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and success in their wars . But though not established as a religious motive , it is probable that the Israelites had some ideas of a future state of existence from their long residence in Egypt , where it was certainly entertained at a period considerably more ancient than the arrival of Jacob and his family
into the kingdom of the Pharaohs . According to Herodotus , the Egyptians were the first people who defended the doctrine of the immortality of the soul , on which was afterwards engrafted the doctrine of the metempsychosis , which was carried into Greece at a later period by Pythagoras and other inquirers who had travelled into Egypt in pursuit of knowledge .
"If the conclusions now drawn , " says Dr . Russell , "be founded upon accurate views of ancient learning , we can be at no loss to discover a better reason why Moses did not introduce into his system of laws the sanction of future rewards and punishments , than that he was desirous to conceal from his people the important doctrine of the immortality of the soul . It will
appear that he did not , as has been represented , throw a studied obscurity over every fact which was likely to suggest to the Hebrews the idea of a future state of existence , but rather that he himself did not enjoy such distinct views of the condition of the human soul after death , as were fitted to be made the foundation of a system of moral retribution in a divine
economy . " Our author supposes that the language of the Pentateuch and of the Prophets confirms the notion that the doctrines of the existence of the soul , when separated from the body , and of a metempsychosis , were incorporated at a very early period into the popular creed of the Hebrews . In support of his position the use of the words b ) HW and "Op is adduced . By b ) XW is meant the state of the dead , the place of departed spirits , and like £ b /}<; it suggests to thejma T
gination the silence , darkness and mysterious dread connected with the unseen world : * 0 p signifies only a tomb or grave . In the Septuagint , b ) XW is always translated by « & ?<; , and , as Dr . Russell argues , signifies invariably the state of the dead , the region of departed spirits ; while -Op as invariably is translated by some word which signifies a grave or tomb * Several instances are given as examples , none of which , in our opinion , are decisive on the question ; and the conclusion which he draws from the words of Christ ,
addressed to the thief on the cross , is quite untenable . The only passage which seems to corroborate his opinion , is that sublime one of Isaiah , where the dead are represented as being thrown into commotion at the approach of the Babylonish prince ; but we are more inclined to regard this tine passage as a beautiful rhetorical figure , than as expressing either a philosophical or religious opinion . Dr . Russell conceives that the popular opinions
respecting the forerunner of the Messiah are decisive as to the fact of the doctrine of the metempsychosis forming part of the practical belief at that time , since it was expected that he would be animated by the soul of one of the ancient prophets , and Christ himself was supposed by some to be EHas or Jeremiah , or one of the prophets . After a great deal of learned and ingenious argument respecting the opinions of early times with regard to the state of the dead , Dr . Russell sums up by saying ,
' * In a word , Moses did not avail himself , as a lawgiver , of the hopes arid fears which respect eternity , because he was ignorant of the only foundation on which these sentiments could be made to rest , the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body ; and not because he was disposed or commanded to conceal from the people of Israel those most powerful of ail mqtiyes to virtue and godliness of living . " We may continue this subject in a future Number .
Review . —Russell ' s Sacred and Profane History . 561
vol . II . I R
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Aug. 2, 1828, page 561, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2563/page/49/