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putation. Down to the time of Abraham, who lived 175 years, there is a gradual decrease of longevity. And if the years of this patriarch were so many months, his sorrow at being childless, so frequently referred to in the sacred narrative, was, to say the least, altogether premature.
§. 1. The question stated. Moses wrote genealogy, not chronology, though the latter is interwoven with the former. This was in accordance with the oriental custom, so modified as best to suit the design of history. For chronology and genealogy are the foundation of all history; and, while we attach the most importance to chronology, and make genealogy a secondary affair, among the Hebrews, Arabs and Syrians, the contrary obtains. To perpetuate the remembrance of their names, they arrange and preserve, with great care, genealogies extending through many ages, which are taught, generation after generation, to children at a very early age. And they keep such genealogies, not only of men, but of camels and highblooded horses. Hence, their whole history is, in a manner, genealogy; and the Arabs are always ready to trace the line of their descent, and name their ancestors back to Ishmael. The Arabic books are full of such genealogies. On the other hand, they are so very ignorant of chronology, as to know nothing of the time when important events in their history took place; and they most ridiculously confound the dates of occurrences of which they have taken accounts from the Scriptures. As, then, the general attachment to genealogy prevailed among the Israelites, both in their public and private documents, Moses so far complied with the feelings of his nation, as to illustrate his history by frequent genealogies ; but, by noting the dates of the births and deaths, he interwove with these genealogies that chronology, whose aid he saw to be essential to a perfect history. And he has done this, not in this chapter only, but in the whole book of Genesis.
But in the antediluvian genealogy there are three very dissimilar readings. The Hebrew codices, written in Hebrew letters, exhibit one set of numbers; those in the Samaritan character, another, which the Samaritan version also follows; and a third is found in the Septuagint, and the versions made from it, except the Ethiopic, which, though translated from the Greek, has a fourth set of dates peculiar to itself. But of this last, as it is of small authority, I shall not enter into any discussion, lest too great a variety of topics produce confusion. I am to speak, then, of the Hebrew, Samaritan and Greek systems of chronology, a summary of which is here given.
§ 2. Division of the subject. There are some differences in these chronologies, which may be referred to the mistakes of copyists; others are systematic and intentional. The same sentence cannot, of course, be passed upon both classes.
To the first class are referable, or, at first view, appear to be so, many variations of units and tens. For instance, Lamech is said, in the Hebrew, to have lived before he begat Noah 182 years; after he begat Noah, 595 years; in all, 777; but in the Septuagint, the same periods are 188, 565, 753; and in the Samaritan, 53, 600 and 653. In such cases I have assumed no general principle, whether preference should be given to the Hebrew, Greek, or Samaritan; since, of three transcribers, A, B and C, there is an equal chance for A, B, or C to make the mistake. Nor is any more weight to be given here to the Hebrew text than to the Greek version. For, to say nothing of the fact that the text in the Hebrew character differs from the same text in the Samaritan character, the Greek was certainly translated from a Hebrew codex, in which, -as is alleged by the defenders of the Greek,—the translator found the numbers which now stand in the translation; nor can this, in the present stage of the discussion, be denied. In this case, the question must rest, not between the text and version, but between the Hebrew codices which have been handed down by
the Jews, and that very ancient one which was followed by the Seventy.
In regard to these sporadic varieties, if I may use a medical term, we must decide individually; and whatever reading is supported by the best authority must be preferred; or, that must be rejected, which is at variance with the general tenor of the history. And, in affairs of so high antiquity, of which we have no account but that given by Moses, we must think it no disgrace to suspend our judgment on some variety of reading; nor must we be ashamed sometimes even to confess ignorance.
But I mentioned another class of differences of reading, which are not the result of chance, but bear the marks of system and intention. These must be judged of, not individually, but collectively, and with reference to the theory or purpose which gave them birth. To this head I refer the fact that the Seventy, in the case of Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel and Enoch, add 100 years to the age of each before the birth of a son, and subtract as many years from the remainder of their lives, according to an hypothesis that no man begat children before he was 150 years old. On the other hand, the Samaritan took it for granted that no one, except Noah, had children born after he was 150 years old; and, accordingly, from the 162, 187 and 182 years of Jared, Methuselah and Lamech, it subtracts 100 years each. Nor does it afterwards add them again, so as to make out the same number of years in the whole life; but, in accordance with still another hypothesis, it makes the life of man gradually decrease, not only in this genealogy, but in the other, which reaches from Noah to Abraham. For, as the ages of the first five patriarchs were gradually reduced from 930 to 895 years, the Samaritan translator would admit none afterwards of greater longevity, but continued the same manner of decrease down to Abraham, excepting Noah, and—if he can be said to have died—Enoch. There is yet another instance of designed variation in the subtraction of 5 years from the 800 which Jared is said to have lived after the birth of his son, so that his life might not reach beyond the flood.
$ 3. The Hebrew preferred. In all this systematic disagreement, I reject both the Greek and the Samaritan readings, and follow the Hebrew, except in
the case of Jared, of which I speak with less confidence. But of this hereafter.
I prefer and adopt the Hebrew reading, because, in the first place, in no instance of the addition or subtraction of a century, does the Hebrew text stand alone, but is supported either by the Samaritan against the Greek, or by the Greek against the Samaritan. Surely, in a disagreement of three witnesses, two must be credited against one; and most of all must he be believed, who takes such an independent course, that he is supported now by one, and now by the other. Now, in this systematic disagreement, the Greek and the Samaritan differ throughout, so as to contradict each other in regard to the age of each of the first nine patriarchs; while the Hebrew, without following either, takes such a middle course as to have the concurrence of the Samaritan in the age of Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel and Enoch, and of the Greek, respecting Jared, Methuselah and Lamech. On this ground, more credit seems due to the Hebrew than to the others. Suppose, in a legal trial, three witnesses should give testimony in this way, would any one hesitate which to believe? § 4. Appearance of design in the Greek and Samaritan read
ings. Another reason for my preference of the Hebrew depends on the general principle, that any reading must be suspected, in which we detect a theory or design of the transcribers. Now these differences of a hundred years, in each life for nine generations, could not result from mistake or oversight of transcribers. Nor can they be charged to wilful alteration by the Hebrew copyist; for he, without the least appearance of order, asserts that some became fathers when scarcely 60 years old; others, not till they were more than 180. We must believe, then, that he copied his original as he found it, without alteration ; and the alteration must be charged upon those whose purpose and views would be answered by it.
§ 5. Absurdity of the hypotheses. I find a third argument in the very nature of the theories which I have mentioned : for they are full of silly hypotheses, so that, strange as it may seem, the very arguments urged by their supporters in their defence, furnish an unanswerable refutation of them.
The Seventy assume that no one could beget children before his one hundred and fiftieth year : and they are supposed to have taken this position from the consideration of the ratio which the age of puberty bears to the period of human life in more modern times. But those long-lived men might have come to maturity as early as we; just as those, who now surpass the common age, and attain to the hundredth, or even the hundred and fortieth year, are not on that account any longer in coming to maturity, than others, who, in the common course of nature, die of old
when not more than seventy or eighty. The Samaritan on the other hand, takes it for granted that no children could be born to any one after his hundred and fiftieth year. But this hypothesis is overthrown by the case of Noah, who begat sons and daughters after his five hundredth year ;-a fact, which the Samaritan copyist has left unaltered.
Both the Greek translator and the Samaritan text, as well as the supporters of each, assume that each of these individuals, mentioned by Moses, was a firstborn ;* and this hypothesis, formed without reason, without the slightest intimation from the sacred historian, is adhered to with the superstition of a Jew. How extremely improbable is the conjecture, which makes Noah the tenth firstborn, in regular succession, the firstborn of Lamech, who was firstborn of Methuselah, who was firstborn of Enoch, who was firstborn, etc., back to Adam! On this principle, there could be, in the whole human race, but one firstborn, who must be descended through a line of primogenital ancestors, continued unbroken through every generation. Such a primogenitus primogenitorum could not possibly
, exist, if any one of the primogeniti should die without issue,-an occurrence, which, in the course of ten generations, is, from the statistical ratio of deaths, in the highest degree probable. For a very large proportion of the human race die young, even in boyhood; nor has nature, by any means, exempted the firstborn from the common lot.
Nor is this last hypothesis improbable merely; but, strange as it may seem, it bears upon its face, in the very first instance, proof of its own falseness. For Seth, who is included in the genealogy of this chapter, and who is said to have been born
* Jackson, p. 50. Jared lived 162, Methuselah, 187, and Lamech 182 years, before they begat children.