« PreviousContinue »
some of its adepts, to overturn tradition, to abolish all authority, and to be the only exponent of the problem of our origin. These are bold pretensions which will never be realized. Prehistoric archæology, moreover, is yet but in its infancy; it still leaves great gaps, and many problems without solution. There is too often a desire to establish a system, and many scholars hasten to build theories on an insufficient amount of observations. Finally, all the facts of this science are not yet established with perfect certainty."
These claims for the high antiquity of man, derived from his fossil remains, have been fortified by similar claims deduced from the related sciences of ethnology and comparative philology. It is argued that the present races of men, with their great diversities of feature, color, and language, could not, according to any known rate or law of change, have descended from a single pair within the period that has elapsed since the received date of the creation, or rather of the deluge of Noah. Soine, indeed, go further, and deny altogether the Bible doctrine of the unity of the race, insisting both upon its plurality of origin and its vast antiquity. As these views will be considered hereafter at length, it is only necessary to remark here that they are advocated with great zeal, and a display of learning which is well calculated to confound, if it does not convert, the believers in the Mosaic narrative, especially those whose time and attainments will not permit them to examine the subject for themselves.
In accordance with these claims of recent scientific research, numerous elaborate systems of chronology have been constructed, all of enormous reach. Some of these systems, indeed, are not new; but inasmuch as they never before acquired any credit beyond that of mere speculation, they did not seriously disturb the faith of mankind in the chronology of the Bible. It may not be inappropriate to give an outline of these speculations in this place, partly because they will not need any ex- · tended consideration further, and partly since they will serve to show us, at the outset, the extravagance of those speculations, as contrasted with the moderate and reasonable teachings of the Scriptures.
It has been remarked * that not less than ninctyseven systems of chronology have been put forth, some of them professing to be derived from the Bible, but most of them avowedly and irreconcilably differing from it. There are three of these which are specially worthy of notice, viz., the systems of Bunsen, Boëckh, and Rodier. The system of Baron Bunsen is too elaborate to.
* Iteler, in Halma's Almageste, vol. iv. p. 165.
be fully set forth here. In this system the creation of man is placed at B. C. 20,000, the flood of Noah at B. C. 10,000, the founding of the Egyptian empire by Menes at B. C. 3623, the birth of Abraham at B. C. 2870, the exodus at B. C. 1320, &c. For his reasons for these dates, and for a consideration of the value of his system, see Appendix, A.
The chronological system of Boëckh * is confined to Egyptian history and antiquities. According to this writer, Hepæstus, the first god-king of Egypt, began to reign on the 20th of July, B. C. 30,522. He reigned nine thousand years, and was followed by other gods, as Sol, Typhon, Horus, Jupiter, &c., * then by demigods, heroes, and manes. Of the
gods there were three dynasties, of demigods three, together extending through nineteen thousand and twenty-four years. These were followed by a dynasty of manes, ruling five thousand eight hundred and thirteen years. The whole period thus embraced under the government of the gods, demigods, and manes, which he styles tempus mythicum (the mythic period), amounts to twenty-four thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven years, reaching down to July 20, B. C. 5702. Then follow historic times.
* * See Muller's Fragmenta Hist. Græc., vol. ii. pp. 599-606, at the close of a résumé of the fragments that have been preserved of Manetho.
Menes, the first mortal king of Egypt, begins his reign July 20, B. C. 5702. The chronology of thirty-one dynasties of kings is then given, extending to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander, November 14, B. C. 332, in the thirty thousand two hundred and twelfth year of the world. Of ten or twelve dynasties he gives the date only of the beginning and the end; of others he gives that of the individual kings; so that from Menes, July 20, B. C. 5702, to Alexander, November 14, B. C. 332, a period of five thousand three hundred and seventy years, we have one hundred and sixty-five dates, assigned with a precision that extends to the very day of the month !
This feature of the chronology, as it seems to me, is alone sufficient to stamp it as utterly unworthy of confidence. The first god-king begins to reign precisely on the 20th of July, thirty thousand five hundred and twenty-two years before Christ! Then follow gods, demigods, and manes, i. e., demons, for exactly twenty-four thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven years, till the accession of Menes, July 20, B. C. 5702! The first dynasty of human kings, eight in number, lasts from July 20, B. C. 5702, till May 18, B. C. 5449! And so on to the end of the chapter. Surely the student of history has a right to know on what grounds an author
bases such definiteness and precision in periods of high antiquity. The unlearned and credulous are likely to receive all this as the simple truth, when they see it so confidently put forth by an author of acknowledged eminence. For a more comprehensive view of the system, and of its real value, see Appendix, B.
In 1862, a work on chronology was published at Paris by Rodier, entitled, " Antiquity of the Human Races; Reconstruction of the Chronology and History of the Primitive Peoples, by an Examination of the original Documents, and by Astronomy.”* In a second edition, which appeared in 1864, the author says, in his preface, that he has neglected no occasion and no means of eliciting criticism for the detection of errors; but as no criticisms of consequence have been offered, he issues the second edition as a simple reprint of the first. He evidently has increased confidence in the soundness of his work from the favor with which it was received.
The following paragraphs from the Introduction, showing the author's claims for his work, are all I need quote in this place :
“ To show clearly the field of discussion, let us an
* Antiquité des Races Humaines; Reconstitution de la Chronologie et l'Histoire des Peuples Primitifs, par l'Examen des Documents originaux et par l’Astronomie. Par G. Rodier. Deuxième éd. Paris, 1844, 8vo., pp. 454.