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B.C., the Greek, with the Trojan war, in 1250 B.C., or, perhaps, with Hercules, a century earlier, the Lydian, 1229 B.C., the Phænician, about the same period, the Carthaginian, 880 B.C., the Macedonian, about 720 B.C., the Median, not before 708 B.C., the Roman, in the middle of the same century, the Persian, 558 B.C., the Indian, about 350 B.C., the Mexican and the Peruvian not till after our era. The oldest human constructions remaining upon earth are the pyramids, and these date from about 2400 B.C.; the brick temples of Babylon seem, none of them, earlier than 2300 B.C.; and 2000 B.C. would be a high date for the first Cyclopean walls in Greece or Italy. The earliest rock inscriptions belong to nearly the same period.*
It may be here mentioned, for the purpose of suggesting how little reliance is to be placed upon the ancient chronologies, to which resort is had for finding materials to oppose to the biblical chronology, that Sir William Jones instituted a very laborious calculation of Hindoo chronology,t to show that so long lives could not possibly follow in succession as the Puranas affirm, and Mr. Charles Taylor, who followed him in the enquiry, reduced the numbers to figures, and observing that they ended with ciphers, he cut off the ciphers from them, and the result was à coincidence with the numbers Sir William had inferred by reasoning. Of this he gives an instance or two. “ Vaivastwater (that is Noah) reigned 3,892,000 years ago."! If we cut off the three ciphers in these numbers, we have left 3,892 ; and that this is near the true number is evident from a
* "Aids to Faith," pp. 257, 258. See also the author's Bampton Lectures, pp. 55—73. † "Asiatic Researches,” p. 126, Calcutta edit. "Asiatic Researches," p. 132.
remark —"The hypothesis that government was first established, laws enacted, and agriculture encouraged in India by Rama about 3,800 years ago, agrees with the received account of Noah's death and the previous settlement of his immediate descendants.” 3,892 is sufficiently near to 3,800 to justify the inference that the former sum is right, Again, “The reigns of those princes are supposed to have lasted 864,000 years, a supposition evidently against nature, the uniform course of which allows only a period of 870.” Cut off the ciphers, and we have left 864, which is near enough to 870. The same principle has been applied to Herodotus; and must also be applied to Diodorus Siculus, who
* that “the remainder of 15,000 years has been filled by Egyptian kings, in number 470." But in cap. 4 he says, “ The priests say their books mention 47 tombs of kings.” How is this ? Each king is supposed to have had his tomb: 47 tombs to 470 kings ! Correct this by cutting off the cipher from the larger number. The 15,000 years requires a similar reduction to 1,500. (Compare Lib. ii. c. 21.)—“The Chaldeans say they began their celestial observations 473,000 years before Alexander,” with the Egyptian accountt:-“Egypt was governed by native kings 4,700 years.” This being the same space of time referred to by both nations, the lesser number must correct the greater, by cutting off two ciphers, which will make them agree.” The result of Mr. Taylor's investigations is to lead to the conclusion, that all these systems of notation had a common source, for how otherwise could there be this singular agreement among them? But, besides this, it brings the several chronological periods
* B. i., c. 3, s. 2. + Lib. i., c. 21, s. 2.
within the limits of possibility, and reduces them into harmony with the biblical history.
8. THE AGES OF THE PATRIARCAS.-An argument against the authenticity of the Mosaic history has been made out of the statements therein contained, as to the longevity of the patriarchs, which is said to be at variance with all the laws of human and animal organism.* Men, say the objectors, could never have lived more than 150, or, at most, 200 years; and a document which assigns them lives of 300, 600, 800, and even 900 years, must be unhistorical, and is either, in respect of its numbers, worthless, or to be explained in some not very ob
This argument is supposed to be drawn from physiology, another of the “ infallible sciences,” which are assumed to lay down laws, not only for our practical guidance at the present day, but for our intellectual belief as to the occurrences of all past ages. In truth, however, the science of physiology has not spoken on the point before us. Its problem has been, not what length of time it is possible for man ever to have lived, but how long it is possible for him now to live, under the present circumstances of the earth, and in the present known condition of human bodies. And even this question it can only answer empirically. It finds the body to be a machine which wears out by use; but it fails to discover any definite rate at which the process of wearing out must proceed. In this difficulty, comparative physiology does not help it, for the law of longevity in the brute creation is capricious in the extreme. All the proposed standards of measurement—the period of gestation, the time occupied in growth, the size of the full grown body-when applied to species severally, fail in certain instances, Physiology, then, can only say, these human bodies are mortal ; death is inevitable ; and, so far as modern testimony goes, men do not seem now able to resist the tendency to decay beyond the term of 150, or, at the utmost, 200 years. But the possible duration of life, when the species was but recently created, and had its vigour unimpaired by the taint of hereditary disease, is beyond the cognisance of physiological science, which, by the mouth of its most celebrated professors, declines to pronounce a positive judgment. Haller, when led to speak on the subject, declared the problem one which could not be solved, on account of the absence of sufficient data, while Buffon accepted the scriptural account, and thought he could see physical reasons why life should, in the early ages, have been so greatly extended. It cannot, therefore, be said with truth, that the longevity of the patriarchs is at variance with all—or indeed with any-of the laws of human and animal organism. We do not know on what longevity depends; we could not possibly tell, à priori, whether man or any other animal would live one, ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred, or a thousand years. The whole question is one of fact, and so of evidence. Men now do not, except in very rare instances, exceed 100
* Bunsen. Egypt, vol. iv., p. 391, quoted by Professor Rawlinson, to whom we are indebted for the answer.—“Aids to Faith," p. 277.
Was this always so? Or was it once different ? The Bible answers this question for us very clearly and decidedly, showing us that human life gradually declined, beginning with a term little short of a millennium, and by de
grees contracting, till, in Moses' time, it had reached (apparently) its present limits--the days of man's age having become then “threescore years and ten," and only a few, “by reason of strength," reaching to fourscore years.
Does other historical testimony really run counter to this, or even render it hard to believe? Or is it not the fact, that all the evidence we have is in accordance with the scriptural narrative, and strongly confirmatory of the statement, that in the early ages human life was prolonged very much beyond its present term ?