AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

The coincidence of moral and aesthetic values in the Old Testament

by Willard Ainsworth Page

Institution: Boston University
Year: 1951
Record ID: 1542091
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2144/6244


This study of the Old Testament has revealed the close relation of moral and aesthetic values in the Hebrew Bible; indeed their combination as expressed by a Psalmist, "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." The problem of the dissertation has been to determine as nearly as possible the reality of God by emphasizing the coincidence of beauty and goodness; aesthetic and moral values. The results show that the goodness of God is revealed through the aspiration of human souls creating an artistic portrayal of God's kingdom. Leslie has translated Psalm 145:21, "May my mouth speak a praise song of the Lord; so that all flesh may bless his holy name." A distinction has been made between National morals, and Individual morals. The former contain J, E, the Eighth Century prophets, Deuteronomy and the P Code; the latter, S, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Holiness Code, Deutero-Isaiah, Job and the Psalms. The two great national epics in the Pentateuch, J and E, emphasized in magnificent language Yahweh's concern for Israel. In these documents national moral values are dependent upon Yahweh's regard for the nation. In the patriarchal age nothing mars the idyllic beauty and high morality of life. "The oldest extant monument of Hebrew literature," according to G. F. Moore is the Song of Deborah (Judges 5), a beautiful poem singing the nation's praise for Yahweh's protection. Closely connected with the moral values of God in these documents is the beauty of language. J, in particular, may be compared with Homer's Iliad. In E literary art is exemplified in the beautiful story of Joseph and his brothers. An aesthetic value introduced by E is that of ritual, or the beauty of worship. Three prophets of the Eighth Century, Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah expand God's moral concerns by stressing His universal character. His jurisdiction includes all nations, and not Israel alone. These prophets not merely proclaimed moral ideals, but took advantage of aesthetic values. They were men of artistic genius. Duncan Black MacDonald has called attention to the fact that in our extant Hebrew literature there is no specific word for poet, and that a poet was akin to the prophet. The love story of Hosea is a poetic symbol created with great daring to emphasize the moral value of the faithfulness of Israel to Yahweh. With the beauty of poetic expression Isaiah put forth the belief that not by material forces, and not by economic necessity does mankind endure and progress, but by spiritual forces; and that wherever these essentially moral values are not in the ascendency, the life of nations is doomed to destruction. He was the first to make clear that trust in God meant for a nation righteous government – conformity with the divine standard of holiness (Is. 5:16). An aesthetic value contained in Isaiah is his splendid literary style. Driver has said that his poetical genius is superb, and McFadyen says that the book is full of fine poetry. The moral values set forth in Deuteronomy are clothed in the aesthetic values of homiletic eloquence. J had shown…