Friday, 20 June 2014

Father Berruyer's Biblical novel (cont.)

Illustration from:

Here are a few passages from Father Berruyer's rendition of Genesis. As his critics pointed out, the Patriarchs seem more like 18th-century Frenchmen than Ancient Hebrews. The effect is amplified by Berruyer's typically Jesuit insistence on Divine Mercy and human free will, a theological outlook which doesn't sit happily with the vengeful God of the Old Testament. In Berruyer's version God gives men plenty of time to mend their ways  - if only they would stop and think though their actions more carefully!

Trouble in Paradise

Eve gives the fruit of the Tree of
Knowledge of which she
had eat to her Husband
Genesis 3:6

[God forbids Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge] For Adam, who felt himself to be full of courage, the law of abstinence from a single fruit, seemed a slight test of his virtue...But Adam was still alone, and he did not know what it costs a fond man to ignore the pleas, or to guard against the seductive powers, of a woman...

[God creates Eve] The two rational creatures to whom He had given command of the created world, occupied themselves agreeably with admiring its marvels and giving thanks to its author.  Adam profited from these happy moments to teach his new wife the precepts he had received from God....Adam fulfilled the duties of a good husband, instructing his wife with much care; and the wife for her part was so attentive that she remembered his instruction world for word and repeated them on many occasions.  

[Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat from the forbidden tree - she finds the fruit "as delicious in taste as it was agreeable to the eye" and prevails upon Adam to follow her lead]   ...the caresses, the solicitations, the importuning of a beloved wife, who was afflicted, who gave herself over to despair, who reproached him with indifference towards her, make powerful impressions on the heart of a man.  Adam allowed himself to be conquered and finally bit the fatal morsel" (vol.1, book1,  p.22-29)

Cain has a fit of jealousy

Cain rises up against his brother
 Abel & kills him. Genesis 4:8
We only know of the youth of these two brothers their common education and their difference of profession.  But it is scarcely likely that they had lived so long without giving proofs of the diversity of their characters, and without letting Adam see what he should fear or hope.  Whatever the case, an unhappy occasion made it known and decided their fate.

[God prefers the sacrifice of Abel] Jealousy does not make for justice.  Cain ought to have recognised the cause of his disgrace and remedied it.  He preferred to avenge himself on a fortunate man, however undeserving of punishment, and at the mere sight of the happiness of Abel, he forgot that he was his brother and regarded him only as his enemy......

[Cain murders his brother] God did not deign to communicate with Cain after such a terrible action.  To start with he only said to him two words, with a gentleness that the fratricide did not merit: Cain, where is Abel your brother?  I know nothing replied the rogue.  Am I my brother's keeper?...A response so insolent merited a thunder bold.  But God, who had tried in vain to stop the crime, wanted still to lead Cain to repentance........
(vol.1, book 1, p.38-41)

God sends a Flood

And it rained upon the Earth
forty days & forty nights.

Genesis 7:12
[God finally has enough of men's bad behaviour] 
My patience is at an end said God to Noah.  All the earth is teeming with abominations and my sight is filled with crimes.  My religion is extinguished, my cult abolished.  The time of my vengeance approaches and my decrees  are henceforth irrevocable.....

[Noah is instructed by God to construct the Ark]
Noah made incredible efforts to touch the heart of God, calling for penitence from men.  He obeyed however and for twenty years he had the happiness of building the instrument of his salvation under the eyes of the bold....At the sight of this astonishing edifice and of a conduct that appeared so bizarre in a man with a great reputation for sagacity and virtue, a few couldn't prevent themselves from fearing the future.  But half unbelieving they flattered themselves too much to anticipate it properly.  This reasoning, presumptuous though it was, was that of the most wise and least opinionated.  The Ark was for a longtime the object of of insults.....

The flood was so great, the waters increased all the time, without a moment of interruption either of the flow of underground waters nor the fall of those which fell from the sky in torrents, that the highest mountains of of all the countries of the world were covered and even buried by the waters.  Reptiles, birds, beasts of the countryside, domestic animal, all that breathed on the earth and in the air, perished without exception, and with them all men, without a single one outside the arch being able to find a means of escaping the shipwreck....The Holy patriarch, with his family, struck by the severity of the vengeance of God, and touched by his great mercies, prayed with ardor for the salvation of those who had perished...(vol.1 book 1, p.56-60)

Abraham and Isaac

[God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac]
Abraham, lay not thine hand on the Child.
Genesis 22:11,12
Everything contributed, it would seem, to justify the resistant of Abraham in such circumstances. The sacrifice of human blood ordered by a God who was always offended by such barbarities; the murder of a son at the hands of his father, and commanded by a master who declares himself the father of all men, the death of this child without posterity who was destined to be the leader and father of a great People.  It was necessary only to contrast God with Himself, his inclinations with his orders, his former oracles with his new commandments, to make a merit of disobeying him or in conscience to treat as an illusion these contradictory orders.
[Abraham, however, is accustomed to obedience and  determines to carry out what is demanded of him.  An Angel appears to rescue Isaac in the nick of time.](vol.1, book 2. p.162-4)Don't go any further continued the Angel; let fall the sword which you are aremed with; spare a victime that is dear to you and whom God takes care of.  The Lord knows now that you fear him, and a father who will have his son sacrificed is a servant worthy of him.  Abrhanam obeyed with gratitude this sweek comandment because he had sumbitted without feableness to the harsh on.....

Joseph and his brothers

[The patriarch Jacob was disappointed in the conduct of his sons, except for one who was his favourite]

This son, so dear, and so worthy of being so, was Joseph, born in Mesopotamia in Syria of Jacob and Rachel, six year before the Patriarch left to enter into the land of Canaan.  As soon as the Lord had given them this blessed child, he became the darling of his father and mother, because he was the unhoped for fruit of the old age of the one and the late fertitity of the other. 

Joseph is sold into slavery by his brethren
Genesis 37:38

As soon as he was of the age to show by his conduct and by his habits, something more than a natural tenderness, he was seen to merit not only the affection of Rachel, but also the esteem and confidence of Jacob. He was handsome, but modest; his candor, openness, innocence, seemed to be born with the child and to grow with him.  His obedience was always without reserve and his gratitude without bounds.  It was impossible for Jacob not to give preference in his heart to this amiable child.  But whatever care the father took to hide his predilection, the keen eyes of the brothers  soon uncovered whom his heart preferred ....  Each of the caresses of the father, became a crime of the son's , and a reason for hatred to his brothers.  This even extended to the distinction made in dress for little Joseph by offended them. A long coat of many colours that was made for him put them immediately into a bad temper

[Joseph recounts his dreams in which his family seems to bow down to him] The brothers of Joseph, outraged by the ambitious claims of a child who, though only sixteen, seemed to wish to dominate them all, resolved to be rid of him....It was strange that among so many sons of a saint this criminal project was accepted without contention and no-one though of softening the violence of it....[They are persuaded by Ruben at least "not to soil their hands with the blood of their brother" and Joseph is sold into slavery.(vol.1,book 4, p.328-32)

Potiphar's wife

[Having become superintendent of Potiphar's house, Joseph is the object of his wife's attentions]

Joseph enjoyed good fortune as the superintendent of Potiphar.  His God never allowed him to lack opportunity to show merit and, before making the final step to the pinnacle of honour, he was buried seemingly forever in an abyss of confusion.  One would naturally  fear for him only the jealousy of the Egyptians against the favoring of a Stranger, but he used his credit to make so many happy, that he did not make any enemies.  He would have been secure if he did not have to guard against the furors of hate.  A woman conceived a love for him and he found that he could only guard his innocence at the expense of his reputation, the loss of his liberty and the risk of his life.

The handsome face of the Foreigner was all the more remarkable  in that the natives of the country were nearly all poorly endowed of a face and figure.  The young man did not make much of the gifts of nature -  perhaps he did not know to what point he was favored.  But the wife of his master was struck and, having the occasion to see him every day, conceived a violent passion for him, which she resolved to satisfy.  She declared her sentiments to him and pressed him to respond. She did so so often and in such an immoderate way, that he believed finally that he must confront her her and take from her all hope that he would consent to such a crime.

Think carefully, he said to her,  about the words you have spoken; have you not noticed the horror they inspire in me? You can see that your husband has given me his trust, made me master of all he possesses.  I know better than he does what goes on in his house and he so relies on my loyalty that he never calls me to account. I have at my disposal his house and his goods, which he leaves to my stewardship.  And yet you believe me to be capable of the most monstrous ingratitude towards a master who showers me with benefits, that in thanks I would snatch away his honour?  No I will never consent.  Even if I was ungrateful enough to betray the best master that I could have on earth, I have another master in Heaven, whose sight and vengeance I cannot avoid. Do not hope to win me over.  Blush at your unworthy entreaties and cease to entice me to a crime for which I would be punished if I dared to commit it.

This wise reply did not move this love-crazed woman.  One day when Joseph retired to his apartment to work alone and at ease, she followed him, insisted again and seized his coat to detain him.  Such an occasion required no less than a Joseph, that is to say a wise God-fearing man, chastened by religion.  Joseph did not delay in fleeing from danger and abandoned his cloak in the hands of the temptress.  He saw very well that he was furnishing an outraged woman with arms against him which she would not hesitate to use and that to save his virtue was to leave himself without hope.  He saw the consequences, and he counted them as nothing in comparison with his innocence.

Potiphar's wife profited from her advantage; and not being able to make herself loved nor obeyed, she gave her self the cruel pleasure of vengeance....(vol.1,book 4, p.341-3)


Berruyer Histoire du peuple de Dieu 
Histoire du peuple de Dieu, depuis son origine jusqu'à la naissance du Messie. Nouv.ed. Paris : Bordelet : Gissey, 1742 (10 vols.)

Histoire du peuple de Dieu, depuis la naissance du Messie, jusqu'à la fin de la synagogue Anvers : libraires associés, 1754 (8 vols)

There are no plates in the various editions of  Berruyer's work. The pictures above are from a roughly contemporary set of Biblical illustrations:
From Figures de la Bible. Illustrated by Gerard Hoet, and others.Published by P. de Hondt in The Hague (La Haye). 1728.
Bizzell Bible Collection, University of Oklahoma Libraries

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