All opposition to the received view seemed broken down; and as late as 1835, indeed as late as 1850, came an announcement in the work of one of the most eminent Egyptologists, Sir J. G. Wilkinson, to the effect that he had modified the results he had obtained from Egyptian monuments, in order that his chronology might not interfere with the received date of the Deluge of Noah.
But all investigators were not so docile as Wilkinson, and there soon came a new train of scientific thought which rapidly undermined all this theological chronology. Not to speak of other noted men, we have early in the present century Young, Champollion, and Rosellini, beginning a new epoch in the study of the Egyptian monuments. Nothing could be more cautious than their procedure, but the evidence was soon overwhelming in favor of a vastly longer existence of man in the Nile Valley than could be made to agree with even the longest duration then allowed by theologians.
First of all, in spite of all the suppleness of men like Wilkinson, it became evident that, whatever system of scriptural chronology was adopted, Egypt was the seat of a flourishing civilization at a period before the "Flood of Noah," and that no such flood had ever interrupted it. This was bad, but worse remained behind: it was soon clear that the civilization of Egypt began earlier than the time assigned for the creation of man, even according to the most liberal of the sacred chronologists.
As time went on, this became more and more evident: the long duration assigned to human civilization in the fragments of Manetho, the Egyptian scribe at Thebes in the third century b. c., was discovered to be more accordant with truth than the chronologies of the great theologians; and, as the present century has gone on, scientific results have been reached absolutely fatal to the chronological view based by the universal Church upon Scripture for nearly two thousand years.
- For Lightfoot, see his Prolegomena relating to the age of the world at the birth of Christ; see also in the edition of his works, London, 1822, vol. iv, pp. 64, 112. For Scaliger, see the De Emendatione Temporum, 1583; also Mark Pattison, Essays, Oxford, 1889, vol. i, pp. 162 et seq. For Raleigh's misgivings, see his History of the World, London, 1614, p. 227, Book II of Part I, section 7 of chapter i; also Clinton's Fasti Hellenici, ii, 293. For Usher, see his Annales Vet. et Nov. Test., London, 1650. For Marsham, see his Canon Chronicus Aegyptiacus Ebraicus Graecus et Disquisitiones, London, 1672. For La Peyrère, see especially Quatrefages, in Revue des Deux Mondes for 1861, as cited in Topinard, Anthropologie, p. 52. For Jackson, Hales, and others, see Wallace's True Age of the World. For Wilkinson, see various editions of his work on Egypt. For Vignolles, see Leblois, vol. iii, p. 617. As to the declarations in favor of the recent origin of man, sanctioned by Popes Gregory XIII and Urban VIII, see Strauchius, cited in Wallace, p. 97. For the general agreement of church authorities, as stated, see L'Art de Vérifier les Dates, as above. As to difficulties of scriptural chronology, see Ewald, History of Israel, English translation, London, 1883, pp. 204 et seq.