Ideals of Conduct: An Exposition of Moral Attitudes

By John Dashiell Stoops | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE DISASSOCIATION OF THE PROPHETIC CONSCIENCE

The ideal of the great eighth century prophets was that of a righteous nation whose rulers and teachers should be guided by the loftiest conceptions of justice and righteousness. Religious and moral ideals did not center in the future, but in the present order of society. The function of the great pre-exilic prophets was that of interpreting the social consciousness of Israel in terms of the lofty morality of an Amos, an Isaiah, a Hosea. The work of Moses, of Elijah, of Isaiah, was, in modern terms, as political as it was religious. Moses and Isaiah were in the truest sense eminent statesmen as well as religious teachers. The old Hebrew religion, like all early religions, was an ethnic religion; it belonged to a particular nation. This ethnic ideal was the predominant point of view down to the eighth century prophets, who introduced a new way of thinking in Hebrew morals and religion. Their moral standard was not ethnic, not national; right and wrong ceased to mean conformity with or disobedience to a national cult. Right had lost its old ceremonial significance; it had come to mean justice and mercy. To build one's house by righteousness; to care for the widow and the poor; to cease to do evil and to learn to do good,--this was the new moral ideal.

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