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BC Volume 5 (1999)


Volume 5, Number 1January/February 1999

Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part IV

Eight months ago I announced the conclusion of my effort to unify Biblical and secular chronologies back to the time of the Flood (roughly 3500 B.C.).[1] Since that time I have been embarked on a mission to unify sacred and secular chronologies in the period of time before the Flood. The present issue is the fourth in a series seeking this unification.

Review

Once the missing thousand years in 1 Kings 6:1 is recognized and allowed for, no divergence between sacred and secular chronologies appears until the creation of Adam, roughly 5200 B.C.[2] At that point one encounters the "central conundrum" of Pre-Flood Biblical chronology, which is the apparent existence of mankind, according to secular scholarship, many thousands of years before the creation date of Adam determined from Biblical chronology.[3] One must somehow resolve this conundrum before sacred and secular chronologies can be unified.

I have enumerated nine conceptually possible solutions to this conundrum. I believe these nine exhaust the possibilities.[4]

  1. The Biblical chronological data leading to the creation of Adam are false (i.e., fabricated).

  2. The secular chronological data leading to a great antiquity for mankind are false (i.e., fabricated).

  3. The Biblical history which teaches that Adam was the first man to be created is mythological or otherwise fabricated.

  4. The modern secular teaching that mankind existed in remote antiquity is a hoax or fabrication.

  5. We have misunderstood the Biblical history of the creation of Adam; the Bible does not really teach that Adam was the first man ever to be created.

  6. The archaeologists have misunderstood the history of mankind; archaeology does not really show the existence of humans before Adam.

  7. We have made some mistake in the computation of the Biblical date of the creation of Adam (i.e., the basic Biblical chronological data are valid, but they have been misunderstood).

  8. The secular chronologists have made some mistake in their computation of the antiquity of man (i.e., the basic secular chronological data are valid, but they have been misunderstood).

  9. The Biblical and secular evidences must both be accepted as legitimate; the truth lies in a proper synthesis of the two.

I have argued that the first seven of these conceptually possible solutions fail to present an adequate resolution of the central conundrum.[5]

The eighth possibility leads directly to the question, "Radiocarbon dating—can you trust it?"[6] Last issue I introduced a set of sixty radiocarbon dates from the archaeological site of ancient Jericho to be used as a case study in answering this question. Detailed evaluation of these radiocarbon dates revealed that they harmonize with Biblical and secular historical expectations back to the time of the Flood. This showed that radiocarbon can be trusted to provide reliable absolute dates back to 3500 B.C. The only question remaining—the focus of the present issue—is whether radiocarbon dating is reliable prior to the Flood.

Pre-Flood Radiocarbon: Can You Trust It?

While radiocarbon dating is seen to be reliable at Jericho back to the time of the Flood, is it possible that something was different before the Flood? Is it possible the Flood itself changed something—such as the radioactive decay rate—so that the accuracy of radiocarbon dating is thrown off in the pre-Flood period?

I think it is the case that nobody has ever investigated this question as critically and as thoroughly as I have. It was to get to the bottom of the reliability of radiometric dating methods that I chose the particular Ph.D. program I did some two decades ago, and my decision to join the faculty of the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School following graduation was entirely motivated by my concern to plumb the depths of this question. The reliability of radiocarbon dating is of extreme importance to Biblical chronology and to our whole understanding of the past. To the one who wishes to accurately harmonize Biblical and secular accounts of earth history it is worth every ounce of effort and every bit of personal pain it may cost to get to the bottom of this question. I prosecuted this question very critically through every means available to me for over a decade. I entered this investigation with an extreme prejudice against the reliability of radiocarbon dating, and I emerged from it over a decade later with an assured and unqualified conviction that, yes, radiocarbon dating can be trusted in the pre-Flood period, back at least until 9000 B.C.

But, as usual, I do not want you to take my word for it simply because I claim considerable devotion to this question. I want, rather, to explain, as simply and clearly as I can, why it is I find "yes, radiocarbon dating is reliable in the pre-Flood period" to be the unavoidable truth. While I cannot take you through ten years worth of false starts and down a decade worth of blind alleys in the following few pages, I am hopeful that the following positive presentation of basic factual data will suffice to show this truth.

Tree-ring Calibration

The single most important fact to grasp about radiocarbon dating in the period of interest to the present study (i.e., back to about 9000 B.C.) is that radiocarbon dates are calibrated using tree-rings over this entire range. This makes changes in the past behavior of radiocarbon—hypothetical changes in its decay rate, or alterations in the initial amount of radiocarbon in living things—irrelevant. Calibrated dates are immune to any such changes.

There is nothing tricky about how this happens, and nothing very complex about the idea of calibrating radiocarbon dates using tree-rings. Here are the basic concepts.

Radiocarbon—a radioactive form of the carbon atom—is produced in the atmosphere through the action of cosmic radiation on air molecules. Once produced, radiocarbon mixes with stable carbon atoms already in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Because the atmosphere mixes thoroughly and rapidly (which is what wind and storms are all about) the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon is uniform all over the globe at any given time.[7]

Trees and other terrestrial plants get the carbon atoms they need to build their tissues from atmospheric carbon dioxide. As plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they take in both radiocarbon and stable carbon atoms, in the ratio these are found in the atmosphere. Because this ratio is everywhere the same at the same time in the atmosphere, all of the terrestrial plants growing at the same time at every location over the entire globe have the same ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon.[8] Animals get the carbon they need for building their tissues by eating plants (or by eating other animals which have gotten their carbon by eating plants). Thus, both the terrestrial plant and animal kingdoms contain the same ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms in their tissues while living at any point in time. This ratio may fluctuate from decade to decade, because the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the atmosphere may change with time. But at any given time the ratio will be the same globally for all terrestrial plants and animals then living.

When a plant dies, it ceases to take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Radiocarbon atoms slowly disappear from its tissues because, being radioactive, they slowly decay away. Thus, the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms in dead tissue slowly decreases. Because this decay process is a nuclear phenomenon, it is impervious to normal environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. Thus, the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms will decrease in lockstep in all tissues of all terrestrial plants and animals which ceased to metabolize at a given point in time. It is this fact which is exploited by the radiocarbon calibration method of dating.

In the radiocarbon calibration method, tree-rings whose ages are precisely known through direct counting of growth rings back from the present time, are used to construct a table (or graph). One column of the table contains the calendar date when each tree-ring grew. Opposite this date, in another column, is recorded the experimentally measured ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon found for that specific tree-ring today.

Figure 1 shows a small portion of an actual calibration table. Each line in this table represents one tree-ring. The column at left (first column) is the calendar age of the ring, obtained by counting rings back from the present. The column at right (fourth column) is just another way of expressing the tree-ring count. It gives calendar years before present (B.P.), with 0 B.P. defined as 1950 A.D. The second column tells what the radiocarbon ratio in the atmosphere was when each ring grew, relative to wood which grew near 1850 A.D. (before the industrial revolution began to add a great deal of stable carbon into the atmosphere). This is determined by direct measurement on each ring. The third column gives the measured conventional radiocarbon ages of the tree-rings. This is just a traditional way of expressing the (fractionation corrected) ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms in the tree-rings. Calibration tables like this one (though generally giving results for every ten or every twenty rings, rather than for each and every year) now exist based upon a series of nearly 12,000 consecutive tree-rings stretching backward in time from the present.[9]

Figure 1: A reproduction of a portion of an actual calibration table. (From: Minze Stuiver, Paula J. Reimer, and Thomas F. Braziunas, "High-precision Radiocarbon Age Calibration for Terrestrial and Marine Samples," Radiocarbon 40.3 (1998): 1150.)

Suppose we would like to radiocarbon date a leather sandal found in ancient native American ruins in California. We do this today as follows. We first measure the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms in the leather. (More accurately stated, we send the leather to a lab equipped to make such a measurement—along with three or four hundred dollars to pay to have this work done for us.)

Once we have this fundamental ratio, we go to the calibration table. We look in the table until we find a tree-ring sample having this same ratio. Since these two samples—the leather from the sandal and the wood from the tree-ring—have the same radiocarbon to stable carbon ratio today they are in lockstep at present.[10] This implies that they must both have ceased to metabolize (or died) at the same time, so they could begin their lockstep progression to the present time. We can, therefore, determine when the deer died, from which the leather for the sandal came, by looking at the adjacent column in the calibration table showing how many tree-rings ago that particular tree-ring was formed. This number will equal the number of years which have elapsed since the deer was killed by the native American, as long as each tree-ring in the calibration table corresponds to one calendar year.

Now we obviously must ask whether we can be confident each tree-ring in the calibration table does, in fact, correspond to one calendar year. And we will want to ask other probing questions about the tree-rings used to construct this calibration table, of course. But before we do let me emphasize that the whole burden of proof for the calendar reliability of radiocarbon dates has now shifted entirely away from the past behavior of the radiocarbon atom. Assumptions about the past decay rate of radiocarbon, or its initial concentration in the atmosphere, are irrelevant, as far as accuracy of the dates one obtains are concerned, when the calibration method is used. If the decay rate of radiocarbon was somehow altered by the Flood (and I know of no way to accomplish such a thing apart from explicit supernatural intervention, which the Biblical record of the Flood does not hint at) then this decay rate would have altered in all samples, including the tree-rings. In that case the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon would have remained in lockstep just the same, so the calibrated date would not be altered.

This is the important point. In the calibration method of radiocarbon dating—which all radiocarbon scientists now employ—the burden of proof for calendrical accuracy is shifted away from radiocarbon and onto the shoulders of dendrochronology, the science of counting tree-rings. Questions concerning the past behavior of radiocarbon itself—whether the Flood might have altered its radioactive decay rate, or whether the Flood might have caused a disequilibrium between present-day production and decay of radiocarbon, or any other such thing—do not impinge upon the accuracy of calibrated radiocarbon dates. In the quest to unify pre-Flood sacred and secular chronologies such questions are irrelevant.

Can Dendrochronology be Trusted?

Obviously, we must turn our attention away from the past behavior of the radiocarbon atom and focus it on the past behavior of tree-rings if we are to gain any real insight into the trustworthiness of pre-Flood calibrated radiocarbon dates. The critical question is not, "Can radiocarbon be trusted?" but rather, "Can dendrochronology be trusted?"

This was a difficult question to answer when the calibration method of dating first began to be developed. The only tree-rings extending far enough back in time to be of much use for calibration purposes at that time were from the remarkable bristlecone pine trees growing at high altitudes in the White Mountains of California.[11] These trees grow very slowly (Figure 2) and live to very great ages—some more than 4,000 years. Because of their resinous nature, and the cold, arid environment in which they grow, dead bristlecones can be preserved for thousands of years. By overlapping ring patterns in dead and living bristlecones, dendrochronologists had been able to construct a continuous series of bristlecone tree-rings extending from the present back 7100 rings into the past. This tree-ring series provided the basis of the earliest calibration table.

Figure 2: Life-size bristlecone pine sample cores. Cores from two different bristlecones are shown mounted in wooden frames. The top core is from a relatively young tree. It has about 65 growth rings total, not all of which are shown here. The bottom core shows more closely spaced rings (slower growth) of a much older tree. This core has 598 rings in a total length of 261 millimeters (i.e., the average ring width is less than half a millimeter). The bark of this older tree is visible at right, indicating the youngest growth ring prior to coring.

But how was this bristlecone tree-ring series to be checked for calendrical accuracy? What if the dendrochronologists had matched the ring patterns incorrectly between two or more bristlecone specimens? One could certainly imagine an inadvertent duplication of a whole section of the series, artificially extending it thousands of years beyond its true range. And how could one be sure that these bristlecone pine trees only put on one growth ring each year?

To answer such concerns some sort of independent check on the bristlecone pine tree-ring chronology was needed. One desired to see a second, independent, calibration table, constructed using independently counted tree-rings. The calibration method could then be checked by seeing whether both calibration tables gave the same calibrated dates for all samples.

A small step in this direction was taken early on by comparing dendrochronologies from other types of trees, such as Douglas fir, to the bristlecone chronology. It was found that these agreed. But the ring series from these other trees were not nearly as long as the bristlecone pine series. This meant that only the most recent portion of the bristlecone chronology could be checked. Furthermore, all of the trees involved were from a single geographical region—the west coast of the United States. What was really needed was an independent, long dendrochronology from an entirely different part of the world. Fortunately, such a check was not long in coming.

Dendrochronologists were actively building long tree-ring chronologies not only in America, but also Europe. The European scientists found that they were able to construct a very long tree-ring chronology using oak trees. The younger portion of this chronology was pieced together from oak logs which had been used (and hence preserved) in the construction of various historic buildings. The chronology was then extended to more ancient times using older oak logs found preserved, for example, in ancient peat beds.

The European oak chronology was just what was needed to check the American bristlecone pine chronology. The two were obviously independent. Ring width patterns are determined by local environmental factors, such as temperature and rainfall. Since the specimens involved in these two chronologies grew on two separate continents, with an ocean between, there was no way the ring thickness pattern in one could act as any guide to the construction of the other. Furthermore, political boundaries assured that the scientists who worked on the oak chronology were different from, and independent of those involved in the bristlecone chronology.

Finally, the very different natures of the two types of trees involved—bristlecone and oak—was a significant advantage. Bristlecones are evergreens which grow very slowly, at high altitude, in a cold, arid environment, and live for thousands of years. None of these things is true of the oaks used in the European chronology. They are deciduous, grow relatively rapidly, at low altitudes, in relatively warm, moist environments, and live for only hundreds of years.

Did these two dendrochronologies yield calibration tables in harmony with one another? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Figure 3 illustrates a portion of what was found when these two dendrochronologies were compared through their respective radiocarbon to stable carbon ratios. More recently, Stuiver et al. have reported:[12]

[Radiocarbon] results determined in different laboratories for samples of the "same" dendroage usually yield offsets in the 0–20 [radiocarbon] year range. Values twice as large are occasionally encountered.
That is, the largest offsets between labs over the entire series of nearly 12,000 consecutive tree-rings available today are forty years or less. The possibility of miscounted or misplaced thousands of rings in these dendrochronologies is immediately removed by these observations. It is clear that the dendrochronologists know how to assemble their tree-ring samples correctly.

Figure 3: Radiocarbon to stable carbon ratio measurements on tree-rings from two separate continents measured independently by separate laboratories. (The ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon is expressed on the vertical axis as an uncalibrated radiocarbon "age". This is for traditional reasons only and does not imply calendar years on the vertical axis. After: Minze Stuiver, "A High-precision Calibration of the AD Radiocarbon Time Scale," Radiocarbon 24.1 (1982): 1–26.)

Furthermore, Figure 3 makes it clear that radiocarbon does, indeed, have a uniform distribution in the atmosphere, at least in the northern hemisphere. It shows that trees grown at the same time on separate continents have the same ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in their wood. This experimentally verifies the fundamental premise upon which the calibration method of radiocarbon dating is based.

Multiple Rings Per Year

The only question remaining at this point—and though one may appear a severe skeptic even to ask it, let us leave no stone unturned—is whether it might just be possible that both of these dendrochronologies have incorporated multiple ring growth per year. Suppose, for example, that the trees used in these long dendrochronologies, both in America and in Europe, have a propensity for adding, not one growth ring each year, but two growth rings per year on average. If these rings were all treated as annual growth rings, then the dendrochronologies would appear to show a factor of two too many calendar years.

We know that calibrated radiocarbon dates are accurate back to the time of the Flood, and this means that the tree-ring count that these dates are based upon must also be accurate from the present back to that time. Thus, we know the trees used in constructing these long dendrochronologies, on two separate continents, were only growing one ring per year from the Flood down to the present time. But is it possible that something was different before the Flood, so that pre-Flood trees routinely grew two or more rings each year? Is it possible that multiple ring growth per year prior to the Flood is the explanation of the pre-Adamic calibrated radiocarbon dates from human remains at Jericho?

It is possible to test the hypothesis of multiple ring growth per year before the Flood using the calibration table itself. The idea here is fairly simple. To illustrate it, imagine for a moment that there exists an aged magician who has the power to cause trees to grow brilliantly blue growth rings. In the years when he does not exercise this power all the trees in his world grow normal-colored growth rings for that year. But in the years when he does exercise his power, all the trees grow brilliant blue rings during that year. As a result, when you cut a tree down in the magician's world and examine the growth rings you observe a pattern of brilliant blue rings interspersed among normal rings.

Now what motivates this magician to exercise his power is not known, but what is well known is that whenever he starts to cause the trees to grow blue rings he keeps it up for exactly ten years in a row before stopping again.

Given this odd behavior it is a simple thing to detect multiple ring growth in the trees of the magician's world. If you cut a tree down and find a group of fifteen sequential blue rings, then you know that tree was not adding one growth ring per year. This immediately follows because we know the magician always exercises his power in ten year blocks. The extra five rings are evidence that the tree put on more than one ring per year during some of the years of that ten year span. If, on the other hand, you find that blue rings appear only in groups of ten, then you know that the trees have only been growing one ring per year.

In this analogy the magician represents the sun. The sun occasionally, for unknown reasons, goes into a relatively quiescent mode of operation.[13] During such episodes few sunspots are seen on the surface of the sun, and the solar wind is reduced. This lets more cosmic radiation into the upper atmosphere of the earth, which allows more radiocarbon atoms to be produced in the atmosphere. Eventually the sun returns to normal operation and radiocarbon returns to normal levels in the atmosphere once again. But the result is that the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon atoms in the atmosphere goes through occasional small "peaks". Since the trees are simply "recording" whatever ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon is in the atmosphere at the time they put on each growth ring, the rings themselves are permanently "dyed" with these higher than usual radiocarbon levels. These are the tell-tale "blue" rings.

Now, contrary to the magician of my analogy, our sun exhibits not one, but two quiescent modes. One mode lasts roughly 51 years on average, and the other about 96 years on average. We could expand our analogy and imagine that the magician paints growth rings blue for ten years at a time, while at other times he paints them red for twenty years at a time. This adds complexity to the analogy, however, which is why I have left it out above. The basic idea, I think, is nonetheless clear.

Examples of both quiescent modes are visible in Figure 3. These appear as valleys in the figure, rather than peaks, since radiocarbon "age" decreases whenever the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon increases. A valley resulting from the 51 year sort of solar quiescence dips to a minimum near A.D. 1700, and another, of the 96 year variety, reaches its minimum just after A.D. 1500. The valley near 1700 is known as the "Maunder minimum" and the one near 1500 is known as the "Sporer minimum".

Quantitative Analysis

Now let us get down to quantitative business with this. Our immediate concern is to decide whether the calibrated radiocarbon dates from Jericho which appear to predate the creation of Adam are trustworthy. We are asking whether their apparently excessive age might be due to multiple ring growth per year prior to the Flood in the dendrochronologies upon which their ages are based.

How many rings per year would the trees need to have grown pre-Flood on average to bring the oldest radiocarbon dates at Jericho down in age so that they are equal to the creation date of Adam?

Figure 4, reproduced here from last issue, shows that the calibrated radiocarbon dates in question go back at least to a putative 8500 B.C. Meanwhile, we know that the Flood happened approximately 3500 B.C. Thus, 5000 growth rings separate the Flood from the oldest human remains dated by the calibration method at Jericho.

Figure 4: Chronology at Jericho relative to three key Biblical events.

We would like to try to compress these 5000 growth rings into just the span of time from the Flood back to Adam's creation. That span of time, we know from Biblical chronology (see Figure 4), is 1700 years.

To compress 5000 growth rings into 1700 years, the trees must have been growing (5000/1700=) 2.9 rings per year on average in the pre-Flood period.

If the trees were growing 2.9 rings per year in the pre-Flood period, then the sun-induced "peaks" in the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon measured in the rings (the "blue" and "red" rings) should occupy approximately (2.9×51=) 148 growth rings and (2.9×96=) 279 growth rings on average respectively, instead of their normal average of 51 and 96 growth rings. Do they?

Figure 5 shows that, in point of fact, they don't.[14] Each circle in the figure represents one "peak". I found seven peaks before the Flood and nine peaks after the Flood.

Figure 5: Widths of sixteen "peaks" from the INTCAL98 radiocarbon calibration table.

Three of the nine post-Flood peaks are of the 96-year type. The average of their widths is 96 years (which is where the 96 year figure comes from). This average is plotted as the upper horizontal dashed line in the figure.

The average of the remaining six post-Flood peaks is 51 years. This is plotted as the lower dashed line.

The dotted horizontal lines show 2.9 times the post-Flood peak widths. The upper dotted line corresponds to the upper dashed line, and the lower dotted line corresponds to the lower dashed line.

If pre-Flood trees were growing 2.9 rings per year on average, then the pre-Flood peaks should all cluster around the upper and lower dotted lines, just as the post-Flood peaks cluster around the dashed lines. But they don't. The pre-Flood peaks continue to cluster around the dashed lines. Apparently, there was no significant difference in the growth characteristics of the trees pre-Flood and post-Flood. The hypothesis that trees in the pre-Flood period were growing multiple rings per year is falsified.

Conclusion

This means that the apparently excessive ages of the earliest calibrated radiocarbon dates from Jericho can not be explained away as due to multiple tree-ring growth per year prior to the Flood. Five thousand truly annual growth rings do, indeed, separate early human remains at Jericho from the Flood. And this means that some 3300 truly annual growth rings separate these early human remains from the creation of Adam. The evidence for the apparent existence of mankind thousands of years before the creation date of Adam is unambiguously affirmed at Jericho.

Now I hope that you will agree with me that the "central conundrum" of pre-Flood Biblical chronology is properly named. Here is a conundrum indeed.

The Bible, we have seen, seems to teach that Adam was the first man ever to have existed.[15] When coupled with the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy this leads immediately to what I will call Grand Fact 1.

Grand Fact 1 Adam was the first human ever to have existed.

Meanwhile, the data from the ground at Jericho lead immediately to Grand Fact 2.

Grand Fact 2 Human remains and artifacts exist which greatly predate Adam.

These two Grand Facts seem logically incompatible. One's immediate reaction is to seek to reject one or the other of them. But try as we might, no rational way of rejecting either of them appears.

I have been reading and studying in the field of ultimate origins for at least a quarter of a century now. During this time I have seen a broad range of ideas about the origins of mankind and the meaning of Genesis. I have observed that these ideas, almost without exception, exercise themselves in an attempt to deny one or the other of these Grand Facts. Most, these days, seek to deny Grand Fact 1. But, as far as I have been able to see, none of these ideas, whether secular or theological at root, has ever actually succeeded in demonstrating any rational way of denying either Grand Fact 1 or Grand Fact 2.

I have never yet found anybody who has ever been able to show any legitimate way of setting either of these Grand Facts aside, and I can conceive of no way of doing so myself. This leads me to conclude that apparently, difficult though this may seem, truth is to be had, not by a rejection of one or the other of these Grand Facts, but by embracing both of them together.

This brings us to our ninth and final possible solution.

  1. The Biblical and secular evidences must both be accepted as legitimate; the truth lies in a proper synthesis of the two.

Can a workable synthesis of the Biblical and secular evidences for the antiquity of mankind be found? I'll be taking a look at this question next issue, Lord willing. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical chronology in an easily understood manner.

An introductory packet containing three sample issues and a subscription order form is available for $9.95 US regardless of destination address. Send check or money order in US funds and request the "Intro Pack."

The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Copyright © 1999 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 4.3 (May/June 1998): 6–10.

  2. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993); Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 1–10.

  3. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 10.

  4. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part II," The Biblical Chronologist 4.5 (September/October 1998): 1–10.

  5. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part II," The Biblical Chronologist 4.5 (September/October 1998): 1–10.

  6. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part III," The Biblical Chronologist 4.6 (September/October 1998): 1–16.

  7. ^  Slight deviations from complete uniformity can be demonstrated, especially between the northern and southern hemispheres, whose atmospheres mix together relatively slowly. But these departures from complete uniformity are too small to be of any practical importance to the present discussion.

  8. ^  Biological fractionation can bring about small alterations in the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in plant tissues from one species to another. This effect is too small to be of any practical significance in the present context, and it can be experimentally corrected for when the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon is measured in a sample in any event.

  9. ^  See, for example: Minze Stuiver, Paula J. Reimer, and Thomas F. Braziunas, "High-precision Radiocarbon Age Calibration for Terrestrial and Marine Samples," Radiocarbon 40.3 (1998): 1127–1151.

  10. ^  I have skipped over the possibility of two or more tree-rings, which grew at different times, having the same ratio. This can happen (and frequently does) because the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the atmosphere fluctuates up and down with time. This effect can introduce more than one possible date range, usually within a few hundred years of each other, for a given sample. However, this effect is of no practical significance in the present context, which is seeking to show only that calibrated radiocarbon dates cannot possibly all be out by the thousands of years necessary to solve the central conundrum.

  11. ^  C. W. Ferguson, "Bristlecone Pine: Science and Esthetics," Science 159 (23 February 1968): 839–846.

  12. ^  Minze Stuiver, Paula J. Reimer, Edouard Bard, J. Warren Beck, G. S. Burr, Konrad A. Hughen, Bernd Kromer, Gerry McCormac, Johannes Van Der Plicht, and Marco Spurk, "INTCAL98 Radiocarbon Age Calibration, 24,000–0 cal BP," Radiocarbon 40.3 (1998): 1041–1083.

  13. ^  M. Stuiver and P. D. Quay, "Changes in Atmospheric Carbon-14 Attributed to a Variable Sun," Science 207 (1980): 11–19.

  14. ^  I used the Δ14C data from the INTCAL98 calibration curve for this figure. The data were downloaded over the Internet from the Quaternary Isotope Laboratory in Seattle, Washington (http://depts.washington.edu/qil/). I selected all peaks in the time span of interest which were large and well defined. Sixteen peaks total were found. To furnish an objective measure of the width of these peaks I performed a least squares fit of a Gaussian plus linear background to each peak.

  15. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part II," The Biblical Chronologist 4.5 (September/October 1998): 1–10.


Volume 5, Number 2March/April 1999

A Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology

The present article is the culmination of five consecutive articles dealing with the problem of the unification of sacred and secular chronologies in the pre-Flood era.[1] It presents a new solution of this longstanding problem.

Review

Once the missing thousand years in 1 Kings 6:1 is recognized and allowed for, sacred and secular chronologies of earth history exhibit essential unity from the present back until the creation of Adam, roughly 5200 B.C.[2] At that point in time one encounters the "central conundrum" of Pre-Flood Biblical chronology, which is the apparent existence of mankind, according to secular scholarship, many thousands of years before the creation date of Adam determined from Biblical chronology.[3] One must somehow resolve this conundrum before sacred and secular chronologies can be unified in the period of time prior to the creation of Adam.

I have enumerated nine conceptually possible solutions to this conundrum. I believe these nine exhaust the possibilities.[4]

  1. The Biblical chronological data leading to the creation of Adam are false (i.e., fabricated).

  2. The secular chronological data leading to a great antiquity for mankind are false (i.e., fabricated).

  3. The Biblical history which teaches that Adam was the first man to be created is mythological or otherwise fabricated.

  4. The modern secular teaching that mankind existed in remote antiquity is a hoax or fabrication.

  5. We have misunderstood the Biblical history of the creation of Adam; the Bible does not really teach that Adam was the first man ever to be created.

  6. The archaeologists have misunderstood the history of mankind; archaeology does not really show the existence of humans before Adam.

  7. We have made some mistake in the computation of the Biblical date of the creation of Adam (i.e., the basic Biblical chronological data are valid, but they have been misunderstood).

  8. The secular chronologists have made some mistake in their computation of the antiquity of man (i.e., the basic secular chronological data are valid, but they have been misunderstood).

  9. The Biblical and secular evidences must both be accepted as legitimate; the truth lies in a proper synthesis of the two.

I have argued that the first eight of these conceptually possible solutions fail to present an adequate resolution of the central conundrum.[5] Only the ninth possible solution remains.

The Problem

The ninth conceptually possible solution demands that both the Biblical and secular evidences regarding the antiquity of mankind be accepted as legitimate. To treat the ninth possible solution fairly in its own right one must deliberately put aside whatever lingering doubts they may have regarding the Biblical or the secular evidences bearing on the antiquity of mankind. One must no longer suppose that the sacred or secular chronological data are somehow fabricated or misunderstood. One must forsake the notion that the Biblical account of the creation of Adam is fictitious or abstruse. One must leave behind the idea that the archaeological data for pre-Adamic mankind are fabricated by the archaeologists, or that these data have somehow been misunderstood by the specialists who study them. All such intellectual baggage, no matter how comfortably threadbare, must be dropped at the threshold of the ninth conceptually possible solution, or one is self-condemned to remain outside its door.

For the ninth solution one must take as a starting assumption that the plain-sense, traditional view of Genesis is an accurate representation of the factual history the text means to communicate. That is, we are assuming at the outset that Adam was the first man ever to have been created, and that he was created only about seven thousand years ago (5176±26 B.C. according to modern Biblical chronology[6]). At the same time we are assuming that the normal, secular, text-book reconstruction of pre-history is reasonably accurate. Specifically, we are assuming that the physical data which have been dug from the ground really do show an unbroken continuity of humanity from the present into the very remote past, many thousands of years before the creation of Adam. Succinctly stated, for solution number nine we take as our departure point two Grand Facts:[7]

Grand Fact 1 Adam was the first human ever to have existed.

Grand Fact 2 Human remains and artifacts exist which greatly predate Adam.

The problem which is posed for the ninth possible solution is not how one might discard one or the other of these Grand Facts. Rather, it is, having accepted both, how to synthesize the two into a single, comprehensible whole.

The Difficulty

On the face of things this problem seems impossible to solve. The difficulty is that these two Grand Facts seem to say opposite things. Grand Fact 1, that Adam was the first human ever to have existed, establishes a point in time, 5176±26 B.C., before which there were no humans in existence. It states that the world was completely devoid of humans from the first instant of its creation up to and including the creation of Adam. Meanwhile Grand Fact 2, that human remains and artifacts exist which greatly predate Adam, implies a continuity of human existence on Earth from a very remote antiquity (at least 25,000 years ago, as we have previously discussed[8]) down to the present time. This continuity of human existence—including evidence of villages, pottery manufacture, burial of the dead, and much more—continues with no apparent break right through 5176±26 B.C. Recall, for example, that the creation of Adam appears to fall in the middle of the Ubaid period in Mesopotamia[9]. This "Ubaid period" is just archaeological jargon summarizing the continuous succession of settlements and agricultural villages found by the archaeologists in Southern Mesopotamia, beginning probably prior to 6000 B.C., and certainly long before 5176±26 B.C., and continuing in an unbroken chain of human culture to somewhere in the vicinity of 4400 B.C. How, then, can these two Grand Facts possibly be reconciled?

Certainly it is the case that if one assumes that history is comprised of an unbroken chain of naturalistic cause and effect phenomena, then no reconciliation of these two Grand Facts of any sort appears. But this is hardly surprising, for the assumption of an unbroken chain of naturalistic cause and effect is just a denial of Grand Fact 1. Grand Fact 1 demands the supernatural creation of Adam at the outset, and this demand cannot be reconciled with any assumed unbroken chain of naturalistic cause and effect phenomena into eternity past. To cross the threshold into solution number nine, one must leave the wearisome philosophical baggage of naturalism behind.

And strange though it may seem, once one has done so, a rational way of reconciling these two Grand Facts does appear.

The Solution

Logically, synthesis of these two Grand Facts can be accomplished if we accept that the evidence for humans prior to Adam only came into existence subsequent to the creation of Adam, as shown in this time-line.

That is, these two Grand Facts can be reconciled if and only if Grand Fact 2 only became operable (i.e., began to be true) at some point in time after Grand Fact 1 had become operable. To see this we proceed deductively as follows.

Grand Fact 1 establishes a point in time, 5176±26 B.C. according to our best modern reckoning, before which no humans were in existence. Grand Fact 2 implies continuity of human populations before, during, and after that time. If Grand Fact 2 were in operation at the time of Adam's creation, then other humans besides Adam would have been in existence at the time of Adam's creation. In that case Adam would not have been the first human ever to have existed, and Grand Fact 1 would be violated. Thus, Grand Fact 2 could not have been in operation at the time of the creation of Adam.

If, on the other hand, Grand Fact 2 only began to operate subsequent to the creation of Adam, then Adam would be, in point of historical fact, the first man ever to have been created, and Grand Fact 1 would not be violated.

Thus Grand Fact 1 and Grand Fact 2 can be reconciled if and only if we accept that Grand Fact 2 only became operable sometime strictly after the creation of Adam.

That is really all there is to the derivation of this solution. The derivation is, logically, very simple.

The result, however, is cognitively a bit of a bear.

The Result

What this solution says is that the world as it was initially created by God did not contain any evidences of pre-Adamic peoples. These evidences were added into the creation sometime following the creation of Adam.

The root concept which underlies this solution is that there can exist effects whose apparent causes were never really operative. For example, this solution says that the remains of houses found in village settings in the lowest Ubaid levels in Southern Mesopotamia dating to the early sixth millennium B.C. are real enough remains. It also says that the impression they give of having been built and occupied by humans eight millennia ago is a valid impression. But it goes on to say that this impression is an impression only and that it does not correspond to factual historical reality. In reality the world was only created (i.e., supernaturally brought into existence out of nothing) in the late sixth millennium B.C., and there can be no real history before Creation.

We are not very familiar with such concepts, so they can appear strange and unthinkable at first. I find it helpful at such times to recall that the universe has been created by an infinite God. One consequence of this fact is that no matter how much we manage to comprehend of God and His great creation with our finite minds, there will always be yet an infinity of unthought truths outside our heads. The folly of attempting to limit reality to the truths we find comfortably familiar is apparent—should the thimble presume to limit the ocean to the few drops it may contain? Rather than shrinking back from the unfamiliar, let us revel in the vastness of God and, as we press forward, look to Him to enlarge our thimbles.

Name Tags

To help us deal with these concepts, and to render them less cumbersome in subsequent discussion, we need to give them some names.

Proleptic time

Joseph Scaliger, the eminent chronological scholar of some four centuries ago, coined the term "proleptic time".[10] The word, proleptic, comes from a Greek root meaning "to take beforehand". Proleptic time, in the sense of Scaliger's usage, is time which is taken (or assumed), in an abstract mathematical sense, before real time begins at Creation.

Scaliger invented proleptic time while faced with a problem similar to our central conundrum. The chronology of dynastic Egypt as it was understood back at that time seemed to extend before the creation of Adam as Biblical chronology was understood at that time. Thus Scaliger seems to have been the first chronologist to have dealt in a scholarly way with secular chronological data which appeared to extend back beyond Creation.

Scaliger's problem was more diffuse than ours. Scaliger was aware—as indeed it has turned out—that the apparent conflict between these two chronologies might result from chronological errors either in his historical chronology of Egypt, which he had deduced from available historical sources, or in his Biblical chronology, which he had deduced from the Biblical chronological data. On the other hand, it was also possible (back at that time) that the conflict was real—that the secular chronology of Egypt really did extend back before Creation. Thus, Scaliger had two potential means by which his problem might ultimately be resolved.

Today the analogous problem, our central conundrum, has only one potential resolution. The first option available to Scaliger—that chronological errors lay at the root of the apparent conflict between his two chronologies—is not available to us today, as I have previously discussed.[11] Our problem is focused to just the latter option—the fact of secular chronologies unambiguously showing the existence of mankind before the creation date of Adam.

In Scaliger's case it made sense to leave the latter option—that the secular chronology of Egypt really did extend back before Creation—in the background as much as possible. Why spend time dealing with abstruse philosophical questions which may vanish once sufficient data have finally been gathered? We are not surprised, therefore, to learn that Scaliger appears never to have engaged the difficult philosophical questions this latter option raises in overt discussion.

In what sense, if any, did he [Scaliger] consider these [pre-Creation] dynasties [of Egypt] to be real? What sort of history could be said to have happened before the Creation?… [Scaliger] never gave a satisfactory answer to the question of whether the dynasties had really existed.[12]

While Scaliger may never have explicitly addressed these questions, I think we may reasonably infer where Scaliger stood in regard to them. I find Scaliger's answers to these questions to be logically implicit within his invention of proleptic time.

Proleptic time was invented for no other reason than that real time—what Scaliger called "historic time"—only originated at Creation. Real time looked to Scaliger as I have drawn in Figure 1a. Creation was an absolute beginning of time to him. Scaliger needed a mathematical device for carrying the time parameter artificially back beyond Creation so he could at least map the remotest dynasties of Egypt (as they were then understood) on a time line for comparison with his Biblical chronology. He invented proleptic time for this purpose. I suggest that proleptic time appeared to Scaliger as I have shown in Figure 1b.

Figure 1: The relationship of Creation and time. (a) Real time begins at Creation. All of real history takes place subsequent to Creation. Prior to Creation neither time nor any physical reality of any sort exists. (b) Proleptic time is a mathematical extrapolation of the time parameter backward through Creation into the timeless void.

It is clear enough that "historic time" had everything to do with real history in Scaliger's mind. Scaliger could easily enough have chosen to label post-Creation time "Mosaic time" or "Hebraic time" or even "Biblical time" if politics or pedantics had motivated his invention of proleptic time. But his choice of "historic time" shows he meant to deliberately distinguish the character of these two types of time on the basis of their historical reality. While the whole character of "historic time" is solid historical reality; the whole character of "proleptic time" is intangible mathematical abstraction.

If it could have been demonstrated to Scaliger that the secular and sacred chronologies he had derived were sufficiently accurate to confidently support the conclusion that the earliest dynasties of Egypt dated earlier than Creation (in actual fact, data which have only come available since Scaliger's time have shown both Scaliger's chronology of Egypt and his chronology of the Bible to be significantly inaccurate, as he was obviously aware was possible) it seems clear enough that he would have judged the earliest dynasties of Egypt—those which fell in proleptic time—not to be real history, no matter how jolting such a conclusion may have appeared to his contemporaries.


It seems proper and fitting to me, in honor of Scaliger, to retain his term "proleptic time" to designate time taken before Creation, in a purely mathematical sense, as Scaliger intended (Figure 1). We stipulate, by the use of this term, that we are not merely referencing another era of real time; we mean fully to convey by this term imaginary time. Proleptic time is the mathematical projection of real historic time back behind Creation. Real historic time only begins at Creation, as the "In the beginning God created" of Genesis 1:1 teaches.

Virtual history

We need one other term in addition to proleptic time. We need a term to designate that sort of "history" which results from effects whose apparent causes were never really operative—the sort of "history" which "took place" in proleptic time, for example.

I suggest we avoid the term "proleptic history". (It appears that Scaliger never used this term.) It would mean "history taken before Creation". While it is clear enough how time might be extended, in a mathematical sense, back behind Creation, it is not at all clear how to extend history mathematically.

I suggest adoption of the term "virtual history".

A "virtual focus" in optics, is a point from which light rays seem to emanate when in fact no light emanates from that point at all (Figure 2). A "virtual image" in optics is an image made up of virtual foci. Light rays appear to emanate from all points of a virtual image, but in actual fact no light emanates from the virtual image at all. When you look at yourself in a mirror you are looking at a virtual image of yourself. Light rays appear to emanate from the other "you" in the mirror, which is why you see "yourself" in there. But in actual fact the light rays which are entering your eyes have emanated from the real you and have merely bounced off the mirror. What you see in the mirror looks real enough—so real, in fact, that it is easy to imagine a whole other world in there, as children frequently do. But the world one sees behind the silvered surface of the mirror is not real at all. There is, in reality, no other "you" behind the mirror looking out at you. Behind the mirror is only solid wall.

Figure 2: Illustrations of virtual foci. (a) Light rays from a point source of light in front of a mirror are reflected by the mirror with the result that they appear to emanate from a virtual focus behind the mirror. (b) Parallel light rays passing through a diverging lens from the left are refracted outward by it on the right with the result that they appear to emanate from a virtual focus to the left of the lens.

Real history is that from which time emanates. Virtual history is that from which time appears to emanate when in fact time does not emanate from it at all.

Principle 1

That is what I mean by the term "virtual history". Now I want to show that virtual history is not just an imaginary concept, invented for the purpose of saving the Bible from some embarrassing physical data from remote antiquity.

Feeding of the five thousand

The Gospel of Mark records this snatch of history:[13]

And He [Jesus] took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves, and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. And there were five thousand men who ate the loaves.

Let us travel back in history in an imaginary time machine to have a good look at those twelve baskets of leftovers. We are aware that a much greater mass of bread and fish has been collected up after the meal than was present in the crowd before the meal. We know that Jesus has done a miracle, somehow creating additional bread and fish from the original, small lunch. We are interested to see what newly created bread and fish look like.

Now I hope you will have no trouble agreeing with me, in this thought experiment, that the newly created bread and fish look very much like the original bread and fish. Indeed, it would be fascinating to study whether the two are distinguishable in any respect at all. But it is not necessary to delve into these physical data that deeply for the present purpose, and I do want to keep this simple.

I am sure you will agree with me at least that all these fragments of bread and fish look like they have been cooked—there is no raw fish or raw bread dough here in these baskets. Let me work from this assumed point of agreement.

Was this newly created bread and fish, which looks cooked, ever, in fact, cooked? Well, no; we know that it wasn't. We know that, in actual historical fact, it was simply created in this cooked state.

You see immediately, then, that these fragments of bread and fish have a virtual history. To say they look like they have been cooked is to say they give evidence of having been subjected to an elevated temperature at some point in the past. But we know, in point of historical fact, that they were not ever subjected to an elevated temperature at all. They were simply created this way.

Thus we see that virtual history is not unique to proleptic time. Virtual history seems to be a general artifact resident within the physical substance produced by creation-type miracles. If we cast our vision backwards through the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand on the basis of the physical substance (i.e., bread and fish) produced by that miracle we do not see real history. We see a virtual history.

I have made this point on the surficial observation that both the bread and fish appear to have been cooked. But I suggest the virtual history of these fragments goes much deeper than that. I suggest that if one probes the newly created fish scientifically, for example, they will discover bones, and muscle, and veins, and biological cells, and even DNA with a whole genetic blueprint of the fish encoded within it. The Bible, after all, is quite clear that it was fish which Jesus created, not a soybean substitute, and fish entails all of these things. And all of this speaks of an elaborate "history". But the "history" it speaks of is one which this newly created fish flesh never actually had. The more versed one is in modern biology the more readily apparent the virtual history inherent within this newly created fish flesh becomes, and the more elaborate it is seen to have necessarily been. But it is unnecessary to press this point further here.

Water into wine

The miracle of the creation of wine from water which is recorded in John 2:1–11 provides another example of virtual history. If we study the wine which Jesus created from water on that occasion we find that it is of highest quality. Note the headwaiter's appraisal, "you have kept the good wine until now". One does not get "good wine" by just squeezing a few grapes. To get "good wine" there needs to be a protracted aging process. The fact that the wine Jesus created was "good wine" means that this wine gave the impression of having been through a lengthy aging process. If you study this wine, as the headwaiter has done with his eyes, nose, and tongue, or however more sophisticated scientific apparatus you may please, I venture to suggest that you will come away with precisely this same impression. It is "good wine" after all, and such is the nature of good wine.

But we know this wine never experienced a lengthy aging process; we know it was created only moments before. The newly created wine, we must conclude, has a virtual history quite apart from its real history.

Man born blind

Here is one more example. The Gospel of John, chapter 9, records another miracle. Here Jesus gave sight to a man who had been born blind. The thing about being born blind is that there is a great deal of learning connected with vision which normally takes place in the earliest months of life after birth, and which seems extremely difficult if not impossible to learn subsequent to that age. For example, when we first open our eyes after birth our brains are confronted with two images of the world, one from each eye. Because our two eyes are not in identically the same place, these two images are not identical. The problem of putting these two different images together into one composite, three-dimensional picture of reality must be worked out by the brain (i.e., learned) very early on, or it is unlikely ever to be learned at all.

Jesus worked a miracle, and this man who had been born blind could see. If we imagine studying this man moments after this miracle, seeking to know what newly imparted sight is like, we do not find him crossing and uncrossing his eyes as he vainly tries to learn how to keep those two images lined up, and as he struggles to unite them into a single composite image. He seems to already know all the things necessary to see. But such knowledge implies a learning experience—a learning experience during infancy. You see then that the physical data—the condition of the man's eyes, optic nerves, and most especially the arrangement of neural connections within the visual regions of his brain, give the impression of one who has been able to see since birth; they fail entirely to show a man born blind who had remained blind until moments before when Someone put clay on his eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. This was a creation-type miracle in which sight was created. The physical substance affected by this creation-type miracle—the restored eyes, optic nerves, and brain cells—exhibit a virtual history distinct from their true history.

Obviously, virtual history is not unique to proleptic time. It seems, rather, to be a general feature of creation-type miracles. Virtual history is what one "sees" looking back through the "lens" (or into the "mirror") called "creation-type supernatural event".

I find, then, this fundamental principle:

Principle 1 Virtual history is an intrinsic artifact of creation-type miracles.

Essentials of Virtual Histories

Notice that the virtual histories in the foregoing examples look real enough. But they are not, in actual historical fact, real at all. We find from these examples that it is possible to trace the emanations of time back from the present towards a historical creation-type supernatural event, just as it is possible to trace rays of light back from our eyes toward a mirror. When we do so, we now realize, we are bound to see something. But just as surely as reality vanishes as soon as we extrapolate those rays back behind the mirror's surface, so reality vanishes when we extrapolate those emanations of time back behind the miracle.

We have not discussed how to predict what a virtual history will look like in any given instance, or even whether it is possible to predict such a thing. But at this point such questions are unimportant. At the present stage the only really important things to observe are that: 1. virtual histories exist, 2. they look real, but 3. they do not correspond to real history at all, and 4. creation-type miracles inevitably give rise to some sort of virtual history.

Virtual Histories Applied

Our new solution to the central conundrum is now, I hope, beginning to look less strange. The Bible teaches us—if we are willing to accept its teaching—that supernatural events do happen in real life, and we find that at least one category of supernatural events, the creation-type category, gives rise to virtual histories. The Creation itself was most certainly a creation-type of supernatural event. We are no longer surprised, then, to find a virtual history for proleptic time within the physical data emanating from the creation period.

The apparent incongruity of Grand Fact 1 and Grand Fact 2 is now easily understood. Both of these Grand Facts are facts, but Grand Fact 1 is a statement about real history, while Grand Fact 2 is a statement about virtual history in proleptic time. Grand Fact 1 is the historical truth; Grand Fact 2 is an artifact of the supernatural character of the origin of the world.

Notice that the three creation-type miracles given as examples above each exhibit seemingly contradictory "Grand Facts" of their own. For the feeding of the five thousand Grand Fact 1 is that the multiplied fish and bread have come into existence only moments before. Grand Fact 2 is that considerable evidence exists within the fish and bread fragments themselves that they were cooked some hours previously. For the water to wine miracle Grand Fact 1 is that the wine has only moments before been created out of water. Grand Fact 2 is that considerable evidence exists within the wine itself that it has undergone a protracted aging process. For the man born blind Grand Fact 1 is that this man was born blind and has only moments before begun to see for the first time in his life. Grand Fact 2 is that considerable evidence exists within the man's visual apparatus that he has been able to see all his life.

In all of these cases these Grand Facts are facts. It is utterly futile to try to deny either of them in any of these instances. Their reconciliation rests in the recognition of the existence and nature of virtual histories. In each case Grand Fact 1 is a statement about real history while Grand Fact 2 is a statement about virtual history. Grand Fact 1 is the historical truth while Grand Fact 2 is an artifact of the creation-type miracle in each instance.

Finally, while it seemed strange to conclude that Grand Fact 2 only became operative after Grand Fact 1, as we deduced above, we now see that there is nothing strange about this at all. The same is true in all three examples of creation-type miracles given above. For the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand the evidence that the fish and bread have been cooked hours previously only arises after the fish and bread have been created. For the miracle of the changing of the water to wine the evidence that the wine has been through a protracted aging process only arises after the wine has been created. For the miracle of giving sight to the man born blind the evidence that he has been able to see all his life only arises after he has been given his sight. It is now obvious enough that this is how it must be. We can now see that this results from the simple fact that virtual histories cannot arise before the supernatural events have occurred which give rise to them.

Unification Achieved

Strictly speaking we are done. Recall that we set out, some months ago, to unify sacred and secular chronologies in the pre-Flood period (i.e., prior to about 3500 B.C.). We observed that there is no apparent point of tension between Biblical and secular chronologies of earth history in the pre-Flood period until one gets back to the creation of Adam. Thus, unification exists back to Creation Week. At that point, however, the central conundrum appears: secular chronology finds mankind in existence many thousands of years before the Biblical date of the creation of Adam. Unification of pre-Flood chronology required that a solution to the central conundrum be found.

A solution to the central conundrum has now been found. The Bible informs us that the creation of Adam is a part of a brief period of history during which the whole of physical reality was created and brought to its present form. This brief period of history is fully characterized by creation-type miracles. Principle 1 informs us that virtual history is an intrinsic artifact of creation-type miracles. Thus, Principle 1 informs us that we will find some sort of virtual history of the world within the physical data of creation as we examine it today. This virtual history will appear to extend back before Adam and back before Creation into the timeless, historyless void of pre-Creation. Thus a historical and chronological conflict between sacred and secular in connection with Adam's creation is anticipated. The central conundrum is merely this anticipated conflict.

We now understand that this conflict is apparent only. We now see that it is entirely permissable, and no real conflict at all, for secular chronology to find mankind in existence many thousands of years before the Biblical date of the creation of Adam, because secular chronology prior to Creation is a chronology of a virtual history in proleptic time only. We now understand that the secular chronologists have been telling us what they see as they peer back through the creation-type miracles responsible for the existence and character of the cosmos we find ourselves in today. Principle 1 tells us that what they will see in this instance is virtual history only. Up until now they have not understood this. They have confused virtual history with true history; they have mistaken the virtual images in the mirror for reality. And, I have no doubt, many will continue to insist, when these things have been pointed out to them, that the virtual history they study is not virtual at all—that it is brute, palpable, reality itself. But the Christian aught not to do so. The one who truly believes the Bible should not suppose that, while the Bible doesn't mention it, Jesus and the disciples must in actual fact have busied themselves cooking all those loaves and fish they fed to the multitude that day—and not only that but cleaning all those fish too, and catching them all, and kneading all that bread dough, and mixing the ingredients for it, and grinding the sacks of grain to make the flour for it, and… The one who truly believes the Bible will rest in what the Bible reveals to be the intrinsic nature of creation-type miracles.

And once they have done so, they will find that the chimera of conflict between Biblical and secular chronologies of cosmic history has vanished.

Said simply, logically accurate thinking within a Biblical framework predicts that an apparent conflict between secular and sacred chronologies of the world will be found prior to the creation period, at the very origin of Biblical chronology. This apparent conflict has now been identified. And what that means is that we are done; unification of sacred and secular chronologies of cosmic history has been achieved.

Curse, Not Creation

Though we are finished, I must not stop at this point, of course. While unification has been achieved, much remains which must yet be said.

I must, for example, immediately clarify that I am not saying that the virtual history in proleptic time which appears today is an artifact of Creation itself. Principle 1 leads us to expect that Creation did have a virtual history. But that virtual history is veiled to our eyes at present. It is veiled because between Creation and the present there sits another creation-type miracle called the Curse, resulting from the Fall. When we look backwards in time we necessarily peer through the lens of the Curse, not the lens of Creation.

The Bible is clear that the whole world was changed as a result of the sin of Adam. The whole character of reality was somehow changed by the Curse, from pleasure and meaning and fulfillment to pain and emptiness and futility. Romans 8:20, in speaking of these things, says "for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it" (NASB). The act of subjecting the universe to futility necessarily involved creation-type miracles. We are given glimpses of this immediately in the account of the Fall and the Curse (Genesis 3). There, for example, we see the restructuring of man's work experience. Now the ground, which had yielded "every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food", brings forth "thorns and thistles" instead. There also, for example, we see the restructuring of woman's child-birth experience, with pain and ambivalence the consequence. As in the case of the man born blind this obviously involved some very basic physiological restructuring.

The universal consequences of the Fall and the Curse are elaborated in the New Testament, especially in contrast to the future state when God will intervene once more to judge and to restore all things. For example, in Romans 8:21–22 we read "that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." This figure of speech, "suffers the pains of childbirth", appears as a direct allusion to God's pronouncement of judgment upon Eve at the Curse mentioned above, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children" (Genesis 3:16; NASB). Thus, by this metaphor, Paul shows that the Curse brought about a restructuring not just of the basic physiology of Eve, but indeed of the basic physics of the whole creation.

We must regard the Curse, then, as a creation-type miracle operative upon the entire cosmos. And in consequence of this, the virtual history of proleptic time which we now see must be regarded as an artifact of the Curse, not of Creation.

Historical Reconstruction

I find, then, the following reconstruction of the history of the creation period (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Time-line showing a reconstruction of the history of the creation period.

The world was supernaturally brought into existence out of nothing by God 5176±26 B.C. and fashioned and furnished by Him through a sequence of miracles over the course of six ordinary days, culminating with the creation of Adam on Day 6. The initially created world was not of the same character as the world we live in today. Sometime subsequent to Creation Week Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Bible does not specify how long after, but one gets the impression of days, weeks, or possibly months. This was the Fall. The result was the Curse, with the subjecting of the whole creation to futility, as we find it to be in actual experience today. The virtual history of proleptic time we see today—including evidences of pre-Adamic man, dinosaurs, exploding stars, concentrations of radioisotopes in rocks, and all the rest—had its origin at that time.

Now I hope you will agree with me that the sequence of events and the timing of them in this reconstruction are certainly not radical departures from traditional thinking. If you research the matter you will find that they are, in fact, pretty much in line with what the early church fathers, for example, believed Genesis meant to communicate.

This is quite remarkable. Having applied all that modern science has to offer by way of technical and factual advancement in the field of chronology we find ourselves, on this whole question of the chronology of earth history, back where Christians were two thousand years ago. All that has been done, really, in delving into this ninth conceptually possible solution of the central conundrum, is to show that the plain, simple, thousands-of-years-only chronology of the past, which the Bible has been communicating to its readers from very ancient times, is every bit as functional in our scientifically advanced and technologically sophisticated world today as it was when it was first written thousands of years ago.

Monogenetic Headship?

I can find only one point where this present solution seems to differ from traditional expectations. The difference is interpretive, not chronological, but it is a difference just the same, and therefore deserving of special scrutiny.

This solution finds other humans besides Adam and Eve in existence at least from the time of the Curse on. This follows logically from the fact that archaeology reveals human remains and artifacts before, during, and after the time of the creation of Adam, and on continuously from there. What one sees in the archaeological record before the Curse we know to be virtual history only, but from the Curse on one is dealing with real history. Thus archaeology reveals other human populations in existence from the time of the Curse on. I have not had opportunity to go back and check traditional thinking on this yet, but certainly it is widespread belief today that the Bible teaches that all of humanity has descended genetically from Adam and Eve.

More important than traditional beliefs on this matter, of course, is what the Bible has to say about it. Having researched this question I must report that I can find, in fact, no solid Biblical footing for the doctrine that Adam and Eve are the genetic heads of humanity. Meanwhile there seem to be several indications embedded within Genesis itself that Adam and Eve were not the only humans to emerge from the creation period. (By "creation period" I mean the Creation, Fall, and Curse inclusive).

Romans 5:12

The Bible definitely does teach a certain unity of mankind under Adam. For example, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). But Adam appears only as a historic representative of mankind in such cases. Genetic headship is never specified.

1 Corinthians 15:39

1 Corinthians 15:39 says, "All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish". A certain unity of mankind is found here as well, but it is not a monogenetic unity either. To read this as a statement of the monogenetic origin of mankind would also demand we accept a monogenetic origin of all birds, and another monogenetic origin of all fish. But such an interpretation seems forbidden not only by the enormous number of species of birds and fishes alive today, but also by what we are explicitly told about their creation in Genesis 1:20. Specifically (NASB), "Then God said, 'Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens'." To instantaneously "teem with swarms" seems to explicitly require a polygenetic origin of the fishes at least.

Acts 17:26

A unity of mankind is again seen in Acts 17:26, "and He made from one [or possibly, 'one blood'], every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth". This appears to be the closest one ever gets to explicit support for the monogenetic origin of mankind in the New Testament. But it too falls short of this mark. If Paul had said, 'He made from one individual' or 'He made from one man, Adam…' the case would be clearly closed. But Paul did not say this, and it is difficult to suppose he ever meant even to imply this.

This passage is taken from Paul's address to the men of Athens. In context, Paul is arguing against their polytheism and pointing them to the one true God through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus. To have introduced the premise of the genetic unity of mankind in Adam into the argument to these Athenians would have served no useful purpose and would only have clouded his message. These listeners were pagans unfamiliar with Adam. The origins of the different stocks of mankind would have been an interesting open question to them. But to get their thinking off into that issue would be to detract from the central issue and the whole purpose of Paul's presentation, which was to show them their individual need of Christ.

In context Paul is arguing, not the genetic unity of mankind as progeny of Adam, but the universal need of mankind for a Savior. I suggest that the unity of mankind which is alluded to here is the same sort as is found in the 1 Corinthians 15:39 passage just discussed above. This is the idea that, though fish come in many different varieties, there is a basic unity among fishes which, for example, sets them completely apart from birds. Though greatly varied, they exhibit a deep unity. They seem, while sporting many unique options and accessories, to nonetheless have all been fashioned from a single basic blueprint. Paul is saying that while there is much variation in physical appearance and cultural behavior among mankind, the fact is that all men are fashioned by God from a single basic blueprint, with the logical inference that men of all nationalities, whether Jews or Greeks, have the same need of a Savior.

Genesis 3:20

One other passage which might be felt to bear explicitly on this matter is Genesis 3:20. It says (NASB), "Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living". This could be interpreted as an explicit statement of the genetic motherhood of Eve (and hence also the genetic fatherhood of Adam) over all mankind.

I find such an interpretation improbable, as I have previously pointed out in another context.[14] The difficulty with this interpretation is that it renders this verse anachronistic. At this point in the narrative, just subsequent to the Curse, Eve was, in point of historical fact, the mother of no one. To interpret this verse as a statement of Eve's universal motherhood over all mankind gives the phrase "because she was the mother of all the living" the character of a scribal gloss, written into the margin of the text as an explanatory note to other scribes while looking back millennia after the events described by the narrative itself had transpired, rather than the character of part of the original narrative. To avoid this apparent anachronism requires the text to say,"because she was to become the mother of all who would live". But the text does not say this. It says she was then, at that point in the narrative, the mother of all who were then, at that point, living.

My training is in physical science, not textual criticism. I am, therefore, not qualified to pass any final judgment on this textual question. So I will simply observe that interpretation of this verse as guaranteeing the monogenetic headship of Adam and Eve seems precarious because: 1. of the apparent anachronism generated in doing so, 2. of the lack of support for such an interpretation elsewhere in Scripture, and 3. of other Scripture passages which seem to show the opposite. It is to this last point that I now turn.

Genesis 4:12–17

There are at least two indications in the Genesis narrative that other stocks of humanity existed besides just Adam and Eve following the Curse. The first is seen with God's punishment of Cain for the murder of Abel, recorded in Genesis 4:12–17.

Cain had been a sedentary farmer, apparently somewhere within the Eden region, though external to the Garden of Eden, as I have previously discussed.[15]. This lifestyle was now forbidden to him: "When you cultivate the ground it shall no longer yield its strength to you". From this point on he was condemned to live as "a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth". This, evidently, meant living outside the Eden region because Cain complained, "from Thy face I shall be hidden" and verse 16 says "Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden." Thus God's judgment entailed disruption of Cain's mode and location of living.

What is interesting in the present context is Cain's response to God. He argues that God's punishment is too severe, that it amounts to being condemned to death. He says, "whoever finds me will kill me". Taken at face value this seems to imply that there were other people at that time living outside the Eden region, hostile to any who might venture into their territory.

This interpretation can be avoided by the assumption that Cain was not referring to other people already outside the Eden region, but to future descendants of Adam who would spread from the Eden region and take vengeance on Cain once they had found him. But this does not fit the context very well. Note that God does not respond to Cain's complaint by pointing out that there were a whole seven continents out there, and countless islands, all uninhabited and waiting to be explored, so Cain would have no trouble keeping ahead of any makeshift posse. God treats the threat to Cain's life from other human beings altogether seriously, going so far as to give him a supernatural sign for his protection. Why should God respond to Cain's complaint in this extraordinary way if all the world outside the Eden region was at that time completely unpopulated?

Furthermore, if Cain was worried merely about vengeance from his relatives, then his complaint that God's judgment was too severe is very curious. If vengeance on Cain by his relatives was Cain's concern, then it was obviously a much bigger concern if he stayed in the Eden region, where they all lived at that time, than if he left. In that case he would be better off to get out of the Eden region and head for the hills. He should not complain "I shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and it will come about that whoever finds me will kill me"; he should rather say, "I quite agree; I really need to get out of here, and the sooner I leave and the further I go the better."

Genesis 6:1–4

Even more forceful to me is the second indication from Genesis that other stocks of humanity existed besides just Adam and Eve following the initial creation period. This indication arises in connection with the "sons of God" found in Genesis 6:1–4. Here we find (NASB):

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. … The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

This passage raises the question of who the "sons of God" were. Two principal theories can be found for this. One is that they were descendents of the supposedly godly line of Seth, chronicled in Genesis 5, who married women from the supposedly ungodly line of Cain detailed in Genesis 4. The other is that they were angels who left the angelic realm and came down to earth to cohabit with the daughters of men. While arguments can be marshaled from Scripture in defense of both theories, the fact that two principal theories continue to exist despite many years of discussion on the matter shows that neither is really satisfactory.

Study of the use of the term "son of God" in the Bible reveals that the term means one who has come directly (first generation) from God by any means. Thus the angels, including the fallen angels and their leader, Satan, are all sons of God by direct creation.[16] Those who have been born again are spiritual sons of God by virtue of the new creation.[17] Jesus is "the only begotten son of God".[18] That is, He is the only one to have come directly from God by means of birth through a woman. And, most importantly for the present question, the Bible calls Adam a son of God—this again by virtue of direct creation.[19]

This Biblical meaning of the term shows clearly that if any other humans had been created subsequent to the creation of Adam, they would also have been sons of God just as Adam was. This, I suggest, is the simple meaning of the reference to sons of God in Genesis 6. The text presumes the reader is aware that Adam and Eve were not the only created humans, and it includes these others in the narrative without apology or ado.

What the text seems to be communicating in this passage is that the crossing of Adam's line with the genetic lines represented by these other created men resulted in hybrid vigor in the children. This, I suggest, is the simple explanation of the "mighty men" and "men of renown" which resulted from these marriages. By way of contrast, it is very difficult to see why the crossing of Cain's and Seth's lines should yield "mighty men" and "men of renown" as a unique, noteworthy result; and very nearly impossible to see how the imagined physical interbreeding of angels and humans could give rise to any offspring at all, let alone offspring one might call "men". Notice that it is an experimental fact that when one manages to overcome the significant barriers to the interbreeding of two species even as closely similar as the lion and the tiger, the resulting offspring are neither lions nor tigers.


The monogenetic headship of Adam and Eve over all mankind is deeply embedded doctrine today. It therefore seems surprising to find this doctrine challenged by this new chronological unification. But when one actually appraises the Biblical data bearing on this question one finds that perhaps the plain sense of the archaeological data is not so surprising after all. I am reminded that it was once also deeply embedded doctrine that the orbits of the planets should be perfect circles, that the surface of the moon should be a perfectly smooth sphere, and that all heavenly bodies should orbit the earth.

Philip Henry Gosse

This new unification raises many other questions—as is normal for new paradigms. I do not yet have answers for them all, of course. But I know of no question which this unification raises which poses any serious challenge to its validity.

The closest theory I have seen to this present unification is one originally propounded by Philip Henry Gosse in his book, Omphalos, published in 1857.[20] Gosse is very clear that he regarded Creation as real and as an absolute starting point, before which there was neither history nor time. Gosse was a zoologist of considerable stature in his day, and the arguments of his book draw heavily from his careful observations in that field. He was keenly aware, from his studies, that a newly created organism would necessarily bear many evidences of having existed prior to its creation. This led Gosse to differentiate between prochronic developments, ("because time was not an element in them"), and diachronic developments ("as occurring during time") in newly created organisms.[21] Prochronic and diachronic developments are simply expressions of virtual and real history specific to the biological realm.

Gosse also separated between ideal time and actual time. These are parallel to Scaliger's proleptic time and historical time, with the distinction that Gosse, not being a chronologist, left the question of the actual date of Creation open. I think it would be quite inaccurate to suggest Gosse left this question open out of any personal ambivalence regarding it. Every indication is that he personally held to the plain sense of Biblical chronology and that he believed that Creation had happened roughly six thousand years ago, as was common for devout individuals of that day tutored in Ussher's chronology. But he was not trying to prove that one must accept a six thousand year real history of the world—an effort which would have taken him very wide of his field. He was trying to show that if one accepts the fact of Creation, one automatically gets "prochronisms"—which he demonstrated with an exhaustive thoroughness from his field. Gosse hoped to make the point, by analogy with his observations from zoology, that it is a logical error to conclude the Biblical date of Creation falsified by physical data appearing to show a great antiquity for the world.

I wish to be distinctly understood that I am not proving the exact or approximate antiquity of the globe we inhabit. I am not attempting to show that it has existed for no more than six thousand years. I wish this to be distinctly stated, because I am sure I shall meet with many opponents unfair enough, or illogical enough, to misrepresent or misunderstand my argument, and sound the trumpet of victory, because I cannot demonstrate that. All I set myself to do, is to invalidate the testimony of the witness relied on for the indefinitely remote antiquity [of the world]; to show that in a very large and important field of nature [i.e., zoology], evidence exactly analogous to that relied on [for demonstrating a remote antiquity of the world] would inevitably lead to a false conclusion,…[22]

I hope I have been perfectly clear in my presentation that I do not leave the date of Creation open. While Gosse was not a chronologist, I am. While Gosse only aspired to defend Biblical chronology from an overhasty and undeserved condemnation which had arisen as a side effect of secular chronology, I aspire to unify Biblical and secular chronologies into a single, harmonious whole. While a lack of chronological precision and definition was not detrimental to Gosse's purpose, it is inimical to mine. The date of Creation can be determined using the normal tools and methods of the chronologist's discipline just as surely as the date of any other historical event can be determined. The dividing line between proleptic time and real time is the Creation event recorded in the Bible. The Bible provides a chronology of history back to and including that event. According to modern Biblical chronology Creation happened 5176±26 B.C. Prior to 5176±26 B.C. is proleptic time only. From 5176±26 B.C. to the present is real time. Proleptic time exhibits virtual history only. Real history begins with Creation at 5176±26 B.C.

Creation versus Curse

Gosse and I differ on one other point as well. Omphalos leaves its reader with the impression that the virtual history of proleptic time we see today is a direct consequence of Creation itself. I have tried to be careful to show that this is not the case. To be logically consistent one must attach this virtual history not to the Creation but to the Fall and the Curse. This is an important distinction with a number of significant consequences. It seems important to highlight a single theological consequence here.

To assign the virtual history in proleptic time which we now see to the Creation implies, for example, that God created most of the fossils of the earth which we see today sometime during Creation Week. Since all the work of Creation Week was seen to be "very good" by God[23] this would mean that the fossils were also "very good". But this immediately presents a theological difficulty. The main thing fossils speak of is death. Fossils result from death, and frequently they show unpleasant deaths. For example, fossils have been found of fish with other fish in their stomachs. Could all of this have been created by God during Creation Week, and all deemed "very good"?

But it is not just fish we must contend with here. There are also human remains, recovered from deliberate burials, also found within the virtual history of proleptic time. Indeed, that is part of the very evidence which led us to identify virtual history and proleptic time in the first place. We saw above that this sort of evidence could not have existed prior to the creation of Adam, because the Bible teaches us that Adam was the first man ever to have existed. But even if we suppose that this evidence was created by God late on Day Six, after Adam had been created, then it still would fall under God's "very good" assessment. Could evidence of human death, even of young people and infants, be a feature of Creation's virtual history and all of Creation still be deemed "very good" by God?

The whole character of the virtual history of proleptic time which we see today is one of death, and horror, and pain, and futility. We learn from the Bible that these are not native to Creation; rather they are the consequences of sin.[24] It does not seem theologically possible that even virtual history could have displayed the character it does today prior to the entrance of sin into the world at the Fall. Death, and horror, and pain, and futility are the fruits of Satan's work, not God's work. Yet if one assigns the virtual history of proleptic time which we now see to Creation, one necessarily implies that these are fruits of God's work.

Obviously, this is an important distinction. Clearly, it is important that Principle 1 be applied in a logically consistent fashion. Since virtual histories result from all creation-type miracles, the virtual history of proleptic time which we see today is necessarily an artifact of the Fall and the Curse, not of Creation. In this matter Gosse's thesis differs substantially from mine.


Gosse's theory has been frequently criticized for its objectionable theological implications. I suppose it is overly sanguine to hope I shall be entirely spared condemnation for Gosse's oversight by critics of my thesis. But thoughtful readers will see that there is a substantial difference between our two theories, so that the old theological arguments against Gosse's thesis cannot logically be trotted out against mine. This unification of sacred and secular chronologies is not just another presentation of the "Creation with appearance of age" idea. It is, rather, a new idea which I should label, if anything, "Curse with investiture of futility". Let it not be libeled that I am promoting the concept that God put fossils in the rocks to fool fools. Please notice that the Fall was the Serpent's victory and the Curse his spoil, not God's. The only one in the business of fooling fools is the Serpent.

Implications

There are three implications of this chronological unification which seem to me to warrant explicit mention before I bring this article to a close.

The first is that efforts to prove a seven thousand year old earth and cosmos from the physical data are now seen to be seriously inappropriate. They amount to trying to prove that the fish Jesus fed to the five thousand were born, grown, caught, cleaned, and cooked all in the few moments before the meal began. Will the Master be honored by disciples so engaged?

The second is that efforts to stretch Creation Week out over long geologic ages (e.g., day-age theories) are also seen to be seriously inappropriate. They are, in final logical analysis, simply a denial of supernatural Creation. They amount to trying to prove that the fish Jesus fed to the five thousand were born, grown, caught, cleaned, and cooked over the natural time span common to all fish that have ever been born, grown, caught, cleaned, and cooked, in full agreement with the physical data from the fish fragments. Real creation-type miracles, we have seen, have a virtual history. If the geologic ages are not the virtual history resulting from the creation period, then what is the virtual history from that period? Failure to find a virtual history resulting from the creation period is just another way of saying that no creation-type miracle occurred in connection with Creation. And that is just a way of saying that Creation was a natural phenomenon rather than a supernatural one. Will the Creator—He who "spoke, and it was done"[25]—be honored by such a recasting of His work of Creation?

Third and final, Christians need to stop squandering time and energy deriding evolution. The Bible says evolution didn't happen, not that it couldn't happen. The Bible says "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"[26], not "In the beginning God evolved the heavens and the earth". So the fact that we got here by supernatural Creation is plain and settled. But evolution is still a perfectly legitimate scientific hypothesis of virtual history in proleptic time. Now please note that I did not say amoeba to man evolution is what virtual history shows. In point of fact I seriously doubt that amoeba to man evolution is what virtual history actually shows. I am trying to convey that the truly fascinating question now is what it is that virtual history really does show, in sharp contrast to the purely negative exercise of trying to prove that the data of virtual history do not show evolution.

The linchpin of evolution has been the belief that Biblical chronology and Biblical history have been falsified. That is, the linchpin of evolution has been the belief that supernatural Creation has been shown to be false. This has seemed to leave naturalism in possession of the entire playing field. As long as naturalism has had possession of the entire field, evolution has necessarily been the only game allowed. But we now understand that Biblical chronology and Biblical history have not been falsified. The linchpin of evolution has, in fact (whether any evolutionists ever admit it or not), been pulled. That being the case, Christians need to get involved in the exploration of virtual history in a positive way, formulating and testing other hypotheses of organic relationships in virtual history. They are the right ones to do this work; they are the ones whose eyes are now wide open.

Real history, the Bible informs us, is a mixture of natural and supernatural events. It would, therefore, not be surprising to find that virtual history was also such a mixture. Perhaps this is the true lesson to be learned from the systematic absence of transitional forms between fossil kinds. Perhaps this is the true lesson to be learned from the complete failure of modern science to demonstrate a naturalistic origin of the living cell. The field is wide open. It is time to stop the negative exercise of beating up on evolution. It is time for the positive exercise of finding out the truth about virtual history to begin.

Conclusion

Creation lies at the root of all of physical reality. It is, therefore, not possible, in any brief space, to introduce a theory for the unification of sacred and secular chronologies back into the dawn of Creation which covers all contingencies. Still, I hope that sufficient breadth has been achieved in these few pages to give an accurate impression of what this new unification looks like, the foundation upon which it stands, and some of the potential it seems at present to hold.

In closing it seems appropriate to simply recap the thread of the argument leading to this long-sought unification of sacred and secular chronologies in the pre-Flood period.

  1. If one believes in creation-type miracles, one automatically believes in the existence of virtual histories, whether one knows it or not. Virtual histories are logical imperatives of creation-type miracles.

  2. Thus, if one believes the world came into existence through supernatural Creation, as the Bible teaches, then they believe the whole cosmos has a virtual history.

  3. To say the whole cosmos has a virtual history is to say the whole cosmos gives the appearance of having existed prior to Creation in proleptic time.

  4. Therefore, belief in Biblical Creation logically carries with it a prediction that secular chronology and secular "history" will appear to extend back beyond the Biblical date of Creation (5176±26 B.C. according to modern analysis) into proleptic time.

  5. Unification of sacred and secular chronologies is achieved by simply identifying modern secular chronology prior to the Biblical date of Creation with this predicted chronology of virtual history in proleptic time.

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical chronology in an easily understood manner.

An introductory packet containing three sample issues and a subscription order form is available for $9.95 US regardless of destination address. Send check or money order in US funds and request the "Intro Pack."

The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Copyright © 1999 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  The previous four articles were: Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 1–10; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part II," The Biblical Chronologist 4.5 (September/October 1998): 1–10; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part III," The Biblical Chronologist 4.6 (November/December 1998): 1–16; and Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part IV," The Biblical Chronologist 5.1 (January/February 1999): 1–10.

  2. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993); Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 1–10.

  3. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 10.

  4. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part II," The Biblical Chronologist 4.5 (September/October 1998): 1–10.

  5. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part II," The Biblical Chronologist 4.5 (September/October 1998): 1–10; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part III," The Biblical Chronologist 4.6 (September/October 1998): 1–16; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part IV," The Biblical Chronologist 5.1 (January/February 1999): 1–10.

  6. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 3.

  7. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part IV," The Biblical Chronologist 5.1 (January/February 1999): 1–10.

  8. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part II," The Biblical Chronologist 4.5 (September/October 1998): 9.

  9. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 8–10.

  10. ^  Anthony T. Grafton, "Joseph Scaliger and Historical Chronology: The Rise and Fall of a Discipline," History and Theory 14.2 (1975): 156–185.

  11. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part III," The Biblical Chronologist 4.6 (November/December 1998): 1–16; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part IV," The Biblical Chronologist 5.1 (January/February 1999): 1–10.

  12. ^  Anthony T. Grafton, "Joseph Scaliger and Historical Chronology: The Rise and Fall of a Discipline," History and Theory 14.2 (1975): 173.

  13. ^  Mark 6:41–44; NASB.

  14. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part II," The Biblical Chronologist 4.5 (September/October 1998): 5.

  15. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Location of Eden," The Biblical Chronologist 4.3 (May/June 1998): 1–5.

  16. ^  Job 1:6; Job 38:7.

  17. ^  2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10; John 1:12; Romans 8:14; 1 John 3:1.

  18. ^  John 3:16,18.

  19. ^  Luke 3:38.

  20. ^  Philip Henry Gosse, Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot (London: John Van Voorst, 1857).

  21. ^  Philip Henry Gosse, Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot (London: John Van Voorst, 1857), 125.

  22. ^  Philip Henry Gosse, Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot (London: John Van Voorst, 1857), 339–340.

  23. ^  Genesis 1:31.

  24. ^  Romans 5:12.

  25. ^  Psalm 33:6, 9 (NASB).

  26. ^  Genesis 1:1.


Volume 5, Number 3May/June 1999

Noah's Flood: The Irish Evidence

Miles of stone walls are found in Ireland—a common enough observation perhaps, but the stone walls I am referring to are far from common. They are so unusual, in fact, that a $3 million tourist center has been built to show them off.

North Mayo, Ireland, where the walls are found, is bog country. The entire countryside is blanketed by bog-peat, more than twelve feet thick in places. The stone walls are found under the bog. They are built on the mineral soil that underlies the blanket peat.

The walls enclose fields—some 4,500 acres of fields. They're called "Céide Fields" (pronounced kay'jeh) today.

There can be no doubt about the original purpose of these fields. They were obviously used for agriculture—ridge and furrow plow marks can still be found in their mineral soil in some places today when the overlying peat has been cleared away.

These walled fields obviously went out of service a long time ago. Pine tree stumps are found today in growth position within the peat overlying them. The stumps have been preserved by the "pickling juice" of the bog in which they grew and which grew around them. In some cases the stumps are found in growth position immediately above a stone wall. Some of these stumps reveal more than 100 growth rings. Thus, simple dendrochronological considerations—in particular, the number of tree-rings found in a given stump—show that the stone walls which lie under the stumps must have gone out of service at least a century ago.

But stratigraphical considerations suggest that a single century is a serious underestimate of the age of these walls. The picture which emerges from the thick bog-peat containing preserved pine stumps within it is that this countryside went from 1. agricultural fields to 2. bog with pine forest to 3. just plain bog—as it is found today. And all of this change must have taken many centuries, at least.

But archaeological investigation suggests that these walls are older even than many centuries. It reveals that they go back to a time, labeled the Irish Neolithic by the archaeologists, when the farmers who worked the land lacked the advantage of metals—they made their tools entirely of chipped stone, bone, and wood. Axeheads fashioned from igneous rock have been found in association with these stone walls, and flint arrowheads (Figure 1), and flint scrapers, but never any metals.

Figure 1: Typical tools of the Irish Neolithic: hafted stone axehead and arrowhead. [See Michael Herity and George Eogan, Ireland in Prehistory (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977), 41 for original credits.]

And these farmers built massive tombs of huge stones—megalithic tombs, they're called—in which to dispose of their dead, remnants of which still dot the Irish countryside today. Such artifacts reach back into the distant prehistory of Ireland. Archaeology suggests that the age of these walls should be measured, not in centuries, but rather in millennia.


Many fascinating questions arise in connection with these ancient walls and tombs. Who were the people who built them? Where had they come from? How did they live?

But there is one mystery in connection with these walls which overshadows all others. What happened to the people who built these stone walls and these megalithic tombs?

Like the streets of Pompeii beneath their blanket of ash, the ancient agricultural landscape of Céide Fields lies preserved beneath a blanket of peat. But, unlike Pompeii—the fossilized forms of whose inhabitants can still be recovered from its blanket of ash today—the inhabitants of Céide Fields are entirely missing. Where did they disappear to? How did they come to leave their busy fields and beloved cemeteries—their homeland—to the creeping depredations of desolate bog and silent pine forest?

Archaeologists have been probing these ancient fields, asking these same questions for some decades now. They talk about the "abandonment" of Céide Fields, and speculate on what prompted it. But though they have wrestled skillfully with this ancient mystery, they are still quite a long ways from its correct solution.

Some have suggested that the climate may have changed, forcing the occupants to leave. Maybe it just got too wet, encouraging rapid bog growth and making the land just too difficult to farm.

Others have supposed that loss of soil fertility was the culprit. They point out that the clearing of the original forests for agricultural purposes would have exposed the soil directly to the abundant rainfall in that region. Perhaps this led to a leaching away of soil nutrients.

Or maybe the farmers allowed their cattle to overgraze the land, robbing it of grass cover and inviting the formation of peat from mosses, and hence turning pasture to bog.

These are all interesting suggestions. But they are also all wrong. I know they are wrong because the correct solution "falls out" of modern Biblical chronology. Yes, the correct answer is to be found, not by further probing of the ancient bog of North Mayo, Ireland, but by probing the ancient pages of the Bible. The mystery of the disappearance of the ancient farmers of Céide Fields is there revealed in the most simple, plain terms possible. Céide Fields was not "abandoned". It was depopulated. It's inhabitants were swept away by Noah's Flood.

Review

Over the past several years we have, in The Biblical Chronologist, come to understand the nature of Noah's Flood. Foundational to this knowledge is the important fact of when this historical event took place. Modern results within the field of Biblical chronology inform us that the Flood happened 3520±21 B.C.[1]

Working from this key fact we have found that the Flood was neither local nor global. We have found that the geographical extent of the Flood waters was hemispherical, covering the northern hemisphere of the globe. We have been able to infer a physical mechanism explaining how God brought the Flood about, involving displacement of the inner core of the earth.[2]

I have called the conception of the nature of the Flood which has emerged from our study of the Bible and the data of science over the past several years the "hemispherical Flood model". We have seen this scientific model of the Flood confirmed repeatedly by actual field data. We have seen it confirmed in the ice sheets of the polar regions.[3] We have seen it confirmed by the basic field data of zoogeography.[4] We have seen it confirmed by sedimentary data from Elk Lake, Minnesota.[5] And we have seen it confirmed by archaeological data from Israel.[6]

A simple, yet far-reaching prediction of this model is that human cultures were abruptly terminated approximately 3500 B.C. wherever the waters of the Flood reached sufficient depth. This includes most of the northern hemisphere.

This prediction means that, whenever the secular archaeologists have achieved sufficient detail in their archaeological reconstructions, and the secular chronologists have achieved sufficient precision in their chronologies [and this may take a few decades yet in many areas], an abrupt termination of human culture will be found to exist synchronously near 3500 B.C. in all local and regional archaeological chronologies over most of the northern hemisphere.

We have already seen an isolated instance of the success of this prediction in the archaeology of modern Israel. There we found that the Chalcolithic people of Palestine—artistic, accomplished in the casting of copper, a people widespread all through Palestine and surrounding regions—suddenly, within secular dating uncertainties of 3500 B.C., all "disappeared from the stage of human history"[7] never to be seen or heard from again.[8]

But is this possibly just a lucky (or, perhaps, unlucky) coincidence? Can the abrupt termination of an entire culture and the disappearance of its people from the stage of history be replicated in another geographical region far removed from Palestine? To answer this question I focused my research over the past few months on Céide Fields, Ireland.

Céide Fields, Ireland

The hemispherical Flood model predicts abrupt termination of human culture wherever the water of the Flood was deep enough, and it specifies that this termination will be found within secular dating uncertainties of 3520±21 B.C. To test this prediction in Ireland two questions must be answered: 1. Was the Flood deep enough in Ireland to terminate human civilization there?, and 2. Is an abrupt termination of human culture seen in the archaeology of ancient Ireland near 3500 B.C.?

The Depth

Figure 2 shows the depth of the Flood versus time over North Mayo, Ireland, as specified by the hemispherical Flood model. This graph shows that the Flood achieved a depth of roughly two and a half miles over North Mayo, and that it maintained that depth for five months. This would clearly be disruptive of any human culture in North Mayo.

Figure 2: Approximate depth of water in thousands of feet over North Mayo, Ireland versus time after the initiation of the Flood.

There are some uncertainties in this calculation at present, because of uncertainties which yet remain with some parameters of the hemispherical Flood model. For example, this calculation assumes the Kara Sea (63° E, 72° N) as impact center, as I have consistently assumed previously.[9] This is only my best guesstimate for the impact center at present; the true impact center may turn out to be located elsewhere in the high north.

But all such uncertainties have only a relatively minor impact on Figure 2. No matter what combination of values one chooses for parameters from the reasonable range of these uncertainties one gets the same result—an unequivocal prediction that any human culture in Ireland would certainly have been terminated by the Flood.[10]

Abrupt Termination

One might think that the second question above (i.e., is an abrupt termination of human culture seen in the archaeology of ancient Ireland near 3500 B.C.?) would be easily answered by looking up the secular chronology of ancient Ireland in a textbook of some sort to see if there is a discontinuity of culture near 3500 B.C. Unfortunately, life is not so simple. The chronology of Ireland at the remote date of 3500 B.C., as with nearly all secular ancient chronologies today, is far from certain. Errors of half a millennium or more are not unthinkable at such a remote date.

It is important to understand that secular chronologies of the ancient past have generally evolved to their present forms. Their basic structures were often formulated long before radiocarbon came on the scene, which means they were often based more on the scholars' subjective impressions than on any solid physical measurements. These pre-scientific chronologies are often deeply entrenched and yield slowly to the (sometimes startling) readjustments called for by quantitative radiocarbon measurements.

In addition to this lack of quantitative precision inherited from the past, there is also a fairly ubiquitous inherited ideological bias in modern chronologies of the ancient world. The basic interpretive paradigm within which most scholars have worked over the past century has been evolution. This has predisposed scholars to favor gradualism, progress, and continuity in their interpretations of the past. They have been, and to a large measure remain, all but blind to the evidences of profound discontinuity their data display—the Flood itself being "Exhibit A" in this regard.

It is, for these reasons, necessary to adopt a deliberately empirical approach when evaluating whether an abrupt termination of human culture is seen in the archaeology of any culture near 3500 B.C. We do not wish to know what the scholars have been taught on the matter; we wish rather to learn what the field data have to say about it.

This leads to the following procedure. We first ask whether there is any field evidence of abrupt termination of human culture. We then apply physical dating techniques to this field evidence to see if the discontinuity dates to 3500 B.C.

I am far from an expert in the archaeology of Ireland—I am a chronologist, not an archaeologist. But the thousands of acres of peat-covered agricultural fields in North Mayo are rather obvious evidence of some sort of abrupt termination of human occupation in Ireland, even for the amateur. Field evidence of abrupt termination seems absent at other periods within the archaeological record of Ireland. It appears that the "abandonment" of Céide Fields is the only archaeological field evidence from Ireland presently known which is of interest to the present study.

The Date

We must now ask whether these agricultural fields went out of service within secular dating uncertainties of 3520±21 B.C., the date of Noah's Flood given us by modern Biblical chronology. To draw a cause and effect relationship between Noah's Flood and the "abandonment" of Céide Fields requires that these two events be synchronous in time.

It is one thing to realize that these fields must be thousands of years old, as I have pointed out in the introduction, and quite another to say exactly how many thousand years old. To obtain a reasonably precise date we will obviously need to make use of radiocarbon. Radiocarbon is, in fact, the only physical dating method applicable to this specific problem at present.

It is clear enough what we want to date. Stratigraphically speaking, we want to date the interface between the mineral soil of these ancient fields and the overlying peat. The peat obviously only began to cover the fields after the farmers had ceased to work them.

Unfortunately, one cannot date an interface with radiocarbon. Radiocarbon can only date organic (once living) samples. There are only two things which radiocarbon can date in the present case: 1. the peat lying above the mineral soil, and 2. the pine stumps preserved within the peat. Note that in either case we will not get the date of the interface (i.e., the date of the Flood). Rather, we will get the date when the plants represented by the peat and the stumps grew.

It might be thought that the peat is the preferred material for radiocarbon dating in the present case. Peat is made up of the dead remains of plants that once grew in a bog. By dating the lowest lying peat—that which is found right against the mineral soil—one might hope to get a date very close to the time when the fields went out of use and the bog began to grow over them.

Unfortunately, peat poses several dating difficulties. First, it is easily subject to contamination, making it a difficult material in general to get reliable absolute radiocarbon dates from. Efforts to increase the reliability of peat dates by improved methods of chemical pretreatment of peat samples to remove contaminants have been underway for decades and continue to the present time.[11]

Second, in our specific case it is impossible to guarantee that peat found immediately above the mineral soil actually grew there. The Flood obviously had potential to pick up older, pre-Flood peat, native to this whole region, and deposit it on these fields. Thus, the peat immediately above the mineral soil in any given sample column may actually be pre-Flood in origin.

Finally, it is equally impossible to guarantee that peat found immediately above the mineral soil actually began to grow there immediately following the Flood. Peat demands a high water table for its accumulation. It is doubtful that this condition was achieved everywhere synchronously over Céide Fields immediately following the Flood. It seems likely that low pockets would go over to bog more quickly than higher elevations, for example. The actual time lapse between the Flood and the initiation of peat growth at any specific location cannot be specified up front.

These difficulties do not eliminate peat from interest. They merely mean that deducing a precise date for when these fields went out of service is more complex than one might at first suppose. Certainly more is involved than just radiocarbon dating a single, randomly chosen peat sample from immediately above the mineral soil and seeing what you get.

The other possible sample material in the present case is wood from the tree stumps preserved within the peat. Wood has long been a preferred material for radiocarbon dating. It is not subject to the contamination problems which plague peat. Reliable, reproducible radiocarbon dates are routinely obtained from wood. Another advantage of the tree stumps over the peat in the present case is that they are found rooted in the bog in position of growth. This guarantees that they only began to grow after the fields had gone out of use.

The difficulty with the stumps is that we have no way of knowing how long after the fields had gone out of service they began to grow. This problem is even more serious with the stumps than it is with the peat because many of the trees are found to be growing above a considerable thickness of peat. Obviously, even many centuries could be involved. With nobody there to tend the fields any longer after the Flood, Céide Fields would be expected to overgrow first with weeds, then with brush, and eventually pine. The length of time required for pine to move into the region cannot be specified.

Dating precisely when these ancient fields went out of use is obviously not a trivial exercise. Neither the peat nor the pine stumps provide an ideal sample for addressing this question. But, though there are hurdles to be cleared, not all is lost by any means.

We are asking only, "Did these fields cease to be used 3520±21 B.C.?" Notice, first of all, that the answer to this question will be a definite "no" if these tree stumps date to any time prior to 3520±21 B.C. The trees which grew above the fields must date after the fields went out of service. If the stumps date before 3520±21 B.C. then we know that the fields went out of service before that date. In that case the Flood has nothing to do with the "abandonment" of Céide Fields. Thus, radiocarbon dates on these stumps, while not ideally suited to our purpose, obviously have something significant to say about the matter just the same.

But their potential contribution hardly stops there. In the event the stumps date after 3520±21 B.C., and thus do not falsify a Flood connection, they provide us with a means of determining the latest possible date the fields could have been in use. If this turns out to be 1000 or 2000 B.C., we will need to grant the possibility that the "abandonment" of Céide Fields may have taken place long after the Flood and may, therefore, have nothing to do with the Flood. We will need to search further in that case, asking, for example, what additional light peat dates might shed on the matter. But if these stumps date to just a few centuries following 3500 B.C. then we will know that Céide Fields was overgrown with pine trees within a few centuries of the Flood. In that case it will be difficult to avoid the conclusion that the "abandonment" of Céide Fields was a result of the Flood.

The Data

Figure 3 shows radiocarbon dates from forty pine stumps found preserved within the blanket peat of Céide Fields.[12] Each (often broken) vertical black bar indicates the interval(s) in which the true calendar date of the sample is most likely to lie (i.e., when the wood sample being dated most likely grew). Radiocarbon does not furnish a single date for a sample. Rather, it gives a probability distribution describing the relative probability the sample originates in a given time interval. The probability is roughly two-thirds that the true date of the sample falls somewhere in the black barred region(s).

Figure 3: Radiocarbon dates on tree stumps from Céide Fields relative to two key Biblical events.

What is immediately striking about Figure 3 is that all but one of these stumps date after the Flood, and many date relatively soon after the Flood. (The one older, pre-Flood date, we may assume, reflects a tree which grew before Céide Fields was ever cleared. Its stump was preserved because it was already covered up by bog in some small hollow before the arrival of the pre-Flood Irish settlers.) A cause-and-effect relationship between the Flood and the incursion of these trees is hardly farfetched.

Figure 3 shows that trees were well established over Céide Fields by 3200 B.C. at the latest. This is consistent with the view that these fields ceased to be used because the region was depopulated by the Great Flood 3520±21 B.C. Figure 3 also shows an absence of dates in the centuries immediately prior to 3500 B.C. This is consistent with the view that these ancient fields were worked (and hence kept free of trees) for some centuries up until the time of the Flood. In summary, Figure 3 shows that by 3200 B.C. Céide Fields wore a veneer of blanket peat and pine trees over fields which had been cultivated for agricultural purposes a mere three centuries previously.

Conclusion

On the basis of these radiocarbon dates the original researchers, S. Caulfield et al., concluded:[13]

At the latest, blanket bog was widespread in North Mayo by 4500 BP [3265 B.C.]. Indeed, it is reasonable to suggest that it was widespread some 500 years earlier, given the depth of peat beneath some of the pine stumps…
Thus, these researchers conclude that the initiation of blanket peat over Céide Fields should date somewhere between the extremes of 3765 B.C. and 3265 B.C. This range can be written in our usual (3σ) notation as 3515±250 B.C. This secular date for the initiation of blanket peat over Céide Fields is indistinguishable from the Biblical date of the Flood, 3520±21 B.C.

It would surely be a large coincidence if the only obvious termination of human civilization in the many thousands of years of Irish history and prehistory happened so indistinguishably close to the Biblical date of the Flood, and yet had nothing whatsoever to do with the Flood.


Is the sudden termination of human culture seen at the close of the Chalcolithic in Israel 3500 B.C. an isolated coincidence? Evidently not. Céide Fields is an archaeological example of the impact of the Flood unrelated to the traditional "Biblical lands". It shows that pre-Flood civilization had spread far beyond Mesopotamia and Palestine by the time of the Flood. And it shows that the Flood itself can no longer be confined to just the pages of Scripture. At Céide Fields the Flood of Noah bursts out upon secular archaeology. ◇[14]

Research in Progress

Search for Noah's Ark

Figure 4: Is this Noah's ark?

The March/April 1997 issue of The Biblical Chronologist reported on a search I conducted to find the most likely mountain Noah's ark landed on within the geographical region known anciently as Ararat.[15] I programmed my computer to choose the best candidate for the mountain the ark landed on from 1441 elevations in and around the Ararat region, recorded on modern Tactical Pilotage Charts. Each elevation was evaluated quantitatively relative to seven criteria deduced from the Biblical narrative of the Flood. I found that the landing site favored by tradition, Mt. Ararat, was the second most likely mountain for the resting place of the ark. The first most likely mountain was found to be Mt. Cilo, a previously unknown and unsung (in the present context) mountain in the mountainous region to the southeast of Lake Van (Figure 5). My computer search found that Mt. Cilo was sixty-two times more likely than Mt. Ararat to be the mountain the ark landed on.

Figure 5: Map of Ararat region and its surroundings showing the location of Mount Cilo.

In the conclusion to that article I wrote:[16]

I am caused to wonder, of course, whether the ark might possibly be discovered one day on Mount Cilo.
The present report describes work which has been carried out over the past few years and is currently under way to search Mount Cilo for remains of the ark.

Preservation of the Ark

The idea that a wooden vessel might be preserved in recognizable form after 5500 years may seem a little far-fetched at first. But it really isn't—not at such high altitudes. If the ark had landed in a tropical rainforest we could not hold out much hope of any of it surviving to the present time, of course. It would have rotted away long ago. But the summit of Mount Cilo, at an altitude 13,566 feet (over two and a half miles) above sea level, is not tropical rainforest by any means. The most conspicuous landmarks around Mount Cilo are permanent glaciers, not forests.

Wood can be preserved for a very long time at high altitudes. Bristlecone pine wood has been found preserved on the surface of the ground for more than 10,000 years at altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet in the White Mountains of California.[17] The only way to know whether the ark has been preserved on Mount Cilo is to search the mountain to see if it is there.

Need of the Search

It was clear, following my computer search for the correct mountain back in early 1997, that a search for the ark on Mount Cilo should be initiated. The primary reason for this has to do simply with truth. Western culture is caught in the grips of a great lie at present, which has been working for some decades to sever Western culture from its roots. The lie is that the Biblical account of remotest history—Creation, Fall, the Flood, the Exodus, the Conquest—is all a fabrication. The result of this lie is that the Bible seems increasingly unrelated to real life today, to scholar and layperson alike. This lie is strongly entrenched at present. A discovery as dramatic as the ark seems necessary to expose and rout it.

There are other reasons as well, of course, such as the illumination of Biblical history and archaeology of the first half of the fourth millennium B.C. such a discovery would occasion. What construction techniques were used in building the ark? How was space alloted within the vessel? What provision was made for lighting the three levels? How were the animals caged? What types of seed grains and other foods were on board? How was the need of fresh water provided for? What household and other artifacts might yet be found on board? A rare window would obviously be opened into life as it was lived 5500 years ago by discovery of the ark.

The Problem of Means

Though the need was abundantly clear, the means of initiating such a search were not. To bring this into proper focus I must explain that The Biblical Chronologist is, quite deliberately, not the product of a large organization. It has no denominational backing, no technical advisory board, nor even any board of trustees behind it. I deliberately research, write, and publish The Biblical Chronologist by myself with no staff whatsoever.

My reason for this is simply that it appears to be the only way the research at the interface of science and the Bible which needs to be done today can be done. Here is not the place to try to explain all the reasons behind this. I hope, rather, that you will simply agree with me that this keep-it-simple approach seems to be working—that the output of genuine research discovery harmonizing the Bible and science through The Biblical Chronologist has been remarkably large since its inception in 1995.

Now I must immediately add that I hope this brief explanation does not conjure up images of me working in complete isolation. In fact I carry on a fairly extensive correspondence with a large number of individuals who are active in one or more of several key capacities relative to the work of The Biblical Chronologist. Without the help and encouragement of these individuals the ministry of The Biblical Chronologist would suffer greatly and its work would become a very great burden indeed. I suppose these individuals could be regarded as my (unpaid) "staff"; I personally view them simply as Christian friends.

But my point is that while I could see the need, there was no way I had the time to do what needed to be done to begin such a search. "The Ark on Ararat?"article[18] describing the computer search for the correct mountain was merely one step along the way of trying to come to an accurate view of the nature of the Flood—a task which would consume the bulk of my time and energy for most of the following year. A search of Mount Cilo for the ark was an unexpected spin-off project. Important though this search was, it could not justifiably displace my main research thrust of trying to understand the nature of the Flood upon which the ark floated. I needed someone to help with this new project.

Bert Hawley

For some years previously I had been enjoying a friendly correspondence with Mr. Albert (Bert) Hawley. At about the time I was embarking on my computer-search-for-the-right-mountain project I wrote Bert, "On the research front, I feel like I could keep about four of me employed full-time on different promising research topics just now. Limitless time will definitely be one of the benefits of heaven." At about the time I was finishing up that project Bert wrote back, "I wish I had the training to be one of the four you need to cover the bases in your research!"

I had learned from our correspondence that Bert was a WW2 veteran with flight experience. Such a background would be an obvious advantage for conducting a search of Mount Cilo using aerial photographs. Bert seemed the right man for the job to me, and he had volunteered an interest in helping with research. I wrote back, "Any chance you would be interested in following up on the suggestion that the ark may have landed on Mount Cilo? If I had the time I would at least investigate whether any high-resolution satellite or airplane photos of the mountain exist. … The ark was a big vessel—one does not need fantastic resolution to be able to see such a large object. Mountain-tops are notably cold and arid, which favors preservation of wood. … If I had the time I would definitely pursue this. I don't. Would you be interested?"

Bert responded affirmatively, and dove into the project at once, seeking satellite photo coverage of the mountain available to the general public.


Two years have now passed. Bert has become an expert in obtaining satellite film of Mount Cilo. We have kept the United States Postal Service busy between Illinois and California, where Bert lives, with correspondence, satellite film, and photographic enlargements. We have searched films and photos by microscope, slide projector, and computer scanner. Since September 1998 we have been joined by a second "research associate", Basil Finnegan. And together we now have something to report.

IO3

Figure 4 shows an object of considerable interest to the present search. It appears as a barn-like structure on the south side of Mount Cilo in the satellite photo shown. It is estimated to be at an altitude some 1500 feet lower than the summit. We have called it IO3 (Interesting Object #3). The purpose of the present interim report is to publicly advance IO3 as a candidate for the ark, and to detail plans for further investigation of this particular object.

The investigation breaks naturally into two phases. Phase 1 has used available satellite photos of the mountain to search for anything of interest. The pace of research during phase 1 has been at our leisure and the costs have been relatively modest. The purpose of phase 2 is to bring the search to a definitive conclusion. The data necessary to do this are not already available; they can only be obtained through specially designed data-gathering missions. (More on this below.) These missions cannot be conducted at our leisure; they will need to be set to go whenever conditions (particularly snow cover) are right on the mountain (usually mid to late summer). The cost of these missions is relatively high. All expenses in phase 1 have been borne by project members and Aardsma Research & Publishing, under which umbrella The Biblical Chronologist is published. Phase 2 requires additional financial assistance.

Phase 1 has been concerned with identifying all "interesting objects" on or near Mount Cilo using available satellite images. The label "interesting objects" is not meant to imply objects which look like the ark. Rather it means anything which is very roughly the right scale for the ark (within a factor of two or three) and which appears anomalous relative to other features in the photo around it. Only three objects have so far been found which fit even this broad classification, of which IO3 is the third.

While IO3 is a proper member of the IO class, it instigates a sub-class which might be called "very interesting objects" (the VIO sub-class). So far, nothing remotely similar to it or nearly as interesting as it has been located anywhere on or near Mount Cilo.

IO1 was identified as two prominent parallel lines on a low magnification photo of the region; at higher magnification these were seen to be of natural origin. They were shadows in parallel valleys (or rifts) within a snow field.

IO2 appears as several horizontal, cylindrically shaped objects grouped close together on a ridge adjoining Mount Cilo when this ridge is viewed at low angle (Figure 6). They do not appear in the photos we have when this ridge is viewed directly overhead. It is not clear what these are; they may be natural rock formations, though their cylindrical shape is quite different from the usual broken angularity of the rocks which are found all around them. In any event, their cylindrical shape does not seem to suit the Biblical description of the ark, which seems to specify a rectangular vessel (Genesis 6:14–16). By way of contrast, IO3 does display a rectangular appearance suitable to the Biblical description of the ark (Figure 4).

Figure 6: IO2.

Selection Criteria

The degree of interest an object commands is seen, from the above three examples, to be related to two criteria: 1. the degree to which the object matches Biblical expectations of the ark (I will call this similarity), and 2. the object's resistance to other explanations of its origin (I will call this resistance). IO1 has low similarity and low resistance. It can be dismissed from further consideration. IO2 has low similarity and medium resistance. It cannot be dismissed, but it does not seem to warrant further effort at this time because of the much higher interest commanded by IO3. IO3 has high similarity and very high resistance, as I will now attempt to show.

Similarity of IO3

The most objective way to assess the similarity of IO3 to the Biblical description of the ark is to conduct a simulation study using a scale model of the ark. The object of such a study is to see how closely a satellite photo of an interesting object can be replicated in the laboratory using a scale model and a simple camera. In a simulation study we set the scale model of the ark up on a table, build a model landscape around it, use a single spotlight for illumination to simulate the sun, and adjust the lighting and camera angles to match those of the satellite photo as closely as possible. We then compare the simulation photo to the satellite photo to assess their similarity.

I used the scale model of the ark shown in Figure 7 to conduct a simulation study of IO3.[19] The model is to scale; the pitch of the roof is guessed at since it is not specified Biblically. The "window" which runs along the top steps up "1 (scale) cubit". The Biblically specified height of 30 cubits has been taken as the height of the side walls, not the height of the peak. I used cotton puffs to simulate the snow field surrounding IO3.

Figure 7: Scale model of ark used in simulation study of IO3. A dime and a six inch ruler are also shown in the photo to help visualize the real-life scale of the model.

Figure 8 shows the result. While my camera angle was not quite right (the shot should have been taken from a slightly more overhead angle) I think the result shown is sufficient to demonstrate that there is a high degree of similarity between the Biblical description of the ark and IO3 as it appears in this particular satellite photo.

Figure 8: Satellite photo of IO3 (a), and simulation photo using the model ark (b). (View at four or five feet for best comparison.)

Three things not obvious in Figure 8 need to be made explicit here. First, I have oriented the photos to make IO3 and the ark fit conveniently within the width of the area shown. This gives the impression that IO3 is situated horizontally. It is not easy to judge the orientation of an object with respect to horizontal from overhead photographs, but it is clear that IO3 is not situated horizontally on the slopes of Mount Cilo.

In my modeling study I began by crudely approximating the landscape with a plane, tilted up at about 20° from horizontal. A steeper slope would have been better, but it is inconvenient to work with a steeper slope because the model ark is prone to slide down it. I situated the model ark on this plane with its long axis pointing about 45° from the gradient. This is all very rough and does not need to accurately reflect the actual slope under IO3 since I am free to orient the sun (spotlight) and camera in 3-space. But it does reflect my impression from the original photo that IO3 lies upon a substantially sloped surface at a significantly skewed angle. Bert feels the ark is situated with its long axis pointing directly up the mountain.

Second, the back half of the model ark is buried in cotton puffs. This suggests that if IO3 is the ark, then half of it was buried in snow when this satellite photo was taken.

Third, I have deliberately adjusted the scale of the two photos to make the photographic images of IO3 and the model ark comparable in size. I have done this for ease of visual comparison. It is of much interest to go further and ask whether IO3 is the correct absolute size for the ark using the dimensions given in Genesis 6:15. This can be done by comparing the relative scales of these two photos.

Unfortunately, this is complicated somewhat by the fact that the Biblical unit of measure used is the "cubit", and cubits of varying absolute lengths were used in antiquity.

CUBIT, an ancient measure of length. Approximate only, it applied to the length from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger. The Hebrews had two cubits—the ordinary cubit, and a longer one used by Ezekiel in his measurements for the Temple (Genesis 6:16; Deuteronomy 3:11; II Chronicles 3:3; 4:3; Ezekiel 43:13). Estimates vary between 16 inches and 25.2 inches. The Egyptian common cubit was about 17.72 inches; the royal cubit 20.67 inches.[20]

Rather than asking if IO3 is the right size, it makes better sense to ask what length of cubit would be required to match IO3's size to the Biblical dimensions. The answer to this question is 29±3 inches (1σ). The 10% uncertainty in this figure is estimated from uncertainties involved in determining the scales of the two photos.

This is within measurement uncertainties of the 25.2 inch cubit mentioned in the above quote, so the possibility of a match between the absolute size of IO3 and the Biblically specified dimensions of the ark can certainly not be excluded. However, it seems a bit surprising (though hardly impossible, given the great antiquity of this vessel) not to find a match closer to the more usual 18 inch cubit. This decreases the similarity index somewhat in my opinion, which is why I have given IO3 only a "high" rather than a "very high" similarity rating.

One interesting consequence of this requirement is that, if IO3 is the ark, then the ark was even bigger in real life than is commonly believed. The Biblical dimensions of 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits are usually converted to feet assuming an 18 inch cubit. This yields 450 feet by 75 feet by 45 feet. This is already a very large vessel; it is one and a half football fields long (measuring goal line to goal line) and nearly half a football field wide. A 25 inch cubit increases this to 625 feet by 104 feet by 63 feet. This is over two football fields in length and over five-eighths of a football field wide.

Resistance of IO3

The resistance rating for IO3 depends upon our ability to devise explanations for it other than that it is the ark. We can immediately divide possible alternatives into two categories: 1. those which regard IO3 as a man made object, and 2. those which regard IO3 as a natural object or natural feature of the landscape.

Man made

The impression that IO3 is some sort of man made object results mainly from its rectilinear shape. But the idea that IO3 might be some man made structure other than the ark encounters serious difficulties.

First, its huge size is not conducive to the idea that this is an ordinary building, such as a barn. It is just too large for such an application.

Second, it is very difficult to imagine what function such a huge building could possibly serve at such a high altitude, especially given the fact that there are no roads or even any trails leading to it.

Third, its orientation on the mountain is far from horizontal, as mentioned above. No man made structure is deliberately built on such a steep slope and so far out of plumb. In fact, it would be an extremely difficult task to erect a rectilinear building so far out of plumb.

One might argue that IO3 is a man made building (other than the ark) which was not erected out of plumb—that it came to its present orientation only after it had been constructed. Such a view implies (taking a reasonable view of tectonics in the region) that it must not have been built where it is presently located. But how would it then have been transported to its present location? There are no roads leading to the sight. IO3 is obviously too big to have been flown to the mountain in one piece. A flood of the magnitude of Noah's Flood would be required to float anything to this altitude—which gets us immediately back to the ark. The only other option is that it was built on level ground further up the mountain and has slid to its present position. But satellite images of the mountain strongly suggest that a reasonably horizontal area big enough to construct a building the size of IO3 (even assuming that half of it is not buried under snow) does not exist on the mountain anywhere above the present location of IO3. And any normal building of such size, built upon a hypothetical foundation further up the mountain, would obviously be demolished in the process of removing it from its foundation and sliding it down the mountain.

We may add to all of these difficulties that such a large structure would require a substantial quantity of lumber for its construction. The amount of labor required just to haul such a large quantity of lumber to such a high altitude—well above the tree line—is more or less unthinkable in the first place.

IO3 is highly resistant to explanation in terms of some other man made structure than the ark.

Natural

This leaves the second category: explanation of IO3 as some natural object.

While the rectilinear form of IO3 seems immediately contrary to this idea, the possibility that IO3 is nonetheless just some natural object or feature of the landscape cannot be dismissed. In particular we must ask whether snow, rocks, and shadows might have coincidentally converged to create an impression of a rectilinear structure in Figure 8 where no such structure in fact exists.

The most obvious way to answer this question is to view IO3 in a second satellite photo taken 1. on a significantly different date (to change the snow cover), 2. at a different time of the day (to change the shadows), and 3. from a different angle (to change the view). With all these changes one would expect the similarity rating to drop to near zero in the second photo if IO3 in the first photo is, in fact, merely a coincidental conjunction of snow, rocks, and shadows. If, on the other hand, IO3 is the ark, then similarity should be preserved in spite of all these changes.

The satellite photo of IO3 shown in Figure 9 was taken two years and one month prior to the photo of Figure 8. It is taken at a significantly different angle, and, judging from the shadows in the panoramic view of the whole region, at a significantly different time of day. My simulation study photo of it (Figure 9) shows that high similarity is retained. (The 29±3 inch cubit is also retained.) The suggestion that the similarity of IO3 to the ark results merely from a coincidental conjunction of snow, rocks, and shadows appears improbable.

Figure 9: Satellite photo of IO3 (a), and simulation photo using the model ark (b). (View at four or five feet for best comparison.)

Thus, IO3 is found to be also resistant to explanation in terms of some natural object or feature.

The Ark Hypothesis

By way of contrast, the hypothesis that IO3 is the ark encounters no serious difficulty with respect to presently available data. The Bible informs us that such a vessel was built some time prior to 3500 B.C., that it was carried on the waters of the Great Flood, and that it was deposited within the mountains of the Ararat region. Attention to details within the Biblical narrative of the Flood (Genesis 6–8) leads one to expect that the ark rested near the summit of a mountain which was taller than any of its near neighbors. This observation, when coupled with others from the Biblical narrative and pursued as quantitatively and as rigorously as possible leads to the conclusion that Mount Cilo is by far the most probable landing place of the ark.[21] IO3 is situated on the high slopes of that landing place.

The Biblical narrative leads us to expect that the mountain the ark landed upon was pointed and steeply sloped, rather than broad-topped. We may picture the ark perched somewhat precariously and probably not all that horizontally within the rugged terrain near the summit of Mount Cilo when it first came to rest.

One does not have to imagine a sudden toboggan slide down the mountain to get the ark to the present location of IO3 by any means. IO3 appears too well preserved to have moved from the summit to its present position suddenly; it seems more reasonable to imagine a slow, creeping descent. The ark needs only to have crept along the surface of the mountain at an average rate of about fifteen thousands of an inch per day to have accomplished a journey of 2500 feet in 5500 years. Such small motions might be occasioned, for example, by daily fluctuations in temperature expanding and contracting the entire vessel relative to the ground. A natural path from the summit to the location of IO3 seems to be provided by a relatively shallow ravine on the mountain (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Satellite photo of the top of Mount Cilo from directly overhead. Possible path from summit to IO3 is indicated by arrows.

The ark appears to be situated in the upper reaches of a snowfield at present. Simulation studies imply that it is nearly buried in snow, as pointed out above, with only one half of the southwest-facing side of the roof and one end normally exposed (Figures 8 and 9). This makes the vessel difficult to identify in satellite photos taken from the east or from directly overhead. A camera orientation low and in the west seems to offer the best view of the exposed portions of the vessel.

The vessel is probably not visible from the slopes of the mountain above because of the snow cover on the mountain side of its roof. Piling of the snow against the roof is most noticeable in Figure 9, including even ridges in the snow parallel to the vessel on its uphill side.

The lower half of the vessel appears to be buried in a deep drift. The fact that the snow cover appears to be roughly the same in the satellite photos of Figure 8 and Figure 9, taken more than two years apart, suggests that the vessel may be frequently exposed to this extent in late summer and early fall.

Next Step

The next logical step in this investigation is to obtain current satellite photos of IO3. The photos shown in Figures 8 and 9 were both taken over thirty years ago. The research team has set the goal of obtaining at least one stereoscopic pair of photos late this summer, weather and finances permitting. These will need to be custom ordered from a commercial satellite photography company. Investigation of options is currently underway. Photos are expected to cost around $6,000 per stereo pair.

Successful acquisition of such photos will serve a number of purposes. First, it needs to be verified that IO3 is still where it was over thirty years ago when the photos shown in this report were taken. This step is obviously prerequisite to any (much more expensive) mission to the site.

Second, newer photos should have a significantly improved resolution. This will reduce blurring in the final images and permit finer details to be seen. This in itself may go a long way toward confirming or refuting the identification of IO3 with the ark.

Third, custom photos should allow greater control of camera angle and illumination (i.e., position of the sun in the sky when the photos are taken), giving us the best possible exposure of IO3.

Fourth and final, a stereoscopic pair of photos will allow three dimensional viewing of the region. This will greatly improve our knowledge of the terrain on Mount Cilo and around IO3.

Conclusion

I need to make it very clear that the research team is not claiming IO3 is Noah's ark at this stage. We are unable either to confirm or to refute the possibility that IO3 may be the ark based on the information (satellite photos) we presently have available. IO3 shows significant similarity to the Biblical description of the ark, and it is difficult to find an alternative explanation for this object at this stage. These observations lead us to conclude that IO3 is a good candidate for the ark, and that it warrants further serious investigation.

The claim that an object is the ark can only be responsibly made after: 1. close-up (probably ground-based, on-site) photographs reveal an object which is suitable to the ark both inside and out, and 2. wood from such a visibly suitable structure has been shown by radiocarbon to date to within a few centuries prior to 3520±21B.C. (when the trees from which the ark was constructed would have grown). (This condition is necessary to ensure that one has found the original ark rather than, for example, a medieval replica of it.) Neither of these two conditions has yet been met with IO3 or any other object which has ever been advanced as a candidate for the ark.

Is IO3 the ark? The intention of the research team is to press toward a responsible, defensible validation or refutation of this possibility as expeditiously as possible. Reports on progress will be published in this column in future issues as further information comes available. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical chronology in an easily understood manner.

An introductory packet containing three sample issues and a subscription order form is available for $9.95 US regardless of destination address. Send check or money order in US funds and request the "Intro Pack."

The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Copyright © 1999 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 5000–3000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 2.4 (July/August 1996): 1–5.

  2. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 1–14.

  3. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood at Devon Island," The Biblical Chronologist 3.4 (July/August 1997): 1–16, and Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 1–14.

  4. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Zoogeography and Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 4.1 (January/February 1998): 1–7.

  5. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood at Elk Lake," The Biblical Chronologist 2.6 (November/December 1996): 1–13.

  6. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Radiocarbon Dating Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.6 (November/December 1997): 1–11.

  7. ^  Rivka Gonen, "The Chalcolithic Period," The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, ed. Amnon Ben-Tor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 80.

  8. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Radiocarbon Dating Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.6 (November/December 1997): 1–11.

  9. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 12–13, and Gerald E. Aardsma, "Zoogeography and Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 4.1 (January/February 1998): 1–7; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Space Rock Impacts and Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 4.2 (March/April 1998): 5, 10; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 4.3 (May/June 1998): 6.

  10. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 4.3 (May/June 1998): 6–10.

  11. ^  See for example: G. T. Cook, A. J. Dugmore, and J. S. Shore, "The Influence of Pretreatment on Humic Acid Yield and 14C Age of Carex Peat," Radiocarbon 40.1 (1998): 21–27.

  12. ^  Calibration of these radiocarbon dates was carried out using the bidecadal dataset of CALIB 3.0.3. See M. Stuiver and P. J. Reimer, "Extended 14C Data Base and Revised CALIB 3.0 14C Age Calibration Program," Radiocarbon 35.1 (1993): 215–230.

  13. ^  Seamas Caulfield, R. G. O'Donnell, and P. I. Mitchell, "14C Dating of a Neolithic Field System At Céide Fields, County Mayo, Ireland," Radiocarbon 40.2 (1998): 629–640.

  14. ^  My appreciation to R. E. Wehrwein for special help in obtaining library materials used in the preparation of this article.

  15. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Ark on Ararat?," The Biblical Chronologist 3.2 (March/April 1997): 1–12.

  16. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Ark on Ararat?," The Biblical Chronologist 3.2 (March/April 1997): 12.

  17. ^  C. W. Ferguson, Barbara Lawn, and H. N. Michael, "Prospects for the Extension of the Bristlecone Pine Chronology: Radiocarbon Analysis of H-84-1," Meteoritics Vol. 20, No. 2, Part 2 (30 June 1985): 415–421; C. W. Ferguson, "Bristlecone Pine: Science and Esthetics," Science 159 (23 February 1968): 839–846.

  18. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Ark on Ararat?," The Biblical Chronologist 3.2 (March/April 1997): 12.

  19. ^  I would like to thank my 17 year old son, Stephen, for constructing this model for me.

  20. ^  "Cubit," The Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 8 (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1962) 289.

  21. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Ark on Ararat?," The Biblical Chronologist 3.2 (March/April 1997): 1–12.


Volume 5, Number 4July/August 1999

The Pre-Flood Settlement of Ireland

Genesis 6:1 informs us of a time, in the centuries between Creation (5176±26 B.C.) and Noah's Flood (3520±21 B.C.), "when men began to multiply on the face of the land". Taken at face value this is a record of unprecedented growth and geographical expansion of human population in the centuries between Creation and the Flood.

Last issue I identified the Flood in the archaeological record of Ireland.[1] I showed that thousands of acres of agricultural fields in the northwestern sector of Ireland went suddenly out of use at the time of the Flood, only to become overgrown (and hence uniquely preserved) by blanket peat and pine trees in the centuries following the Flood.

This secular discovery shows us that "the face of the land" over which mankind could be found immediately pre-Flood extended at least as far as the Atlantic coast of Ireland (Figure 1). But does the secular archaeological record of Ireland support the Biblical statement that "men began to multiply on the face of the land" in the centuries between Creation and the Flood? Does it support the idea that there was unprecedented growth and geographical expansion of human population in the interval between 5176±26 B.C. and 3520±21 B.C.?

Figure 1: View of globe showing Ireland in relation to the Eden region where Adam and Eve lived.

It is hardly mandatory, theoretically speaking, that the secular archaeological record of Ireland do so. One can imagine a variety of hypothetically possible prehistories for ancient Ireland before the Flood. One can imagine, for example, the possibility that Ireland was more or less heavily populated for many thousands of years prior to the Flood. Indeed, if one accepts the idea that humans have been around in essentially modern form for 25 to 35 thousand years, as paleoanthropology claims today, then it is not at all easy to understand why Ireland should not have been heavily populated for thousands of years before the Flood. Population growth is a geometric process, which means it tends to become very large rather quickly. Notice that we have come to a population of some five billion people on Earth today, starting from a very few individuals after the Flood 5,500 years ago. Notice also that within this relatively short 5,500 years since the Flood, Ireland has managed to become well populated, as it is seen to be today, and that it has, in fact, been well populated for several thousand years now. All of these secular observations press one toward the conclusion that Ireland should have been well populated long before the Flood. But quite contrary to this the Bible makes the claim that "men began to multiply on the face of the land" only in the interval between 5176±26 B.C. and 3520±21 B.C.—that is, only 7,000 years or less ago, not 20,000 or 30,000 years ago.

Now I must pause to clear up a potential misunderstanding before pressing on. I am not pitting the modern scientific claim that mankind appears to have been around in essentially modern form for 25 to 35 thousand years against the Biblical claim that mankind (and everything else) was only created roughly 7,000 years ago. If you are familiar with my work you know that I accept both of these claims as valid—that I find their reconciliation in the principle of virtual history. I find human remains which appear to be 25 to 35 thousand years old to be a legitimate part of the virtual history of the creation period (Creation, Fall, Curse), and in no way in contradiction to Biblical Creation roughly 7000 years ago.[2]

So I am not trying to pit the Bible against science. In fact, I believe rather strongly, as every issue of The Biblical Chronologist has demonstrated, that the Bible and science exhibit overwhelming harmony when both are treated in an intelligent, honest manner. I am trying only to point out that there is some secular theoretical basis for supposing that Ireland may have been more or less heavily populated for many thousands of years prior to the Flood.

Now if Ireland was more or less heavily populated for many thousands of years prior to the Flood, then the archaeology of ancient Ireland would reveal a much prolonged presence of mankind in Ireland. And this would not be very supportive of the Biblical claim that "men began to multiply on the face of the land" only in the interval between 5176±26 B.C. and 3520±21 B.C.

But—and this is the main thing I am driving at here—the archaeology of ancient Ireland reveals no such thing. Instead, it reveals a land, originally devoid of any significant human presence, suddenly, some centuries prior to the Flood, blossoming into a widespread human occupation. It supports the picture of an agriculturally competent human population overflowing into virgin frontiers and previously uninhabited lands. Indeed, it speaks of an unprecedented time between 5176±26 B.C. and 3520±21 B.C., "when men began to multiply on the face of the land".

How it does this is the focus of the present article.

Palynology

How does one go about detecting human settlement of a virgin land over five and a half thousand years after the event?

One's first impulse is to look for the earliest datable human remains one can find in that land. But there are several difficulties with such an approach. For one thing, one never knows whether datable remains from the earliest settlement have been preserved down to the present time. And even when one has found very ancient archaeological remains one never knows whether yet earlier remains might be discovered if one just keeps looking.

Such difficulties are hardly fatal to the problem of determining the earliest settlement of a land archaeologically. Archaeology can, and routinely does make valid contributions to such questions. But there is a better way of getting at the answer to this particular question in this case. It is provided by the science of palynology.

Palynology is a branch of science dealing with pollen and spores. In the present case pollen is especially interesting because it reveals the types of plants which were covering the countryside at different times—each type of plant produces its own unique pollen.

The first settlers of Ireland, like the early European settlers of the east coast of North America, found a forested land when they first arrived there. The preponderance of arboreal pollen within ancient peat recovered from a deep bog in northwestern Ireland shows this to be the case, as demonstrated below.

They set about to clear the forests to make fields where they could plant their crops and graze their livestock, just as the early European settlers of North America did. We know this because the types of pollen higher up in the same deep bog are chiefly what one gets from fields—pollen of cereals and other grasses, and of characteristic field weeds such as ribwort, dock, buttercup, and dandelion. The forest had been driven back. Fields had been cleared and planted.

Thus a record of the ancient, human-mediated battle between forest and field in Ireland has been carefully archived for us for multiple millennia within the soggy peat of a deep bog, through the humble agent of microscopic pollen spores. By exploiting this ancient archive we can "see" when the first settlers arrived in Ireland by the tell-tale, sudden decline in arboreal (i.e., tree) pollen and synchronous rise in herbaceous (i.e., field plant) pollen.

The Data

It is not an easy task to exploit such a natural ancient archive. In the present case it involved: 1. locating the deep bog, 2. making numerous trial corings at the site to determine where the deepest, most ancient part of the record might be found, 3. obtaining a ten centimeter diameter core some five and a half meters (roughly seventeen feet) long from top to bottom of the bog, 4. sectioning the core back at the lab to obtain more or less evenly spaced, one centimeter thick samples for analysis, 5. submitting each of these one centimeter samples to an elaborate process to separate the pollen it contained from everything else one might find in a peat bog, 6. mounting each resultant pollen sample on a microscope slide, 7. identifying the individual type of up to 1000 pollen spores from each sample by viewing at 500× through the microscope, and, finally, 8. graphing the frequency of the different types of pollen versus the depth from which the sample was obtained in the peat core.

Fortunately, we did not have to do all this work. It had already been done for us (and the rest of the world), earlier this decade, by two scientists, Karen Molloy and Michael O'Connell, of the Palaeoenvironmental Research Unit, Department of Botany, University College Galway, Ireland.[3] It is our privilege in the present study merely to take note of the final results of their obviously protracted and meticulous labors.

Figure 2 shows the primary result of interest to the present investigation. It is a graph of composite pollen divided by percentage between forest types of pollen and field types of pollen. The "forest" types of pollen are mainly pine and other trees, with a generally minor contribution of tall shrubs and ferns. The "field" types of pollen are from the herb family, including cereals and other grasses as well as typical weeds, as mentioned above. To understand the graph, look, for example, at 510 centimeters depth using the scale at the left of the graph. The curve dividing forest and field pollen is at 99% (bottom scale) at this depth. This means that of the total forest and field pollen at that depth, 99% is forest pollen and only 1% is field pollen. This implies that the vicinity of the bog was mainly forest with essentially no open field at that time. Higher up in the peat core, at 478 centimeters below the modern surface of the bog (where the curve is furthest to the left), only 33% is forest pollen (bottom scale) while field pollen has increased to 67% (the remainder when you subtract 33% from 100%). This implies that much of the former forest has been replaced by open fields by the time corresponding to that depth. The more toward the right the curve is at any given depth, the greater the forest contribution and the less the field contribution at that time.

Figure 2: Composite pollen curve from a deep bog in Ireland. The centimeter scale at left corresponds to the depth below the modern surface of the bog.

Chronology

Figure 2 shows us an interesting episode in the battle between forest and field in the vicinity of this deep bog in Ireland. We can see immediately that at some depths within the core the forest was winning, while at other depths the fields were winning.

But this data is not very useful in this form. We are not really interested in the depth at which the fields or the forests were winning. We are interested in the time (the date) at which the fields or the forests were winning. We would like to know when, in time, these things were happening, so we can orient them relative to the rest of history—most importantly, relative to the Flood, 3520±21 B.C. For our purpose we need to be able to tell when each part of the peat core from the bog grew. When, for example, was the peat growing at the surface of the bog (collecting the pollen which settled out of the air from surrounding vegetation) which is now buried beneath 478 centimeters of more recent peat growth?

Here again Molloy and O'Connell have already done the work necessary to transform depth in the core to an absolute date for the formation of each section of the core. I will not go into all of the details of their chronology. Let me simply point out that it is mainly based on direct radiocarbon measurements of peat samples from the core itself.[4] I estimate their conversion to be accurate to ±150 years (3σ) in absolute date back to the 5.00 meter depth ( ca. 3900 B.C.). Chronological uncertainty at greater depths is larger and difficult to quantify. This results from a lack of radiocarbon dates at greater depths, and a probable hiatus in the core due to an ancient fire on the bog surface, as evidenced by charcoal-rich peat between 5.11 and 5.30 meters in the core today.

Figure 3 shows the pollen data of Figure 2 plotted versus time, the conversion from depth to time being accomplished using the chronology for this core worked out by Molloy and O'Connell. The data points defining the curve prior to about 3900 B.C. may be misdated by half a millennium or more. Fortunately, this large chronological uncertainty in the oldest portion of the curve alters none of the present discussion or conclusions.

Figure 3: Composite pollen curve from a deep bog in Ireland indicating the relative abundance of forest and field in the vicinity of the bog.

Discussion

Figure 4 shows the Irish pollen data of Figure 3 together with key events from Biblical chronology for the same time interval. This time chart makes it possible to see immediately what these pollen data mean.

Figure 4: The pollen data of Figure 3 compared with key events from Biblical chronology.

Notice first of all that Noah's Flood (3520±21 B.C.) is conspicuously synchronous with a sudden turn for the better for the forest (and turn for the worst for the fields) in the vicinity of this deep bog. This bog is located, in fact, within the pre-Flood, stone-walled field system at Céide Fields I discussed last issue.[5] The palynological evidence from this bog is consistent with the view that the pre-Flood occupants of Céide Fields were all swept away by the Flood, leaving no one to maintain the fields when the Flood was over. In the centuries following the Flood the fields naturally converted first to wild, overgrown meadows and, eventually, back to forest. Figure 4 shows that by four centuries following the Flood reversion of the region to forest was complete. Open field and meadow were by then all but extinct—the trees were in more or less complete possession of the land once again.

Now I must interject several side points here. First, last issue I pointed out that it is often difficult to get reliable radiocarbon dates on peat samples because peat is frequently subject to contamination. Notice that this does not seem to have been a problem in the present case. The Molloy and O'Connell chronology of the peat core—based on direct radiocarbon measurements on peat from the core—harmonizes immediately with the radiocarbon dates on the wood from the pine stumps we looked at last issue, and both are in immediate agreement with Biblical chronology.

Second, please notice that there is no way the remarkable agreement between the "Ireland" column and the "Bible" column of Figure 4 can be regarded as contrived. Molloy and O'Connell's detailed pollen analytical work at Céide Fields was completed in 1994. It was only in the summer of that year that I began to understand that the Flood should be properly dated to 3520±21 B.C. It is only in the last few months that I have become aware of Céide Fields and the pollen analytical work carried out there by Molloy and O'Connell. Thus, the chronologies of the two columns shown in the time chart of Figure 4 were necessarily derived entirely independently of one another. Not only are the researchers who were involved in the construction of these two chronologies entirely different and independent of one another, but also the data involved in the two cases is unique. The Molloy and O'Connell chronology of the peat core, used to construct the "Ireland" column, is based on radiocarbon measurements of peat samples. This is completely independent of the Biblical chronological data used to construct the "Bible" column. Yet these two independent chronologies harmonize immediately when placed side by side, both bearing witness to a Great Flood ca. 3520 B.C.

Third, notice that the harmony between these two chronologies logically supports both: 1. the general validity of modern, calibrated radiocarbon dates, upon which the "Ireland" column is based, and 2. the validity of the missing millennium thesis, upon which the "Bible" column is based.[6] I am tempted to belabor these two points because they are of such foundational importance to a correct view of history, and because a correct view of history is of such foundational importance to Christianity. But these things have already been sufficiently demonstrated and discussed in previous issues of this publication to need no further elaboration here.

Fourth and final, I need to point out that the peat core appears to be continuous right through the Flood. There is no evidence either of removal of peat during the Flood, or of deposition or sedimentation on top of the then living peat surface. The growth rate of the peat can be calculated from the thickness of peat between radiocarbon dates for the entire length of the core. When this is done one finds a result consistently on the order of one millimeter per year, except in the very deepest portion of the core where the evidence points to a hiatus in the core due to fire, as mentioned above. But the important thing to notice is that there is no hiatus of any sort near the Flood—the growth rate shows no anomaly near the Flood such as would result from any significant erosion or deposition at the living peat surface at the time of the Flood. This corroborates the hemispherical Flood model once again and is in harmony with all we have learned about the nature of the Flood to the present time.[7] The highly popularized idea within some sectors of Christianity today that the Flood waters eroded the surface of the earth deeply and deposited thick layers of sediment all over the globe is simply not borne out by chronologically controlled field data. Such a view of the Flood must be regarded as false, if evidence has anything to say about the matter. Based on available evidence it presently seems best to picture the waters of the Flood in this area of Ireland as encroaching upon the land like a rapidly rising tide at the beach—a tide which just kept rising and, ultimately, overflowed all boundaries.


Focusing attention on yet earlier times in Figure 4, it is possible to see the arrival of the first agricultural settlers at Céide Fields quite clearly. The forests, which had dominated the area for thousands of years previously, began to be beaten back beginning probably within 100 years of 4000 B.C. Arboreal pollen begins an exponential decline at about that time, while herbaceous pollen begins to soar. Herbaceous pollen continues to increase—the fields are being maintained and expanded—until the coming of the Flood, some 500 years later.

Conclusion

Thus pollen analytical studies reveal the earliest pre-Flood settlement of Ireland 4000±100 B.C. and the snuffing out of human occupation some 500 years later, by the Great Flood.

Five hundred years may seem a small thing relative to the many millennia of history back through which we peer to these pre-Flood centuries. But 500 years is a long time in terms of human occupation of a land. In distinctly American terms, 500 years takes us back to the time of the discovery of North America by Columbus. American society has come a long way since Columbus, and there is every reason to believe that Ireland, too, saw many changes and much development in those five centuries before the Flood.

Obviously, we must view the carefully planned miles of stone-walled fields at Céide Fields, and the impressive architecture of the associated megalithic tombs which modern archaeology has brought to light, not as rude beginnings of rustic settlers, but as by-products of a mature pre-Flood culture. And all of this we must view as but a small, and probably relatively late part of the unprecedented pre-Flood explosion of human population and concomitant geographical expansion of mankind out across the globe which Genesis 6:1 summarizes succinctly with the words: "when men began to multiply on the face of the land". ◇

Biblical Chronology 101

It is time to update the "state of the subject" of Biblical Chronology once again. The last update appeared in the Volume 3, Number 6 issue of The Biblical Chronologist.[8] Since that issue went to press a great deal of progress has been made. Most importantly, my decades-long quest to harmonize Biblical and secular historical and scientific chronologies of earth history from the present back to the beginning of the creation has come to completion.

State of the Subject

A time chart showing the current state of the subject and its progression throughout this decade is shown in Figure 5. As is usual for these state of the subject summary charts the "date" column on the left is purposely given in increments of 500 years; boundary lines between regions in the "state" columns are deliberately rounded to the nearest 500 years for the sake of simplicity; and regions are depicted as sharply bounded whereas there is some degree of gradation between them in actual practice.

Figure 5: Progression of the state of the field of Biblical chronology.

The "state (1990)" column shows the state of Biblical Chronology prior to the summer of 1990 and the discovery of the missing millennium in 1 Kings 6:1.[9] The time chart could be divided into two regions back at that time, 'KNOWN' and 'UNKNOWN'. The dividing line was roughly 1000 B.C., the time of Samuel, Saul, and David. After 1000 B.C. there was reasonable harmony between Biblical and secular accounts of history. Prior to that time, in the 'UNKNOWN' region, there was striking disharmony everywhere.

The discovery of the missing millennium in 1 Kings 6:1 altered all this. By the end of 1995 the state of the subject looked as shown in the "state (1995)" column.[10] By that time it was possible to declare the region from 1000 B.C. back to roughly 3000 B.C. solved. The most conspicuous Biblical historical events in this interval are the Exodus and Conquest. Scholars had bickered over the proper dates of these events for decades, and many modern scholars had come to the conclusion that these Biblical events were essentially mythological. The missing millennium thesis reset the paradigm completely, sweeping away decades of confusion, and bringing immediate harmony to Biblical and secular data.

Two years later it was possible to declare the region from 3000 to 3500 B.C. solved.[11] This region terminates with Noah's Flood at 3520±21 B.C. Noah's Flood is regarded as mythological by the vast majority of modern scholars. But here again the missing millennium thesis resets the paradigm and opens the door to the discovery of the Flood within the data of a variety of secular disciplines. As a result, understanding of the Flood has been revolutionized. Though the date, historical reality, and basic nature of the Flood are now clear enough there is still much to be learned in connection with this historical event.

Another two years later brings us to the present time. It is now possible to declare the remaining portion of Biblical chronology solved, from the Flood back to remotest times. This region takes us back to the dawn of Creation. It contains the long-debated "age of the cosmos" and "antiquity of man" problems, with their dependent "young-earth versus old-earth" and "creation versus evolution" debates. The key to the long-sought harmonization in this region is the "principle of virtual history".[12] This principle informs us that data from the physical realm seeming to predate Creation is to be expected.

The elucidation of the principle of virtual history is quite recent. Just as we had to learn (and are still learning) how to think about the Flood, so we will have to learn how to think about Creation and virtual history. It has not been a trivial exercise learning how to think accurately about the Flood. We can expect it to be a much more challenging exercise learning how to think accurately about the Creation period (i.e., Creation, Fall, and Curse). The Flood, for all its stupendous magnitude, we have learned, is still a natural phenomenon in terms of its basic processes. I do not mean to imply by this that God had nothing to do with the Flood. In point of fact, I believe that certain aspects of the Flood, such as its timing, God's advance warning to Noah, and the closing of the door of the ark, can only be properly understood as supernatural phenomena, just as the Bible portrays them. Rather, I mean to communicate that God appears to have used natural agents—a cosmic projectile, a resulting inner core displacement, and gravity, for example—in accomplishing the Flood.[13] In sharp contrast to this, the Creation is blatantly supernatural from beginning to end.

We are familiar with natural phenomena; we experience them in action every moment of every day. But the opposite is true with supernatural phenomena. In their case our ignorance and lack of practical experience is profound. If we have found the (fundamentally natural) Flood difficult to accurately conceptualize, we can expect an accurate understanding of the nature of the (blatantly supernatural) Creation period to be much more difficult. We should not be surprised to find the nature of virtual history in proleptic time to be in sharp contradiction to "common sense" (which is just our sum total appraisal based on the limited amount of practical experience we have gained with the world around us from the cradle to the present time) and in blatant opposition to all our cherished prejudices regarding the nature of the beginning of the world.

I do not mean to discourage anybody by this observation. On the contrary, I hope to arouse men, women, and young people of able mind to the task which lies ahead. Mysteries deeply embedded within the substance of God's great creation since the dawn of time are now waiting to be revealed. Let us press forward with anticipation.

A New Era

When I first began to publish The Biblical Chronologist back in 1995, I pointed out, in this column, that there is an intimate relationship between Biblical Chronology and Christian apologetics.[14] I used the illustration reproduced below to picture this relationship. I explained this illustration as follows:[15]

I picture Biblical Chronology as a foundation block extending from the heights of Reason toward the heights of Faith. In itself it cannot span the chasm between, but upon it is laid another foundation block called Biblical Historicity. It also is too short to span the remaining gap, but upon it a final block called Apologetics is laid. This final block is able to bridge the remaining distance, thereby linking Faith and Reason and completing the foundation of Truth. If Biblical Chronology is removed or broken, the remainder is lost into the chasm called Nihilism.

The "Biblical Chronology" foundation block appeared to have been broken and lost into the chasm over a century ago when men of science began to perceive that the history of the earth should be measured in billions rather than a few thousands of years. The result has been several generations of conservative Christians who have clung to the lip of Faith, and, simultaneously, several generations of liberal Christians who have clung to the lip of Reason, both together shuddering all the while at the chasm beneath their feet. (Not that all Christians in either group are aware of the chasm, by any means. Some have managed to convince themselves, by sheer force of rhetoric, that they stand on solid ground. Others are in more subtle forms of denial. Many seem to have come to accept hanging by their fingernails over a precipice as normal—the idea that the cross should stand upon a solid platform equally satisfying to both faith and reason has become foreign to them.)

For the past four and a half years the goal of The Biblical Chronologist has been to restore the "Biblical Chronology" block. This goal has now been reached. We are now able to give a defensible chronology of Bible history from beginning to end. We are able to answer quantitatively when the Exodus happened, when the Flood happened, and when Creation happened. And we are able to show that secular data harmonize with the Biblical history of these events at these dates. We have achieved a unified chronology of earth history—one which works both Biblically and scientifically.

The fact that this goal has been reached means that a new era has begun. Now I personally believe that we are entering a new era for Christianity as a whole—that God is up to something quite unusual at the present time. But I do not yet perceive clearly what this is, and I have no desire to speculate on so grand a scale. I wish merely to point out that we have entered a new era for the discipline of Biblical Chronology, and The Biblical Chronologist is bound to reflect this change. With the quest to find a defensible unification of sacred and secular chronologies of earth history behind us, what remains to be done?

The discipline of Biblical Chronology will always have a job to do, until the Lord returns. Its job is to maintain, refine, and continue to build a Bible-centered, unified chronology of earth history. We now have a workable unification of secular and sacred chronologies of the world, but it is a skeleton only at present. We are now in a position—for the first time ever—to begin to understand the true relationship between any and all data from the historical sciences and the historical narrative of the Bible—to put some muscle on the skeleton. We must be about this task.

The lead article this issue is a good example of what I mean here. It has addressed itself to the problem of correlating a peat core chronology from Ireland with Biblical chronology. The purpose in this has not been to try to figure out how to harmonize Biblical and secular chronologies. That job is done. Rather, the purpose has been to use the unified chronology which has already been derived to increase our understanding of these ancient times, that we might be found "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) in our generation.

All chronologies of the past, from all around the globe must ultimately be integrated with Biblical chronology in just this sort of way—a very big job. The purpose in this is to strengthen the "Biblical Chronology" block, thus further undergirding Biblical historicity and ultimately Christian apologetics. The perverse spectacle of God's Word (the Bible) and God's world (science) supposedly in opposition to one another, must not be allowed to be seen again. And in this matter it is the humble discipline of Biblical Chronology which is the divinely appointed guardian.

As the unified chronology is refined and built, discoveries of one sort or another will inevitably result. The discovery that Mt. Cilo is the most likely mountain in the Ararat region for the ark to have landed on is an example of what I am thinking of here.[16] There is a responsibility to follow up on such discoveries, of course, to see where they ultimately lead. The search for the ark on Mt. Cilo is an obvious example in this category.[17] Further work on the cause of the Flood, and the cause of reduced human longevity following the Flood—a new topic I hope to tackle soon—are other examples in this category. Obviously, there is not likely to be a lack of things to do for quite some time yet. But in all of this we must not loose sight of the fact that a new era has begun. We now have a complete unified chronology to work from—we no longer labor in ignorance; we no longer battle from the defensive.

Panorama

In closing this summary it seems appropriate to draw attention to Figure 6. It attempts to show the state of Biblical Chronology to the present time in panoramic view.

Figure 6: Panoramic view of the present state of Biblical chronology.

This time chart is fairly self-explanatory so I will not discuss it at any length here. But I would like to point out that the ability to display such a chart, giving a complete, defensible chronology of earth history universally applicable to all disciplines, sacred and secular, marks a tremendous stride forward for Biblical Christianity.

In practical terms it means many things. Let me mention just one. It means that the Bible can no longer be relegated to just the realm of "religious literature" in institutions of higher learning around the globe. In addition to "religious literature" the Bible must now be seen, at the very least, to be an accurate source of ancient chronological and historical data, completely unparalleled by any other piece of "religious literature"—indeed, completely unparalleled by any piece of literature of any sort whatsoever.

Here is a remarkable Book by any standard, professing all the while to be the very Words of God. Perhaps the time has come for men and women of learning to begin to take its claims seriously once again. Let us do what we can to show them so. ◇

Research in Progress

Figure 7: Is this Noah's ark?

Update on the Ark Search

The immediate goal continues to be to determine if IO3 (Interesting Object #3) shown in Figure 7, taken from a satellite over thirty years ago, is still there on the slopes of Mt. Cilo at present. The research team had hoped to gain this and other important information by ordering custom, high-resolution, commercial satellite photographs of the south side of Mt. Cilo late this summer when snow cover should be least. Unfortunately, the launch date for the commercial satellite seems to have been delayed, so it may not be possible to procure these high-resolution photos this year.

If procurement of a custom commercial satellite photo is not possible this summer the research team will probably turn to (lower resolution) commercially available archived satellite photos in hopes of learning more from them. Some of the archived material is quite recent and might serve to answer our primary question at this stage of whether IO3 is still there. This will depend on snow cover, cloud cover, and other factors at the time the photo was taken. The minimum cost for suitable archived material is expected to be $2500. The archived material has a resolution similar to the thirty year-old satellite photos shown in this column last issue, so they will not provide a more detailed view of IO3. They are likely to show IO3 at other camera angles, however, which could provide additional insights into its nature.

Other routes of obtaining additional information on IO3 are also being explored. It presently appears that future air or ground based expeditions into IO3 are likely to be hampered by the unstable political situation in the vicinity of Mt. Cilo. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical chronology in an easily understood manner.

An introductory packet containing three sample issues and a subscription order form is available for $9.95 US regardless of destination address. Send check or money order in US funds and request the "Intro Pack."

The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Copyright © 1999 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood: The Irish Evidence," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 1–7.

  2. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "A Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 5.2 (March/April 1999): 1–18.

  3. ^  Karen Molloy and Michael O'Connell, "Palaeoecological investigations towards the reconstruction of environment and land-use changes during prehistory at Céide Fields, western Ireland," Probleme der Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet 23 (1995): 187–225. [My thanks to R.E. Wehrwein for special assistance in procuring a copy of this article.]

  4. ^  The Molloy and O'Connell chronology of the section of core of interest to the present study is a piecewise linear interpolation between the points: (396 cm, 4647 cal BP), (488 cm, 5565 cal BP), (500 cm, 5835 cal BP), and (534 cm, 10,163 cal BP). The first three points incorporate seven radiocarbon dates on peat from the core. The final (oldest) point relies on pollen evidence alone.

  5. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood: The Irish Evidence," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 1–7.

  6. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993).

  7. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 1–14.

  8. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 3.6 (November/December 1997): 11–14.

  9. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993).

  10. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 1.6 (November/December 1995): 8–10.

  11. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 3.6 (November/December 1997): 11–14.

  12. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "A Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 5.2 (March/April 1999): 1–18.

  13. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 1–14.

  14. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 1.2 (March/April 1995): 4–6.

  15. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 1.3 (May/June 1995): 4–5.

  16. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Ark on Ararat?," The Biblical Chronologist 3.2 (March/April 1997): 1–12.

  17. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Research in Progress," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 7–16.


Volume 5, Number 5September/October 1999

The Post-Flood Settlement of Ireland

"I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception…" (Genesis 3:16, KJV).


These words, spoken by God to Eve after the Fall in judgment of her disobedience, are very familiar. Their full meaning, however, is not altogether transparent.

This fact is borne out, for example, by the New American Standard translation of this verse. It reads simply: "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth". But a marginal note informs us that a more literal rendering would be: "I will greatly multiply your pain and your pregnancy" or, even closer to the King James translation given above, "I will greatly multiply your pain and your conception".

It seems clear enough from the context that Eve's sentence involved at least the intensification of pain during childbirth. But there seems to be a suggestion of something else here as well. It is found in the words "and thy conception". It seems possible that, in addition to intensified pain during childbirth, an increased frequency of conceiving and bearing children is implied.


But what does all of this have to do with the post-Flood settlement of Ireland?

Review

Two issues ago I introduced the relict landscape of Céide (pronounced kay'jeh) Fields, Ireland.[1] It consists of miles of stone walls surrounding thousands of acres of agricultural fields, all buried (and hence preserved) beneath several meters of bog peat today. The stone-walled fields are found in association with megalithic tombs of obvious great antiquity. Radiocarbon dates on pine stumps found in position of growth within the peat covering the fields reveal that the fields ceased to be used within secular dating uncertainties of the Biblical date for Noah's Flood, 3520±21 B.C.[2]

Last issue I used data from the science of palynology to show that Céide Fields was initially settled near 4000 B.C.[3] Pollen data from a deep bog in Céide Fields, reveal the arrival of the first settlers in that region at that time (Figure 1). The settlers arrival is recorded by a sudden decline in arboreal (tree) pollen, and a simultaneous increase in the sorts of pollen one gets from field plants. This results from the clearing of the primeval forests by the settlers to make room for agricultural fields.

Figure 1: Composite pollen curve from a deep bog in Ireland indicating the relative abundance of forest and field in the vicinity of the bog.

The pollen data go on to show a steady decline of the forests and growth of the fields, up until roughly 3500 B.C., at which time the expansion of the fields is halted and then reversed (Figure 1). When the palynological data from Ireland are placed side by side with Biblical historical data (Figure 2) the halt in the expansion of the fields is seen to be synchronous with Noah's Flood, in complete harmony with the radiocarbon dates on the pine stumps discussed above.

Figure 2: Pollen data from Céide Fields, Ireland, compared with key events from Biblical chronology.

Thus the destruction of a mature (half a millennium old) Irish culture by Noah's Flood is clearly revealed. The many acres of stone-walled fields found buried beneath blanket peat in Céide Fields, northwestern Ireland today, are, as previously observed, a vast monument to the Flood.[4] They are relics of a thriving, pre-Flood culture, suddenly terminated by the Great Flood 3520±21 B.C.

Resettlement

Ireland is well populated today, of course. This simple observation tells us immediately that people rediscovered and resettled Ireland following the Flood.

How long did it take for Ireland to be rediscovered and resettled? And what does this length of time imply? These are the questions which occupy our interest in the present study.

Back to Palynology

The problem of finding the date of the resettlement of Ireland following the Flood is best addressed in the same manner as the question of the date of the initial settlement of Ireland was tackled last issue. That is, it is best addressed by recourse to the science of palynology.

To answer the question of when Ireland was initially settled, we made use of pollen data from a deep bog located within the pre-Flood, stone-walled field system of Céide Fields. The pollen data we used were obtained from the bog earlier this decade by two scientists, Karen Molloy and Michael O'Connell, of the Palaeoenvironmental Research Unit, Department of Botany, University College Galway, Ireland.[5] They: 1. located the deep bog, 2. made numerous trial corings at the site to determine where the deepest, most ancient part of the record might be found, 3. obtained a ten centimeter diameter core some five and a half meters (roughly seventeen feet) long from top to bottom of the bog, 4. sectioned the core back at the lab to obtain more or less evenly spaced, one centimeter thick samples for analysis, 5. submitted each of these one centimeter samples to an elaborate process to separate the pollen it contained from everything else one might find in a peat bog, 6. mounted each resultant pollen sample on a microscope slide, 7. identified the individual type of up to 1000 pollen spores from each sample by viewing at 500× through the microscope, 8. graphed the frequency of the different types of pollen versus the depth from which the sample was obtained in the peat core, 9. had a number of radiocarbon dates performed on peat from the core, and, finally, 10. used these dates to construct a chronology (i.e., table of date versus depth) for the core.

I will use the Molloy and O'Connell chronology for the peat core without alteration again this issue, as I did last issue.[6] From evidence internal to this chronology I estimate it to be accurate to ±150 years (3σ) in absolute date back to the 5.00 meter depth ( ca. 3900 B.C.). As pointed out last issue, chronological uncertainty at greater depths is larger and difficult to quantify. This results from: 1. a lack of radiocarbon dates at greater depths, and 2. a probable hiatus in the core below 5 meters due to an ancient fire on the bog surface. Uncertainty in the oldest portion of the chronology, much before 4000 B.C. (not of interest to the present study), should probably be placed at half a millennium or more.

The "Ireland" column of Figure 3 shows the pollen data of Molloy and O'Connell discussed last issue, together with more of their pollen data from the same peat core for more recent times. All of these pollen data are plotted using Molloy's and O'Connell's chronology for the core.

Figure 3: More pollen data from Céide Fields, Ireland, compared with key events from Biblical chronology.

Landmark events from Biblical chronology are shown in the "Bible" column of the figure for comparison.[7]

The sudden decline in forest pollen near 2400 B.C. is reminiscent of the similar phenomenon we are already familiar with near 3700 B.C.—people had obviously returned to Ireland by 2400 B.C.


Now before I take this further, notice several side points of interest from this figure. First, notice that the post-Flood fields never reach the extent, relative to the forest, of the pre-Flood fields. This is not too surprising when we consider what we know about Céide Fields itself. Prior to the Flood Céide Fields was a vast agricultural field system. Following the Flood, we have seen,[8] the mineral soil of these fields was quickly overgrown by blanket peat and pine trees. It is one thing to convert forest to fields, and quite another to convert acidic, meter-deep, blanket peat bog to fields. In fact, while there have been precious few trees in this region of Ireland for a very long time, the removal of peat from the land continues to this day. Obviously, post-Flood Céide Fields did not possess the same agricultural potential pre-Flood Céide Fields had proffered.

Second, notice that with this second clearing of the land, the fields, though diminished in geographical extent, persist in time. Though there are ups and downs in the % forest pollen curve after 2400 B.C., indicating advances and retreats of agriculture in the region of Céide Fields over the centuries following resettlement of the land, agriculture in Ireland does not die out 500 years following the second settlement as it did 500 years following the initial settlement. The Flood happened only once, 3520±21 B.C., just as the Bible says.[9]

Third and final, just by way of mnemonic, notice that the resettlement of Ireland takes place at roughly the same time as the Israelites were reentering Palestine following their enslavement in Egypt.

The Date of Resettlement

The determination of precisely when people returned to Céide Fields is complicated by the fact that the % forest pollen curve in Figure 3 takes a slight dip beginning about 2750 B.C. This dip is probably not due to people cutting trees. Its proper explanation likely lies in the spreading bogs which swallowed Céide Fields in the centuries and millennia following the Flood, resulting in waterlogged, acidic soil, increasingly unfavorable to trees.

The sharp decline in % forest pollen near 2400 B.C., however, seems unambiguous evidence of renewed agricultural activity. We are not likely to be too far out, therefore, if we place the date of resettlement within about 100 years of 2500 B.C.

Implications

This date has a number of interesting implications. Notice, for example, that it places the resettlement of Ireland a thousand years after the Flood. That is, it took one thousand years for mankind to rediscover and resettle Ireland after the Flood.

Effectiveness of the Flood

This, of course, has much to say about the effectiveness of God's judgment of mankind by the Flood. Human civilization after the Flood obviously did not simply pick up where it had left off before the Flood. In Ireland, at least, 1,500 years elapsed following the Flood before people had regained even the duration of local cultural history which had been erased by the Flood.

Genesis 3:16

But there is another implication which I want to draw attention to. It is not a trivial one to discuss because it involves the concept of virtual history in proleptic time. This concept was introduced in The Biblical Chronologist just three issues ago.[10] It is still far from familiar. But let us not be intimidated by the unfamiliar.

It seems reasonable that the millennium it actually took for Ireland to be inhabited after the Flood is typical and representative of what one should find in all such cases. That is, if we imagine repeating this "experiment" many times over—of drowning nearly everybody and starting again with just a few survivors like Noah and his family in the mountains of Turkey—then, I suggest, we would find that a millennium is typically the length of time it takes for Ireland to be rediscovered and reinhabited. This is simply an assertion that we should regard what actually did happen after the Flood as characteristic of what should be expected to happen in all such cases, rather than as some bizarre irregularity which just happened to strike the one and only time the "experiment" was actually run.

(Now I suspect that it could be shown, using quantitative models of the geographic spread of growing populations, that a millennium is a very reasonable figure for the rediscovery and resettlement of Ireland, starting from a few survivors in southeast Turkey following a disaster like the Flood, but I will not attempt this here.)

Given that a millennium is a normal time for humans to take to discover and settle Ireland starting with just a handful of people in the mountains of southeast Turkey, then an interesting question arises. Why was Ireland only initially discovered and settled 4000 B.C., just 500 years before the Flood? Why was it not discovered many thousands of years before the Flood, way back in virtual history?

Now I sense that I need to pause and explain what it is I am asking here and why I am asking it.

Virtual history review

The discipline of Biblical chronology, in its modern application, teaches us that Creation (i.e., the bringing into existence of the whole of physical reality out of nothing) took place 5176±26 B.C.[11] Prior to 5176±26 B.C. there was neither matter nor space nor time.

As we examine the physical substance of the creation today, however, we find that it contains an apparent history stretching back billions of years. This "pre-Creation" "history" is what is meant by the term "virtual history". We use the term "virtual history" to separate between that "history" (which never actually took place) "prior" to Creation in proleptic (i.e., mathematically assumed; not real) time, and real history (that which actually took place) beginning 5176±26 B.C.

Our justification for making this sort of distinction follows logically from an analysis of creation-type miracles recorded in the New Testament. We observe, for example, that any analysis of the physical substance comprising the bread and the fish which Jesus supernaturally created in the feeding of the five thousand reveals a "history" of the created bread and fish quite different from its true history. The created bread and fish appear, for example, to have been cooked. But we know, in fact, that they were not cooked. They were created already in the cooked state. Thus the physical substance emerging from this creation-type miracle has a virtual history quite different from its true history.

Repeated observations of this sort on a variety of creation-type miracles in the New Testament lead inductively to the general principle that virtual histories are intrinsic artifacts of all creation-type miracles. Application of this principle to the creation period itself (i.e., Creation, Fall, Curse) leads immediately to the conclusion that the creation will necessarily also exhibit a virtual history within its physical substance.[12]

Questions explained

My questions about the pre-Flood settlement of Ireland are posed within this context. We have previously seen that human remains and artifacts are found to date back beyond 9000 B.C. within the mound of ancient Jericho.[13] Indeed, anthropologists inform us that mankind has existed in essentially modern form for 25,000 to 35,000 years. (What they are saying by this, though they don't know it, is that the virtual history of modern humans extends some 20 to 30 thousand years into proleptic time.) But if a handful of modern humans in the Middle East can be expected to give rise to a population which overflows into Ireland within about a thousand years, as we have seen to be the case following the Flood, then how did it happen that a good deal more than a handful of modern humans in the Middle East failed to inhabit Ireland in over 20 thousand years prior to the Flood?

Methodological rule

Now I must pause and explain about virtual history here again. You will notice that in this question I am treating virtual history just as if it had really happened, even though I am well aware that it never did really happen. This, I believe, is the proper way to treat virtual history. Just as it is improper to conclude that because the virtual image of yourself in the mirror is not real, therefore what you see in the mirror is meaningless, so it is improper to conclude that just because virtual history never really happened therefore it is meaningless. Virtual history gives every indication of being comprehensible and information rich, not chaotic and information deprived. It is a simple fact, for example, that oil prospectors learn how to locate underground oil deposits more efficiently in the present by studying processes of oil formation in virtual history. Virtual history is comprehensible and information rich.

You will also notice that I am treating virtual history as if it were continuous with real history—as if virtual history graded smoothly into real history—even though I am well aware that in reality there exists a profound discontinuity at the point at which any creation-type miracle is performed. This, again, I believe to be appropriate. Rays of light are treated, in optics, as if they have come directly from the virtual image in the mirror, even though everyone is well aware that those rays of light have, in fact, not come in unbroken lines from "inside" the mirror at all. In point of fact we know that those rays of light have experienced a complete discontinuity—a reflection—at the mirror's surface.

The simple methodological rule I propose for the present is: treat virtual history as if it really happened, remembering all the while that it never really did happen. This rule may well turn out to need fine tuning in the future—I suspect we have much to learn yet about the nature of virtual histories—but it should provide an adequate foundation from which to begin to think about and work with the virtual history of the world which we are actually confronted with.

Technological advancement theory

Back to the main question. If modern humans were living at Jericho in virtual history 9000 B.C., why was Ireland only inhabited 4000 B.C.?

One could argue perhaps that technological advancements in agriculture were needed before a large enough population could be achieved to impel colonization of Ireland's shores. The idea here would be that lack of technological ability impeded food production and hence population growth for many millennia, but once the necessary hypothetical technological advancements had been made population was able to grow rapidly, resulting ultimately in the overflow of population which reached Ireland's shores 4000 B.C. One could go on to argue that these hypothetical advancements were retained by Noah and his family and thus immediately available to people following the Flood. Thus Ireland could be resettled by modern humans following the Flood far more quickly than it was initially settled by modern humans prior to the Flood.

This is a possibility. But it seems to me to encounter some difficulty with the actual field data of archaeology. Specifically, a settled agricultural lifestyle not terribly different from that practiced in many parts of the world up until relatively recent times is seen within the archaeological data many thousands of years before 4000 B.C. For example, Nicholas Postgate, Reader in Mesopotamian Studies at the University of Cambridge, observes that whereas permanent agricultural settlements in South Mesopotamia (where the Eden region was located) presently appear to extend back to the early Ubaid only (i.e., roughly 5500 to 6000 B.C.)[14], "on the North Mesopotamian plains settled agricultural life reaches back thousands of years earlier".[15]

Conception rate theory

Another possibility presents itself with Genesis 3:16, the passage discussed in the introduction to this article. This is the possibility that God supernaturally increased the conception rate at the time of the Curse. This is suggested by the literal reading, "I will greatly multiply your pain and your conception".

This possibility works out well quantitatively. A thousand years prior to the initial settlement of Ireland takes us back to 5000 B.C. The words of Genesis 3:16 appear to have been spoken by God only a short time after Creation, 5176±26 B.C. These two dates are indistinguishably close in the present context.

The idea that the conception rate within the human species was very much lower prior to 5176±26 B.C. explains the creeping rate of population growth seen within the archaeological record for the several ten-thousands of years of mankind's virtual history. It also explains the timing of mankind's first population explosion, between Creation and the Flood, alluded to in Genesis 6:1, discussed last issue. And it explains, in a quantitatively satisfying way, why Ireland was only initially settled 4000 B.C., and then resettled 2500 B.C.

Now I must clarify, in closing, that I am not suggesting that Eve was aware of the ten-thousands of years of virtual history for mankind we find within the physical substance of creation today as God spoke those words of judgment upon her in the Garden. I am not suggesting that God's pronouncement "I will greatly multiply your pain and your conception" was relative to what virtual history in proleptic time shows today. The virtual history in proleptic time we see today, I have previously shown, only followed the Curse; it did not precede the Curse.[16] God's judgment of Eve in Genesis 3:16, as all of His judgments in Genesis 3:14–19, appear to be referenced to what might have been the case in their future had Adam and Eve continued in a state of obedience, not to what had been, or appeared to have been, the case in their past. I am suggesting only that the virtual history of mankind we see today may be invested with the knowledge that the conception rate within the human species was supernaturally altered at the time of the Curse.

And in all of this I am hoping to point the way for Christian men and women of talent and understanding to begin to explore the past, free of the bondage to naturalism under which the evolutionary paradigm has so long labored, and free of the ignorance of the necessity of virtual history in proleptic time which has stunted Christian perceptions and explanations of the remote past to the present time. ◇

Research in Progress

Over the years of writing and publishing The Biblical Chronologist I have formulated a number of policies to help keep this endeavor on track. One of my policies is that research takes precedence over writing. Said another way, my overriding responsibility is to see to it that the research which so desperately needs to be done in the field of Biblical chronology at present actually gets done. This is in contrast with the idea that my job is to churn out newsletter pages. If the present issue seems less bulky than some, you may find the explanation within the (pleasingly) hectic pace of research on several important fronts over the past few months.

It would be imprudent to share all that is happening on all research fronts at this time—not all who read these pages are friends of this effort by any means—but I am free to mention two things I think you will find of interest. First, of course, must be an update on the ark search project.

Update on the Ark Search

The research team worked frantically during the early part of August to place an order with SPIN-2, a Russian satellite, for a custom photo of IO3. It was clear this would be our last opportunity to obtain a custom satellite photo of IO3 this year. All else was necessarily dropped in an attempt to make the August 12th order deadline.

Several days were spent working out particulars and checking specifications (e.g., photographic resolution, cost, final image format, satellite coordinates, etc.) with the U.S.-based commercial satellite imagery company.

Unfortunately, the team learned, in the eleventh hour, that the SPIN-2 camera was incapable of obtaining a photo at the angle we required. This restriction turned out to be fatal to the entire effort.

It presently appears we will need to wait until next summer to obtain the modern satellite photos we are presently seeking. Expectations are that more modern satellites, with better resolution and greater photographic flexibility, will be available to us at that time.

Meanwhile, the team is working on improving its ability to monitor snow cover on Mt. Cilo, and exploring other possible means by which photographic coverage of the south side of the mountain might be obtained.

Ageing Research

I have once again begun to delve into the question of why human life spans shortened the way the Bible says they did following the Flood. Why did people live 925 years on average before the Flood while they only live 75 years on average today? I have worked on this question off and on in various ways for nearly two decades now. Now that we have an accurate model of the Flood to work with I feel the time is right to launch a serious assault on this question.

There have been a number of suggested answers to this question in the past. One which surfaces frequently in lay circles is that there was a water canopy above the atmosphere prior to the Flood which filtered out harmful cosmic radiation, allowing people to live longer. This theory is easily falsified by any one of several considerations. For example, it is a fact that people who live at high altitudes today are exposed to much more cosmic radiation than people who live at sea level, yet there is no discernible difference in the average longevity of these two groups. Note also that the hypothetical canopy is supposed to have collapsed at the time of the Flood. Thus, if the difference in longevity before and after of the Flood is due to a canopy, then human life spans should have changed suddenly to 75 years immediately following the Flood. But the Biblical data show they changed gradually over the course of a thousand years. Finally, I need to point out again, as I have in the past, that the whole canopy idea encounters seemingly insurmountable scientific problems and lacks any real Biblical support anyway.

But it is possible to fashion more credible theories of the cause of reduced longevity following the Flood, and that is what I have been working on. I hope to begin to report on this soon. So stay tuned—who knows but what reading The Biblical Chronologist may add a few more years to your life!

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical chronology in an easily understood manner.

An introductory packet containing three sample issues and a subscription order form is available for $9.95 US regardless of destination address. Send check or money order in US funds and request the "Intro Pack."

The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Copyright © 1999 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood: The Irish Evidence," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 1–7.

  2. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 5000–3000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 2.4 (July/August 1996): 1–5.

  3. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Pre-Flood Settlement of Ireland," The Biblical Chronologist 5.4 (July/August 1999): 1–7.

  4. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood: The Irish Evidence," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 1–7.

  5. ^  Karen Molloy and Michael O'Connell, "Palaeoecological investigations towards the reconstruction of environment and land-use changes during prehistory at Céide Fields, western Ireland," Probleme der Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet 23 (1995): 187–225.

  6. ^  The Molloy and O'Connell chronology of the core is a piecewise linear interpolation between fixed points. Last issue I used only the oldest portion of the chronology, based upon four fixed points: (534 cm, 10,163 cal BP), (500 cm, 5835 cal BP), (488 cm, 5565 cal BP), and (396 cm, 4647 cal BP). This issue I add two more points: (353 cm, 4324 cal BP) and (256.5 cm, 2998 cal BP). This entire section of the chronology incorporates eleven radiocarbon dates on peat from the core.

  7. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 3000–1000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 1.3 (May/June 1995): 1–3; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 5000–3000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 2.4 (July/August 1996): 1–5; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 1–10; Gerald E. Aardsma, "A Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 5.2 (March/April 1999): 1–18.

  8. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood: The Irish Evidence," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 1–7.

  9. ^  Genesis 8:21–22; 9:11.

  10. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "A Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 5.2 (March/April 1999): 1–18.

  11. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 1–10.

  12. ^  For a full discussion of these matters see: Gerald E. Aardsma, "A Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 5.2 (March/April 1999): 1–18.

  13. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology: Part IV," The Biblical Chronologist 5.1 (January/February 1999): 1–10.

  14. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 9.

  15. ^  J.N. Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History (New York: Routledge, 1994), 23.

  16. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "A Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 5.2 (March/April 1999): 1–18.


Volume 5, Number 6November/December 1999

The Opening Minutes of Noah's Flood at Céide Fields, Ireland

I introduced Céide (pronounced kay'jeh) Fields three issues ago.[1] I explained that Céide Fields consists of some 4,500 acres of Neolithic agricultural fields enclosed by miles of stone walls, all found buried as much as twelve feet deep beneath blanket bog-peat in North Mayo, Ireland, today. In addition to the walls, massive tombs, constructed of large slabs of uncut rock, are found in association with the agricultural fields, as are also typical Neolithic stone tools.

I showed, using radiocarbon dates from pine stumps found buried in position of growth within the peat overlying the fields, that human occupation of Céide Fields terminated coincident with the date of Noah's Flood which modern Biblical chronology calculates, i.e., 3520±21 B.C.[2] This same phenomenon, i.e., an abrupt termination of a culture within secular dating uncertainties of the Flood, has also been shown previously for the Chalcolithic civilization of Palestine.[3] While one group of secular archaeologists wonders at the apparent "abandonment" of Céide Fields, and another group wonders at the apparent "abandonment" of Chalcolithic sites in Palestine, Biblical chronology unifies both sets of data under a single historical event—Noah's Flood.

Once it is understood that civilization at Céide Fields was terminated by the Flood, the remarkable nature of Céide Fields becomes clear. Céide Fields preserves a pre-Flood agricultural landscape. In terms of stratigraphy, the interface between the mineral soil and the overlying peat at Céide Fields corresponds precisely to the coming of the Flood itself.

Two issues ago I introduced pollen data in concert with radiocarbon dates from a peat core taken at Céide Fields. I used these data to date the arrival of the first pre-Flood settlers to Céide Fields. The pollen chronology data reveal the initial clearing of the forests and establishing of agricultural fields in the area beginning 4000±100 B.C. They also strongly reinforce the termination of this agricultural community synchronous with the Flood some 500 years following the initial settlement.[4]

Last issue I used the peat data once again to show that the post-Flood resettlement of Céide Fields took place 2500±100 B.C.—a full millennium after the Flood.[5]

This issue I focus attention on the stone walls found bordering the agricultural fields at Céide Fields. They have their own interesting story to tell.

The Data

The data for this study are provided once again by Molloy and O'Connell.[6] These data are summarized in the schematic diagram due to Molloy and O'Connell shown in Figure 1. The data consist of a single cross-section of one stone wall at Céide Fields with its overlying peat and underlying soil stratigraphy.

Figure 1: Diagram showing cross-section of a stone wall at Céide Fields. The two black vertical bars represent cores which were taken for pollen analyzes. The size and number of the stones are schematic only. (From Molloy and O'Connell page 213; see text for full reference.)

It is immediately obvious from the diagram that the wall which Molloy and O'Connell studied had collapsed. The "large stone" in the diagram seems to represent the edge of the original wall.

In all cases the walls are built of stone, with the larger stones usually set upright and smaller stones laid in between.[7]
The diagram only shows one side of the wall; in actual fact the lateral spread of stones was found to extend to both sides of the wall. This is the normal state of the walls today.
In a typical cross-sectional view, the walls seldom exceed 80 cm in height, are typically 50-70 cm tall, and, furthermore, slope gently to either side to give a lateral spread of stones of c. 2.5 m.[8]
This description suggests that the walls stood roughly three feet tall originally, but that they have been reduced by subsequent collapse to as little as half this height.

In addition to the fact that the walls are found in this collapsed state at present, one other piece of data is of interest to the present study. This is the "black charcoal-rich peat" layer shown immediately above the mineral soil in the diagram. Molloy and O'Connell supply two additional pieces of information in relation to this layer:

A distinct black, charcoal-rich layer of peat, 2.5 cm thick, covered the mineral ground and was present also between the stones of the lateral spread but peat was not observed beneath the stones.[9]
And from their Table 6 list of stratigraphic details:
Black charcoal-rich peat, 2.5 cm thick, forms a distinct layer overlying the mineral ground. It is interrupted by the stones constituting the central part of the wall where profile CF III was taken.[10]

Interpretation

What do these data mean? How are they to be explained?

Notice, first of all, that the stratigraphy dictates a distinct sequence of events. It shows us that: first the walls were built, then they collapsed, and then a layer of charcoal-rich peat was laid down. If the layer of charcoal-rich peat had been formed before the walls were built, remnants of it would be found beneath the stones of the core of the wall. But the charcoal-rich layer does not extend beneath the core of the wall. If the layer of charcoal-rich peat had formed before the wall collapsed, remnants of it would be found beneath the fallen stones of the lateral spread. But it is only found around the stones of the lateral spread, not beneath them. Since the charcoal-rich peat is not found beneath the stones either of the core of the wall or of the collapsed, lateral spread, the charcoal-rich layer must have formed only after the wall collapsed.

Though the sequence of events is clear, the quantitative chronology (i.e., the dates when these things happened) can only be conjectured at this stage. So far we lack reliable chronological data (i.e., radiocarbon dates) for when the wall was built, when it collapsed, and when the layer of charcoal-rich peat was formed.

I do not mean to suggest that we are totally clueless about the chronology. We know that the wall must have been built sometime between 4000±100 B.C. (when the first settlers arrived in the area) and 3520±21 B.C (when the Flood came and swept everybody away). We can reasonably infer that the walls must have collapsed when nobody was left to repair them—i.e., coincident with or following the Flood. Otherwise, we may suppose, they would have been repaired. And we can reasonably infer that the charcoal-rich peat layer must have been formed fairly soon after the walls collapsed. Otherwise the spaces between the fallen stones would have become sealed off by dust, dirt, and plant debris, prohibiting penetration of the charcoal-rich layer in around the fallen stones.

Thus we can gain some sense of time constraints, but chronological data specifying when exactly these things happened are so far lacking.

In the absence of definitive chronological data we can only build plausible scenarios. Ordinarily I try to stay clear of these. As I have previously shown, one can tell a lot of stories from just a few facts in the absence of chronological constraints.[11] But I have two reasons for making an exception in this instance. First, the scenario I will set forth is easily shown to be wrong if it is wrong. This can be accomplished by radiocarbon dating the charcoal (not the peat) from the charcoal-rich peat layer. Why this is the case will become clear below.

Second, it is not necessary to use excessive imagination to arrive at the scenario I will postulate. It is, in fact, just a simple extension of what we already have come to understand about the cause of the Flood.[12]

Review—The Flood Impact

I have previously advanced the hypothesis that the root physical cause of the Flood was collision of a very high speed cosmic projectile with Earth.[13] How this naturally unfolded to produce the Flood in the hours, weeks, and months following the impact is detailed elsewhere.[14] For the present discussion it is the prompt effects of the impact which are of interest—those which took place seconds and minutes after the collision, rather than those which took place on the scale of hours and days.

A great deal of effort has been expended by scientists in recent decades to model collisions of rocks from space with Earth.[15] This research is motivated in part by the threat which asteroid impacts pose to civilization, and in part by the similarities between asteroid impacts and nuclear explosions. All of this effort is of great benefit in the present context.

When a chunk of rock from space, measuring on the order of tens of miles, strikes the surface of the earth, one can imagine that quite a violent collision results. The rock has a very high speed relative to the surface of the earth prior to the impact, and this gives it an enormous kinetic energy. When the rock strikes the surface of the earth this energy is released in a relatively short distance. The result is similar to what one might expect if literally multiple millions of tons of TNT were set off beneath the surface of the ground. An enormous explosion results. Though the projectile and target are made of solid rock, the energy of the collision is such that the projectile and a portion of the target are more or less instantaneously vaporized. This vaporized matter expands at high velocity from the impact site in the form of a super-hot cloud. Shock waves radiate from the impact site. Fragments of rock of all sizes, from microscopic to boulder, fly from the impact crater in all directions at extremely high velocities. Seismic waves comparable to those responsible for the largest earthquakes are produced, radiating outward from the impact site.

I have previously pointed out, through quantitative analysis, that the energy of the Flood projectile was way beyond what one might expect from an asteroid.[16] (Recall that asteroids are chunks of rock, bound, like the planets, by gravitation to the sun.) Scientists talk in terms of 10^8 or 10^9 megatons TNT equivalent yield for the biggest and most globally destructive asteroid impacts. (10^9 megatons is a billion megatons, or a billion times a million tons of TNT.) I have calculated the energy of the Flood projectile to be at least 2×1015 megatons. This is at least two million times more energetic than the biggest (i.e., 10^9 megaton) asteroid impacts. Thus, it appears that the Flood projectile came from beyond the solar system and was truly a cosmic projectile.

Though the Flood projectile was so much more energetic even than the largest asteroid impacts, the basic kinds of phenomena associated with asteroid impacts would still be expected of the Flood impact. The collapsed walls of Céide Fields, and the one inch thick charcoal-rich layer lying upon the mineral soil, both find ready explanation within the scope of such phenomena.

The Collapsed Walls

Figure 2 shows the sorts of highly energetic and destructive waves which radiate from an impact site.[17] The air blast shock wave (sometimes appropriately called a "fireball") is extremely destructive of buildings and life in the vicinity of the impact.

Figure 2: Wave picture for asteroid impact. BSW = air blast shock wave; SEW = seismic wave in the ground; RW = Rayleigh wave; BW = body waves (P, reflected Pr and S). [From Adushkin and Nemchinov page 751; see text for full reference.]

Now I must break with the thread of the discussion here for a moment. I would very much like to be able to bring some numbers into the discussion at this point—for example, to quantify how far from the impact site the air blast would have been felt in the case of the Flood projectile—but I am unable to calculate meaningful numbers for many such questions at present.

You will appreciate, I trust, that impacts of even the asteroid type can not be studied in the science laboratory. Nuclear weapons testing has provided opportunity to study explosions at the low end of the asteroid impact range. But even these studies have been relatively few. In consequence there is a very serious lack of experimental data on asteroid impacts in general. This means that there is much quantitative uncertainty attached to even large asteroid impacts. Scientists are forced to use rough and uncertain extrapolations in attempting to quantify even these.

The Flood impact, being at least two million times more energetic than even the largest asteroid impacts, as I have mentioned above, is way beyond the range where extrapolation of results from nuclear weapons tests can be expected to yield meaningful quantitative results. We are necessarily restricted to a qualitative discussion for many aspects of the Flood impact.

I have already pointed out that the Flood impact had qualitative features unfamiliar to the literature on asteroid impacts. That is, the Flood projectile obviously penetrated deeply into the earth, relative to asteroid collisions, and this resulted in a super-heated back flow (a jet) of material from the excavated shaft back into space. This jet was probably sustained for multiple minutes or more.[18] We are able to deduce these qualitative features by application of fundamental physical laws to what we know about the nature of the Flood, especially what we learn of it from Genesis. All of this makes it quite clear at the outset that brute extrapolation of the literature on asteroid impacts will not successfully predict even all of the qualitative features of the Flood impact. Quantitatively meaningful extrapolation is clearly out of the question.

So I am unable to answer the question of whether the air blast from the Flood impact might have been felt at Céide Fields. Let us leave that question aside for the time being.

What I can say, with a considerable degree of confidence, is that the seismic waves from the Flood impact would have been felt at Céide Fields. It is these seismic waves, I suggest, which caused the collapse of the stone walls of Céide Fields.

Let us compare the seismic effect of an asteroid impact with the most destructive, catastrophic earthquakes. For an estimate of this effect we use the magnitude M in the Gutenberg-Richter scale… For [an impact energy of 10^5 megatons] we obtain M=9…

For the earthquake in China in 1920 which had a magnitude M=8.5, more than 100,000 people were killed and the radius of the zone of devastation was as large as 600 km… For the kinetic energy of 10^5 to 10^6 Mt the area of devastation with M=9 increases to 1000 km [over 600 miles].[19]

Obviously, the Flood impact, with its energy no mere 10^5 or 10^6 but rather 1015 megatons(!)—that is, ten billion times greater than needed to yield effects similar to a magnitude 9 earthquake—must have produced quite a jolt in the northern regions surrounding the impact site. This jolt would not have been felt everywhere over the globe, of course. The energy in seismic waves falls off as one moves away from the impact site. But the scale of the Flood impact suggests that the radius of its "zone of devastation" due to its seismic waves may have extended out in excess of a thousand miles.

The amplitude and frequency spectrum of these seismic waves, by the time they had traversed the actual distance from the impact site to Céide Fields, is impossible to predict. And this makes it impossible to predict what degree of destruction they would have inflicted at Céide Fields. Indeed, it seems more reasonable at this point to reverse the procedure. We know that civilization at Céide Fields was terminated by the Flood. We know the Flood was initiated by a cosmic projectile impact of enormous energy somewhere off the northwest coast of Europe/Asia.[20] We know such an impact would induce a colossal "earthquake" for a very large distance surrounding it. Céide Fields, on the northwest coast of Europe, cannot be too far from the impact site. In light of all this it seems simplest to observe that whatever magnitude earthquake is needed to reduce stone walls to the rubble piles they are found to be at Céide Fields is what was felt at Céide Fields. I have no numbers on this, but having experienced a few earthquakes while living in California for a number of years, I know that much more than a small earth tremor will be needed to do the job.

The Charcoal-Rich Peat Layer

But let us turn our attention to the charcoal-rich peat layer which Molloy and O'Connell found an inch thick on the ground near the wall and in around the fallen stones. This too is an expected consequence of a cosmic projectile impact.

The technical literature on asteroid impacts shows that one of their consequences is "wildfires". For a very large impact, the "fireball" which rises immediately after impact from the impact crater generates enough light energy to ignite fires over very large distances:

Radiation impulse on the Earth's surface obtained from numerical simulations was so great, that the energy absorbed by unit surface exceeds [the threshold of fire ignition] all over the area of direct vision… Thus, as a result of the radiation flux from the plasma plume [fireball] after a high-speed impact, fires can arise on [an area] with characteristic dimensions of 1000 km.[21]
Radiant energy from the fireball is not the only potential source of wildfires. O. B. Toon et al. state, for example, that:
for large impacts the debris from the crater explodes into space and re-enters the atmosphere over much of the globe. This re-entering material reaches a high temperature, and its downward thermal radiation can ignite fires over most of the Earth.[22]

We may safely picture the forests and fields of the high north, at least, as ablaze minutes after the Flood projectile struck. And the one inch thick charcoal-rich peat layer covering the mineral soil at Céide Fields suggests that we may safely picture its agricultural fields and surrounding landscape ablaze as well.

Timing

At the surface of the earth P type seismic waves (see Figure 2) travel about 8 km/sec, and S waves somewhat less than 5 km/sec.[23] Rayleigh waves travel about nine tenths as fast as S waves, roughly 4 km/sec.[24] Thus, P waves will arrive a distance of 1000 km from the impact site about 2 minutes after the impact. Rayleigh waves will arrive about 4 minutes after impact. Even if the distance between the impact site and Céide Fields was several times 1000 km (I discuss the probable distance between Céide Fields and the impact site below), one would certainly expect the walls to have been knocked down before any significant amount of charcoal had been produced by wildfires.

Charcoal Transport

One final question remaining is how the charcoal managed to get in around the fallen stones after they were down. This involves horizontal transport, over roughly a meter, through randomly placed stones (Figure 1). I suggest that the charcoal was transported around the fallen stones by water.

A further expectation of large asteroid impacts to ocean basins (as I have previously argued must be the case with the Flood impact)[25] is that they will loft enormous quantities of water into the atmosphere, from whence it will fall, for a prolonged period, as wet precipitation.

Even for modest impacts with energies above 102 megatons the water cloud will rise beyond 100 km, where it will form a great steam cloud. Portions of the cloud will be cold enough to form ice crystals which will fall downward and evaporate to humidify the lower atmosphere. However, the latent heat of water is significant so condensation will drive the cloud to adiabatically expand. Condensation after a 10^4 megaton impact may occur over several days, during which time the water will have been transported over great distances from the impact site.[26]
Ocean water vaporized by the cosmic projectile impact is, as I have previously suggested, the likely source of the rain which the Genesis account of the Flood describes as an opening of the "floodgates of the sky". This impact-induced rain seems from the account to have persisted forty days and nights.[27]

The Complete Picture

Putting this all together leads to the following picture.

Within seconds after the Flood impact, a sustained firejet existed over the impact site. Within a matter of minutes the intense radiant energy from the super-heated matter in this jet had ignited wooden structures and withered and ignited plant life in and around Céide Fields. Also within minutes of the impact, powerful seismic waves arrived at Céide Fields, jolting the ground violently and throwing the stone walls down everywhere.

For many minutes after the walls were down the Céide Fields' countryside burned. Soon ash and charcoal were nearly all that remained of the previously verdant landscape, its cattle, and its human occupants. But then a torrential rain began, sourced from the vast quantities of water which had been elevated into the high atmosphere by the impact. This rapidly saturated the soil, puddled in low spots, and then overflowed these and began to flood the ground everywhere. Charcoal-rich organic debris from the surface was transported by the water to the walls. The interruption in the flow of the water occasioned by these stone wall "dams", and the open structure of the freshly fallen stones, served as a natural trap of these light, organic sediments.

Impact Center

In one sense we are done—we have looked at the probable implications of the stratigraphical data obtained by Molloy and O'Connell from one section of wall at Céide Fields. But I would like to take the discussion one step further before closing. As I have studied this data and its probable implications I have come to feel that the impact site might be located much closer to Ireland than the Kara Sea, the potential impact site I have previously suggested (Figure 3).[28]

Figure 3: Northerly view of Earth showing the zone of ocean (between dashed line and coast of Europe/Asia) in which the Flood projectile impact center is most likely located. X = landing place of ark (Mt. Cilo); C = Céide Fields, Ireland; I = Iceland; K = Kara Sea.

The choice of the Kara Sea has always been tentative, and I have tried to be careful to word it that way when I have discussed it in the past. This tentative assignment rests only on the Kara Sea being located in the calculated probable zone (a roughly 500 mile-wide strip of ocean stretching along northern Europe and northwest Asia—see Figure 3) and it having a shape suggestive of an impact crater. I am caused by the data at Céide Fields to tentatively advance an alternative location for the impact center, significantly closer to Céide Fields, Ireland, than the Kara Sea. This second candidate is Iceland.

Crater Morphology

Modest-sized asteroid impacts excavate a crater which is shaped like a dish or bowl. The most conspicuous features of such craters are the sunken dish itself and the circular rim of raised material around the outer perimeter of the dish. But as one moves to higher energy impacts crater morphology begins to change. In particular, craters with a central peak begin to appear. If you have ever observed a drop of water falling into a pail of still water, you will understand how this comes about. A "rebound" peak rises from the surface of the water soon after impact of the drop. This same basic hydrodynamic flow phenomenon can occur with the rock of the earth's crust with large enough impacts. If the energy range is right, the "rebound" peak can "freeze" before it has a chance to collapse to the crater floor. In that case, a crater with a central peak is formed.

I point this out to illustrate that dish-shaped craters are not the only possibility for high energy asteroid impacts. Central peaks and even concentric ring structures are also well documented, for example.[29]

As I have pointed out above, it is inappropriate to restrict the Flood impact to what one might expect of asteroid impacts. The two differ enormously in energy. So it is inappropriate to limit the morphology of the "crater" produced by the Flood projectile to the sorts of morphologies one is familiar with from the much lower-energy asteroid impacts. With the Flood projectile, we are in an unknown, unstudied regime.

Nonetheless, the general geomorphology of Iceland is suggestive.

Mountains rim the island like a jagged crown… The central plateau is a windswept desert of sand and lava.[30]

Additional Factors

Iceland's candidacy rests on three additional factors.

First, it, too, is appropriately located. I have previously calculated that the impact site should not be much further away from Mt. Cilo, the probable landing place of the ark,[31] than 40°.[32] The dashed line in Figure 3 shows this approximate distance from Mt. Cilo. The physical structure of the interior of the earth and the necessary depth of the water of the Flood at Mt. Cilo impose this approximate limit. Iceland is only another 10% beyond this calculated distance, which is acceptable given the approximations involved in the calculation.

Iceland is located out in the deep ocean. If Iceland is the impact center then, presumably, there was no Iceland before the impact. Before the impact there was only deep ocean where Iceland now sits. Iceland was formed by the flow of lava from deep within the earth generated by the projectile impact.

Second, the distance from the center of Iceland to Céide Fields is only about 750 miles (1200 km), compared to 2400 miles (3900 km) from the center of the Kara Sea to Céide Fields. 750 miles seems more in the range expected for the evidence of seismic effects and wildfires from Céide Fields discussed above.

Third, it seems reasonable that the Flood impact site should still be geologically active today, and Iceland is currently one of the most volcanically active spots on the surface of the earth.

Heat travels relatively slowly inside the earth. To get a feel for this, notice that annual changes in temperature at the surface of the earth are reflected in temperature variations within the earth having a wavelength of about 20 meters.[33] Said another way, annual variations in temperature at the surface of the earth take one year to travel 20 meters into the earth.

I have previously suggested the Flood projectile may have had a diameter of 50 kilometers. We can reasonably expect it to have penetrated at least several diameters into the earth. When the impact was "all over" we can expect that an excess of energy (i.e., heat) remained trapped all along the length of its track into the earth. At a heat flow rate of 20 meters per year, excess heat from just two projectile diameters deep would only now be arriving at the surface. The fact that excess heat is currently venting in Iceland is abundantly clear:

More than a hundred volcanoes, some still active, make Iceland one of the most volcanic regions of the world… The volcanic rocks heat countless hot springs and geysers… The warm waters are piped to heat buildings and hothouses, in which vegetables, fruits, and flowers grow the year around. In some places water is piped through the soil to warm it for growing green crops.[34]

Iceland sits on a continuation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge into northern latitudes. The ridge is known as Reykjanes Ridge to the south of Iceland, and Kolbeinsey Ridge to the north. This line of deep ocean ridges marks the boundary between adjoining slabs of rocky crust. The slabs, or plates, are like the pieces of the shell of an egg which has been cracked. The plates of the earth grind and push on each other at these boundaries, making the boundaries generally more active than the rest of the surface of the earth in regard to earthquakes and volcanoes.

I think it is common to explain Iceland's very high volcanic activity as due to its location on this boundary between plates. This is not altogether satisfactory, however. There are many plate boundaries girdling the earth, but Iceland appears to be uniquely "hot" and active. Something more than just the junction of plate boundaries seems to be needed to explain Iceland's unusually high density of volcanoes and other signs that it is presently venting excess heat from deep within the earth.

Interestingly, the idea that Iceland may be the impact center casts an entirely different light on its location on a boundary between plates. If one jabs a pin into a hardboiled egg, a jab where the shell is already cracked will obviously result in deepest penetration of the pin for equivalent energy input. If Iceland is the impact center then we must conclude that the Flood projectile, against all odds, struck the earth at a junction of plates, where the strength of the target was least.

This raises a whole new slate of possibilities regarding the depth of penetration of the projectile, the production of a super-heated gas jet back up out of the punctured shaft, the size and shape of the final crater, and much else besides.

If Iceland is the impact site, then it seems clear that we must begin to think of the Flood impact as unique in more ways than just its enormous energy. One is caused to wonder whether the result might have been quite different had the Flood projectile impacted on a plate rather than at a boundary between plates. The technical literature is full of predictions of mass extinction of life following collision of a large (10^9 Mt) asteroid with earth. These are not alarmist speculations; they are the sober implications of the scientific data and physical laws which bear on very high energy explosions. These implications arise because enormous amounts of energy are normally released at the surface of the earth when an asteroid collides with a continental land mass or with an ocean. This excess energy shows up in the environment in numerous disastrous ways, causing major disturbances to Earth's intricately designed life-support systems. For example, enough dust can be produced in the impact explosion and lofted into the atmosphere to block out the sun for a year or more, stopping photosynthesis and inducing mass starvation throughout Earth's animal kingdom.

But the Flood projectile is almost unthinkably more energetic than even the largest asteroid impact. The amazing wonder is that the earth is a habitable place at all even today, five and a half thousand years following that impact. Yet we know that Noah and his family left the ark and entered a world replete with sunshine (witness the rainbow) a mere year following the impact. The earth seems to have gotten off very lightly, really, compared to what might have been.

Is this possibly because the Flood projectile "just happened" to strike where the crust of the earth would naturally be weakest? This would minimize energy deposition at the surface of the earth—it would allow the projectile to penetrate deeply with minimal resistance and energy loss at the surface, expending the bulk of its energy at depth, rather than at the earth's surface. And this, in turn, would allow the energy to be shot quickly away from the earth in the form of a jet of vaporized matter, rather than lingering at earth's surface to pollute the environment and perturb Earth's life-support systems irrecoverably. Is this how we ended up with a clean and tidy Flood, rather than something a million times worse than a nuclear holocaust, which one might naturally expect of such an energetic impact? Are we possibly discerning the counsel of the Almighty in this choice of impact site?

Conclusion

The data from Céide Fields seem clearly supportive of the claim that the root physical cause of Noah's Flood was a cosmic projectile impact. They help us understand what the opening moments of Noah's Flood were like in a thousand mile radius around the impact site. They aid us in our efforts to pinpoint the impact site. They bring us face-to-face with what God's judgment means.

They also open new questions, generating new research topics and new research projects.

For example: is the interpretation of Molloy's and O'Connell's stratigraphic data which I have given above correct? It is easy enough to check. It predicts that the charcoal from the charcoal-rich layer found around the fallen stones of the wall will date to 3520±21 B.C., the Biblical date of the Flood. This can be checked by radiocarbon dating the charcoal.

Is Iceland the impact center? Here again chronology is the key to a definitive answer. But the chronology is not quite so easily discerned in this case. It involves dating rocks, rather than organic remains, and for this purpose radiocarbon cannot be used. And not only must we date rocks, but, according to the thesis, very young rocks at that. This is not easy—there will be pitfalls, such as inherited age and pseudo-isochrones, to deal with. This is a much bigger project. But it is one which needs to be pursued to a definitive conclusion just the same.

And one wonders what further answers the walls of Céide Fields may yet have to offer us. Is there possibly directional information to be gleaned from them? That is, might the direction to the epicenter of the seismic waves which knocked them down be determined from the distribution of the fallen stones? Note that Iceland and the Kara Sea are in very different directions from Céide Fields. They differ, in fact, by about 50° on the compass. If the collapsed walls do contain directional information, it should be easy to falsify at least one of these candidate sites on the basis of that information.

And, finally, one wonders what stories the Faeroe Islands, just 300 miles southeast of Iceland—and also Greenland's eastern shore, closer yet on the northwest side of Iceland—may have to tell the intelligently informed observer.

Let us do what we can to find out, for the sake of truth, and to the glory of God. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical chronology in an easily understood manner.

An introductory packet containing three sample issues and a subscription order form is available for $9.95 US regardless of destination address. Send check or money order in US funds and request the "Intro Pack."

The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Copyright © 1999 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood: The Irish Evidence," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 1–7.

  2. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 5000–3000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 2.4 (July/August 1996): 1–5.

  3. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Radiocarbon Dating Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.6 (November/December 1997): 1–11.

  4. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Pre-Flood Settlement of Ireland," The Biblical Chronologist 5.4 (July/August 1999): 1–7.

  5. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Post-Flood Settlement of Ireland," The Biblical Chronologist 5.5 (September/October 1999): 1–7.

  6. ^  Karen Molloy and Michael O'Connell, "Palaeoecological investigations towards the reconstruction of environment and land-use changes during prehistory at Céide Fields, western Ireland," Probleme der Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet 23 (1995): 187–225.

  7. ^  Seamus Caulfield, "Neolithic Fields: The Irish Evidence," Early Land Allotment in the British Isles, BAR 48, ed. H. C. Bowen and P. J. Fowler (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1978), 137.

  8. ^  Karen Molloy and Michael O'Connell, "Palaeoecological investigations towards the reconstruction of environment and land-use changes during prehistory at Céide Fields, western Ireland," Probleme der Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet 23 (1995): 222.

  9. ^  Karen Molloy and Michael O'Connell, "Palaeoecological investigations towards the reconstruction of environment and land-use changes during prehistory at Céide Fields, western Ireland," Probleme der Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet 23 (1995): 212–213.

  10. ^  Karen Molloy and Michael O'Connell, "Palaeoecological investigations towards the reconstruction of environment and land-use changes during prehistory at Céide Fields, western Ireland," Probleme der Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet 23 (1995): 212.

  11. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 2.3 (May/June 1996): 9–10.

  12. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 1–14.

  13. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Space Rock Impacts and Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 4.2 (March/April 1998): 1–11.

  14. ^  For a review including "chalkboard sketches" see: Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101," The Biblical Chronologist 4.3 (May/June 1998): 6–10.

  15. ^  See, for example: Tom Gehrels, ed. Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1994).

  16. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Space Rock Impacts and Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 4.2 (March/April 1998): 1–11.

  17. ^  Vitaly V. Adushkin and Ivan V. Nemchinov, "Consequences of Impacts of Cosmic Bodies on the Surface of the Earth," Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids, ed. Tom Gehrels (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1994), 721–778.

  18. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Space Rock Impacts and Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 4.2 (March/April 1998): 10.

  19. ^  Vitaly V. Adushkin and Ivan V. Nemchinov, "Consequences of Impacts of Cosmic Bodies on the Surface of the Earth," Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids, ed. Tom Gehrels (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1994), 750.

  20. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 12–13.

  21. ^  Vitaly V. Adushkin and Ivan V. Nemchinov, "Consequences of Impacts of Cosmic Bodies on the Surface of the Earth," Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids, ed. Tom Gehrels (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1994), 734–735.

  22. ^  Owen B. Toon, Kevin Zahnle, Richard P. Turco, and Curt Covey, "Environmental Perturbations Caused by Asteroid Impacts," Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids, ed. Tom Gehrels (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1994), 809.

  23. ^  George D. Garland, Introduction to Geophysics, (Toronto: W. B. Saunders Company, 1979), 46.

  24. ^  George D. Garland, Introduction to Geophysics, (Toronto: W. B. Saunders Company, 1979), 57.

  25. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 12.

  26. ^  Owen B. Toon, Kevin Zahnle, Richard P. Turco, and Curt Covey, "Environmental Perturbations Caused by Asteroid Impacts," Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids, ed. Tom Gehrels (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1994), 818.

  27. ^  Genesis 7:11–12.

  28. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 13.

  29. ^  H. J. Melosh, Impact Cratering, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

  30. ^  "Iceland," Compton's Encyclopedia, vol. 11 (Chicago: William Benton, 1972) 10.

  31. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Ark on Ararat?," The Biblical Chronologist 3.2 (March/April 1997): 1–12.

  32. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 12–13.

  33. ^  George D. Garland, Introduction to Geophysics, (Toronto: W. B. Saunders Company, 1979), 347.

  34. ^  "Iceland," Compton's Encyclopedia, vol. 11 (Chicago: William Benton, 1972) 10.

 
 
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