-900 B.C.E.
Today, the documentary approach is the basis of Bible study in all theological seminaries except those of the fundamentalists. It is perfectly possible to accept the divinely-revealed character of the Bible without necessarily believing that every word is literally true. Some, for instance, hold that God revealed himself in fairly primitive terms to early peoples, communicating to them in terms which they could understand. Thus, Jehovah, or, as he is more accurately identified, YHWH (הזהי) is highly anthropomorphic (humanlike) in the Pentateuch (the Jewish Torah), but becomes more sublime and transcendent in the later prophetic and wisdom literature. This can be interpreted as God’s way of revealing himself to his people at various levels of culture.
However, it is also possible to interpret the conclusions of the documentary approach in purely humanistic terms. The mere fact that the Holy Scriptures are made up of various documents, composed over time, and pieced together by redactors, convinced many educated people that the Bible is a collection of archaic literary, legal, historical, poetic, and prophetic texts of entirely human authorship. At what point, some asked, did these texts become divinely revealed? Was it when the stories of Joseph, for instance, were first told by shepherds sitting around their fires at night, or when the stories were written down by the J or Yahwist writer of the ninth century to whom they are ascribed,