« FöregåendeFortsätt »
kingdom? did not perish at the same time with the destruction of animal life, or whether the re-peopling and cultivation of the earth can be conceived to have occurred in only nine generations, together with other subordinate remarks, which would only tend to diminish the beauty of the narrative. We may however advert, in passing, to two plausible arguments which have been brought forward to support the idea of a universal deluge. These arguments are, first, that the crust of the earth itself, in its stratification and animal remains, was long supposed to bear testimony to a universal flood; and secondly, that a general tradition, widely spread among the people of different countries, confirms the idea of its universality.
With respect to the first of these arguments, geological observations have led to the following results : strata or beds, containing fossil remains of plants and animals, are everywhere found in a certain succession. These remains, deposited in different fossiliferous strata, belong to distinct and frequently very remote periods of time, and their deposition in every stratum has been a gradual operation, involving often a lapse of many thousand years. Ordinary natural causes, such as alternations of land and sea, volcanic forces, and marine action on coasts, are still modifying, and have always modified, the external surface of the earth. [Ancient and modern systems of terrestrial changes are shown by Sir Charles Lyell to be identical?; the vast masses of gravel scattered almost øyer the world have been proved not to belong to any one violent and transitory period”; pebbles and boulder-stones have acquired their worn and rounded appearance by long continued attrition ; headlands projecting into the ocean have obtained an abrupt and jagged outline by being subjected to the long continued and gradual influence of destructive and constructive operations; insects slowly and peacefully imbedded in vegetable gum, have remained submerged in swamp deposits for one or two geological periods, and their transparent mausoleum. has thus become true amber; a Siberian elephant or mammoth has migrated during summer, with its woolly coat, to a high latitude, and expired possibly in the contracted current of a river; its body has been very likely rolled down the stream as the torrent increased in depth, has become enveloped in frozen mud at the Arctic mouth of the river, and has in this manner been preserved during a long succession of ages. Such phenomena, which were formerly referred to a universal deluge, are now accounted for by ordinary and local changes, nor are there any sufficient signs to be discovered of the occurrence of a general extirpating convulsion of nature.]
1 [A remarkable proof of the long period during which the vegetable kingdom has remained undisturbed may be noticed in the longevity of certain trees in distant parts of the globe, such for instance as the Baobab-tree of Senegal (Adansonia digitata), which was measured by M. Adanson and found to be thirty feet in diameter. An incision was made by this gentleman to a certain depth into the tree, and he counted 300 concentric rings of annual growth, observing at the same time what thickness the tree had gained in that period. The average rate of growth of younger trees of the same species was then ascertained, and a calculation was made according to a supposed mean rate of increase, from which it followed, that the tree had attained the age of 5150 years ; hence it must have been alive at the period attributed to the Noachian flood, or about 5000 years before the present day.—De Candolle considers it probable that the celebrated Taxodium of Chapultepec in Mexico (Cupressus disticha, Linn.), which is 117 feet in circumference, may be still more aged than the Adansonia above-mentioned. -See, on these trees, Lyell's Principles of Geology, vol. iii. book iv. chap. viii. p. 428.]
1 [Lyell's Principles of Geology, c. xiii.]
2 [Professor Sedgwick's Address to the Geological Society of London, 1831. Proceedings of Geological Society, vol. i.]
[Professor Owen’s History of British Fossil Mammals, p. 270.]
In addition to the foregoing facts, geologists agree on this important point, that the earth was not inhabited by human beings at the period when the rocks containing these fossils were formed: indeed the æra of man's creation had not then arrived, for no traces either of the human body or of the works of man have ever been found in
any fossil strata. Even Delüc!, who in other respects is very prejudiced, and Frayssinous?, the latest defender of the idea of a universal flood, have themselves been obliged to admit that the remains of fossil animals are of a more ancient date than the creation of man. Compare also Cuviers, Link4, Krügers, and others.
Secondly, in the legends of a deluge among other nations local inundations are to be carefully distinguished from general ones; and even in the latter case, such legends may all originate in one common source, or they may have been already partially obscured by earlier ideas, and thus the field of popular tradition may have become much narrowed. For instance the Egyptians, according to Plato, spoke of a flood by which the whole country of Atlantis was submerged, while the valley of the Nile was spared from the effects of that inundation as well as from that of Deucalion 6.
Several floods were described by the Greeks, in addition to the poetical elevation of Rhodes, Delos, and other islands from the ocean; but it is very remarkable, that neither
1 Briefe über die Geschichte der Erde (Letters on the History of the Earth), ii. 554.
2 Défense du Christianisme, ii. 49.
4 Urwelt und Alterthum aus der Naturkunde (Views of the aboriginal World, and of its Antiquity derived from Natural History), i. 77. .5 Urwelt, i. 508. 6 Diodor. Sic. i. 10.
Homer nor Hesiod, nor the great historians, like Herodotus and Thucydides, when referring to the history of Thessaly and Thrace, make any mention of these floods. Such fictions are therefore without any historical foundation, and they appear to have been first brought to the Hellenes by Berosus and others from Asia. The earliest flood is that in the reign of Ogyges, first mentioned by Varrol; then we have the Samothracian flood alluded to by Diodorus?, Lycophron and later writers; but the best known inundation is that of Deucalion, from the influence of which however it is said that Mount Parnassus was free 3: it was first recorded by Pindar4. Aristotle considers these floods as local, and such inundations must certainly be of more frequent occurrence in districts where the course of the rivers is unchecked. But when we consider that the flood [of Deucalion] was caused by the corruption of the age,-that it receives a more mythical extension in Apollodorus, and that its cause is distinctly stated in Ovid, that Plutarcho mentions a dove which flew out of the ark, and Lucian 10 speaks of animals of all kinds which Deucalion took with him into the ark,—we cannot help recognizing the Asiatic narrative in these allusions, nor are we at liberty to set limits to a poetical myth (as is often the case) by mere chronological calculations.
1 In Censorinus, De Die Nat. 21.
2 Diodor. v. 47. 3 Pausanias, x. 6.
Olymp. ix. 37, &c. 5 Meteorol. i. 14.
6 Compare Diodor. v. 6. 7 Bibl. 1. 7. 2.
8 [After describing the sin and punishment of Lycaon, Ovid mentions the general prevalence of crime and violence on the earth previous to the flood :
“Occidit una domus: sed non domus una perire
Digna fuit: qua terra patet, fera regnat Erinnys.
In facinus jurasse putes.”—Metam. i. 240, &c.] 9 De Industr. Animal.
10 De Dea Syr. 12, 13.
The representation upon a Phrygian coin of Apamea' was in my opinion derived [from the Hebrew], as it bears the device of a floating ark, with the superscription NN, together with other references to the Hebrew narrative.
Of the Asiatic legends of the flood, there are yet remaining to be considered only those of the Chaldæans and Hindoos. The first, according to Berosus, Abydenus and other Chaldæan annalists, is met with, as is well known, in Josephus?, EusebiusS and Cyrilo: it has passed through many hands, and in the long course of its transmission may easily have found a resting-place in Armenia, besides being modified by long-forgotten writings and other influences on the way. The astrological foundation of the Chaldæan account, with its accompanying numerical details, as well as the circumstance that Saturn or Belus announces the torrents of rain to the tenth king Xisuthrus (Eelol@pos), may further confirm the original independence of that legend, as the whole takes place upon Babylonish ground exactly where the scene of the Biblical narrative is laid.
The Hindoo fiction was formerly known to Europe only through Christian missionaries, and it received imperceptibly a Biblical colouring from them, as well as from the Persian translations made by Mahometanse. It is however now presented to us in an original form, from the epic poem Mahâbhârata?, which may be compared with the narrative in Matsyapuranas. Manu, or Satyavrata,
4 Contr. Julian, i. 14.
1 In Eckhel, Doctr. Numor. iii. 132. f. 2 Arch. 1. 3. 6. Contr. Apion. 1. 19.
Præp. ix. 11. f. 5 See Introduction to Chap. V. 6 Compare Asiat. Research. iii. 312, 465. 7 Bopp, Diluvium : Berlin, 1829.
8 Jones's Works, iii. 332.