Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/161

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NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

their differences on other points, agreed on this: Melanchthon and Tostatus, Lightfoot and Jansen, Salmeron and Scaliger, Petavius and Kepler, inquisitors and reformers, Jesuits and Jansenists, priests and rabbis, stood together in the belief that the creation of man was proved by Scripture to have taken place between 3900 and 4004 years before Christ.

In spite of the severe pressure of this line of authorities, extending from St. Jerome and Eusebius to Usher and Petavius, all in favor of this scriptural chronology, even devoted Christian scholars, had sometimes felt obliged to revolt. The first great source of difficulty was increased knowledge regarding the Egyptian monuments. As far back as the last years of the sixteenth century, Joseph Scaliger had done what he could to lay the foundations of a more scientific treatment of chronology, insisting especially that the historical indications in Persia, in Babylon, and, above all, in Egypt, should be brought to bear on the question. More than that, he had the boldness to urge that the chronological indications of the Hebrew Scriptures should be fully and critically discussed in the light of Egyptian and other records, without any undue bias from theological considerations. His idea may well be called inspired, yet it had little effect as regards a true view of the antiquity of man, even upon himself, for the theological bias prevailed above all his reasonings, even in his own mind. Well does a brilliant modern writer declare that, "among the multitude of strong men in modern times abdicating their reason at the command of their prejudices, Joseph Scaliger is perhaps the most striking example."

Early in the following century Sir Walter Raleigh, in his History of the World (1603–1616), pointed out the danger of adhering to the old system. He, too, foresaw one of the results of modern investigation, stating it in these words, which have the ring of prophetic inspiration: "For in Abraham's time all the then known parts of the world were developed. . . . Egypt had many magnificent cities, . . . and these not built with sticks, but of hewn stone, . . . which magnificence needed a parent of more antiquity than these other men have supposed." In view of these considerations, Raleigh followed the chronology of the Septuagint version, which enabled him to give to the human race a few more years than were usually allowed.

About the middle of the seventeenth century Isaac Vossius, one of the most eminent scholars of Christendom, attempted to bring the prevailing belief into closer accordance with ascertained facts, but save by a chosen few his efforts were rejected. In some parts of Europe a man was by no means safe from bodily harm in holding new views on chronology. As an example of the extreme pressure exerted by the old theological system at times