Page images
PDF
EPUB

transferring proper names from one language to another, involving them in a disguise often impenetrable; and, above all, the different statement of the Mosaic numbers in the received Hebrew text, the Samaritan, the Septuagint, and Josephus; have created difficulties nearly, if not quite, inexplicable. Most scholars content themselves with adopting the Usserian, or the Newtonian computation, without evincing any particular anxiety to discover a good reason for that system which they prefer. Others, in despair of finding out truth, content themselves with a measure of expediency ; and, though they may have strong doubts, are satisfied with using the tables which assisted their early studies.

These and similar embarrassments and interruptions to his historical and biblical researches, led Dr. Hales to a minute examination of the received chronological systems. He found them all infected with error, and the best full of discordancies and inconsistencies.

• Finding it impossible to extract from these systems any uniform scheme. 'which could render Sacred History consistent with itself, and with the great range of Profane History connected therewith, he endeavoured to trace the subject to its original sources, and to explore the most ancient records, chronicles, and fragments still extant, and the earliest historians and chronologers ; namely, the Masorete and Samaritan Hebrew texts ; the Vatican and Alexandrine Greek versions ; the works of Josephus, Theophilus, Eusebius, Syncellus, Abulfaragi, and Eutychius ; the Greek and Latin historians, Herodotus, Xenophon, Diodorus Siculus, Ctesias, Justin, &c.; the fragments of Sanconiasho, Berosus, and Manetho, respecting the Phænician, Chaldean, and Egyptian antiquities, and the Hindu records published in the Asiatic Researches.

• His first attempt was to examine carefully the principles upon which the reigning systems were built, in order to seek a solid foundation for a general system. This led him into a minute investigation of the evi. dences for and against the longer and shorter computations of the Patriarchal generations from. Adam to Abraham, found in the Masorete and Samaritan Hebrew texts, in the Greek version, and in Josephus; and the result was a conviction of the untenableness of the shorter computation, which he discovered to have been first fabricated by the Jews, about the time of the publication of the Seder Olam Rabba, their great system of Chronology, in A. D. 130...

• His next attempt was to retrieve the genuine Chronology of Josephus, many of whose leading dates had been adulterated by his early edi. tors, in order to make them correspond with the Jewish system, which unfortunately was too soon adopted by several of the primitive Christian writers. And at length, by repeated trials, amidst the mass of spurious dates that pervade his works at present, he found a few genuine opes, which led to the discovery of his original system; a system which he flatters himself is now established by a connected chain of analytical and synthetical argument, shewing the conformity of the general outline, with the particular periods that compose it, in detail; and also, by its agreement with that of the first Christian Chronologer, Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, in A. D. 168, according to the representation of Abulfaragi, the celebrated Armenian annalist. And the rectified era of the Creation, B. C. 5411, furnished by both conjointly, forms the basis of the present system ; which, if it be found just in its principles, and correct in its construction, will, he trusts, reconcile Sacred and Profane Chronology together more satisfactorily than any that has been hitherto submitted to the inspection of the learned.' Pref. pp. xv—xvii.

The work is intended to be comprized in three volumes, of which the first is now presented to the public. It embraces three parts; a copious Introduçtion, the Elements of Technical Chronology, and the Elements of Sacred Geography.

The Introduction discusses, at great length, the present state of anc'ent chronology, and the means of its improvement; and these subjects furnish a division into two sections. The first is a review of epochs, eras, and periods, and of the leading systems of chronology. Under the former of these articles, synoptic tables are exhibited of the numerous and varying dates which have been assigned for the grand epochs of ancient history. This part would have been much inereased in the value and interesting nature of its information, had the author adhered more closely to the example of the younger Frederic Spanheim. That admirable author has enriched the tables in his Chronologia Sacra with the fruits of his various knowledge and profound learning; so that their accessary, as well as direct usefulness, is much enhanced. The second article, on the different systems of an. cient and modern chronologers, manifests considerable learning, acuteness, and promptitude, in stating and refuting the various hypotheses discussed. The chronological systems thus examined are, the common Jewish, with the variations of different parties and rabbis among that people, the systems of Joseph Justus Scaliger, of Petavius, of the illustrious primate Usher, of Sir J. Marsham, of Sir Isaac Newton, of Kennedy, of Playfair, ayd of Jackson. The most ample and important part of this discussion, is that devoted to the Newtonian chronology. In some former works, on Equations, on the doctrine of Fluxions, and other branches of the Newtonian philosophy and mathematics, Dr. Halęs had shewn himself the admirer, illustrator, and defender of our great philosopher: but, notwithstanding his predilections, the inquiries he has instituted have compelled him to renounce the theory of the Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms. Very soon after the publication of that celebrated posthumous work, the indefatigable Arthur Bedford advanced some serious objections to the system, and shewed that it involved

an arbitrary and destructive confusion of indubitable history ; in an octavo volume of Animadversions, 1728. Afterwards, the learned Shuckford, in the prefaces to his Connection of Sacred and Profane History, urged further objections with great force against the Newtonian chronology. We are , surprised that Dr. H. has not noticed the labours of these his predecessors in the same field; which were, assuredly, intitled to very honourable mention. But he examines and shakes the foundations of this curtailing system, both physical and historical, in a concise, but candid, perspicuous, and forcible manner. We select an important instance. .

Newton, to give collateral support to his system from astronomy, laboured to confirm his assigned date of the Argonautic expedition by an ingenious but fanciful argument-derived from the precession of the equia noxes. By an elaborate process, p. 81-90, he computes the amount of the precession of the equinoxes and solstices from the time of the Argonautic expedition to the end of the year 1689, or the beginning of 1690, to have been 36 degrees, 44 minutes of longitude ; and by a subsequent correction, reduces it to 36 degrees, 29 minutes : which, turned into time, at the rate of 72 years for each degree of precession, would give 2647 years, in the former instance, and 2627 years in the latter. These years, therefore, counted backwards from A. D. 1690, give the date of the Argonautic expedition, B. C. 957; and by the correction, B. C. 937, which is the very year assigned.

Newion, like Archimedes, might say, dos ao si, xat tov xooLLov xivnow. “ Give me footing, and I will move the world.But here, unfortunately, he wanted data. 1. His assumption of the positions of the cardinal points of the ecliptic, in the middles of the constellations of Aries, Cancer, Chela, and Capricorn, is altogether gratuitous at the time of the Argonautic expedition ; and can be proved to be false, from the correcter date of it, and the correcter rate of precession, one degree in 711 years. 2. The primitive celestial sphere was certainly not in. vented either by Chiron.or Museus, jointly or separately, for the use of the Argonauts, in that expedition ; for it was invented long before, by the Chaldean astronomers, whence it was adopted by the Indians, and by the Egyptians and Greeks. See the Elements of Technical Chronology."

• Nor, 3. did « its asterisms, as Newton supposes, relate to the circumstances of the Argonauts, their contemporaries, or predecessors ;" but probably to the earliest circumstances of patriarchal history; Argo, to Noah's ark; Chiron, to Noah himself, with his altar and sacrifice, after the flood; Orion and his dogs, to Nimrod, that “mighty hunter ;" the great and little bear, the hare, &c. to his game, &c. And, 5. to crown all, Canopus, the principal star in the constellation Argo, is only 37 degrees from the south pole, and the greatest part of the constellation lies still nearer to it: the course of their voyage lay between 39 and 45 degrees of north latitude ; consequently, if the sphere had been either constructed by, or for the Argonauts, the framer would not have given the name of the ship Argo to a constellation invisible at Pagasa, whence they set out, and at Colchis, whither they came." pp. 33, 34.

Our author's principal claims to the merit of solidly ad.. vancing chronological science, and freeing it fron the heavy embarrassments which have so long perplexed it, rest on the second section of his introduction, which he intitles “ Improvement of Chronology.” He begins, in imitation of the immortal Principia of Newton, with laying down five rules of chronologizing, which are to be the canons of all his investigations and adjustments. These rules are, 1. To adhere to the scriptural standard. 2. To begin with the analytical method, and end with the synthetical. 3. Not to adopt any date that shall be repugnant to any other established date. 4. Never to frame an hypothesis, nor to assign a conjectural date, except in cases of downright necessity. 5. Carefully and critically to distinguish between different persons, in different ages and countries, called by the same name; and on the other hand, to unite or identify persons bearing dif. ferent names, in different authors, or at different times of their lives. i :: Our readers will, probably, anticipate the observation, that, however intrinsically true and important these rules are, yet, in the application of them, especially of the first, third, and fifth, there will be great danger of sometimes arguing in a circle, and at other times of falling into the petitio principii. The principle included in the rule must be esta. blished, by evidence totally independent of chronological hy. pothesis, or the whole result will be nugatory. But, in many cases, the difficulty of obtaining such independent evidence is almost insuperable. Dr. H, is not insensible of these ha. zards, but is vigilant and careful to escape them. To his remarks on the principles and application of the rules, he subjoins the following coronis.

By the sober and skilful application of these rules, suggested experimentally, and matured gradually, in the course of these researches, both by my own mistakes, and those of my predecessors, in this most abstruse and difficult investigation; and by more careful and critical revision and comparison of all the various original documents, still extant, of ancient History, Antiquities, Etymology, Mythology, and Astronomy connected with Chronology, I am persuaded, that the whole of ancient chronology, sacred and profane, may be reduced to one simple, uniform, and consistent system, in which all the parts shall correspond with each other, and with the whole, without is the many repugnancies most justly complained of,” in all the systems that have hitherto appeared ; and the whole be brought to the highest degree of probability, bordering on "moral cer. tainty, beyond which it cannot be raised, from the imperfection of several of the leading data : for who can count the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of the world,with absolute certainty, but He that made them all-THE ANCIENT OF DAYS.' pp. 69, 70.

The question on the wide differences in the computations of the patriarchal ages, from Adam to Abraham, which exist between the Masoretic, and the Samaritan, Hebrew Texts, the Septuagint, and Josephus, is taken up in its full extent, and with ample consideration. Against Petavius, Basnage, Bedford, Kennedy, and the other assertors of what they have assumed to call “ the Hebrew verity," but in coincidence with Justin Martyr, Ephraim Syrus, Georgius Syncellus, Eutychius of Alexandria, and the learned Arabian Christian Abulfaraji, and with our admirable country. man Kennicott, he believes that the years in the common Hebrew Text have been shortened by the intentional fraud of the Jews. This great point has been fully established, as we think, by Dr. Kennicott in his Dissertatio Generalis, and in his English writings ; to which, by the way, we are surprised that Dr. H. has not acknowledged his obligations. But he has considerably amplified the evidences, and has drawn them out in a clear and convincing form. - He rejects, however, the second Cainan, as the quaint but ingenious John Gregory .. of Oxford had done. He appears to have rendered it ex. tremely probable, that the great and systematic corruption is the generations of the Hebrew copies was effected by the apostate Aquila, in conjunction with the Rabbis Akiba . and Jose ben Chilpetha, about A. D. 123.

But the most distinguished and original feature of Dr. H.'s chronological system is, the prominent rank which he assigns to Josephus ; whose genuine numbers he conceives himself to have restored, and by a comparison with the Septuagint and the other Texts to have achieved the grand work of ascertaining the true series of primeval times. The high importance and interest of this object is evident, when we consider that the Jewish historian makes the most solemn and repeated professions of deriving the materials of his ancient history from the Hebrew. Scriptures, that he had the highest veneration for the Greek Version, and that his testimony goes to establish that there existed no discrepancy between the two copies in his time.

The principal instrument which our author has employed, for this very important purpose, is, the correction of the aggregate numbers of great periods, in which the corruptions of the true reading chiefly occur, by the summation of the lives or other aliquot parts which compose each period. By the use of this most simple and unexceptionable mode of proof and correction, together with other collate. ral aids, he has produced some striking and happy results, We shall adduce a few paragraphs from this long and ela. borate article.

« PreviousContinue »