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be allowed that the Old Testament chronology may be incorrect, as resting on an incorrect apprehension of the correct statements of the Old Testament writers.
As to the text of the Holy Scriptures we must no doubt assume that no corruptions affecting res fidei et morum have slipped into the translations which have been authorized by the Church. But for the rest we may safely suppose that the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin text of the Bible is no more free from corruption than is the text of other old writings. In many places it can be proved that our text is not pure, that, for instance, many of the figures have been corrupted. Therefore the statements of figures which have been used for computing the Old Testament chronology may have been corrupted in our present text, and the calculations founded on them may consequently be wrong.
If, therefore, the inspiration of the Biblical writers prevented their making any incorrect chronological statements, we have no warrant that the copyists and translators of these statements reproduced them correctly, and that their interpreters have understood them and combined them rightly. And, with respect to this, the following fact is worthy of note. The Vulgate coincides exactly with the Hebrew text in its rendering of the chronological statements in the Pentateuch ; on the other hand, the Greek translation of the Septuagint differs in many figures, and this so considerably that according to its statements the antediluvian period is 600 years, and that between the Deluge and Abraham 700 to 800 longer. In spite of this difference this Greek
i Reinke, Beitrage zur Erklärung des Alten Testaments, i. 1.
translation, and a Latin one emanating from it, were the versions generally acknowledged as authentic in the Church up to the sixth century, and in the Greek Church they are still held to be so. And more, according to the chronological statements in the Vulgate, which is the official translation of the Western Church, the Deluge occurs about 2500, the Creation about 4200 years before the birth of our Lord; on the other hand, the Roman Martyrology says, “In the year after the Creation of the world 5199, after the Deluge 2957, Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem.” These figures are taken from the older Latin translation, which was founded on the Greek translation of the Septuagint; and when S. Jerome's translation was substituted for it in the Church's use, it was considered either unnecessary or undesirable to correct the figures in the Martyrology.' The Roman Catholic Church does not therefore inculcate an anxious adherence to the text and the original interpretation of the chronological statements in the Old Testament; we may treat this question purely scientifically, and are justified in making any alterations in the Old Testament chronology which can be supported on scientific grounds.
Many of the Roman Catholic scholars who have discussed this question in modern times have expressed themselves to this effect. “The Bible,” says the French Oratorian, H. de Valroger, “gives us the chronological succession of the events it narrates in a manner which
1 Mabillon lays stress on this fact in his treatise on J. Vossius' writings : De aetate mundi non videtur quidquam statuendum, quia latina Ecclesia LXX. interpretum calculum quatuor primis saeculis secuta est, eundemque etiam nunc Romana Ecclesia retinet in Martyrologio suo ad Natalem Domini.
is sufficient for its divine [religious] object. But as the Holy Ghost did not inspire it in order to found or to promote the science of chronology, we should not expect to find any detailed or exact chronology, any complete system of dates given distinctly, methodically connected and invariably adhered to. We expose ourselves to the danger of error if we try to find things in the Bible which it was not in the design of Providence to put there."1 “Great freedom has always prevailed,” says Bishop Meignan, “in the Church's treatment of Biblical chronology. There are more than one hundred and fifty systems, of which none has been absolutely rejected. At the present time, when conscientious scholars believe that facts which have recently come to light may necessitate a great alteration in the chronology of the first ages, it is more important than ever not hurriedly and arbitrarily to limit the liberty of discussion concerning certain dates which include all the period before Abraham. . . . The word of God has been handed down through the centuries by transcribers who were certainly carefully directed ; and it is certain that in the Bible we possess a text which, considering its age, is wonderfully well preserved. And yet God may have permitted the more unimportant portions to suffer from the ravages of time. The marks denoting figures may easily have been altered. The duration of time is a treasure preserved in fragile vessels."? The Jesuit A. Bellynck speaks even more decidedly: “The genealogies of our sacred books, from which many dates have been derived, contain numerous gaps. We cannot say how many years may be left out in this broken chain. Science may therefore put back the date of the Deluge for as many centuries as it judges necessary.”
i Revue des questions historiques, tome vi. (186)) p. 395. L'âge du monde, . 72. 2 Le monde, etc. pp. 166, 358.
If we look once more at the materials from which we deduce the Old Testament chronology which I have just sketched, we certainly find that there is scope for many changes. The Septuagint and the Hebrew-Latin text do not agree as to the length of the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt. The latter simply says, “ The time during which the Israelites sojourned in Egypt was 430 years.” Instead of this we find in the Septuagint, “ The time during which the children of Israel, they and their fathers, sojourned in the land of Egypt and in Canaan was 430 years.” According to this these 430 years include besides the years of the sojourn in Egypt, the years between Abraham's coming into Palestine and Jacob's going down into Egypt. The latter period comprises 215 years, therefore only 215 years are left for the sojourn in Egypt; consequently just half the period on which I have founded my calculation of Old Testament chronology. As regards the years between the Exodus and the building of the temple, the Greek translation of i Kings vi. 1 gives us 440 instead of the 480 years of the Hebrew text; the difference here is therefore unimportant. This figure 480, however, occurs only once in the Old Testament; and if it were not given in 1 Kings vi. 1, this period would probably, according to other statements, have been supposed to be longer. The sojourn in the wilderness lasted for forty years; the period of Joshua's hegemony, and the time which elapsed up to the beginning of the period of the Judges are not given, but they may be calculated to be about 60 years. After the Judges we may reckon the reigns of the first kings at about 80 years; David reigned 40 years, Solomon 3 before the building of the temple; Saul's reign with Samuel's hegemony may have been about 40 years. The Book of Judges gives us a series of figures for the period of the Judges; it gives us the duration of the different oppressions of the Israelites by foreign tribes, and the duration of the rule of the separate Judges. If we add these figures we find that they amount to about 400 years; so that with the 40+60+80 years which we had before, the whole period between the Exodus and the building of the temple would come to 580 years. The period given in 1 King vi. 1 is 480 years, so that in this passage the alteration of a single figure would restore harmony, and the Old Testament chronology would be increased by a century.
1 Etudes religieuses, 4 série, t. i. (1868) p. 578. Cf. H. Colombier, Durée des cinq premiers âges du monde d'après la Bible, Etudes rel, 5 série, t. i. (1872) p. 20.5.
Further, in the genealogical tables of the fifth and the eleventh chapters of Genesis, the Greek and the Samaritan text give different figures from those of the Hebrew, and of the Vulgate which agrees with it. In the eleventh chapter the Greek text has one member more than the other texts, Cainan, who lived 130 years before he begat a son, and accordingly Cainan is mentioned in S. Luke's pedigree of our Lord (Luke ii. 36).?
1 Cf. Delitzsch, Genesis, pp. 189, 273. 2 Cf. Theol. Lit. Bl. 1870, p. 235.