Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/618

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names of the reign of tlic ten Babylonian kings. The the shortness of our Uves at present an argument first column gives the age at which the patriarch that neither the Patriarchs attained so long a dura- begot his successor, the second the remainder of liis tion of life; for those ancients were beloved of God years, the tliird the total number of liis years. The and made by God himself; and because their food list of Babylonian kings is taken from Vigouroux was then fitter for the prolongation of life; and be- (Dict. de la bible): — sides God afforded them a longer time of life on





Years CnTL Astron'l

Chaldean Kings

Adam Seth Enos Cainan Malaleel Jared Henoch Mathusala Lamech Noe to the Flood

130 105 90

70 65 162 65

187 182 500


800 807 815 840 830 800 300 782 595

930 912 905 910 895 962 365 969 777


130 105 90 70 65 62 65 67 53 500


800 807 815 840 830 785 300 653 600

930 912 905 910 895 847 365 720 653


230 205 190 170 165 162 165 167 188 500


700 707 715 740 730 800 200 802 565

930 912 905 910 895 962 365 969 753


10 3 13

12 18 10 18 10 8 18

185 36,000 55i 10,800 240J 46,800 222 43,200 333 64,800 185 36,000 333 64,800 185 36,000 148 28,800 333 64,800

















2,220 432,000

As the table shows, the original text and its two versions differ greatly in fixing the number of years from Adam to the Flood. In the Hebrew Bible the number is 1,656, in the Samaritan, 1,307; in the Septuagint, 2,242. On a closer examination it will be found that the difference between the Hebrew text and the Septuagint is cliiefly occasioned by the systematic addition of 100 years which the Septua- gint has made to the age of six patriarchs at the birth of their successors. The Samaritan on the contrary lias in the case of three patriarchs deducted 100 years. No reliable clue that we know of has as yet been found for deciding which of the computa- tions is the original. Presumption is on the side of the one in the Hebrew text being the oldest text of the tliree. On the other hand, the Samaritan has the advantage that the lifetime of the three patri- archs Jared, Methusala, and Lamech has been shortened, so that there is a gradual decrease in the number of years of each patriarcli from Adam to Noe. In the table of the ten Babylonian kings the length of their reign is calculated by means of sares. Berosus counts 120 sares. The sare has an as- tronomical value of 3,600 years and a ci\al value of eighteen and one-half years (Vigouroux, Diet, de la bible). According to the first estimation of the sare, the total number of years for the ten kings would be 432,000, according to the second 2,220. The efforts made to bring the sares or 432,000 years of the Babylonian kings, into harmony witli the 1,656 years of the patriarchs (e. g. by equating seven Hebrew days with five Chaldean years) have yielded no satisfactory result.

Longevity of the Patri.^rchs. — Various theories have been advanced for explaining the abnormally long lifetime of the patriarchs. They may be classified into three groups: (1) The Literal and His- torical Interpretation. — The genealogical table is ac- cepted as a record of the past and as possessing the ordinary- certainty of history. The ten patriarchs are held actually to have lived the long life assigned to them. The object which God intended by this extraordinary longevity is said to have been the in- crease of men on earth and the preservation of ancient tradition. In answer to the objection that the system of the human body does not permit of so long a lifetime, it is argued that a special jirovi- dence of God had favoured the ancients witli a pe- culiar organization and constitution of body, and had provided for them a special kind of food and climate. Thus already Joseplius: "Let no one make

account of their virtue, and the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries, etc." Furthermore in corroboration of the Biblical account he names as witnesses the historians Manetho the Egyptian, Berosus the Chaldean, Mochus, HestiiBus, Hieronymus the Egyptian, and others, who all bore testimony to the longevity of prime\al man. Ant., I, III, 9. (2) The Metaphorical Inter- prctation. — The names of the ten patriarchs signify ten dynasties or tribes. Each dynasty might have comprised a succession of several rulers. The ex- planation is ingenious. It may be doubted, however, whether this was the meaning of the narrator. By naming the patriarchs he seems to have meant one individual. For he states the age at which the patriarch begot the son who was to succeed liiin. Others argue that the Hebrew word, Slianah, in the list of the ten patriarchs signifies the duration not of a year, but of a month. But in that case Enos begot his successor when he was eight years of age, anil Malaleel and Henoch begot theirs when they were five. Others again, but without sufficient ground, say that the year is to be taken as a year of tliree months from Adam unto ."Vbraham, of eight months unto Joseph, and only after him are we to allow for it the natural duration. (3) The Mythical Interpreta- tion. — We have already pointed out that according to the tlieory of the documentary composition of the Pentateuch, chapter v belongs to the original history named by the critics the "Priestly Code". If the genealogical dates recorded in that narrative are examined, a gradual and systematic shortening of man's lifetime is distinctly noticeable. From Adam to Noe the duration of man's life ranges from 500 to 1,000 years. From Sem to Tliare it ranges from 200 to 600 (xi, 10-32). From Abraham to Moses, from 100 to 200. Abraham lived 175 years; Isaac, 180; Jacob, 147 (Gen., xxxv, 28; xxv, 7; xlvii, 28). After that the average human life is 70 or SO years. "And the days of our years in them are three score and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years" (Ps., Ixxxix, 10). Critics, moreover, hold, as we have seen, that according to the original structure of the "Priestly Code" the genealogical table in chaptor v immediately followed the account of llie Creation in cliaptcr i. If so, the narrative of this Code contained no mention of paradise, nor of man's immortality, fall, and punishment. On the other liand it may have been the opinion of the author of this Code that the smooth and even course of man's life, the result of iiis continued state of innocence,