Abbildungen der Seite



70, 71.) We have only to remark upon it, that certainly it is a possibility, and that it may be even a probability; but assuredly it is not a revelation.

Mr. Savile's reply to Bunsen's weak assumption that twenty thousand years are required to account for the linguistic changes from the one primeval language which the modern science of universal grammar have developed, is scarcely satisfactory. It has been better met in the Aids to Faith, where it is clearly shewn that among semi-civilized and barbarous races (such as the nomads of the plains of Siberia), the very common case of the fusion of two clans or sects produces linguistic variations so rapid, that the lapse of but a few years suffices to make the speech of a member of the new confederacy altogether unintelligible to his former fellow-clansmen. This patent and well ascertained fact covers with deserved infamy the confident and pretentious speculations of Bunsen ; but we must at the same time carefully explain that it by no means establishes Mr. Savile's theory of exactly six thousand years.

Mr. Savile rightly states that the fabulous dynasties of gods and heroes in the Egyptian lists of Manetho, afford no support whatever to the wild theory of Bunsen, that man has been twenty thousand years upon the earth. In the face of the masterly exposure of Boeckh, which shews that the whole of the high numbers to which the reigns of these mythic beings are extended are the multiples of Sothiac cycles and other astronomical periods, it is truly surprising that regard to his own literary reputation did not teach Bunsen a little prudence and moderation


the point. Equally unsound is another of the foundation stones of the baron's theory, which is “the historical piece of pot brought up by a borer from a depth of thirty-nine feet below the base of the prostrate statue at Mehahenny, on the site of ancient Memphis," as Mr. Savile very ably shews. As this statue was seen and described together with the temple, the pediment of which it supported upright scarcely six centuries ago, by the Arab historian Makrizi, it does not seem improbable that it, together with the many other great remains of Memphis enumerated by the same historian, has been prostrated by one of the earthquakes which are so frequent in this part of Egypt. That such convulsions are always marked by changes of level on the earth's surface is well known. In this case the nine feet of mud which covered the pedestal, instead of having been more than three thousand years in accumulating, may have been deposited in the course of a century or two.

It is truly surprising on how narrow and slender a support a sceptical objection to the truth of the Bible can balance itself. The sight naturally calls to mind the question of the old casuist, “How many angels can dance a saraband on the point of a needle ?”

It is always painful after a pleasant walk with a friend, enjoying his converse, to arrive at the place where our paths diverge so that thenceforth we must part company. It is especially so with Mr. Savile;


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

and still more in a work wherein, with so vigorous a grasp and so strong an arm, he tears down from our British oak the drooping sickly scion of neology, so assiduously and so subtlely grafted in by essayists and reviewers; its parent stock in Germany being long ago "twice dead plucked up by the roots." To him, therefore, and to ourselves, we feel it to be due that we should patiently, and step by step, examine and detail the ground upon which we venture to differ with him; and this even at the risk of repeating what may already be familiar to many of our readers.

The functions of Luther's discovery (justification by faith), in the book of God's revelation, is exactly discharged in the book of God's Providence by that other discovery of Lord Bacon's—the inductive philosophy. They both accurately fit the locks which close up their respective books, and unfold them to man's mental eye. To whither of these divine books then are we to betake ourselves search of the chronology of the primeval history of our race upon the earth ? most plain Bible readers the answer is ready and glibly enounced : there are dates in the Bible, and they of course must be true! Speaking as man-ease-seeking rest-loving man-speaks and thinks, would it were so ! But God's ways are not man's ways, and it has not seemed good to his unerring wisdom to exercise over the dates in the Bible the superintending Providence which has preserved to us its doctrinal statements as he revealed them. In the three most ancient versions of the book of Genesis, the dates differ from one another materially. The fact is perfectly familiar to our readers. These versions being of equal authority, neutralize each other: so that there is now no revelation of the chronology of primeval man. The necessity of such a revelation which once existed, as the dates themselves testify, has long since passed away Under these circumstances, the chronology we seek must be dealt with like any other fact connected with the history of man on the earth. The Bible dates are history; but like all other records of remote occurrences, they are proximate, not certain history. Yet is their value to the enquiry above all price, for they are our only guides. How then shall we proceed in order to arrive at the truth, or as near as may be the truth they convey? There is but one way possible: we must reason from them, and the facts connected with them, inductively.

The dates then in the Book of Genesis have been falsified. This is in the nature of things obvious and undeniable. The next question is, by whom ? and how? We have no data affording sufficient grounds to answer either with certainty. The rabbis at Jerusalem who kept the Hebrew version in the fourth century B.C., and the Alexandrian Jews who translated the ó (Septuagint) at about the same time, were neither of them trustworthy guardians of the truth committed to them ; for both had prepossessions leaning in the precise direction in which their numbers differ. The rabbis were enamoured of exact millennia; they wished to date the dedication of Solomon's temple a millennium and a half exactly from Noah's flood. The Alexandrian Jews, on the other hand (who translated o for Ptolemy Epiphanes), were ambitious to assign to the origin of their nation as high a date as possible, in order that they might compete with the Chaldees, the Egyptians, and other nationalities in that emporium of the world where all met and all boasted that they belonged to the oldest of the human family. As to the Samaritan version, there is unhappily another cause which just as fatally interferes with our confidence in the accuracy of its dates. The forced unwilling character (as to the Jews) of the whole movement in which this sect originated, renders it in the highest degree improbable that any but the basest and least instructed of the Levites would be deputed by the elders of the ten tribes in Media to teach the new immigrants into Samaria the religion of its expelled inhabitants (see 2 Kings xvii. 24 seq., etc.). This obvious fact alone is enough to destroy all confidence in the dates in their version of the Book of Genesis. To omit all other considerations, the cyphers in which these dates were written so resembled each other in form, and the forms themselves were so ill defined, that with an imperfectly instructed scribe blunders in them were all but inevitable. It was in their own verbal and literal familiarity with the sacred text that the scribes of Jerusalem of this period mainly relied for the accuracy of their transcriptions ; and to this the Samaritan translators made no pretension whatever.

Under these circumstances, the only safe induction regarding these three versions at which we can arrive is, that of their dates in all probability the highest errs in excess, and the lowest in defect, and that in the one between them (the Samaritan) we can with no hope of accuracy repose any confidence whatever. The proper use of them, therefore, to the chronologer we take to be, that without exactly defining the duration of man's existence on the earth, they give it proximately. It cannot well be more than the highest or less than the lowest of them. Mortifying as this may be to our pride of intellect, it is their only legitimate use, to our apprehensions, in our chronological generalizations.

On the other hand, these dates are our only guides to the chronology of man's primeval history. The circumstances also under which they come down to us combine with this consideration to render any theory which throws them overboard altogether, as Baron Bunsen had done, a flagrant violation of the commonest and best known laws of induction. All facts, all probabilities, and all analogies must be taken into the account, if our inductions and generalizations raised upon

them are to be of any value whatever. This is the fundamental law of the entire method. What then is the worth of Baron Bunsen's phantasm, who (oblivious both of the dates before us and of all other considerations) blurts out before the British public the crude, ill-digested assertion that the linguistic changes in the Japhetian (Aryan as he calls it) modification of the primeval language require twenty thousand years, at least, for their accomplishment? Our answer to this bold statement we have given already. Many others crowd round our pen. Admon

[ocr errors][merged small]

ished by the rapidly decreasing space allotted to us, we content ourselves here with one only. The oldest book in the world next to the Bible is full of genealogies. We mean of course Homer's lliad, which cannot have been written later than 900 B.C. Not one of these pedigrees goes backward beyond six descents ;very few so far; and then we come to the gods. Surely this fact (we challenge investigation) contributes one element to the enquiry.

On the other hand, while thus discussing with all freedom the assertions of his antagonists, we must candidly tell our friend Mr. Savile that his reasonings upon the data before us are, to our apprehensions, far from satisfactory. We feel it to be due to him to preface our objections by stating fully the grounds upon which we conceive he has erred. We are not deterred from this course by the fear of repeating that which to some of our readers may be very familiar. We are convinced that there is nothing which so often betrays into error the men now living on the earth, especially those who think and reason, as an imperfect acquaintance with the canons and laws of the inductive philosophy. We therefore make no apology for referring to Lord Bacon, an author to English readers well known by name. Would that his works were better known in England.

The passage from this prince among men to which we refer will be found in the fourth chapter of the fifth book of his Advancement of Learning. It treats of the biases or prepossessions that unfit most men for reasoning impartially upon facts before them. These he classes under three heads, which he calls idola, i. e., images, delusive semblances of truth, not the truth itself. The second of them he terms idola specûs, “idols of the cave,” in allusion to a beautiful passage in Plato's Republic (lib. vii.), in which he likens the soul of a man without education to a prisoner confined in a perfectly dark cave, and so tightly chained that he can only look straight forward to a blank wall opposite to him, on which fall the shadows cast by the only aperture that admits to him the light from the world above him. The many mistakes regarding the phenomena on the earth's surface and visible from thence, into which an unfortunate so imprisoned would inevitably fall, Lord Bacon parallels with the profound opinions which men too often bring with them when they come to reason by this method, and which necessarily vitiate these inductions.

Now the hypothesis that the present state of things on the earth will last for six exact millennia, and that the seventh or sabbatical millennium is that predicted in the Book of Revelation, is one of which, if not very cautiously dealt with in our present enquiry, is in much danger of falling into the category of idola specûs. We must be distinctly understood here to give no opinion whatever upon the controversy regarding it, beyond that we have already expressed. It is neither an established fact nor revealed truth; it is a possibility, perhaps


That is, one hundred and eighty years, according to the ordinary computation of thirty years to a descent.

a probability-certainly nothing more. But it is the province of inductive reasoning to establish or refuse an opinion thus circumstanced, not to make a fact of it, and class it with other facts to raise an inference from them; a mistake into which we fear Mr. Savile has been betrayed in his treatment of this and some other kindred hypotheses. This chronological theory is already complete. He comes in search of facts, historical and monumental, to support it. It was on this principle that Baron Bunsen wrote his Egypt's Place, as he informs us in its first volume. Before he put pen to paper, or sent his friend Lepsius to Paris and Rome in search of monumental facts, he had completed his theoretical outline of the history of Egypt, from which he never departed. The danger of such preconception to inductive reasonings was so sagaciously foreseen and so eloquently expressed by the great discoverer of the whole method, that we cannot refrain from quoting him here:-“Idols are the deepest fallacies of the human mind; for they do not deceive like the rest by clouding and ensnaring the judgment, but from a corrupt predisposition or wrong complexion of the mind, which distorts and infects all the anticipations of the understanding” (Bacon). Mr. Sarile, we grieve to say, illustrates the truth of the definition. This idol has misled him into some considerable mistakes, which had his mental powers been unbiassed, he would himself have been the first to detect. We will give an instance of this.

At p. 65 he rightly (in our judgment) rejects the dates in the Samaritan and ó versions of Genesis v. and xi. in favour of those in the Hebrew text, and for the sound reason that both the former "abound in various readings with respect to their different chronologies, and frequently contradict themselves, whereas the Hebrew is uniform and consistent in all its copies.” To this we fully assent. Yet at p. 107 Mr. Savile exactly reverses the process, and deliberately rejects the Hebrew text of Exodus xii. 40 in favour of the Samaritan and ó versions of it, for the surely not very convincing reason that many learned men allow the Samaritan to exhibit the most correct copy of the Pentateuch.” More extraordinary still, he does so in the face of the fact, that many both of the Samaritan and ó copies of the verse conform to the Hebrew reading, whereas the Hebrew itself never varies. But this is not the extent of the mistake into which our author's unhappy preconception has betrayed him, for at p. 68 he says :-“We accept the chronology of the Hebrew Bible as much a matter of revelation as any other portion of God's word, and therefore of necessity to be preferred to o." Yet, as we have seen shortly afterwards (p. 107), he throws overboard this Hebrew chronology, and contends just as strenuously for the inspired authority of ó.

A very serious question is raised here. If the Hebrew chronology be indeed revelation, as Mr. S. contends, it is so through the same agency as that which has preserved to us the rest of the text. A spe cial superintending Providence could alone have wrought this literary

Such we believe to be the universally accepted opinion upon the point. Can we then for one moment admit that God's miraculous

« ZurückWeiter »