| || |
|Name|| || || || || |
|1. Adam|| || || || || |
|2. Seth|| || || || || |
|3. Enosh|| || || || || |
|4. Kenan|| || || || || |
|5. Mahalaleel|| || || || || |
|6. Jared|| || || || || |
|7. Enoch|| || || || || |
|8. Methuselah|| || || || || |
|9. Lamech|| || || || || |
|10. Noah|| || || || || |
|Totals|| || || || || |
The question of which text is to be regarded as the original one was nicely summed up by James C. Murphy. He showed that the internal evidence is decidedly in favour of the Hebrew from its proportional consistency: (26)
The numbers in the LXX evidently follow a plan to which they have been conformed. This does not appear in the Hebrew, and it is greatly in favour of its being an authentic genealogical record. The numbers before the birth of a successor, which are chiefly important for the chronology, are enlarged in the LXX, by the addition of just one hundred years in each of six cases, making Adam 230 years old at the birth of Seth, Seth 205 years old at the birth of Enoch, and so on, while the sum-total of each life remains the same as in the Hebrew, with a slight exception of 25 years in the case of Lamech. The object here, is evidently to extend the total chronology without changing the other numbers of the total life span of each individual.
It is not easy to imagine what motive could have led in the other direction, or to the shortening, if the original had been as given in the Septuagint; since all ancient nations have rather shown a disposition to lengthening their chronologies. On physiological grounds, too, the Hebrew is to be preferred, since the length of the life does not at all require so late a manhood as those numbers would seem to intimate.
There is a further consideration also, which we may touch upon here in anticipation of Fig. 2 (below). It is found that between the length of the period of childlessness and the total length of life there is a very high correlation in the Hebrew version, but by an exactly comparable method of calculation, very low in the Septuagint and the list of Josephus. The Samaritan Pentateuch has a higher correlation than the latter versions, but it has a peculiar artificiality about it -- the numbers are arranged in a more or less steadily declining order, which is suspicious when it is remembered that the
26. Murphy, James C., Commentary on Genesis, Belfast, no date, p.196: quoted in Lange's Commentary on Genesis, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, p.272.
total life spans of these individuals show no such steady decline. In fact Methuselah, the eighth name in the list, lived longer than any of the others, and Jared (the sixth), and Noah (the tenth) lived longer than Adam. It is important to notice therefore, that this decline in the period of childlessness which makes the Samaritan figures look more "realistic" in one way, is badly upset when the figures for total life span are related to them, for those do not at all correspond. These correlations are analyzed subsequently.
All in all, there is every reason to have far more confidence in the Hebrew version than in any of the others, and since the others do not really help to solve any chronological problems, there is no good reason for forsaking it.
We come then to the question of interpretations which have been applied from time to time to these genealogies in an effort to make them more concordant both with modern chronological schemes and with what is currently viewed as a reasonable life span for a human being.
Perhaps the most common observation is that in the Bible the genealogies can be shown to have gaps. Sometimes a father is said to have born a certain man as his son, whereas we learn from parallel genealogies that the man was his great-great-grandson. The term "son" is therefore found to have a much broader meaning than we commonly apply to it. The Pharisees, for example, claimed to be "children" of Abraham, whom they said was their "father."
In order to make this Paper as complete as possible, the following genealogies are given as illustrations. Each genealogy is presented in two columns, just as it is found in the passages referred to.
|In the OT||In the NT|
|Josiah (2 Kings 22:1)||Josias (Matthew 1:11)|
| | |
Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34)
| | |
|Jechoichin (2I Kings 24:6)||Jechonias (Greek for Jehoichin Matthew 1:11)|
Note. One generation is omitted. This might not be thought too serious. However, in some cases as many as six or eight generations have been omitted in one genealogy. The omissions can be supplied
|Genesis 11||Luke 3|
| Shem |
| Shem |
| Arphaxad |
| Arphaxad |
| = |
| Cainan |
| Salah |
| Sala |
Note. In Genesis 11 a shortened genealogy is given from Shem to Peleg, whereas Luke 3 gives it with one additional name.
|1 Chronicles 6:6-10||Ezra 7:3ff.|
| Zerahiah |
| Zerahiah |
| Meraioth |
| Meraioth |
| Amariah |
| = |
| Ahitub |
| = |
| Zadok |
| = |
| Ahimaaz |
| = |
| Azariah |
| = |
| Johanan |
| = |
| Azariah |
| Azariah |
Note. Obviously in this passage the word son has a very broad meaning when applied to the relationship of Azariah to Meraiot who preceded him by seven generations.
|Exodus 6:1 6-20||1 Chronicles 7:23-27|
G. Kohath M.
| ‹‹‹‹‹‹‹‹‹‹-‹‹|‹‹‹‹ |
| | |
| | |
| | |
| | |
| | |
| | | | | |
Amram I. H. U.
| | |
| | |
| | |
| | | | |
Aaron Moses Miriam
| | |
Note. Moses is said to have been the grandson of Kohath, but was actually nine generations later.
Aaron, Moses, and Miriam were contemporaries of Nun. Joshua, one generation younger than Moses, took over as Prime Minister when Moses laid down the reins. Levi had three sons, but only Kohath concerns us here, so the other two are designated by the letters G and M, as also the brothers of Amram, represented only by the letters I, H, and U.
In I Chronicles 6:2, Amram is said to have been the son of Kohath, and Aaron, Moses, and Miriam the sons and daughter of Amram. Evidently this is a manner of speaking only.
It will be noted, also, that whereas sometimes the shorter form is the earlier form, this is not always the case. Genesis 11 is shorter than Luke 3, but I Chronicles 6:6-10 (assuming it is earlier than Ezra) is longer than its later parallel form. This was also true of the first example we gave. The fourth example shows the number of missing names in the one genealogy can be even greater. These illustrations bear witness to the fact that such gaps do indeed occur in genealogies at times, though a casual reading of such genealogies would not give much indication of it. We could appeal to this phenomenon and argue for an almost unlimited extension of the genealogy given in Genesis 5 from Adam to Noah. But is this reasonable? If a man can be termed a "son" who in reality was a great-great-great-great-great-grandson, may we not apply the principle wherever the situation seems to demand it? And how many such "hidden" generations can we reasonably insert?
If we suppose that the first true man lived about 500,000 years ago -- a conservative enough figure by modern standards -- and if we allow three generations per century, the number of generations that must be inserted is in the neighbourhood of 15,000. Of these 5,000 we are given ten (from Adam to Noah). Can we seriously imagine that some 14,990 generations have been omitted from the record? Moreover, there can be little doubt that from Cain on, we have a historical series without any serious gaps. Cain married, and his wife is said to have become pregnant and gave birth to a son to whom the name Enoch was given (Genesis 9:17). That Enoch really was Cain's true son is almost certain. But by this time we are well
into the period of civilization in the modern sense.
Society had already become divided into city-dwellers, farmers and herdsmen. At the same time the arts (represented by musical instruments of all kinds) and technology (represented by metallurgy) are clearly under development in the hands of classes of men who specialize in them. In short, the thousands of missing generations must be inserted prior to Cain.
But Cain is clearly a real son to Adam. Eve is said to have conceived and given birth to Cain. And when Cain murdered Abel, Eve is compensated for the loss by the subsequent birth of Seth. These are manifestly real people, sons in the ordinary sense. If they are not, the record is quite meaningless.
Where then can we postulate gaps, if there is justification for supposing gaps to have existed at all? It is not even certain that we can postulate gaps. We do not know of any such omissions except for the fact that other parallel genealogies are provided, which supply the missing names. Some genealogies may have these omissions, but we know of them only because they are given elsewhere. Is there then any real justification for assuming that gaps exist where we do not have any parallel genealogy to demonstrate their existence? Note that I Chronicles 1:1-4 is identical to the genealogy in Genesis.
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Adam was a real person. It is most reasonable that he should have been simply called Adam, for the word merely means "man." Similarly Eve's name in Hebrew means "the one who begets." They were the first people, the first true human beings. We may give them some other name that appears more scientific in terminology, but it is simply the same couple by another name. Many people still feel that Philip Mauro was right in arguing that God would surely not leave any missing links in the lineage leading from the First Adam to the Last Adam, since it was essential that this relationship be clearly demonstrable. (27) Discontinuity in this line would have been unthinkable.
It may be said, in summing up this aspect of the question, that gaps are only known because they are supplied elsewhere, and that the number of gaps which must be postulated to convert the time scale into agreement with modern reckoning is out of all proportion, and any appeal to reconciliation by such a method must appear forced in the extreme and hardly worthy of sober consideration.
27. Mauro, Philip, The Chronology of the Bible, Hamilton Brothers, Boston, 1922, p.10: "Thus the Old Testament Scriptures contain a complete count of the years from Adam to Christ."
There is another alternative which has been proposed to the problem of the genealogies. Perhaps the names from Adam to Noah, or at least from Adam to Lamech (Noah's father), are not names of individuals but names of families, tribes, or dynasties. By this means, two supposed difficulties might be overcome at once. In the first place, the great periods attributed to each entry are not life spans of individuals but periods during which a family or dynasty survived or was in the ascendancy. In the second place it is possible that these time periods hitherto ascribed to individuals who were contemporary for a large portion of their lifetimes, are to be looked upon as consecutive to some extent and therefore to be added together.
This may be illustrated in the tabulation for Genesis 5 which follows:
The family of Seth originated when Adam
was 130 years old. 130 yrs.
Adam and his direct line were at the head
of affairs for 930 years, when
they were superseded by
The family of Seth. 930 yrs.
One hundred five years after
Seth attained to leadership, the
family of Enosh took its rise.
After being at the head of affairs for 912
years, Seth was succeeded by
The family of Enosh. 1842 yrs.
Ninety years after Enosh attained to
the headship, there sprang from it
the family of Kenan. 1932 yrs.
After Enosh held the leadership for 815 years
longer Enosh gave place to
The family of Kenan. 2747 yrs.
Seventy years after Kenan had founded his
dynasty, the family of Mahalaleel
began its rise to power. 2817 yrs.
Meanwhile Kenan's dynasty survived 840 years
and was then replaced by the family of Mahalaleel. 3657 yrs.
Sixty-five years after the rise of the dynasty
of Mahalaleel, the family of Jared
began to be prominent. 3722 yrs.
The dynasty of Mahalaleel meanwhile continued
for another 830 years, but was then
overthrown for the dynasty of Jared. 4552 yrs.
One hundred and sixty-two years after the
rise of Jared's family, the family of
Enoch began to become powerful. 4714 yrs.
But Jared's family retained power for another
800 years, and then died out, to be
succeeded by the dynasty established by Enoch. 5514 yrs.
Sixty-five years after the rise of the family
of Enoch, however, the family of
Methuselah began to be prominent. 5579 yrs.
The dynasty of Enoch survived for 300 years,
to be replaced by Methuselah's dynasty. 5879 yrs.
One hundred and eighty-seven years after
the rise of the family of Methuselah
Lamech's family became prominent. 6066 yrs.
However the supremacy of Methuselah's
dynasty continued for another 782
years, to be replaced by the family of Lamech. 6848 yrs.
One hundred and eighty-two years after
Lamech's family had begun its rise
to power, the family of Noah came
into existence. 7030 yrs.
And six hundred years later, the Flood came
and brought to an end all these dynasties.
This event therefore took place 7630 years after the appearance of the first man, Adam. Adding to this figure the time which has elapsed since the Flood according to more or less established biblical chronologies, we have an approximate period of some 12,000 years from Adam to the present time.
But this seems to be a terribly artificial scheme, and the gain is still not nearly sufficient to satisfy the demand. Moreover, there are more serious reasons for rejecting the proposal. The first is the strong impression one gets in reading the record in Genesis that the names are the names of real people. Enoch was a real person, and it seems clear that the obvious intent of the record is to point out that he was removed from the earth after living for only 365 years. The Noah who founded the "dynasty" which displaced that of Lamech, is surely the same Noah who six hundred years later survived the deluge with his immediate family. Another good reason for doubting the validity of this interpretation is based on a statistical analysis of the figures given in Genesis 5, which are considered in connection with Fig. 2.
Other interpretations of these time periods have been proposed that at first sight seemed promising, but invariably lead to greater confusion, creating as many problems as they solve. Thus it has been proposed that the figures for years should be taken as for months. Very good results do appear in the case of the aggregate length of the lives of these individuals, as is usually pointed out, for Adam would be seventy-seven, Methuselah eighty-two, and Lamech sixty-five. But this does not work out in the figures given for times elapsed before the firstborn appeared. It would make Adam a father of Seth at the age of ten, Mahalaleel and Enoch fathers at the age of five, and so on. This is absurd of course. Moreover no change is indicated when we come to the record of the Flood which actually deals in months, and has all the earmarks of being a genuine ship's log.
Another equally unsatisfactory solution was proposed in Lange's commentary on Genesis, though not favoured by Lange himself. He pointed out that some have supposed that with the passing of the centuries, the meaning of the word "year" was changed. (28) Hensler held that the expression denoted three months till the time of Abraham, thence to the time of Joseph eight months, and afterwards, for the first time, twelve. Raske held that from Adam to Noah, the year was equal to one month, but as we have seen this makes nonsense of the age of parents at the birth of their first child.
Turning now to an analysis of the figures from the statistical point of view, some interesting observations may be made. It has been noted that within any given species, the period spent by each individual in reaching that measure of maturity which permits procreation is related to the average life span for the species, provided that there is no unexpected reduction in the life span due to disease, or other such factors. Naturally it varies widely between species, but not widely within a species. It is found, for example, that in our culture, man is childless for about 20 years and may expect to live for about 70, or very roughly a ratio of 1 to 3.5. However, an increase in life span may mean an increase in the period of childlessness if it is the result of a general slowing up of the maturing processes. But this is not a straight-line relationship, and merely doubling the life to say 140 years does not necessarily double the corresponding period of childlessness to 40 years.
Before considering the figures given in Genesis for the period of childlessness relative to the total life span, it is necessary to exclude certain names from the list. We do not have any figures for Enoch which represent his natural life. He was removed prematurely. His
28. Lange's Commentary on Genesis, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, p.271.
name must therefore be omitted. Lamech also appears to be an exception. He died "young" (777 years) relatively speaking, but matured slowly if we are to take the figure for his period of childlessness (182 years). Curiously enough Lamech seems to have felt the burden of living more than others, since he alone is said to have complained of weariness (Genesis 5:29). At any rate, leaving his name on the list completely alters the consistency of the balance of the figures given and confirms the impression that he was an exception and died without having reached his expected age. Noah must be excluded also, since he closed his life under different conditions in the world after the Flood.
This seems a drastic reduction of the list. However a Statistical Research Scientist with the Canadian Government assured us that the seven individuals who remain are a sufficient sample to give a perfectly valid result, and he agreed that Enoch, Lamech, and Noah should be excluded for the reasons given. Since he had no concern for the problem except the desire to be of service to a friend, one may safely assume that he was not biased in any way by a wish to see a certain end result.
Using the Spearman Rank Order Test, a remarkable correlation is found between the figures given for the period of childlessness and total life span as recorded in the Hebrew text. But when the figures given for the same list of individuals, as found in the Alexandrine Septuagint and the Vatican Septuagint, are treated in the same way, the result is completely different.
It should perhaps be explained that if the period of childlessness was always unfailingly related to the total life span in a fixed ratio, the correlation figures would always be exactly 1.00. Since we are making the assumption that in the case of the species man, there is a relationship of this kind, the more nearly any group of figures approaches unity, the more likely are these figures to be historically valid. This is the basis of the argument here, and if the argument is sound, these figures given in Genesis are significant, and cannot simply be ignored.
The correlation figures in the three versions are as follows:
| || || |
| || || |
The Hebrew Text reveals an almost perfect correlation. This even relationship accounts for the smoothness of the curve indicated in the graph which is shown in Fig. 2. It seems highly probable therefore, that the list given in Genesis 5 is a genuine historical document,
recording actual time periods and ages of real individuals. That this kind of correlation would be found for the rise and fall of dynasties seems exceedingly unlikely. Moreover, the poor correlation figures for the Septuagint tells strongly against the validity of the figures.
We are next faced with the question of whether it is conceivable that man is so recent, or that the earth was re-peopled from a single family only a few thousand years ago.
In estimating the time required for the evolution of a new species from an old stock, it is quite customary to calculate the number of supposed mutations required to transform one type of animal into another. Allowing so many centuries for each mutation to spread significantly through a population, and multiplying this time unit by the number of mutations, a period is estimated, usually in hundreds of thousands of years, as a minimum within which such speciation could occur. These estimates, based on intelligent guesswork are given considerable credence. The use of such methods of calculation is therefore considered quite valid.
A similar method can be applied to population increase, and this leads to some interesting results. World census figures are inevitably approximate only. But this is obviously true also of mutation rates for extinct species, yet the use of such figures is nonetheless allowed. World War II created some very serious disruptions in population in certain groups, for which useful figures were available at the time of the 1922 Berlin census. For this review therefore, the 1922 figures are being used, since they antedate these disruptions. Other contemporary sources give slightly variant figures, but the differences are not serious. The population of the world at that time was estimated to have been 1,804,187,000. The human race must have doubled itself some 30.75 times to reach this figure.
According to the chronology of the Hebrew Text, as interpreted by Anstey, probably the most dependable and learned biblical chronologer, we find that some 4481 years have elapsed since the Flood, or 4581 years since the birth of Noah's first-born, at which time we may say in a manner of speaking that the present world population began with two individuals. This assumes for the sake of argument that the present population of the world is to be derived from those who escaped through the Ark. Now by dividing 4581 by 30.75, we find that it requires an average of 146 years for the human race to double its numbers.
According to the same census, the number of Jews was given as 15,383,815. It is readily admitted that the exact definition of the term "Jew" would be very difficult. But allowing for the moment this
figure to represent the descendants of Jacob in 1922, and taking Anstey's date for the marriage of Jacob which he places 3795 years ago approximately, we find that the Jewish people must have doubled their numbers once every 159 years. (29) We should not expect such figures to be accurate, but the correspondence for the period of doubling is rather remarkable.
Raymond Pearl gives figures which indicate that since 1630 the population of the world has doubled once every 129 years approximately. (30) He then provides a graph showing this rise from 1630 to the present time, but finds himself embarrassed by the problem of what to do with the curve from that date backwards. We have reproduced this graph in Fig. 3, but with a slight modification, namely a vertical line which is intended to indicate the point in time at which the Flood occurred according to Anstey's reckoning. Any attempt to apply the present rates of increase to the world's population if we place the first human pair some 500,000 years ago leads to absurd results.
Dudley Kirk, like Pearl, in considering this aspect of the problem is forced to the same conclusion, namely, that the present rate of increase could not possibly have applied in the past. (31) This may be quite true. It must surely be true if man is as ancient as we are required to believe he is from scientific studies. Yet the form of the graph shown here for population since 1630, indicates rather significantly that the curve, projected reasonably until it reaches zero population, would quite probably cross the vertical line representing the time of the Flood at a point indicating a very small population, thus confirming the biblical records of the early chapters of Genesis.
We are not implying here that this Flood was universal in the global sense, though it might yet prove to have been, but only that it reduced the world's total population to a small family. The assumption is that the world's population was still more or less concentrated in a single area capable of being drowned by a flood of sufficient proportions to cover a fair area in the Middle East. What one does with Carbon 14 datings which indicate that man may have been in the New World thousands of years before, we do not know. One
29. Anstey, Martin, The Romance of Bible Chronology, vol. 2, Marshall Brothers, London, 1913, p.8.
30. Pearl, Raymond, Man the Animal, Principia Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 1946, p.91.
31. Kirk, Dudley, "Dynamics of Human Population," Eugenics Quarterly, March, 1955, p.18.
need not solve all problems before giving any consideration in all seriousness to the actual statements given with such precision in the biblical record. These lines of evidence from the figures in Genesis all seem to point in the same direction. Are we simply to ignore them? (32)
This reckoning admittedly involves some basic assumptions which are probably quite unprovable. But so are assumptions made by those who seriously attempt to determine the times required for speciation. If we give credence to the latter, ought we not to give some credence to the former?
It has been customary to attribute little value to the traditions of antiquity. Yet these traditions, once formulated, were hedged about in many ways and were by no means left to the whims of individuals to modify or elaborate at will. These traditions were the common heritage of whole communities of people, recited word for word on many occasions, committed to memory by people of importance and handed down from teacher to pupil with surprising fidelity. The educated man was not the man who changed things, but the man who preserved everything without error, exactly as he had received it. Even in modern times, in one primitive society, it has been recorded that a man who made a single error in recitation committed suicide later, out of very shame
We find ourselves so poor at remembering things, that we are apt to be skeptical of such powers, and in any case tend to discredit the traditional beliefs of people whose education has not been characterized by the questioning spirit which we feel so essential to scholarship. Part of our forgetfulness, however, lies in a dependence upon the written record. In the absence of such aids, the memory may be greatly developed and capable of truly remarkable feats, especially when it is not cluttered up with a multitude of irrelevancies. Native Christians have been known who had learned the whole of the New Testament by heart, simply because the copies available were scarce and they could not obtain one for personal use.
In some ceremonies, a man may be required to memorize an inspired recital which occupies several days in the telling and it will
32. Some significant finds with respect to the earth's magnetic field, reported in Nature (vol.178, 1956, p.1226) indicate that a radical revision downwards of figures given to date may be necessary. The authors calculate a possible reduction of 240 years in 2000 and as much as 1000 years in 4000. Plotting a curve on the basis of these figures suggests that dates beyond four or five thousand years could be completely wide of the mark (Walter Elsasser, E. P. Ney, and J. Winckler, "Cosmic-Ray Intensity and Geomagnetism").
be retold without a single verbal deviation. In modern times we have had striking illustrations of the power of transmission without change over many generations.
T. F. McIlwraith (33) pointed out how some North American Indians had reported their traditions to Jesuit missionaries in 1640, and nearly three hundred years later, in 1915, the same traditions were found preserved unchanged by their descendants who now lived hundreds of miles from their original homeland. No written records had been kept by the Indians themselves. Such people tend to cherish every detail of their history and are careful to memorize and rehearse them at appointed times, each member of the audience remembering some part perfectly so that if the speaker makes any errors, he is at once reprimanded and corrected.
As we have pointed out in the introduction, the excavations carried out by Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos in Crete, in the Palace of Minos, have shown that the early Greek traditions about Crete were based on solid fact. The same has been shown by H. Schliemann's excavations at Tiryns (ancient Troy) in Asia Minor, and by those who followed him there. The Homeric traditions about the Golden Fleece, though overlaid with fancy, were evidently based on some real foundation since the panning and washing of gold was carried out in Asia Minor in early times and fleeces in all probability were used as sieves.
Early Aryan traditions are proving to be a source of historical information also. Stuart Piggott observed: (34)
An examination of the material culture of the composers of the Rigveda, as extracted from allusions in the text, is entirely compatible with what we know of conditions at the time from archaeological evidence from other regions of early Indo-European colonization around the edges of the old city civilizations in Asia and the Aegean. I think we are justified in accepting the Rigveda on archaeological grounds as a genuine document of the period, preserved intact by the constant fear of the consequences if the magic word were altered by a hairsbreadth.
Piggott pointed out that we have evidence of changes in heroic literature from time to time, but not when the literature has a religious significance. Almost all literature from the earliest times has this religious colouring. Gods and men are the actors, and not men by themselves.
Herodotus, too, has come into his own as an historian in recent times, and in unexpected ways. In connection with some recently
33. Lecture given at University of Toronto, December, 1952.
34. Piggott, Stuart, Prehistoric India, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1950, p.256.
Herodotus' account of the fleet sent by Pharaoh Necho about 600 B.C. was long discredited, but lately grounds for its acceptance have been found. The historian states that a fleet manned by Phoenicians was sent from Egypt and sailed around Africa, stopping several times to sow and harvest grain on their journey.
These rock-paintings appear now to be a record of one of these visits inland, and they include illustrations of an Egyptian band complete with their musical instruments. It seems difficult to explain the paintings on any other grounds, and they are in a locality which may well have been visited in this manner. Herodotus has been vindicated many times.
Our modern world is so crowded with changes and interesting happenings of all kinds that we are bewildered, and integration of the news is almost impossible. Without this integration it is difficult to get the overall picture, the sequence of events, the keys that make it possible to lock things in the mind. Today changes are too rapid. In ancient times change was very, very slow. In fact, in areas where Western culture has not yet impressed itself, change is still prodigiously slow. In a symposium on anthropology, Robert Lowie pointed out: (36)
It seems to me that the historical civilizations offer positive evidence for a stability of at least several thousand years. The Greek peasant is still reported to believe in Bereids and Moirai. In the Caucasus, Von Luschan found natives still playing a dice game with the very same type of astragalus dice partly of lead and with a wooden spine, occurring in a Hittite site of 900 B.C.
In such a situation, for example, a tradition telling of the individual who invented the game, how he came to do it, and why he adopted the form of the dice that he did, is likely to be preserved century after century, because it remains relevant. Knowledge of this kind therefore brings prestige because people like to know the background of the present. And remembrance is easier because the situation is simpler, and there are fewer irrelevancies. Experience has a certain wholeness and continuity to it in which the past and the present are like warp and woof. This is not to deny for one moment that the pattern woven is often mythical. But the threads that have been used
35. Taylor, Margaret, "Did Pharaoh Necho's Minstrels Visit South Africa?" Illustrated London News, December 10, 1927, pp.1058f.
36. Lowie, Robert, "Problems of the Historical Approach: Results," in Anthropology Today, University of Chicago Press, 1955, p.52.
for the basic fabric are turning out to have a remarkable historical validity, once they are rightly interpreted.
This seems like a wide digression. But tradition strongly supports the biblical record where it claims great longevity for early man. And there is a possibility that we also have an unexpected confirmation of the general time-setting from the Babylonian traditions if we are allowed to make one emendation of the texts as currently interpreted. George Rawlinson pointed out: (37)
There is a large amount of consentient tradition to the effect that the life of man was originally far more prolonged than it is at present, extending to at least several hundreds of years. The Babylonians, Egyptians, and the Chinese all exaggerated these into hundreds of thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans with more moderation limited human life within 100 to 800 years. The Hindus still further shortened it. . . . Their books taught that in the first ages of the world, man was free from diseases, and lived originally 400 years. In the second, the term of life was reduced from 400 to 300. In the third it became 200 years. In the fourth and last, it became 100 years. So strange did the fact appear to the Chinese that an emperor who wrote a medical work, proposed an inquiry into the reasons why the ancients attained to so much more advanced an age than the moderns.
Now from Adam to Noah there are ten generations. It has been claimed on numerous occasions that this is an entirely artificial arrangement, intended to aid the memory since the number corresponds to the digits of the two hands. In Ellicott's commentary, Payne Smith, the contributor on Genesis, and writing on Genesis 5:5, observed: (38)
Modern scholarship has proved the identity of the names of the numbers up to ten in the three great families of human speech. Above ten they have nothing in common.
He then commented,
It seems, therefore, to follow that primeval man before the confusion of tongues had no power of expressing large numbers. Thus in these lists the generations are limited to ten, and hence too the need of caution in dealing with the mystery which underlies the protracted duration of the lives of the patriarchs.
But if they could not deal with numbers above ten or so, how did they manage to give the age of the patriarchs which run into centuries, and how did Noah manage to build an Ark whose physical features manifestly involved numbers higher than ten?
Such observations as Smith's often have the earmarks of profundity
37. Rawlinson, George, Historical Illustrations, p.14: quoted by Marcus Dods, The Book of Genesis, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, no date, p.29, fn.2.
38. Ellicott's Commentary on Genesis, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, p.33.
and in this instance appear in one of the sanest and most valuable commentaries ever published. But they show how foolish it is to attempt to explain away such a precise record as we are given in the fifth chapter of Genesis on the grounds that men were so uncultured as to be unable to deal with such large numbers and may therefore be taken as entirely fictitious and of later date.
Francois Lenormant, who spent much time analyzing and evaluating traditions from antiquity, observed: (39)
It is very curious to note how widely the number ten prevails as that of the first generations of men. The Bible reckons ten from the Creation to the Flood. The Iranians had ten kings, "the men of ancient law," who lived on the pure homa or immortal draught of the gods and kept their purity. Among the Hindus there are ten "fathers," the children of Brahma. Among the Germans and Scandinavians there were ten ancestors of Odin. Among the Chinese, ten emperors shared divine honour before the dawn of history; and the Arabs have ten fabled kings of the region between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
Berossus, a Babylonian historian of about 300 B.C., copied from inscriptions available to him at the time, and basing his history on the archives in the Temple of Marduk stated that before the Flood, ten kings had reigned whose history covered the fabulous total of 432,000 years. Since there is some correspondence between the names of these kings and those given in the fifth chapter of Genesis, the matter is given consideration in the next section, with a word about the possible alternative value to be attributed to the saros, a Babylonian measure, which if permitted brings the total period into remarkable conformity with the biblical record.
Berossus was a priest of Bel at Babylon. He translated into Greek the standard Babylonian work on astrology and astronomy, and compiled in three books the history of his own country from native documents, which he published in Greek in the reign of Antiochus II (250 B.C.). His works have perished but extracts from the history have been preserved by Josephus and Eusebius. Eusebius probably derived them not directly from Berossus, but through the medium of Alexander Polyhistor and Apollodorus.
In his history Berossus gave a list of kings who are said to have reigned from the Creation to the Flood. This list is given here as a table with the biblical counterpart, and in the last column is a shorter chronology based on an alternative value for the saros, which is very much lower. This point is discussed at the end of this section.
39. Lenormant, Francois, Manuel d'histoire ancienne, vol.1, Paris, 1868, p.19.
Biblical List Berossus List Long Reckoning (yrs.) Short Reckoning (yrs.) Adam Alorus 36,000 185 Seth Alaparous 10,800 55 1/2 Enos Amelon 43,200 240 1/2 Cainan Ammenon 64,800 222 Mahalaleel Megalarous 46,800 333 Jared Daonos 36,000 185 Enoch Edoranchos 64,800 333 Methuselah Amenpsinos 36,000 185 Lamech Otiartes 28,800 148 Noah Xisouthros 64,800 333 432,000 2220
In 1922 a tablet was found now known as the Weld Dynastic Prism, believed to have been written about 2170 B.C. by a scribe who signed himself Nur-Ninsubur and lived at the close of the Isin Dynasty. This text may well have been a copy of the original from which centuries later Berossus derived his figures. The reigns, when totalled, give a period of 347,200 years as opposed to the figure given by Berossus above, and the names are in somewhat different form. But such differences can be accounted for in a number of quite reasonable ways. Below are the names and figures from this Weld Prism.
It will be noted here, in the shorter chronology, the total accords remarkably well with the biblical figure of 1656 years. The Weld Prism therefore provides us with a striking confirmation of Berossus's figures. It also indicates that with the passage of time, figures have a habit of growing. Berossus gave a higher total than the original, just as the Septuagint seems to have done. And in point of fact the figures of Berossus (2220 years) and those of the Vatican Septuagint (2242 years) are almost the same, provided that the shorter chronology can be justified.
In commenting on this tablet, and the mate to it which was translated by Barton in his Archaeology and the Bible, Barton observed: (40)
A comparison of his list of kings who reigned before the Deluge with those given in this text, will convince any scholar that a list like this was the source of Berossus' information. When we make allowance for changes in pronunciation in Babylonian which would be sure to occur in the course of
40. Barton, George A., Archaeology and the Bible, American Sunday School Union, Philadelphia,1933, p.328.
|Biblical List||Weld Prism List||Long Reckoning (yrs.)||ShortReckoning (yrs.)|
S. R. Driver, in his commentary on Genesis, indicated that there is even some of correspondence between these lists and the biblical record in actual form or meaning of the names: (41)
It is considered now, by Hommel and Sayce, that the names of the Hebrew patriarchs are, at least in some cases, equivalents of the corresponding Babylonian names. Thus:
No. 3 on the list of the ten names, Amelon, is the Babylonian Amilu, meaning "man." This corresponds to the Hebrew Enos which also means "man."
No. 4 on the list, Ammenon is the Babylonian Ummanu, meaning "artificer," and is the equivalent of Kenan (Cainan) which means "smith."
No.7 on the list, Edoranchos may also be read as Euedorachos, a form which can hardly be different from Emmeduranki, a legendary King of Sippar, the city sacred to the sun-god Shamash. According to a recently published ritual tablet, the god called Enmeduranki into fellowship with himself, gave him the "table of the gods," taught him the secrets of heaven and earth, and instructed him in various arts of divination: the knowledge thus derived, he passed on to his son, and he thus became the mythical ancestor of a hereditary guild of Babylonian diviners. . . . Enoch was supposed in later ages to have become the recipient of superhuman knowledge and in the course of his conversations with God to have received revelations as to the nature of heaven and earth, and the future destinies of men and angels. And so in the apocryphal Book of Enoch . . . he is represented as recounting the
41. Driver, S. R., The Book of Genesis, Methuen, London, no date, pp.78, 81.2000 years, and for the corruptions which would naturally occur in passing from a Babylonian original to a Greek spelling, the two lists are seen to be the same.
visions of judgment on men and angels which he is supposed to have had, as describing how he has been shown by the angel the different places set apart for the righteous and wicked after death, and has seen the Almighty seated on His throne, and the Messiah judging the world, as unfolding (in very obscure language) the "secrets of the heavens" (i.e., the courses of the heavenly bodies, the principle of the calendar, the causes of lightnings, wind, dew, etc.), and as foretelling in a veiled allegorical form the history of Israel to the second century B.C. It is in accordance with this view of Enoch that he is called in Ecclesiasticus 44:16 an "example of knowledge to all generations." The Book of Enoch is quoted in Jude 14:15.
No. 8 on the list is Amenpsinos, which according to Hommel, is taken to be a corruption of Amilsinus, i.e., Amil-sin, "the man of Sin (the Moon God)," and Methuselah may be according to Sayce a variation of Mutu-sha-Irkhu, "man of the Moon God," or if the more original form of the name is Methuselah, " the man of God."
The final name on the list, however it may be accounted for in its variant forms (whether as Utnapishtim or Xisouthros), is undoubtedly to be equated with Noah.
Several of the names therefore correspond either in actual form or in their character as workmen or as favoured individuals.
It appears therefore that the traditions of these ten kings were well known throughout the period from about 2000 B.C. down to quite late in the pre-Christian era, and written records survived with remarkably little change during this period.
However, as they stand according to currently accepted methods of interpretation, the figures are obviously mythical. A very cursory glance at them indicates that they are "round" numbers, many of which bear a mathematical relationship to each other. The shorter chronology however brings them down to a place where it is conceivable that kings might have reigned for such time periods, though their reigns were certainly longer than anything we have known since the Flood. But is this shorter chronology justified?
The correct value to assign to the Babylonian saros has been a matter of debate for some years. This term appears in early texts involving numbers, and it is customary to assign to it the value of 3600. It may mean 3600 of anything, and does not necessarily apply to time periods. However, when it does, there is a possibility that the saros has the value of 18 years and 6 months, a very different thing from the 3600 years which it is usually taken to mean.
According to the findings of cuneiform scholars, the Babylonian system of counting involved a process of multiplying by an alternate number instead of multiplying by the same number. We begin with one and multiply by ten to get ten, by ten again to get one hundred, and by ten again to get one thousand, etc. But the Babylonians
A sossos was 10 times 6; or 60.
A naros was 60 times 10; or 600, i.e., sossi.
A saros was 600 times 6; or 3600, i.e., 6 nari.
They had a further term which signified a saros multiplied by 10, i.e., 36,000. And the next in the series was this figure in turn multiplied by 6, or 216,000. This was referred to as shar-gesh, and meant simply a very large number.
According to this system a saros signifies 3600 of something. But we have suggested that there is another possible value for the saros when applied to time. Some modern authorities deny the possibility of this on the ground that this value is dependent upon a certain astronomical knowledge which the Babylonians are not believed to have had. Nevertheless we have one ancient authority for it. This was a man named Suidas.
Suidas was apparently a Greek lexicographer of whom virtually nothing is known except that he must have lived before Eustathius (12th to 13th century A.D.) who frequently quoted him. Under the heading Adam, the author of the lexicon, which is stated in a prefatory note to be the work of Suidas, gives a brief chronology of the world, ending with the death of the Emperor John Zimisces (A.D. 975). Under the heading Constantinople both Basil and Constantine are mentioned. It would thus appear that Suidas lived in the latter part of the tenth century. The lexicon he wrote is arranged alphabetically with some slight deviations. It is a dictionary and encyclopedia combined. It includes numerous quotations from ancient writers. The scholastics on Aristophanes, Homer, Sophocles, and Thucydides are also much used. A prefatory note gives a list of earlier dictionaries, and although the work is uncritical and unequal in value, it contains much information on ancient history and life.
Now Suidas gave the reigns of the antediluvian kings in sari. We have already seen that the ordinary value attached to this term is 3600, so that the chronologies are extended accordingly. But Suidas has informed us that the term had also another value among the Babylonians: (42)
Sari are, with the Chaldeans, a measure and a number. One hundred and twenty Sari, according to the calculations of the Chaldeans, makes 2220 years, for the Sarus contains 222 lunar months, which is equivalent to eighteen years and six months.
42. Jones, F. A., The Dates of Genesis, Kingsgate Press, London, 1912, p.114 and appendix.
It should be stated that the Chaldean year was composed of 12 months, of 30 days each, or 360 days. The figures given in the last column in the two tables dealing with the king lists are therefore in error to the extent that 360 days is not a true year. But for our purposes it was simpler not to introduce the complications of correcting it at that point. The figures may therefore be allowed to stand with this qualification.
Looking back to those early days, we are rather apt to suppose that men's minds worked differently, almost childishly. Yet the civilizations they created were far from simple. There is really no reason to suppose that they would represent their ancestors as living for so many thousands of years. It can hardly have seemed reasonable of them to exaggerate so completely beyond the bounds of their own experiences of life as to bring their traditions into discredit even among their own countrymen. They were surely not fools. When we apply to their statements the alternative value as given by Suidas, the figures are still remarkably high as our experience goes, but they were very reasonable indeed if men were then living for several centuries. The average reigns in the list of Berossus and the Weld Prism are seen to be 222 years and 177 years respectively. The average age of the patriarchs as given in the biblical record prior to the Flood is found to be 912 years. Assuming that these are the same individuals, they reigned for slightly less than one quarter of their lifetime. Taking the kings of England from William the Conqueror in 1066, to the present time, it is found that the average reign of a total of 41 individuals is almost 22 years, or slightly less than a third of the life span of the individual. There is some correspondence; at least the relationships between length of reign and length of life are approximately of the same order.
None of these observations prove anything. They merely show that no matter how the figures are analyzed, we do not find anything in them which makes them manifestly absurd, provided that the shorter reckoning is used and provided that we allow the possibility of men living to be several centuries old when they died, a possibility which in the light of present knowledge can no longer be said to be unreasonable.
The question arises, now, whether the remains of early man show any evidence of such great longevity.
There are three points to consider here: (1) the evidence that man does not at present achieve physiological maturity, (2) that to a
limited extent fossil remains indicate that early man was less diseased than later man, and (3) that in spite of opinion to the contrary, a small amount of evidence exists that man reached a greater age in antiquity, or at least achieved more complete physiological maturity.
The points, if established, suggest that man today cannot be taken as a standard by which to judge the viability of man in antiquity. In the Symposium on Anthropology held in 1953, George Carter observed: (43)
One of the most striking features that distinguishes man's body from the bodies of other mammals is its extraordinary fetalization. In many characters such as his lack of closure of the sutures of the skull, the posture of his head, and others, man resembles the foetal rather than the adult mammal.
Sir Gavin de Beer elaborated this at some length in his book Embryos and Ancestors. He wrote: (44)
These features include the relatively high brain-weight, the position of the foremen magnum and the cranial flexure, the dentition, the flatness of the face (orthognathy), the hairlessness of the body, the light color of the skin and a number of other features. . . .
The sutures between the bones of the human skull do not close until the age of nearly thirty years. In apes and other mammals these sutures close much sooner after birth, and when that has happened the skull cannot increase in size any more. The human skull, on the other hand, can increase in size for a very long time after birth, and this enables it to provide accommodation for the large volume of the human brain.
Subsequently he remarked:
This retardation in the rate of the development of the body, it will be remembered, is all that is required to produce the human features mentioned above.
In effect this must probably be taken to mean that given sufficient time, man would "mature" and that he may therefore be said in one sense to die before his time. De Beer's conclusion was:
It may be safely concluded that the rate of development of the human body has been retarded.
This is one way of looking at it. The other alternative is simply that he once lived long enough to grow into a fully mature adult, physiologically speaking.
Would it be altogether unreasonable to make the following supposition? With the exception of the Far Eastern specimens of
43. Carter, George, "The Theory of Evolution and the Evolution of Man," in Anthropology Today, University of Chicago Press, 1953, p.340.
44. De Beer, Sir Gavin, ref.10, pp.55-59.
fossil man, one of the most surprising characteristics of the earlier remains is the evidence they present that man was at first remarkably large brained. The figures as given, for example, by William Howells in his book Mankind So Far (1944) are: Piltdown Woman, 1400 cubic cm., Neanderthal Man, 1625 cubic cm., Wadjak Skull, 1650 cubic cm., Boskop Skull, 1800 cubic cm., and Cro-Magnon Man, 1750 cubic cm.
All of these are well above the European average (allowing for the fact that the Piltdown cranium was that of a woman). Just supposing it should one day turn out that early man did live much longer, and correspondingly did mature more slowly and yet more completely, would it not be likely that their cranial capacity would exceed that of modern man? It is just possible, therefore, that we have here supporting evidence in an unexpected direction.
In the study of senescence at the present time, it is generally agreed that disease in some form is responsible for the great majority of deaths, even of people who might be thought to have reached the appointed limits of life. The nature of the disease, or diseases, is not understood. One thing alone seems fairly certain, namely, that when a man or woman dies at what we might regard as a good old age, death is still probably premature, and given sufficient time, will in the future be prevented or delayed for a considerable period. As we have seen already, there is some evidence that man is today a more diseased creature on the whole than when he first appeared. This is, of course, only to be expected, since mutations are occurring all the time and are compounded with each generation, and such mutations are almost always detrimental to the organism in one way or another.
Such is the evidence as interpreted by Hrdlicka. There may now be evidence to the contrary, since the number of finds has greatly increased. However, the number of finds which can be positively identified as Homo sapiens, and which are to be classed with such specimens as Pithecanthropus erectus and Sinanthropus, etc., are not numerous, and an examination of their bones with a view to determining the extent to which they were subject to such diseases would not be too difficult and will doubtless be undertaken in time. In the meantime the conclusions of Hrdlicka favour the idea that fossil man could have outlived his modern representatives if disease plays a significant part in shortening life.
However, some authorities claim that early man was remarkably short-lived. It has been stated than an examination of 181 human fossils of Neanderthal Man, Upper Palaeolithic, and
Neolithic Man, showed that only 3 individuals had passed the age of 50. One third had died before reaching the age of 20, and the remainder had died between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Among the remains of Pekin Man (not included in the above), it was found that one individual only had passed the age of 60. (45)
These age determinations are based on certain aspects of bone development; the exact criteria are not stated. Certain other structural features have led other (but nonetheless informed) authorities to quite different conclusions. Sir William Dawson, who must be considered no mean authority since he did so much personal work in various fields of physical anthropology, in speaking of certain fossil remains from Europe contemporary with Neanderthal Man, made the following observations: (46)
Another point which strikes us in reading the descriptions of these skeletons is the indication which they seem to present of an extreme longevity. The massive proportions of the body, the great development of the muscular processes, the extreme wearing of the teeth among a people who predominantly lived on flesh and not on grain, the obliteration of the sutures of the skull along with indications of slow ossification of the ends of the long bones point in this direction and seem to indicate a slow maturity and great length of life in this primitive race.
This was written of course long before the work of Devaux or Bolk, or the publication of De Beer's conclusions about the fetalization of modern man.
How are we to reconcile these contradictory views? Is it possible that in the very nature of the case, longevity might conceal its own physiological evidence to some extent? If a man should normally live to be several centuries old, it seems necessary to assume that in the slowing up of the maturing processes which would accompany such longevity, the appearance of many of the bones of the body would be still very "young" in years by our reckoning if the possessor had died at an age of say 300 years. Such an age would represent possibly one-third of the total normally achieved, and would therefore represent an age of say twenty-five years for a man whose normal life span was three score years and ten. It could therefore happen that a skeleton belonging to an individual who might normally expect to reach the age of 800 or 900 years, but who due to the harshness of his environment had only succeeded in surviving to an age of 200 years, might be exhumed and judged by our present modes of reckoning to
45. See Humphrey Johnson, The Bible and the Early History of Mankind, London, revised edition, 1947, p.109, fn.
46. Dawson, Sir William, Meeting Place of Geology and History, F. H. Revell, New York, 1904, p.63.
have died when only about 20 years old. This is, of course, only hypothesis and might prove to be quite erroneous. Yet it is a logical concomitant of our thesis, and granted the original premises is not at all unreasonable.
There is room for argument about the significance of these ideas. Much more work needs to be done in the examination of fossil remains with this in mind. The problem is that it has been a foregone conclusion that these earlier individuals were short-lived. The biblical record was ignored, at least in so far as it attributed great longevity to early man. Yet this could be a fruitful area for re-investigation. Long life could lead to a very marked acceleration in the speed of cultural development. The next chapter gives the matter some consideration.