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310
CHRONOLOGY

fact that he could think such external corroboration valuable implied, however little he may have realized it, the subconscious concession that he must accept external evidence at its full value, even should it prove contradictory. If, then, an Egyptian inscription of the XIXth dynasty had come to hand in which the names of Joseph and Moses, and the deeds of the Israelites as a subject people who finally escaped from bondage by crossing the Red Sea, were recorded in hieroglyphic characters, such a monument would have been hailed with enthusiastic delight by every champion of the Pentateuch, and a wave of supreme satisfaction would have passed over all Christendom. It is not too much, then, to say that failure to find such a monument has caused deep disappointment to Bible scholars everywhere. It does not follow that faith in the Bible record is shaken, although in some quarters there has been a pronounced tendency to regard the history of the Egyptian sojourn as mythical; yet it cannot be denied that Egyptian records, corroborating at least some phases of the Bible story, would have been a most welcome addition to our knowledge. Some recent finds have, indeed, seemed to make inferential reference to the Hebrews, and the marvellous collection of letters of the XVIIIth dynasty found at Tel el-Amarna—letters to which we shall refer later—have the utmost importance as proving a possible early date for the Mosaic accounts. But such inferences as these are but a vague return for the labour expended, and an almost cruelly inadequate response to seemingly well-founded expectations.

When we turn to the field of Babylonian and Assyrian archaeology, however, the case is very different. Here we have documents in abundance that deal specifically with events more or less referred to in the Bible. The records of kings whose names hitherto were known to us only through Bible references have been found in the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, and personages hitherto but shadowy now step forth as clearly into the light of history as an Alexander or a Caesar. Moreover, the newly discovered treasures deal with the beliefs of the people as well as with their history proper. The story of the books now spoken of as the “Creation” and “Deluge” tablets of the Assyrians, in the British Museum, which were discovered in the ruins of Nineveh by Layard and by George Smith, has been familiar to every one for a good many years. The acute interest which they excited when George Smith deciphered their contents in 1872 has to some extent abated, but this is only because scholars are now pretty generally agreed as to their bearing on the corresponding parts of Genesis. The particular tablets in question date only from about the 7th century B.C., but it is agreed among Assyriologists that they are copies of older texts current in Babylonia for many centuries before, and it is obvious that the compilers of Genesis had access to the Babylonian stories. In a word, the Hebrew Genesis shows unequivocal evidence of Babylonian origin, but, in the words of Professor Sayce, it is but “a paraphrase and not a translation.” However disconcerting such a revelation as this would have been to the theologians of an elder day, the Bible scholars of our own generation are able to regard it with entire composure.

From the standpoint of the historian even greater interest attaches to the records of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings when compared with the historical books of the Old Testament. For some centuries the inhabitants of Palestine were subject to periodical attacks from the warlike inhabitants of Mesopotamia, as even the most casual reader of the Bible is aware. When it became known that the accounts of these invasions formed a part of the records preserved in the Assyrian libraries, historian and theologian alike waited with breathless interest for the exact revelations in store; and this time expectation was not disappointed. As, one after another, the various tablets and cylinders and annalistic tablets have been translated, it has become increasingly clear that here are almost inexhaustible fountains of knowledge, and that sooner or later it may be possible to check the Hebrew accounts of the most important periods of their history with contemporaneous accounts written from another point of view. It is true that the cases are not very numerous where precisely the same event is described from opposite points of view, but, speaking in general terms rather than of specific incidents, we are already able to subject considerable portions of history to this test. The records of Shalmaneser II., Tiglath-Pileser III. and Sennacherib, kings of Assyria, of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and of Cyrus, king of Persia, all contain direct references to Hebrew history. An obelisk of Shalmaneser II. contains explicit reference to the tribute of Jehu of Samaria, and graphically depicts the Hebrew captives. Tiglath-Pileser III., a usurper who came to the throne of Assyria in 745 B.C., and whose earlier name of Pul proved a source of confusion to the later Hebrew writers, left records that have served to clear up the puzzling chronology of a considerable period of the history of Samaria. Most interesting of all, perhaps, are the annals of Sennacherib, the destruction of whose hosts by the angel of God is so strikingly depicted in the Book of Kings. The court historian of Sennacherib naturally does not dwell upon this event, but he does tell of an invasion and conquest of Palestine. The Hebrew account of the death of Sennacherib is corroborated by a Babylonian inscription. Here, however, there is an interesting qualification. The account in the Book of Kings is so phrased that one might naturally infer from it that Sennacherib was assassinated by his sons immediately after his return from the disastrous campaign in Palestine; but in point of fact, as it now appears, the Assyrian king survived that campaign by twenty years. One cannot avoid the suspicion that in this instance the Hebrew chronicler purposely phrased his account to convey the impression that Sennacherib’s tragic end was but the slightly delayed culmination of the punishment inflicted for his attack upon the “chosen people.” On the other hand, the ambiguity may be quite unintentional, for the Hebrew writers were notoriously lacking in the true historical sense, which shows itself in a full appreciation of the value of chronology.

One of the most striking instances of the way in which mistakes of chronology may lead to the perversion of historical records is shown in the Book of Daniel in connexion with the familiar account of the capture of Babylon by Cyrus. Within the past generation records of Cyrus have been brought to light, as well as records of the conquered Babylonian king himself, which show that the Hebrew writers of the later day had a peculiarly befogged impression of a great historical event—their misconception being shared, it may be added, by the Greek historian Herodotus. When the annalistic tablet of Cyrus was translated, it was made to appear, to the consternation of Bible scholars, that the city of Babylon had capitulated to the Persian—or more properly to the Elamite—conqueror without a struggle. It appeared, further, that the king ruling in Babylon at the time of the capitulation was named not Belshazzar, but Nabonidos. This king, as appears from his own records, had a son named Belshazzar, who commanded Babylonian armies in outlying provinces, but who never came to the throne. Nothing could well be more disconcerting than such a revelation as this. It is held, however, that the startling discrepancies are not so difficult to explain as may appear at first sight. The explanation is found, so the Assyriologist assures us, in the fact that both Hebrew and Greek historians, writing at a considerable interval after the events, and apparently lacking authentic sources, confused the peaceful occupation of Babylon by Cyrus with its siege and capture by a successor to that monarch, Darius Hystaspes. As to the confusion of Babylonian names—in which, by the way, the Hebrew and Greek authors do not agree—it is explained that the general, Belshazzar, was perhaps more directly known in Palestine than his father the king. But the vagueness of the Hebrew knowledge is further shown by the fact that Belshazzar, alleged king, is announced as the son of Nebuchadrezzar (misspelled Nebuchadnezzar in the Hebrew writings), while the three kings that reigned after Nebuchadrezzar, and before Nabonidos usurped the throne, are quite overlooked.

Our present concern with the archaeological evidence thus briefly outlined, and with much more of the kind, may be summed up in the question: What in general terms is the inference to be drawn by the world-historian from the Assyrian records in their bearings upon the Hebrew writings? At first sight this