Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/663

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sion of a series, once more, not of speculations, but of facts, which have a most remarkable bearing upon the question of the trustworthiness of the narrative of the flood. It is established that, for centuries before the asserted migration of Terah from Ur of the Chaldees (which, according to the orthodox interpreters of the Pentateuch, took place after the year 2000 b. c.), lower Mesopotamia was the seat of a civilization in which art and science and literature had attained a development formerly unsuspected, or, if there were faint reports of it, treated as fabulous. And it is also no matter of speculation, but a fact, that the libraries of these people contain versions of a long epic poem, one of the twelve books of which tells a story of a deluge which, in a number of its leading features, corresponds with the story attributed to Berosus, no less than with the story given in Genesis, with curious exactness. Thus, the correctness of Canon Rawlinson's conclusion, cited above, that the story of Berosus was neither drawn from the Hebrew record, nor is the foundation of it, can hardly be questioned. It is highly probable, if not certain, that Berosus relied upon one of the versions (for there seem to have been several) of the old Babylonian epos, extant in his time; and if that is a reasonable conclusion, why is it unreasonable to believe that the two stories, which the Hebrew compiler has put together in such inartistic fashion, were ultimately derived from the same source? I say ultimately, because it does not at all follow that the two versions, possibly trimmed by the Jehovistic writer on the one hand, and by the Elohistic on the other, to suit Hebrew requirements, may not have been current among the Israelites for ages. And they may have acquired great authority before they were combined in the Pentateuch.

Looking at the convergence of all these lines of evidence to the one conclusion—that the story of the flood in Genesis is merely a Bowdlerized version of one of the oldest pieces of purely fictitious literature extant; that whether this is or is not its origin, the events asserted in it to have taken place assuredly never did take place; further, that, in point of fact, the story, in the plain and logically necessary sense of its words, has long since been given up by orthodox and conservative commentators of the Established Church—I can but admire the courage and clear foresight of the Anglican divine who tells us that we must be prepared to choose between the trustworthiness of scientific method and the trustworthiness of that which the Church declares to be divine authority. For, to my mind, this declaration of war to the knife against secular science, even in its most elementary forms; this rejection without a moment's hesitation of any and all evidence which conflicts with theological dogma, is the only position which is logically reconcilable with the axioms of orthodoxy. If the