« PreviousContinue »
GENEALOGICAL TABLE OF THE DESCENDANTS OF Noah TO THE TIME OF
LNTRODUCTORY REMARKS : Importance of having clear views of the chronology
of any period, and of the intellectual character of the people, for the understanding of their history. Part I. THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE PATRIARCHAL AGE: The difficulty of the subject-The three ancient versions of Scripture: their separate and independent character: their chronological disagreement-NecesBITY OF ADOPTING A SOUND SYSTEM OF CHRONOLOGY. I. WHETHER THESE SEVERAL VERSIONS EVER AGREED IN THEIR CHRONOLOGY; and if so, which retains the primitive numbers—The Septuagint at first agreed with the then existing Hebrew, shown by reference to Philo, Demetrius, Eupolemus, and Josephus: also by evidence from the New Testament—The Septuagint has now the same numbers. II. WHETHER ANY OF THE VERSIONS HAVE BEEN CORRUPTED IN THIS RESPECT. Proof that the Hebrew has, from the circumstances of the case-The fact attested by early Christian fathers : proved by reference to various texts-Ample motives for this course shown. III. Examination or THE ACCURACY OF THE SEPTUAGINT. Traditional history: Testimony of several eminent authors General observations. Part II. LEARNING, LITERATURE, AND SCIENCE, IN THE EARLY AGES OF THE WORLD. Absurd theories of philosophers with respect to LANGUAGE—The primitive state of man not one of ignorance and barbarism, but of intellectual grandeur-Inquiry into the origin of alphabetical characters: their use traced up to the deluge: in use before hiero glyphics-Proofs from tradition, history, and eminent authors. Early LITERATURE: its existence proved from Scripture facts, profane records, and ancient tradition. THE EXISTENCE OF SCIENCE during this period proved by the history of astronomy, and other evidence. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS. BEFORE we attempt to furnish a consecutive history of the patriarchal age, and of its religion, it will be necessary to institute an inquiry into its chronology and learning. Unless we obtain a tolerably correct knowledge of the progression of events, and of the times when they respectively occurred, it will be impossible to form such an arrangement of these materials as shall be either consistent or intelligible. This remark must, to a certain extent, be true of any period; but it is more especially so with respect to that which we have now to consider. Dr. Russell has not scrupled to assert that “to the reader who shall enter in earnest upon the inquiries which are pursued in this work, it will soon become manifest that, in most cases, the study of ancient history resolves itself into a series of chronological disquisitions respecting the origin of nations, and the relative antiquity of events.”—Connection of Sacred and Profane History, vol. i, p. 13. The absolute necessity
of obtaining this information will be further evident, if we consider the true character of history, which, says an eminent ancient author, “ carries our knowledge beyond the vast and devouring space of numberless years; thus triumphing over time, and making us, though living at an immense distance, in a manner, eye-witnesses of all the events which have occasioned astonishing revolutions in the world.” It will be at once perceived, that history can only fully sustain this important character when her pages are arranged under the guidance, and her facts are illuminated by the light, of clear and obvious chronological truth. We cannot with propriety apply this definition to any enumeration of facts, however carefully collected; or to any narration of events, however elegantly written; if we are left in ignorance of the period when they happened, or the order of time in which they occurred.
Nor is it of less importance that we should possess some distinct information as to the mental character, measure of cultivation, and amount of learning, of the people whose history we peruse. In no Other case does this apply with the same force as in the present. We propose to discuss the origin of human society, to narrate the events which took place in the first families of mankind. Before we can enter on a work of this nature, it is necessary for us to decide between the two conflicting theories which have been propounded respecting the primitive intellectual character of man;—to ascertain whether, created in knowledge and in true holiness, he at first stood forth possessed of the highest intellectual powers, endowed with the noblest attributes of mind, prepared to enter upon and successfully to pursue a course of vigorous and continued improvement ;--or whether, emerging at first from mere animal existence, he gradually arose to be a reasoning and cultivated creature ;-in a word, whether intellectual dignity was the original character of humanity, and subsequent barbarism the consequence of sinful practices and vicious pursuits; or whether, commencing his existence in barbarism, he, by the evolution of some unknown energy, subsequently burst the bands of his natural state, and gradually arose to his present dignified and intelligent position. These are questions of importance; they affect every step of our historical career, and demand our utmost efforts to elicit the truth respecting them, and to place it in the strongest aspect before the mind of the reader.
In the hope of contributing to this desirable end, we have chosen to investigate these subjects in a Preliminary Dissertation, rather than trust to occasional notes, or digressive disquisitions.
AN INQUIRY INTO THE TRUE CHRONOLOGY OF THE PATRIARCHAL AGE.
Tuis period contains a number of prominent circumstances and events, to which no historical age can furnish a parallel. Looking on the pages of Moses, we see the family of the first man; the rise and progress of society; the prevalence of wickedness; the destruction of the old world' by a flood of waters, and the preservation of Noah and his family in an ark; the repeopling of the world; the general dispersion; the commencement of the most important ancient empires; the call of Abraham; the miraculous destruction of the cities of the plain ; and the special appointment of a part of the Abrahamic family to sustain a peculiar covenant relation to the Most High. These are events replete with interest, even if singly and separately considered; but they also stand before us as inseparably interwoven with the history and religion of the world. While, therefore, we ought to know the chronological order and position of the events of this period, that we may understand its history, it equally concerns us to obtain this knowledge, if we would have a right understanding of an important portion of the Holy Scriptures, or be able to trace, with any confidence, the harmony of the sacred narrative with other authentic remains of ancient history.
Those who have taken only a superficial view of the subject, may regard the attainment of this information as an easy acquisition, Moses having recorded, with uniform care, the particulars of the duration of the several generations throughout this period. A very brief examination will, however, prove that this judgment is erroneous, and that the subject is encumbered with great and special difficulties. It may also be observed, that these do not arise from lack of information, nor from mere discrepancy in the accounts of different authors, respecting any isolated events : difficulties like these we shall meet with in every part of history; but here, and here alone, we have to decide upon the respective claims of great chronological systems, each of which has been received and defended by learned men, and appears to be sanctioned by many collateral circumstances, but which are entirely irreconcilable with each other. This will be evident when we state that, according to the shortest computation, one thousand nine hundred and forty-eight years elapsed from the creation to the birth of Abraham ; the second makes this period two thousand two hundred and forty-nine years; while the longest assigns to it three thousand three hundred and thirtyfour years ; showing a difference of one thousand three hundred and eighty-six years on this period. Yet each of these systems is based upon Holy Scripture; the difference which we have exhibited being