Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/654

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that the account which Moses gives of the temptation and the fail is to be depended upon, if it passed through no more than four hands between him and Adam.[1]

If "the trustworthiness of our Lord Jesus Christ" is to stand or fall with the belief in the sudden transmutation of the chemical components of a woman's body into sodium chloride, or on the "admitted reality" of Jonah's ejection, safe and sound, on the shores of the Levant, after three days' sea-journey in the stomach of a gigantic marine animal, what possible pretext can there be for even hinting a doubt as to the precise truth of the longevity attributed to the patriarchs? Who that has swallowed the camel of Jonah's journey will be guilty of the affectation of straining at such a historical gnat—nay, midge—as the supposition that the mother of Moses was told the story of the flood by Jacob; who had it straight from Shem; who was on friendly terms with Methuselah; who knew Adam quite well?

Yet, by the strange irony of things, the illustrious brother of the divine who propounded this remarkable theory has been the guide and foremost worker of that band of investigators of the records of Assyria and of Babylonia who have opened to our view, not merely a new chapter, but a new volume of primeval history, relating to the very people who have the most numerous points of contact with the life of the ancient Hebrews. Now, whatever imperfections may yet obscure the full value of the Mesopotamian records, everything that has been clearly ascertained tends to the conclusion that the assignment of no more than four thousand years to the period between the time of the origin of mankind and that of Augustus Cæsar is wholly inadmissible. Therefore, that biblical chronology, which Canon Rawlinson trusted so implicitly in 1859, is relegated by all serious critics to the domain of fable.

But if scientific method, operating in the region of history, of philology, of archæology, in the course of the last thirty or forty years, has become thus formidable to the theological dogmatist, what may not be said about scientific method working in the province of physical science? For, if it be true that the canonical Scriptures have innumerable points of contact with civil history, it is no less true that they have almost as many with natural history; and their accuracy is put to the test as severely by the latter as by the former. The origin of the present state of the heavens and the earth is a problem which lies strictly within the province of physical science; so is that of the origin of man among living things; so is that of the physical changes which the earth has undergone since the origin of man; so is that of the origin of the various races and nations of men, with all their varieties of lan-

  1. Bampton Lectures, 1859, pp. 50, 51.