The present article picks up the narrative as we are descending the crater wall to the wadi bed on the floor of the crater. Our purpose is to discover if this crater is due to volcanism or is merely an erosional feature. The events described took place on Saturday, June 24, 2000.
Into the Crater
We reached the dry wadi bed at the floor of the crater around 11:35 a.m. (Figure 2). There was little breeze inside the crater, and with the sun almost directly overhead it was uncomfortably warm.
We began to follow the wadi upward, which took us in an overall southerly direction. We were keeping an eye out for any rocks in the wadi gravels which might have been of volcanic origin. After ten minutes of walking along the wadi bed it was clear that if there were any rocks of volcanic origin in that bed, they were extremely rare. All we had encountered were abundant limestone rocks and gravel (Figure 4).
Shortly before noon we came upon the fine ram's horn specimen shown in Figure 7. By that time our water was warm, and so were we.
I am afraid we didn't find much else of interest in the wadi bed. We could find no trace of basalt or other volcanic rock anywhere in the wadi bed that hot afternoon. I have included lots of pictures of the sorts of rocks and stratigraphy we did find. These are not of much interest to a general audience, but they are likely to be important to individuals with geological background. As best I can tell—not being a geologist—they all seem to argue against the volcanic theory of origin of this crater. The rock strata we encountered were all clearly limestone, and hence of sedimentary origin. Bedding plains were generally horizontal, with a slight tilt upwards to the south. Everything we saw in the crater seemed to us to say that it had been created by erosion, not volcanism.
At one point we came upon a large section of limestone with copious embedded chert nodules (Figure 13). These occurred in at least two different strata, separated horizontally by six feet or more. I felt this would have been a rich find for anyone wishing to manufacture flint tools, and wondered whether this was the ultimate source of the chert flakes we had found in such abundance near the summit earlier in the day.
We encountered an occasional bit of green biology, which lent relief to the otherwise overwhelming white limestone geology of the crater floor. Figure 14 shows a lovely light-green bush we came upon at a turn in the wadi bed. This bush had long, thin, pliable, needle-like leaves, which gave off no perceptible odor when crushed. I think this was the largest native plant we encountered anywhere on Sinai.
The wadi bed developed sharp turns and steep walls on either side as we neared the base of the south rim of the crater (Figure 15). By 12:55 p.m. half of our water supply was gone and we were on our way up and out (Figure 16). My heart was soon pounding in my chest, despite frequent stops for rest. There was no shade to offer any relief from the sun. The weak breezes which stirred from time to time provided no relief from the oppressive, mid-day heat. We soon were hoping that each rise before us would be the top, but we were disappointed more than once.
We crested the final rise at 1:34 p.m. and were rewarded with a fine view spread out far below in front of us (Figure 17). Unfortunately, this view was not the one we had expected. We were, in fact, looking out over a military base, situated some miles southwest of the town of Yeroham. We had been led by the wadi bed more to the southwest than we had expected. We would need to follow the rim around to the east, and then north, back to the summit—a trek of a mile or more—before we could begin our descent.
There was a welcome breeze up on the top. There was also a bulldozed military road, which made the trek around this part of the rim to the summit relatively smooth and straightforward. We were feeling pretty worn out by this point in the day, but we welcomed the opportunity to view another part of the rim close up, and to view the summit from another angle (Figure 18).
Another few minutes of walking brought us in view of the distant town of Yeroham, the reservoir, and the plain in which the Israelites had pitched their tents (Figure 21).
Unfortunately, we took the wrong arm of the mountain down from the summit—an all-to-easy mistake to make, I realized in hindsight. This ultimately brought us to the west of the bamah and Midianite settlement hills. By the time we discovered this error we were much too far down the mountain and much too worn out to contemplate the hike back up the mountain we would need to make if we were to go back and make the correct turn.
Separating us from the bamah and Midianite settlement hills—and the path out to our car—was a very steep, deep ravine. We descended into the ravine, with the idea of following it out to its exit, which we knew must be somewhere below the dam. But we had to abandon that plan after some minutes of walking along the bottom of the ravine when we came to a sheer cliff drop-off in the wadi bed in front of us. The rugged beauty and uniqueness of the spot would have been captivating in ordinary circumstances—what a lovely desert waterfall there must be there when it rains. Unfortunately, we were not in ordinary circumstances and we were in no condition to appreciate much of anything, other than a long, cold drink and a place to rest in the shade.
It was hot, without a breeze, in the bottom of the ravine. Our (now hot) water was nearly spent. Our strength was spent. And it was now clear that the way out entailed a grueling climb up the other side of the ravine. Should we rest—and bake—in the bottom of the ravine, putting further strain on our dwindling water, or attempt the climb out immediately and risk physical collapse from heat and over-exertion? I decided on the later course of action.
It was after 3:00 p.m. by the time we had topped the ravine. My pocket thermometer was reading 105°F by that time (Figure 22). We were looking forward to getting back to our air conditioned car.
The reservoir was a very welcome sight (Figure 23). We made our way down to it and collapsed in the thin shade of the trees which grew at its edge (Figure 24). It was cooler by the water—though still hot. A gentle breeze kept the air in motion under the trees. We felt an obvious urge to drink the reservoir water, and to go for a plunge, just to cool off a bit. But we had seen—and smelled—sewage water from the town of Yeroham emptying back into the reservoir on our initial exploration of the abandoned park surrounding the reservoir a week previously, so we put these temptations from our minds.
We divvied up the last of our water—we would obviously be thirsty before we got back to our lodging at the Ben Gurien University of the Negev. We rested until we felt we had regained sufficient energy to make the final hike out through the park. We arrived back at our car at 4:15 p.m., nearly eleven hours after we had parked it that morning (Figure 25).
Our water was gone and we were thoroughly exhausted. But we were pleased at all that had been accomplished once again. We had completed our mission of scouting out the summit and crater of Mt. Sinai. We had learned that the summit had been used and significantly disturbed by the Israeli military for training purposes, so that there is no longer any hope of seeing it as Moses left it four and a half thousand years ago. We had also learned that if the crater behind Mt. Yeroham is of volcanic origin, it is doing a very good job of concealing that fact, to amateur eyes at least. We had uncovered not so much as a single pebble of volcanic origin inside the crater. The only evidence which did not immediately speak of sedimentation and weathering as the forces which had shaped Yeroham was the curious veneer covering many of the limestone rocks just north of the summit. As this veneer was found in the widened cracks between lumps of limestone, its origin seems necessarily to date long after these rocks had been formed—indeed, after they had experienced exposure and weathering at the surface. My impression that day was the same as it is now, that the notion of a "fountain" spewing molten rock into the air from just inside the crater rim and very near the summit seemed best able to explain the distribution of the veneer. But our brief survey of the area was not adequate to reach any firm conclusion in this regard, or even to feel very confident of this impression we had come away from the summit with.
Monday, June 26, 2000
We took the next day, Sunday, June 25, off. We were too fatigued to contemplate any further exploration. That made Monday, June 26, our last working day.
We rose before 6:00 a.m. and had a light breakfast of granola bars and dry bread. Our principal objective was to survey a portion of the plain on which the Israelites had camped. Archaeologist Thomas L. Thompson had reported finding pottery shards covering an area of more than a thousand acres on this plain. Abundant pottery is a necessary condition for any plain which had been camped on for a year by two million people four and a half thousand years ago. We wanted to get a first-hand impression of the density of pottery shards, and, as with all this venture, we wanted to capture our experience on digital video so others could share in our experience without having to travel to Yeroham to do so.
The plain itself is very large—roughly 3,000 acres (Figure 26). We did not attempt to survey all of this area. In hindsight I wish we had surveyed more of it. The spatial distribution of the pottery defines the location and extent of the Israelites' tent city while they stayed at Sinai. It would have been nice to delineate the boundaries of the Israelites' tent city. Another time, perhaps.
We restricted our survey to the corner of the plain which butts up against the east side of Sinai (Figure 27). The area of this section, between the mountain and the modern road, route 204, is maybe 30 acres.
We were somewhat dismayed, as we walked out across the abandoned park to this section of the plain, to see extensive construction of water works for the town of Yeroham underway. Huge dump trucks and backhoes were making a thunderous racket as they unwittingly obliterated acres of evidence left by those earliest Israelites four and a half thousand years previously.
But as soon as we had moved into an undisturbed section of the plain we encountered pottery shards everywhere. The ground at our feet was littered with pottery shards, at least one shard every couple of feet. One would have been hard pressed to find a ten foot square section that didn't have a pottery shard in it.
We were impressed by the good view of the bamah which was available everywhere we walked. Moses had obviously chosen a good spot to carry out the public ceremony confirming the covenant between God and the Israelite nation (Exodus 24:4–8).
We made two lengthy transects in different directions across the area of interest to our survey. We walked along with several yards between us. Each time we spied a pottery shard we would call out "piece". This gave us an impression of the density of pottery over a roughly twenty foot wide path as we walked along. There were few intervals of silence.
We did encounter a few places where pottery was rare, but most of these were readily explained—an area which was washed by a small wadi, an area covered by fresh-looking dunes, a rock-strewn slope which wouldn't have made much of a place to pitch a tent because of the grade. But these bare spots were the exceptions; the rule was pottery shards everywhere.
We crossed the large wadi at the foot of Sinai and surveyed the ground for pottery shards at its base. We found very few shards in this region, suggesting that the wadi had acted as a natural boundary to the Israelite tent city.
We completed our planned survey somewhat before noon. We were standing at the foot of the bamah hill once again, but the sound of military helicopters and frequent booming percussions in behind the mountain discouraged any thought of one last climb to the bamah or the Midianite village. We were glad we had finished our survey of the summit and the crater before the military training exercise which was now obviously in full swing had begun.
We decided to take the path behind the dam on our way back out of the park to our car. I wanted to get some pictures showing how the limestone strata tilt up toward the north in the wadi bed below the dam (Figure 46). With so little effort needed to erect man-made dams above these natural bedrock outcrops, and materials to do so readily at hand, it seems probable that primitive dams, increasing the volume of water impounded, existed at this spot from the earliest human presence in the area. But even without man-made dams there would have been one or more natural pools of water at Sinai when the Israelites visited there because the unusual northward tilt of these limestone strata causes them to act as natural dams.
On our way to the dam we came upon another cave (Figures 47,48 and 49), which had seen much use over the years judging from the thick soot on its ceiling. We thought again of Elijah's stay in a cave at this mountain as we explored this cave.
Having fulfilled our objective at the dam we made our way back out to our car, using the now familiar gravel road which provides service access to the dam.
We spent our final evening on the plain at the foot of Sinai, capturing photos of the bamah with the setting sun in behind it. We were too worn out from lack of sleep, lack of food, and having climbed this Negev mountain beneath the desert sun a few too many times to take on anything more ambitious.
When we had the shots we wanted we turned and trudged back toward our car—one last hike across the plain where, four and a half thousand years previously, a host of newly liberated slaves had camped, and their children had played. The monstrous yellow-green dump trucks had been busy all day, hauling sewage from the channel and dumping it in the slight depression up close to the mountain. The air smelled like an open septic system. The giant wheels of the trucks had thrown up clouds of dust, which now lay four or five inches deep on either side of the dirt road they had scarred across the plain. Each new footfall in this piled up dust sent it back up into the desert air, our noses, and our throats. Infrequent, distant percussions kept us mindful that military training was in full swing not too many miles away, in behind the mountain.
I felt a frustrating sense of loss as I walked away from the mountain that last time. This site which had been remarkably preserved for four and a half thousand years was, because of ignorance of its true significance, rapidly vanishing before our very eyes. Would there be anything left of the archaeological evidence at Sinai for my grandchildren to see, I wondered.
It is the six month anniversary of my climb to the summit of Sinai as I type the closing paragraphs of this report. The Illinois prairie outside my office window is a chill winter scene of clear blue sky and sparkling snow-blanketed ground. The heat and thirst of Sinai seem far away.
As I think back over our experience at Sinai I recall several first-hand impressions. Perhaps the strongest was of the emptiness which is there today. The teeming vibrancy which fills the pages of the Biblical narrative of the Israelites' stay at Sinai is absent at Yeroham today. The thousands of tents were folded and moved on to the wilderness of Paran long ago. The Midianites went with them. Moses and Joshua went too. And the supernatural manifestations of the presence of God also moved on, going before them, leading the way. What remains is another average Negev mountain, unimpressive to the senses.
The summit was deserted and quiet when we visited it. No trumpets split the silence. Nor was there any fire or thick cloud there—only clear sky and blazing desert sun.
It is all so empty now—the summit, the bamah, the Midianite village, the plain—a deserted relict of an ancient glorious past.
And yet Sinai came to life again at moments during the few brief days we spent there. As I peered over the steep side into the deep ravine to the north of the Midianite encampment, just ten or twelve feet from the nearest rock dwelling, I could easily imagine a Midianite child playing about my feet, and hear his mother chiding in an unfamiliar tongue from among the dwellings where she was busy preparing supper, "Don't play so close to the edge, dear".
And as we paused to assemble broken fragments of a pottery dish on the saddle between the bamah and the Midianite encampment, I pictured a young girl carrying this very dish, out gathering manna, accidentally tripping over a stone…
And down on the plain, as I stooped to pick up yet another broken jar handle from the desert sand, I looked toward the reservoir and saw, fleetingly, a woman carrying the jar, full of water, and balanced with a gracile ease, almost as if by magic, upon her head…
And again, as I stood in the center of the ring of stones at the bamah and looked out toward the plain, I could see a large group of elders standing before me, within the stone wall of the bamah, filling the large flat area there. They were looking up in my direction, their faces framed by full gray beards, which solemnly wagged their assent as they said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do…"
Perhaps if you had been there, you would have seen much else besides. Though they moved on from Sinai four and a half thousand years ago, much evidence of their long-ago presence yet remains. And the evidence is evocative of distant memories.
It has been good to reflect over our brief excursion to Sinai as I have labored to get it on paper for others to see and share in these past several months. In one sense I feel a deep satisfaction—so much learned, a job well done.
But the job is hardly complete, of course. There is so much more yet to understand. What is the source of the veneer on the rocks near the summit of Sinai? Can we determine how rapidly the limestone of the bamah has been eroding, to gain a better understanding of the cupmarks? Are the two archaeological layers at the Midianite settlement the result of the earthquake which accompanied God's descent on the mountain? Might we radiocarbon date these two layers to learn about this? Might we radiocarbon date the earliest layer to check our chronology of the Exodus? Might careful surface archaeology yet discover which tribes camped where? Might it discover where the original tabernacle was erected? And what is to be done to preserve the site long enough for an honest attempt to be made at answering such questions? What is to be done to preserve this ancient, holy site for future generations to experience?
Sinai: desert mountain; seat of revelation; birthplace of a nation; lost for millennia; found at last; revealer of long-held secrets; seat of mysteries; vanishing now. ◇
The Cause of Reduced
Far more than just curiosity has motivated my research into this matter, of course. The question of why human life spans were once more than ten times what they are today is obviously one of enormous practical significance. Indeed, there is no medical or scientific question of greater practical significance than this one. A correct understanding of why human life spans were so much greater in antiquity raises the possibility that practical steps might be taken to restore human life spans to pre-Flood values today.
To the clear-headed Christian this is a welcome prospect. To Christians, death is no friend. It is a perversion that only entered creation as a result of sin. It will be entirely vanquished and removed from the creation at the close of God's great plan of redemption. Death is Satan's stock-in-trade. The Savior dispenses life. The Christian who follows the Savior and understands His heart thrills at every advance of life and every setback of death.
Christians hail the great life-saving strides which have been made in medicine during the past several centuries. The work of Pasteur, in particular, in elucidating the germ theory of disease has saved millions of lives: from soldiers wounded in battle, to women giving birth in hospitals, to babies and children formerly decimated by smallpox, to patients undergoing surgery, to many, many more.
The West, with its Christian roots, has historically contended vigorously and tirelessly with the domain of death. We still do so today, with large, publicly supported research institutions devoted to finding cures for cancer, heart disease, and numerous other major killer diseases.
The only blot on the West's record in this regard is the hideous modern spectacle of abortion. This is a relatively recent blot, of course. Its presence in the West today is a symptom of a widespread loss of Christian moorings—a moral confusion at a very fundamental level. It signals the loss from the Western conscience of the simple truth that death is Satan's ware—that those who have embraced as their public policy the death of innocents have not embraced the One who is "the Life".
Clear-headed Christians see death as an unwelcome evil and an enemy. They have always done whatever they could to wrest from death its estates. This same historic Christian sentiment impels us to do what we can to elucidate the cause of the dramatic reduction in life spans which followed the Flood.
Before profitable analysis of the true issues surrounding the post-Flood reduction in life spans can begin there are a number of common misconceptions and imprecise definitions in common use in regard to longevity in general which must be cleared up.
The first of these is "aging". In common use "aging" can mean both "maturing" (or "growing up") and "declining" (or "growing old"). Contrary to this common use, biological considerations lead to a natural separation of the concepts of "growing up" and "growing old". "Growing up" is seen biologically as a time of cell proliferation and differentiation. In contrast, "growing old" involves an increasing loss of cell mass and increasing loss of functional ability originating at the cellular level.
Today humans "grow up" during their first two decades. They then enter a plateau for several decades, during which they are neither maturing physically nor substantially declining. This is followed by another few decades during which physical decline becomes apparent at an ever accelerating pace, culminating in death.
The phases of a person's life can be likened to the phases in the life of a building. The "growing up" phase corresponds to construction of the building. The plateau phase corresponds to the building's serviceable life. The decline phase corresponds to the building's eventual demise due to loss of structural strength in its materials.
It is obvious that the construction phase of a building is likely to be on its own schedule, independent of the duration of the other phases. By analogy we might also expect the "growing up" phase for humans to be on its own schedule, independent of the length of the plateau and decline phases.
The Biblical data imply that this is indeed the case, at least in first approximation. One could imagine that the average pre-Flood life span of 925 years was a result of the uniform slowing of the biological "clock" through the entire sequence of maturation, plateau, and decline. In such a case an individual would remain a baby for ten years instead of one, and would reach sexual maturity at 150 years instead of 15 years.
This does not appear to have been the case in the pre-Flood world. Notice, for example, that Enoch fathered Methuselah at age 65 (Genesis 5:21), which is well before 150. This seems to imply that people "grew up" before the Flood at much the same rate as they do today.
We are thus led to separate the biology of "growing up" from the biology of the remainder of a person's life. In this study factors affecting the rate of maturation do not much interest us. Evidently it is only factors affecting the length of the plateau and decline phases which are of interest.
Another common misconception is that people are reaching maximum ages today far in excess of the maximum age people could hope to obtain a thousand years ago. The popular notion here is that modern science and medicine have brought about a remarkable increase in the maximum length of life.
One has simply to recall the Biblical "threescore years and ten" to know that this idea is false. In point of fact, modern science has done absolutely nothing to increase the maximum age people can live to. People have been living into their seventies and eighties and beyond all through history. Science is totally at a loss at present to know how to extend the maximum human life span.
What modern science has done is to increase the average life span. That is, modern science and medicine have made it possible for a much larger percentage of the population to reach their seventies before dying. For example, in the past many individuals died in infancy and early childhood as a result of disease. Modern science has found ways of protecting children from these diseases, thus enabling many who would have died in infancy in the past to live on into their seventies and beyond in the present. The net effect of this is to increase the average age at death for the overall population.
Modern medicine has become very good at keeping people alive long enough for them to reach the decline phase; it has so far been able to do nothing to alter the age at which the decline phase is reached.
Still another misconception is that "special" groups or individuals living today have maximum life spans remarkably different than the overall population—either far above or far below the normal life span today.
One reflection of this is the notion that "primitive" peoples only live into their thirties. This is a confusion of average and maximum life spans again. The average life span can be much reduced in primitive living conditions, but this does not alter the maximum possible life span. In primitive living conditions disease and exposure to a harsh environment can result in the deaths of many people while they are still relatively young. But one still finds elderly individuals in populations raised in primitive circumstances—individuals who are, in fact, in their eighties and nineties.
Another reflection of this special groups idea is the notion that people who live in particular geographical locations (e.g., Tibet) or who hold particular professions (e.g., Tibetan priests) live to extreme ages. In actual fact no dependence of maximum life span on geographical location or profession is found when authenticated records of individuals of verifiable identity are examined.
Perhaps the most difficult misconception to correct is the belief that 75 years is a normal life span for humans. The Biblical life span data show overwhelmingly that this belief is simply false. They show that something went wrong with human longevity at the time of the Flood, resulting in the presently drastically reduced 75-year life span. If we are to take Biblical history seriously, then we must conclude that death at 75 is not normal for humans at all.
Imagine for a moment an island community, cut off from the rest of the world, where everybody dies before age 40 due to a certain doubly recessive genetic defect which has come to be found in all individuals in the population. This defect causes them all to be highly susceptible to cancer. As a result, all contract cancer and die in their fourth decade of life.
If this community remained cut off from the rest of the world for many generations, it is easy to see how they could ultimately come to believe that death by age 40 was normal for humans—and not only normal, but indeed proper. It is probable that many of them would respond with skeptical laughter and disdain if someone were to suggest the idea that many of their distant ancestors, who had discovered and populated the island thousands of years previously, had lived into their eighties and nineties. Certainly many of them would find the suggestion incredible that practical steps (i.e., marriage outside the island population) might be taken to restore an average life span of 75 years to their community. And some, no doubt, would assert that it was the will of God for humans to die before age 40, and that it was impious to meddle in such matters.
But they would be wrong, of course.
The Biblical life span data teach us that the post-Flood world, in which we live today, is like this island community. Seventy-five years has become the average life span. It has been this way for thousands of years. But it is wrong to mistake what we have become accustomed to for what should be.
If we truly believe the Bible then we must reorient our thinking. We must accept that the present human life span of 75 years is a very sad state of affairs indeed. Much more dramatic than our imaginary islanders, whose life spans were reduced a mere factor of two, our life spans have been reduced by over a factor of ten. Far from 75 years being "normal" and "proper" we must accept the conclusion that the entire human population today is, in fact, subject to a horrible, devastating malady.
We have learned to call this malady "old age", and we have learned to accept it. But the Biblical life span data teach us that this is entirely wrong-headed. They show us that "old age" is a false label, and a highly misleading one. When we come to grips with what the Bible plainly shows, and accept it at face value, we see immediately that nobody has ever died of "old age" at 75 or even at 125. The Biblical life span data teach us that 75 is not an "old" age. Obviously, to call an individual "old" who has lived only 75 years, in a population sporting many individuals in excess of 750 years, as was the case in the pre-Flood population, is laughable.
The Biblical life span data make it clear that nobody dies of "old age" at 75 years, for 75 years is not an old age for humans at all. People routinely die within a few decades of the young age of 75 today, but they do not die because of their age. Time is not the killer. They die because they have been afflicted with a devastating malady which tends to kill humans within a few decades of 75 years today. This malady decimates their bodies, causing them to lose functional ability and waste away while they are still very young—before they have achieved even one tenth of their life span potential.
To avoid confusing and misleading terms such as "aging" and "old age" and focus attention on the true essence of the longevity problem I will make use of the new term "Malady X" (read "Malady X-bar") from this point on. For example: "He died of Malady X" rather than "He died of old age".
By substituting "Malady X" for "old age", I mean to deliberately part company with the false idea that people die within a few decades of 75 today because they are aged and replace it with the true idea that people die within a few decades of 75 today because they are afflicted. I mean to make it perfectly clear that time is not the essence of the problem. I mean to emphasize that the essence of the problem is what medicine routinely calls disease.
If we are to think accurately about longevity in light of what the Bible shows us then we must begin to see what we presently call "old age" as simply another human disease. I have introduced the new term "Malady X" as a temporary name for this disease since it lacks any other suitable name at present.
Malady X is a disease that manifests itself by, among other things: loss of hair color, wrinkled skin, vision impairment, loss of physical strength, and increasing susceptibility to a large number of diseases. Malady X symptoms are universally seen in all individuals today beginning in their fifth decade of life. That is, all individuals over the entire globe are afflicted with Malady X today. The sad result is death of most individuals within a few decades of 75 years of age, and of all individuals before 130 years of age—dramatically short of the known life span potential of humans, in excess of 900 years.
The research problem is to find the physical cause of Malady X. The hope and expectation of this research is that once the cause of Malady X has been found, a cure will be able to be formulated. Once a cure for Malady X has been formulated, the expectation is that the symptoms of Malady X will not appear in any individual's fifth decade and people will be able to go on living in the plateau phase for multiple hundreds of years, just as they did before the Flood.
Having clarified the fundamental essence of the longevity problem, we are able to correct another common misconception. This is the idea that killer diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease are mankind's primary health problems today. In actual fact, Malady X is the primary health problem.
Cancer and cardiovascular disease are, for the most part, diseases of "old age". That is, they prey on individuals already weakened by Malady X. The implication is that the incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all other "old age" related diseases will dramatically decline once the cure of Malady X has been elucidated.
Note that the converse is not true. Even if total cures for cancer and cardiovascular disease were to be found, people would still continue to die of Malady X within a few decades of 75 years.
A cure for Malady X is clearly, by far, the most pressing medical need today. All other diseases combined pale in significance relative to the misery and suffering caused each year by Malady X.
But finding a cure for Malady X is no easy task. The newspaper quote at the start of this article makes it abundantly clear that, despite multiple millions of dollars spent on the problem, scientists are presently at a complete loss regarding how human life spans might ever be significantly increased beyond 100 years. They see no prospects at present. Some feel it is a fundamental impossibility. Obviously, the problem is not a trivial one.
This point is underscored by consideration of present life span statistics. Despite a present global population of six billion people—implying in excess of two hundred thousand deaths per day world wide (i.e., eighty million deaths per year)—a life span in excess of 120 years is still a rare and remarkable event, and not one verifiable case of any individual living past 130 years of age has ever been found.
The difficulty of the problem is further emphasized to the Bible believing Christian by the fact that the scourge of reduced longevity has been with us since the Flood. That is, the Biblical fact that humans once lived in excess of 900 years has been known for over five and a half thousand years. The problem of reduced longevity since the Flood has been abundantly obvious for at least five thousand of those years. Yet in all that time, despite the obvious enormity of loss to all of us resulting from reduced longevity, no one has been able to discover how to do anything about it.
The biggest difficulty for the modern researcher is that everybody suffers from this disease today. Normally a researcher studies a disease relative to a group of healthy individuals. In the case of Malady X, there are no healthy subjects to compare to.
If even one individual were to live to, say, 150 years today, we can be sure that that individual would be the subject of intense scientific interest. The interest would focus around the question of what factor or factors had allowed that individual to live so long. Every effort would be made to isolate factors in that individuals experience which were different from everybody else, with the expectation that one or more such factors must be responsible for the difference in longevity observed.
But we have no such individual or group of individuals to compare to today. Everybody is afflicted with Malady X. The search for difference factors has no subjects from which even to begin.
Today, that is.
The search does have a few subjects to work with from the distant past, if we are willing to believe the Bible: Adam, and Noah, and Arpachshad, and Peleg, and Abraham for example. The Bible tells us plainly that these men all enjoyed life spans in excess of 150 years.
All investigators admit that the problem of how to extend human life spans is one of extreme difficulty. Reliable data from subjects living beyond even 150 years—the sort of data one really needs to have any serious hope of cracking the problem—can not be obtained today. Many researchers have already spent much time groping about in the dark for some clue to the mystery of human longevity, with nothing to show for their efforts.
Only one soft ray transgresses this blackness. It glimmers unobtrusively but faithfully from a lone window, which looks out dimly upon an ancient world, where thousands of multi-centenarians once worked and played. I suggest the time may have come to take a careful look through this window. It seems our only possible hope. And perhaps it was put there for this very purpose. ◇
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: to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology, to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and 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 © 2001 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.
^ Genesis 9:29, NASB.
^ San Francisco (AP), "Life expectancy may be nearing its upper limit," The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Illinois), 19 February 2001, p. A-1 and A-6.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Research in Progress," The Biblical Chronologist 5.5 (September/October 1999): 7–8.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 1–14.; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Space Rock Impacts and Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 4.2 (March/April 1998): 1–11.
^ Psalm 90:10a.
^ Romans 5:12.
^ Revelation 20:14.
^ John 1:4.
^ John 14:6.
^ Psalm 90:10.
|Volume 7, Number 3||May/June 2001|
I never intended to get involved in a search for Noah's ark. Years ago, whenever I heard of someone searching for the ark, I mainly wondered what made such people tick. Risks to one's reputation are high in this business.
As with most things I research and write about these days, I became involved in searching for the ark as a result of a Biblical chronological discovery I made back in 1990. I discovered that 1000 years had accidentally been dropped from Biblical chronology as a result of an ancient copy error in the text of 1 Kings 6:1. I had no idea of the far-reaching consequences of this discovery at the time.
In hindsight, I should have known. Chronology is, after all, the backbone of history. You can't overlook a full millennium in Biblical chronology and expect there to be no consequences for Bible history.
In point of fact, as I began to investigate the matter, I quickly found that Bible history was in a serious mess. Every turn of the archaeologists' spades seemed to be proving the Bible false. Nothing the archaeologists were finding seemed to tell the same story the Bible told about the past. The scholars had abandoned the Biblical account of the Exodus and the Conquest and were making up their own stories about how the nation of Israel had come to be. They had abandoned the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They weren't even talking about the Flood, or the Garden of Eden any more. These they treated as outright fairy-tales.
Well, of course. What else should one expect with Biblical chronology shortened a full thousand years relative to secular chronologies? You can't find the Exodus in archaeology if you are looking for it 1000 years later in history than it happened.
Nobody that I heard ever mentioned these problems from the pulpit or on religious broadcasting. The few who even mentioned archaeology said that it overwhelmingly confirmed what the Bible said—about the Conquest of Jericho for example! I don't know how they came to such conclusions, but I do know they didn't come to them through any rational process rooted in archaeological facts. The archaeologists had found that Jericho hadn't even existed as a walled city at the traditional Biblical date of the Conquest. But I guess it's pretty difficult to make a winning sermon out of that.
What a difference, though, when once this missing millennium was restored to Biblical chronology. Suddenly archaeology and the Bible began telling the same story. I found I was able, for the first time, to make sense of many things which previously had seemed hopelessly obscure.
Noah's Flood is a case in point.
The Bible informs us that the Flood lasted a year, that it covered the high mountains, and that it drowned all but a few individuals living at that time. Here was no ordinary event. No ordinary flood—not even a very BIG ordinary flood—covers high mountains. The Biblical narrative seemed clearly to imply that Noah's Flood was a global-scale catastrophe.
And therein lay the problem. No one seemed able to say just when in history this Flood had happened. But catastrophes are generally easily dated. They bring many physical processes to a screeching halt, so that those processes must start up anew when the catastrophe is over. This is wonderful for dating purposes. For example, when a volcano erupts, it may bury whole landscapes beneath a blanket of hot ash. When the volcano quiets down again, new trees begin to grow on top of the ash. If one does not wait too many centuries, the date of the eruption can be determined by simply counting the number of annual rings in the oldest trees growing on top of the ash. And even if one does wait too long for this simple dating method to work, they can still—even after many millennia, if conditions are right—dig up charred logs of trees which were buried by the ash and date them using radiocarbon.
Catastrophes are great for dating.
So how come nobody seemed to be able to date the Flood—evidently the king of all catastrophes?
This was important. Inability to assign a historical date to the Flood has serious consequences for the credibility of Genesis. It makes the Bible look like it is telling fairy tales rather than true history. Notice that nobody has ever been able to assign a definite date to Goldilocks' encounter with the Three Bears either…
Six years following the discovery of the missing thousand years in 1 Kings 6:1 I was ready to tackle the problem of the Flood head on. I had spent the previous six years getting my feet under me: first subjecting the missing millennium thesis to every test I could think of to see if it held up to critical scrutiny, and then, once I had convinced myself that it did, going on to apply the new Biblical chronology which resulted from restoration of the missing thousand years, to solve the Exodus/Conquest problem. By the end of that exercise I knew I was standing on solid ground. The new chronology dated the Exodus to 2450 B.C. I soon found that all of secular history and archaeology overwhelmingly corroborated the Biblical narrative of the Exodus at that date, and the Conquest forty years later.
But what about earlier times? The new chronology placed the Flood within a few decades of 3500 B.C. Would secular studies confirm a suitable Flood event at such a remote date? Would the missing millennium thesis succeed with the Flood as it had with the Exodus? Would the necessary tell-tale signs of Noah's Flood be found within the secular data 3500 B.C.?
I attacked the problem of the Flood using the secular chronometric record afforded by the laminated sediments from the bottom of Elk Lake, Minnesota. My plan of attack was simple. If the Flood happened near 3500 B.C., as the new Biblical chronology predicted, and if the Flood was a global-scale event, as the Biblical narrative seemed to say, then we should see something unusual in the sedimentary record from the bottom of Elk Lake near 3500 B.C. I determined simply to take a look at what the primary researchers had found in the sediments at the bottom of Elk Lake, to see whatever these sediments might reveal.
The story of how those sediments revealed the Flood—within dating uncertainties of 3500 B.C., as the new chronology predicted—is detailed elsewhere. I will not review it all here, but one result of that study is important in the present context.
The sediments from the bottom of Elk Lake revealed that the Flood had not been cataclysmic. That is, Elk Lake said that the Flood had not been the highly energetic event some have claimed. The evidence from Elk Lake was contrary to the idea that the Flood had ripped up earth and stone to great depth and laid down vast sedimentary deposits. Indeed, the Flood had deposited just one meter of extra sediment at Elk Lake. Normally it would take 500 years or more to deposit this thickness of sediment at the bottom of Elk Lake, but even so one would expect a great deal more than just one meter of extra sediment to result from a cataclysmic, global-scale event. Furthermore, the sediments immediately beneath the Flood layer at Elk Lake were found to be still nicely laminated. They had evidently not been disturbed by the Flood.
Obviously, the Flood had not been a cataclysm. It had not even been a global washing machine. It had evidently been more like a tub—gradually filling when the tap is turned on, and then gradually emptying when once the plug is pulled.
But here was a fine mystery. How, according to the laws of physics, does one get a global-scale, catastrophic, relatively calm Flood?
It was clear that I had much to learn yet about the true nature and cause of the Flood. I was eager to carry the work forward and get to the truth of the matter. What had Noah's Flood really been like?
Of most pressing concern was the depth of the Flood. How deep had the waters of the Flood been at Elk Lake? How deep had they been over the entire globe? I needed to know this so I could begin to predict where else one might look to find the clearest evidences of the Flood. A single sedimentary evidence from a small lake in Minnesota was obviously not enough to tell the whole story. A global-scale Flood needed global-scale evidence.
But global-scale evidence was not easily obtained. Elk Lake is a very special lake. It is unusually deep relative to its surface area. Its great depth prevents oxygen from mixing down to the bottom of the Lake, which has prevented aquatic organisms from being able to live at the bottom of the lake. This has kept the bottom sediments from being mixed, preserving their seasonally laminated structure for thousands of years. These carefully preserved laminations were the key to finding the Flood at Elk Lake. They provided the basic chronology, showing which laminations correspond to 3500 B.C., and thereby pin-pointing the location of the Flood sediments at the bottom of the lake. I knew that this sort of reliable internal chronology was essential to the task of demonstrating the Flood in other geophysical reservoirs as well. But geophysical reservoirs sporting such chronologies are relatively rare.
Fortunately, there was one obvious candidate—the Greenland ice sheet. I knew a tremendous amount of work had been done on this massive ice sheet in recent decades by international teams of scientists. Great cores of ice had been drilled through the ice sheet from top to bottom. These cores provided a record of the past extending back long before the time of Noah's Flood. The upper sections of these cores were visibly laminated with annual layers of snow and ice. One could count back annual layers and thereby determine where in the ice core the Flood had happened.
But the big hitch in all of this was trying to say just what the Flood would have done to the Greenland ice sheet. What should we expect to see back at 3500 B.C. in the ice cores from Greenland? Would the Flood have deposited a great depth of snow on the ice sheet, or would it have dumped torrential rain on the ice sheet and thereby melted it back? Would the surface of the ice sheet have been above or beneath the water of the Flood? To even begin to answer these questions I needed to know more about the nature of the Flood. Most especially, I needed to know how deep the Flood had been in Greenland.
And that's how I got involved in a search for Noah's ark.
I had to figure out the depth of the Flood over the globe. The only way to do that, if it was to be done at all, was from the Biblical record of the event. Noah had recorded, for example, that the ark came to rest within the mountains of the Ararat region. If we knew where the ark had come to rest, we would immediately know the depth of the Flood at that point on the globe at that time; it would just be equal to the altitude at which the ark had come to rest.
But where had the ark come to rest?
Modern tradition favors Mount Ararat. But the Biblical account doesn't altogether go along with this choice. It says, for example, that "the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat", not on Mount Ararat. To the Bible writer Ararat was a geopolitical region, not a mountain. Mount Ararat doesn't fit the Biblical description of the landing place of the ark because it isn't really situated in "the mountains" of Ararat, as any topographical map of the region shows. In addition to this, extensive searches had been conducted on Mount Ararat for years and no remnants of the ark had been found there. The ark was a very big boat. If it had landed on Mount Ararat, I reasoned, surely somebody should have stumbled upon something evidencing its presence there.
It was clearly inappropriate to trust modern tradition. I would need to go back to the source of all our knowledge about the Flood—back to the Genesis account—and see if it might contain some previously overlooked clues to the proper mountain.
The more I read the account the more I came to see that some very good clues were embedded in it. For example, the proper mountain had to be located "in the mountains" as noted above. This specified a mountainous area, not a lone mountain surrounded by plain. As another example, we learn from the text that neighboring mountains had only become visible 72 days after the ark had come to rest on its mountain, during which time the water had receded steadily. This immediately implied that the mountain the ark had come to rest on must have been the tallest mountain in its general vicinity.
Ultimately I found seven clues from the Biblical narrative. I hoped these might be sufficient to pinpoint the mountain of interest. I purchased five Tactical Pilotage Charts (TPCs) and programmed my computer with the details of every hill and mountain in the entire Ararat region—1,441 spot elevations in all. Then I programmed the computer to search these 1,441 candidates using the seven clues.
Finally, some months after I had begun all this, I had an answer. The traditional Mount Ararat was the second most likely mountain for the ark to have landed on. Some 62 times more likely, according to my computer analysis, was a previously unknown (to me at least) mountain called "Cilo Dagi" on the TPCs.
From there it was a relatively straightforward exercise to work out the depth of the Flood at various times during the year of the Flood, and to deduce that the Flood had been very much deeper than the Greenland ice sheet. The surprising result of this was the discovery that the ice sheet would, in fact, have broken away from its base, due to the buoyancy of ice in salt water, and have floated for a time on the waters of the Flood—evidence of which was soon forthcoming from published reports of the nature of the ice at the bottom of the Greenland ice sheet which the coring operations had revealed.
But the main point to notice in all of this is that I had come up with a new resting place for the ark without that having been my primary objective.
The new resting place—Mount Cilo—was well within the borders of ancient Ararat, but far removed from the traditional Mount Ararat (Figure 3). Since the ark is a very big artifact it made a lot of sense at this point to try to get some satellite photos of Mount Cilo to see what might be visible there. Unfortunately, I had neither time nor funds to invest in learning what satellite photos might be available or what they might reveal. I was deeply immersed in trying to understand the nature and cause of the Flood from the physical evidence of it I was rapidly uncovering. This was of central importance to Biblical chronology. It would not be right for this work to be displaced by a search for the ark on Mount Cilo.
Fortunately, however, I had Christian friends around the country willing and able to help. Ultimately three volunteers came forward: Bert Hawley (responsible for procuring satellite images from public archives), Basil Finnegan (responsible for procuring modern custom satellite images from a commercial satellite company), and Tom Godfrey (responsible for investigating feasibility of a ground-based expedition into Mount Cilo). Funds were received in answer to prayer, and The Biblical Chronologist ark search project was launched.
About the first thing Bert sent me was a 30 inch by 30 inch photographic enlargement (30X) of a satellite photo of the southern face of Mount Cilo and surrounding terrain which had been taken over three decades previously on September 24, 1968. It was a superb research instrument for our purpose: the focus was sharp, the lighting was excellent, snow cover was minimal, and there was not a cloud in the sky.
Bert expressed some concern in the note he sent along with the photo. His concern was certainly justified. The summit of the mountain was rocky and jagged. (See Figure 2 for an illustration of the nature of the mountains in the vicinity of Mount Cilo.) It was difficult to see where anyone could park an ark up there. And it was difficult to imagine Mrs. Noah getting down from such a mountain. But then the Bible never said the ark settled down on a lovely, level field. And neither did it say that Mrs. Noah's role in the Flood adventure was all roses.
I began to pour over this photo, looking for anything odd or out of place which might possibly have been remains of the ark. There is a lot of visual learning which takes place whenever one first looks at one of these satellite photos. First it is necessary to figure out in which orientation the photo should be viewed. The shot is taken looking more or less straight down at the surface of the earth from great height. As a result there is no immediately obvious top or bottom of the photo. But the shot is seldom exactly straight down, which means there is one viewing angle for the photo in which is easier to "see" topographical features in proper perspective. Since one doesn't know, initially, what the surface one is looking at should look like, it takes a while to figure out what one is looking at and to get everything to make sense.
Eventually I emerged from this visual search exercise with two objects which didn't seem to fit immediately with their surroundings. Of these two, the second was by far the most interesting. It appeared as a barn-like structure not too far down from the summit of Mount Cilo. This is the object shown in Figure 1. We dubbed it "IO3", short for Interesting Object #3.
All effort has been focused on elucidating the true nature of IO3 since that initial discovery. Is it remains of the ark, or is it some natural feature of the surrounding terrain, or is it something else—like a military installation? Despite several years of deliberate effort, we still have no definite answers to these questions. We hope to obtain custom satellite photos of the south side of Cilo later this summer, which we are hoping will shed some definitive light on the matter. A modern photo should yield a definite answer to at least one question: Is IO3 still there in the same spot these 33 years after the Figure 1 image was taken? But the ability to answer even this question will depend on several uncontrollable factors, such as the depth of snow on the ground when the new photo is taken.
When I evaluate all the evidence we have on IO3 to the present time I feel it remains a strong candidate for the ark—certainly the best of any ark candidate I have ever seen or heard of. The only objective negative evidence we have at present is the fact that IO3 is about 60% larger than one would expect from the dimensions of the ark specified in Genesis 6:15, assuming a normal eighteen inch cubit. While this weakens the IO3 candidacy, it does not falsify it. Other cubits, longer than eighteen inches, were in use in the ancient past. We cannot be sure a normal, eighteen-inch cubit was used for this most ancient vessel.
Meanwhile, there are several positive evidences. I have discussed these in some detail previously, so I will be very brief here. First, of course, is the apparent improbability of finding such a suitable object so close to the predicted landing place. The Biblical narrative leads to the expectation that the ark landed at or near the summit of its mountain, both because the mountain does not seem to have been sighted before the ark grounded on it, and because it was 72 days before any surrounding peaks became visible. I have no numbers on this, but I venture to suggest that if one had similar satellite photos of all the mountains in the Ararat region the frequency of barn-like objects near the summits of these mountains would be exceedingly low. Why should such a suitable object be found so near to the summit of this predicted mountain?
By far the most persuasive evidence, however, is that which comes from the satellite images themselves concerning the shape of this object. Bert was ultimately able to locate two satellite views of IO3, taken at different times and from different angles. These two views are shown at left in Figure 4. (These are meant to be viewed at arm's length, minimum.) To the right of each is shown a simulation photograph which I took, using cotton balls for snow and the scale model of the ark shown in the top photo. These simulation photos strongly support the idea that IO3 is shaped like the wooden model ark because it is not at all easy to get two dissimilar 3-dimensional objects to project such similar 2-dimensional images from two randomly chosen perspectives. The high degree of similarity evidenced in both perspectives in this particular case, though not proof, seems highly significant. Whatever IO3 may ultimately turn out to be, it seems to have a shape similar to the wooden model ark. Though I have seen a number of photos of ark candidates advanced by various investigators, nothing I have seen approaches this.
The most direct way to find out if IO3 is the ark is to hike in to the site and take a close-up look. After obtaining permission to climb any mountain in Turkey but the traditional Mount Ararat, Tom Godfrey attempted such a hike last summer. Unfortunately, once in the country he was denied permission to proceed with his planned climb of Cilo by local Turkish authorities. This denial seems to stem from political conflict between the Kurds and the Turks in the region surrounding Cilo, making the mountain unsafe for hikers.
In the conclusion of my initial disclosure of the IO3-ark candidacy I wrote:
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. …
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±21 B.C. … 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.
These comments are still applicable at present—despite considerable time and effort invested by all members of the research team to bring the IO3 candidacy to a definite conclusion one way or the other. Presently we have two orders pending with a commercial satellite company for custom satellite photos of the south side of Mount Cilo. These photos are scheduled to be taken late this summer, when snow cover should be minimum. Whatever results are obtained from these photos will be published in The Biblical Chronologist at the earliest opportunity.
Though I never intended to get involved in a search for Noah's ark, and though I have spent many more hours on it than I would ever have guessed possible when I first got involved, I feel honored to be a part of such an effort. If it is a great privilege to be among the first to explore new frontiers, how much more so when those new frontiers bear so strongly on the vital issue of the historical reliability of Genesis. I look forward eagerly to whatever information may be forthcoming in regard to IO3 this summer. ◇
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:
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 Mulberry St., Loda, IL 60948-9651.
Copyright © 2001 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.
^ 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, "Noah's Flood at Elk Lake," The Biblical Chronologist 2.6 (November/December 1996): 1–13.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Research in Progress," The Biblical Chronologist 2.4 (July/August 1996): 9–14.
^ John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961), 242–243.
^ Genesis 8:4.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.1 (January/February 1997): 1–8.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Depth of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.3 (May/June 1997): 1–10.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood at Devon Island," The Biblical Chronologist 3.4 (July/August 1997): 1–16.
^ The satellite photo was an enlargement of a declassified military film. It was purchased from the U.S. Geological Survey EROS Data Center. The ordering identifier for the film was DS1048-1088DA045.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Research in Progress," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 7–16.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Research in Progress," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 16.
|Volume 7, Number 4||July/August 2001|
Spin-offs frequently accompany scientific research. The topic of this series of articles is a spin-off resulting from the past several years of scientific research in the field of Biblical chronology—the present article itself shows how this is so. But it is much more than a casual spin-off. The topic of the reduction in human life span which followed the Flood is of extreme practical importance in several ways.
First, it is obviously of extreme importance from a human health perspective. All other health problems combined dwarf in significance relative to the more than ten-fold reduction in human life spans which followed the Flood, as discussed in the introductory article in this series.
Second, it is of extreme importance to Biblical historicity and apologetics—at present the 900+ year life spans of pre-Flood individuals seems to many secular scholars to be prima facie evidence that the early chapters of Genesis, including the accounts of Creation and the Flood, are simply mythological.
Third, superlongevity is of considerable significance to eschatology (see, for example, Isaiah 65:20).
And last but not least, pre-Flood superlongevity is of great importance to Biblical chronology itself. Notice, for example, that pre-Flood Biblical chronology depends entirely upon the age at which certain individuals fathered sons (Genesis 5), and that five of the nine ages recorded before the time of Noah—numbers which are critical to pre-Flood Biblical chronology—are in excess of 100 years. These five instances give ages of the father at the birth of the son as 130, 105, 162, 187, and 182 years. Clearly, pre-Flood Biblical chronology is dependent upon the historical reality of pre-Flood superlongevity.
Thus, the present topic is not only a spin-off from Biblical chronology research, it is also, in one sense, foundational to a significant segment of Biblical chronology.
Why were life spans so much greater before Noah's Flood than they are today? And what might be done to bring about greater life spans at present?
In the introductory article in this series I advanced the following ten statements in relation to these questions:
Christians have always regarded death as an enemy. They have always done whatever they could to find cures for diseases and remedies for other causes of death.
Our attitude toward death by 'old age' should be no different. A remedy for 'old age' is by far the #1 medical need today.
Modern science and medicine have made great progress in keeping people alive until they reach 'old age', but have been unable to find any way of delaying the onset of 'old age'.
Superlongevity (i.e., average life spans in excess of 75 years by decades or more) presently appears impossible to many scientists active in life span research.
The Bible contains life span data which show unequivocally that people once lived very much longer than they do today—that superlongevity is possible (Table 1).
These Biblical data show that life spans began to reduce dramatically following the life of Noah.
These Biblical data also show that the current state of affairs—with everybody dying within a few decades of 75 years—is not normal or intrinsic for humans.
It is wrong to suppose that people die of 'old age' today. The Biblical life span data show us that 75 is not an old age for humans.
The real reason people die within a few decades of 75 today must be regarded as disease, not 'old age'. I have temporarily dubbed this disease "Malady X" (read "Malady X-bar").
Elucidating the nature and cause of this disease is an extremely difficult problem. The Biblical life span data offer the only glimmer of hope of doing so.
If these ten statements are valid, as I believe them to be, then it is clear that the Biblical life span data are a resource of inestimable value. They: 1. teach us the true nature of 'aging', 2. present the possibility of elucidating the cause of the 'aging' phenomenon, and thereby 3. give hope of finding a cure for "Malady X", the 'aging' disease.
In the present study these Biblical life span data are everything. Understanding why they show the behavior they do through the millennia is the goal. It is not sufficient to simply observe that life spans were longer in the past. The purpose of the present study is to attempt to discover why they were longer—what physical, material agent(s) caused human life spans to shorten. Our hope is that discovery of why life spans were longer in the past will enable us to take practical steps to extend human life spans once again.
The Biblical data of interest to the present study are shown in Table 1. The dates of birth displayed in this table are computed from a combination of both Biblical and extra-Biblical chronological data according to the principles of the modern discipline of Biblical chronology. The ages at death are taken from the Bible, from the verses shown in the "Scripture reference" column.
This is not an exhaustive list of Biblical life span data. For example, Biblical individuals with anomalously low life spans, such as Enoch [who was raptured] (Genesis 5:24), Lamech [who appears to have died in the Flood] (Genesis 5:31), and Nahor (Genesis 11:24–25) have been excluded from it. Also, no attempt has been made to add names to the list after 1051 B.C., when David was born, because such data are of limited interest in the present study. They show mainly a continuation of the 75-year average life span which, on the basis of Psalm 90 ("A Prayer of Moses the man of God") was already operative when Moses lived.
The data of Table 1 are plotted in several ways in Figure 1. In the "Bible: periods/events" column, birth dates are shown for the individuals given in the "name" column of the table. In the "Bible: life spans" column the life spans of these individuals are represented by vertical black bars.
If we assume that each of the individuals shown in the table died of Malady X, then we can use their ages at death as an estimate of the Malady X-specific life expectancy when they were born. The data of Table 1 are plotted in the rightmost column of Figure 1 using this assumption. For example, the open circle near the top of the figure shows that people could expect to live roughly 70 years on average before dying of Malady X back at the time of David. Finding the best possible quantitative (mathematical) explanation of these life expectancy data will be the primary focus of the present series of articles.
Before I begin to discuss the data displayed in Figure 1 it seems appropriate to point out the unique advantage we have at this time as we attempt to tackle the millennia-old problem of why human life spans were much greater in antiquity than they are today.
Our first advantage lies in our ability even to construct the time chart shown in Figure 1. This time chart—the entire basis of the present study—could not be constructed even a decade ago.
To construct this chart, one has to have their Biblical chronology right all the way back to Adam. Most importantly, one has to have the date of the Flood right. The key to these prerequisites is the recognition that traditional Biblical chronology has dropped out a full millennium in 1 Kings 6:1. This discovery was only made in 1990. Extension of the new Biblical chronology back to Creation was only completed in 1999. Thus, though the Biblical life span data we are concerned with in this study are of great antiquity, our ability to place them accurately on a time chart, as shown in Figure 1, is only two years old.
In addition to having the Biblical chronology right, we enjoy a second important advantage. Figure 1 shows plainly that Noah's Flood is the dividing line between the short life span regime of the present day and the long life span regime of the ancient past. (The reduced life expectancy datum point corresponding to Shem, just before the Flood, may seem an exception to this, but Shem's reduced life span results from the fact that he lived most of his life in the post-Flood period.) This observation implicates Noah's Flood as the fundamental cause of reduced life spans today. Noah's Flood appears to have done something which shortened human life spans from that time on. What exactly did it do? This is the fundamental question which must be answered as we seek to solve the cause of Malady X. Clearly, to have any hope of answering this question we must have an accurate idea of the nature of the Flood. The significance of an accurate knowledge of the nature of the Flood to cracking the longevity mystery will become increasingly apparent as we proceed in this study. For now the point to notice is that the true nature of the Flood was only discovered in 1997.
Thus, both of the ingredients needed to make quantitative, scientific sense of the Biblical life span data—a correct Biblical chronology, and a correct understanding of the nature of the Flood—have only become available in the past five years. There is no guarantee, of course, that we will be able to solve this most ancient mystery even given these present unique advantages. But we would surely be foolish and deluded if, aware of these advantages, we did not make best use of them, exerting ourselves strenuously to find the cure for Malady X.
Now I need to say a word about the strategy I have followed in my research into this longevity problem.
The present work breaks with other contemporary scientific research on life spans in its attitude toward the Biblical life span data. These data are commonly held to be mythological by contemporary researchers. The attitude toward these data underlying the present work is opposite to this. I hold these data to be valid, accurate, historical observations of actual life spans of real individuals.
This attitude is neither arbitrary nor religiously biased. The idea that these data are mythological or concocted in any other way cannot be retained by any scientist who has actually worked with them. These Biblical data display certain features which are impossible to explain in any other way than that they are valid historical observations. This property will become increasingly clear as we proceed through this study. For now I simply point out that the basically historical nature of these life span data is already strongly suggested by their intimate association with key Biblical chronological data. The Biblical chronological data, which nearly every issue of The Biblical Chronologist has shown display quantitative historical accuracy back to the time of Adam, cannot reasonably be supposed mythological by an informed mind.
Once the Biblical life span data are accepted as historical and reliable, they automatically become the focus of our research interest. They do so because they report on a unique real-life, natural 'experiment' which displays a pronounced life span effect in humans. This is the only experimental evidence we have that human life spans can be altered. It is essentially certain that this 'experiment' will never be repeated, both because it covers many generations over thousands of years, and because deliberate scientific experimentation of this sort on humans would be blatantly unethical. Thus, these data are not only the only experimental data we presently have which shows anything of interest regarding human longevity, they are almost certainly the only experimental data of the sort on humans we will ever have.
Furthermore, experimental data displaying any evidence for extension of the present human life span is obviously of extreme interest. But the Biblical data go far beyond this, giving clear evidence of over a factor of ten increase in life spans.
Simply stated, the Biblical life span data record a very pronounced life span alteration 'signal' in humans. No other data anywhere records any life span alteration 'signal' in humans at all. Obviously, the Biblical data make easy claim to our entire attention.
The basic strategy I have used in regard to the Biblical data is the one which is normal to science. This involves formulation of hypotheses ["unjustified (and unjustifiable) anticipations… conjectures"] and then subjection of these hypotheses to critical tests ["attempted refutations"].
Every effort has been made to make the hypotheses quantitative so they can be tested against the Biblical life expectancy data. That is, the hypotheses have been reduced to simple mathematical equations as much as possible, and the graph of these equations has then been compared to the Biblical life expectancy data to see how well they fit the data. A poor fit indicates that one or more of the hypotheses are wrong and calls for a different hypothesis or set of hypotheses. A good fit means the hypotheses (the guesses) behind the equations may be right. In that case it is appropriate and necessary to carry the investigation further with laboratory tests. The ultimate laboratory test involves an attempt to lengthen the life span of some animal species.
The goal—the "aim"—in all of this is to discover the factor(s) responsible for the marked reduction in human life spans following the Flood. Simply stated, we are searching for the cause of reduced post-Flood life spans. Our hope is that discovery of the cause will enable us to prescribe a cure, putting an end to the unnaturally early onset of Malady X under which the whole world presently suffers.
In future articles in this series I plan to spell out the hypotheses which I have found to be most successful in explaining the Biblical data to the present time. In conclusion of the present article I would like to attempt to illustrate some of the power of the Biblical life expectancy data of Figure 1 by evaluating several hypotheses of 'aging' relative to it.
Perhaps the simplest theory of 'aging' would be that the human life span is fixed by God in ways that cannot be understood or ascertained by mankind. This denies any natural cause of 'aging', which immediately yields the corollary that scientific investigation into the matter is useless.
The Biblical life expectancy data argue strongly against this theory. They show that human life spans declined in a fairly smooth way from 925 years to 75 years following the Flood. This smooth decline lasted for roughly 1000 years. If the human life span is fixed by God, then these data require that God performed numerous miracles, continuously readjusting human life spans for 1000 years following the Flood. This seems severely contrary to what we learn of the nature of God's supernatural activity elsewhere in the Bible. Based on the miracles we read about in the Bible, such as the conversion of water into wine, or the calming of the sea, or the iron axe head which was made to float on water, we expect miracles to be generally evidenced as point-in-time suspensions of the natural order, not as innumerable slight adjustments of the natural order.
Meanwhile, we expect natural processes to change smoothly with time. For example, the temperature of a bowl of soup naturally changes in a smooth progression from hot to cold with time (Figure 2).
Furthermore, the soup's change in temperature is more rapid at first, and slows as it nears room temperature. This property is seen in the Biblical life span data as well; the rate of change of life spans is rapid immediately following the Flood, and slows as the present value of 75 years is approached.
The Biblical life span data reveal that life spans declined in a natural way following the Flood, implying that some natural cause was responsible for this decline.
A second theory, often heard in one form or another in conservative Christian circles, is that pre-Flood longevity was due to a water vapor canopy which enveloped the earth prior to the Flood. This canopy was supposedly suspended above the atmosphere before the Flood, but condensed and fell to the earth at the time of the Flood, thereby contributing to the forty days and nights of rain. (I have never seen an explanation of how such a canopy of water vapor would be kept in place and doubt that one can be found. Most difficult to understand is what would keep the water molecules from mixing with the rest of the atmosphere. I know of no way to accomplish such a thing. Notice that the atmosphere today does a very good job of mixing all of its constituents together—we do not find separate layers of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, or any other gas.)
We now know that the Flood was caused by a cosmic projectile impact, and that the energy release due to this impact was more than sufficient to give rise to forty days and nights of rain through simple evaporation of ocean water near the impact site alone. This renders any contribution of water from a pre-Flood vapor canopy both unnecessary and insignificant. Given the numerous other serious scientific problems a vapor canopy introduces, such as greenhouse heating of the surface of the earth, inordinate heating of the atmosphere at the time of the Flood due to the heat of condensation of water vapor and the conversion of gravitational potential energy to heat energy which would result from collapse of such a canopy, and the problem of maintaining such a canopy for thousands of years in the pre-Flood period, mentioned above, there seems little if any sound scientific justification for continued adherence to the idea of such a canopy.
The canopy is credited by its adherents with prolonging life prior to the Flood usually in one of two ways. The first is through attenuation of hypothetically harmful radiation from space. (Some versions of the theory site UV from the sun, others site cosmic radiation.) The second is through enhanced atmospheric pressure due to the weight of the vapor canopy on the atmosphere.
Both of these versions of the canopy/longevity theory are immediately falsified by the Biblical life span data. To see this, notice that any attenuation of harmful radiation would immediately cease upon collapse of the canopy at the time of the Flood. Similarly, atmospheric pressure would change suddenly and completely upon condensation of the canopy at the time of the Flood. Thus human life spans should have changed to their post-Flood value suddenly and completely at the time of the Flood if these canopy/longevity theories are valid. But the Biblical data show us that life spans did not change suddenly and completely at the time of the Flood. Rather, they took about 1000 years to complete their change from the pre-Flood value of 925 years to the present value of 75 years. Canopy/longevity theories may be safely discarded.
A broad spectrum of theories about 'aging' falls under the general umbrella of 'evolutionary'. The central idea in these theories is that 'aging' is a by-product of evolution.
One 'evolutionary'/'aging' theory suggests, for example, that all evolution needs is propagation of the species, and once this function has been fulfilled an organism is best gotten rid of so it doesn't use up valuable resources. Thus, evolution has arranged for organisms to be discarded once their reproductive task has been completed.
Leaving aside the abuses of logic and language inherent in this specific 'evolutionary'/'aging' theory, notice that the entire category of 'evolutionary' theories is falsified by the Biblical life span data. The idea that a species' longevity is somehow determined by its evolutionary history—specifically, that humans live to 75 years on average because they have been somehow programmed by evolution to do so—cannot be true because we know that humans lived to 925 years on average only a few thousand years ago. Evidently, what we call "aging" today has nothing really to do with evolution at all. The Biblical data, in fact, immediately falsify all theories of human longevity which hold death within a few decades of 75 years to be a pre-programmed biological necessity.
Very many theories have been advanced regarding why humans 'age' and die the way we do. Alex Comfort lists several dozen different theories in his book, The Biology of Senescence. The Biblical life span data point in a totally new direction however—an exciting direction I am looking forward to exploring with you in future issues of The Biblical Chronologist. ◇
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
I read with great interest your report on Mt. Yeroham [Gerald E. Aardsma, "Report on the Excursion to Mt. Yeroham – Part I" The Biblical Chronologist 6.5 (September/October 2000): 1–13]. One particular comment stood out that caught my attention. On page ten you listed three of the types of bushes on the mountain. The photographs showed them rather puny in size. As I reviewed the photos of the mountain there are no large plants to be seen.
A couple of years ago my pastor pointed out Acts 7:30, 35 (NASB). Stephen said God appeared in a thorn bush. (Perhaps a type? Our Lord wore a crown of thorns.) I did some checking on this at the library. Here is what I found.
Acts 7:30, 35 use the word batos – a briar bush or thorn bush. Compare Mark 12:26, Luke 6:44, and Luke 20:37 where batos is also used.
The Septuagint of Exodus 3:2–4 uses the word batos.
The Hebrew of Exodus 3:2–4 uses the word sen - eh', which means bush, thorn bush, or blackberry bush.
It is clear from both languages that some type of bush with thorns is intended.
As to size, I don't know how large God is when He reveals Himself. If normal human size, it would require plants larger than those shown in the photos on page ten. Did you investigate the plants down by the reservoir? Pictures on page 4 (#8 and #9) taken near the dam show larger plants and trees.
I much appreciated your thoughts and Bible research regarding the burning bush. I wish I had noticed the probable association of thorns with this bush before we went; I would then have taken more care to notice whether the bushes we encountered had thorns. I can report that all of them were in the category of prickly bushes; they did not invite touching. This property seems to be characteristic of much desert vegetation.
Regarding size: Exodus 3:2 seems to allow the possibility that the angel of the Lord appeared in large flames which came up out of a smaller bush. So perhaps the bush does not need to be large in any event.
I didn't investigate the trees and shrubs by the reservoir because many of them were obviously imported, and I was unable to tell which might be native. (Recall that the reservoir had been part of a public park for some years.) However it is the case that the wadis tended to sport larger bushes. Some good examples of large native bushes were surveyed by us down in the wadi bed in the erosional crater behind the summit of Sinai. Examples are shown in The Biblical Chronologist Volume 7, Number 1; see especially Figure 14.
Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 Mulberry St., Loda, IL 60948-9651.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Reduced Post-Flood Life Spans – Part I" The Biblical Chronologist 7.2 (March/April 2001): 1–6.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Reduced Post-Flood Life Spans – Part I" The Biblical Chronologist 7.2 (March/April 2001): 1–6.
^ 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).
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "A Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 5.2 (March/April 1999): 1–18.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Cause of Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 3.5 (September/October 1997): 1–14.
^ See, for example, the preface to the first edition of Karl Popper's Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge for a succinct statement of this method.
^ Karl Popper Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 5th edition (New York: Routledge, 1989), vii.
^ Karl Popper Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 5th edition (New York: Routledge, 1989), vii.
^ Karl Popper Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 5th edition (New York: Routledge, 1989), ix.
^ John 2:1–11.
^ Luke 8:22–25.
^ 2 Kings 6:1–7.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Space Rock Impacts and Noah's Flood," The Biblical Chronologist 4.2 (March/April 1998): 1–11.
^ Alex Comfort, The Biology of Senescence, 3rd edition (New York: Elsevier, 1979), 7–16.
|Volume 7, Number 5||September/October 2001|
So at last Faramir and Éowyn and Meriadoc were laid in beds in the Houses of Healing; and there they were tended well. For though all lore was in these latter days fallen from its fullness of old, the leechcraft of Gondor was still wise, and skilled in the healing of wound and of hurt, and all such sickness as east of the Sea mortal men were subject to. Save old age only. For that they had found no cure…
For thousands of years it was believed that the natural state of a material body—a rock, an arrow, a wagon—was rest (i.e., no motion) at the surface of the earth. Though Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) seems to have been the first to formally record this idea, he was doubtless not the first to hold it. Nearly everything we are familiar with in common experience seems to corroborate this idea. When we throw a rock up into the air, it falls back to the surface of the earth and lies motionless there. If we shoot an arrow from a bow, it displays the same behavior. If we give a wagon a push on a level road, it quickly slows down and stops. If we would like the wagon to keep rolling, we find that somebody or something has to keep pushing it. In the everyday world about us, constant motion seems to require a constant force, and in the absence of such a force we observe that a material body quickly comes to rest.
Some two thousand years after the time of Aristotle, Galileo (1564–1642) performed a series of simple experiments which led him to a radically different view of the relation of force and motion. Galileo rolled a ball down an inclined slope, and watched as it rolled a short distance across the floor and then up an upward slope. He noted that the ball tended to rise to the same height above the floor on the upward slope as the height above the floor from which he had released it on the downward slope.
Galileo found this to be true regardless of the steepness of the incline of the upward slope. As the steepness of the upward incline was reduced, the ball traveled further along the incline before stopping and turning around, but it always came to rest and turned around at the same height above the floor from which it had been released.
Galileo reasoned that since the ball traveled further before coming to rest, as the slope of the upward incline was reduced, then the ball should go on rolling forever if the slope of the upward incline was reduced to zero. Obviously, if the slope of the incline was reduced to zero then the ball would never be able to achieve the height above the floor from which it had been released, and in that case it would have no reason to stop and turn around.
The obvious objection to Galileo's conclusion is that, in fact, when real balls are rolled across real floors they do not go on rolling forever. They slow down and come to a halt, as everybody has seen many times.
Galileo's response was that friction—the rubbing of the air and the floor boards against the ball—provided a force which opposed the motion of the ball and brought it to rest. He stated that in the absence of friction and other forces the ball would go on rolling forever.
Today every school child knows that Galileo was right. The natural state of a physical body is not rest at the surface of the earth; rather, its natural state is uniform motion in a straight line through space. This natural state is not easy to see at the surface of the earth because of the ubiquitous presence of forces such as friction and gravity which act upon material bodies there. But if we go away from the earth, out into space, this fact becomes readily apparent. In the space age it is a little easier for us to visualize this than it was back in Galileo's time. A space capsule requires rockets to boost it through earth's atmosphere and away from Earth's gravity field, but once it is free of earth the rockets can be turned off. The capsule will continue to move in a straight line without slowing the rest of the way to the moon, or however much further away its destination may be, because there is no air giving rise to friction in space.
There are several lessons which may be learned from Galileo's discovery. One lesson is that it is possible for ideas which seem proven a thousand times over by our everyday experience to still be false. Another is that common sense is not an infallible guide to truth. A third is that it is possible for an idea which has been held true by the near-unanimous consent of all of humanity for thousands of years to still be false.
These are all important lessons in the present context. My purpose in the present article is to unseat the idea that there is a natural time limit to life span—the idea that the natural state of biological bodies (mice, cats, humans) is to mature, age, and die within a time limit uniquely prescribed for each individual species. In place of this idea I advance the thesis that the natural state of biological bodies of all species is to mature and then go on living forever. In response to the obvious objection that real biological bodies are invariably observed to 'age' and die within a fixed life span, I reply that there is a certain 'biological friction' at work—the exact nature of which I hope to reveal in future articles in this series—which opposes the life of biological bodies and brings them to death. In the absence of 'biological friction' mature biological organisms will not 'age', and if other mortal forces (such as starvation or predation) are also absent, biological organisms will go on living forever.
The simplest, most precise way to illustrate my thesis is mathematically, so I will need to resort to some mathematical description this issue. Out of deference for the many readers of The Biblical Chronologist whose natural aptitudes and/or training do not lie in the field of mathematics I will, as usual, attempt to keep the mathematics to a bare minimum. I am hopeful that these readers may be able to glean the essential points from the figures and discussion in any case.
Figure 1 shows life span data for fruit flies ( Drosophila melanogaster). To obtain these data, several hundred fruit flies, all of the same age, were raised together in a single chamber. Three times each week the fruit flies' food was changed, and the number of dead flies was counted and recorded. Figure 1 shows the percentage of flies still living as a function of time. Day zero corresponds to when the eggs giving rise to this group of flies were first deposited on culture media by parent female flies.
We call a graph of the Figure 1 type a survival curve. Survival curves show the percent survivors as a function of time for a population of organisms all of the same age.
Survival curves can be plotted for all species, including humans. When we plot such a curve for humans today we find that the shape is similar to that of Figure 1, though the time axis is much expanded, of course. This shape is, in fact, characteristic of well-cared-for organisms of most species. In popular terms, it reflects the fact that most individuals in such a population live a 'full' life before dying of 'old age'.
Survival curves are generally reasonably well-characterized mathematically by a Gompertz function. This function has the (differential) mathematical form:
where N is the number of survivors at time t, K is a proportionality constant, e is the exponential function, and A is an exponential growth constant.
A few simple observations may help give insight into the meaning of this equation. First, the left hand side of the equation, dN/dt, represents the number of individuals dying per unit time. It is just the death rate at any given time. The minus sign on the right hand side of the equation shows that the number of survivors decreases with time. Also on the right hand side of the equation, notice that at any time t, the death rate is proportional to N, the number of survivors up to that time. This is as it should be, of course; if one doubles the number of individuals in the group then the number of individuals dying per unit time (the death rate) should also double. Next notice that at t=0, the equation reduces to dN/dt = -KN, which can be rearranged as K = -1/N × dN/dt. The constant K is thus seen to specify the probability of death of an individual per unit time at t=0. If K is doubled the initial death rate will be doubled. Finally, the eAt part of the right hand side of the equation says that the probability of death per unit time increases exponentially with time. The constant A controls how quickly the probability of death increases.
Equation 1 is a separable differential equation. It is easily integrated to yield an expression for N as an explicit function of t. The result, for A ≠ 0 is:
I have graphed this equation in Figure 1 for N0=100, K=0.001 per day, A=0.159 per day, and taking t as zero at Day 16, the first day that all members of the group have emerged from pupation. The Gompertz function obviously does a good job of fitting real experimental data.
The shape of the curve in Figure 1 reinforces the popular conception that there is a definite time limit on life span, beyond which no individual can reasonably be expected to live. The curve stays up near 100% survivors initially, but then it begins to fall off, and it continues to fall off ever more rapidly until only very few individuals of the original population remain. For the Figure 1 fruit fly data the death rate begins its dramatic increase after roughly day 30. For humans the dramatic increase in death rate begins after about age 55. As a result of the large increase in death rate, soon very few individuals of the original population remain, and these few survivors continue to dwindle until no survivors remain. In the case of the Figure 1 fruit fly population the time limit on life span appears to be 65 or 70 days; in the case of modern humans it is 125 to 130 years.
But the curve described by Equation 2 isn't the only possibility Equation 1 presents. There are two other possibilities of great interest in the present context.
The first of these is the special case in which A = 0. Recall that A controls how quickly the probability of death increases. By setting A to zero, we do not allow the probability of death to increase with time. Rather, it is kept constant, as specified by the value of K.
For the case A = 0 we can no longer use Equation 2, as is immediately obvious by the fact that to do so would involve a division by zero. We must go back to Equation 1 and solve it over again, with A set explicitly to zero from the start.
Setting A = 0 in Equation 1 yields:
This is also a separable differential equation. It is easily integrated to yield the result:
This equation reveals that in the absence of accelerated probability of death (i.e., when A = 0) simple exponential decay of the population results. In this case an individual has the same probability of death at age 500 as they had at age 5. I will discuss this further below.
The final case of interest to the present study is that in which K has a value of zero. In this case Equation 1 becomes:
This simple differential equation has the solution:
Equation 6 says that the number of survivors is always constant and equal to the number of individuals one started with. That is, nobody ever dies.
I have plotted the three curves resulting from Equation 2, Equation 4, and Equation 6 in Figure 2. I suggest the following understanding of these curves.
The curve resulting from Equation 6 (i.e., the horizontal straight line) is the natural state of biological organisms. This natural (immortal) state is not attainable in the world of this present reality because it is impossible to reduce K to zero for all time in the present physical world. Said in simple terms, one will die eventually, even in the absence of 'aging', due to car accident, or house fire, or murder, or drowning, or lightening strike, or cancer, or one or another of a great number of other potential causes of death. To realize this natural state our present perishable bodies must be somehow replaced by imperishable bodies. I am not saying anything new or radical in this last statement, of course. It has been clearly spelled out for several thousand years now:
Behold I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory…" (1 Corinthians 15:51–54; NASB).
What I am saying which is new (and thus seems radical) is that the simple exponential curve, corresponding to Equation 4, is the one which should be regarded as normal for biological organisms in this present physical world, not the curve corresponding to Equation 2. Curve 2, I suggest, results only from pathology. Cure the pathology (or pathologies) and Curve 4 will result.
It is easiest to demonstrate this starting the other way around.
Imagine an experimental population of mice, all of the same age. Normally they begin to die off rapidly, due to 'old age' beginning around 80 weeks (one and a half years) of age, and are all dead by 165 weeks.
Let us back up to 20 weeks, when they are all still young and healthy. At this point we withdraw all food, but not water. That is, we induce the pathological condition known as starvation.
What will happen, of course, is that the mice will go on living for some relatively short time, but eventually they will begin to die of starvation. They will not all die at once, of course. Some will live a little longer than others because they had more body fat to begin with, or because they have a genetic makeup which is naturally more conservative of calories, or whatever. But it is a simple thing to see that, for the population as a whole, the probability of death will begin to rise exponentially from the moment food is withdrawn. This is just another way of saying that one will get a survival curve of the Curve 2 type.
One can repeat this thought experiment for whatever pathology one pleases. The result is always the same. At whatever point one introduces a pathological condition into the experiment the probability of death begins to rise exponentially, and if the pathology is not somehow alleviated a curve of type 2 ultimately results.
Notice that there will be a definite time limit to life span (a time beyond which no mouse can reasonably be expected to live) in this case. Having never done this to mice (and having no desire to do it) I don't know what the actual limit is, but let us suppose that no mouse can hope to live four weeks without food. Then the population will have reached zero (no survivors) by 24 weeks, well before the usual 165 weeks.
Now notice that if we take this same population of mice and withdraw food, not at 20 weeks but at 40 weeks, we get a curve of type 2, but this time the population begins to die off only after 40 weeks and are not all dead until 44 weeks.
We see immediately that though the introduction of the pathological condition introduces a very definite time limit on the life spans of the mice, there is nothing intrinsic about this time limit. We can get any life span we please merely by adjusting the time at which we stop giving the mice food.
Well, we can't exactly get any life span we please. We can't get a life span of 200 weeks, for example, because all the mice have died of 'old age' by 165 weeks. But it is precisely at this point that the Biblical life span data come in and help us to see our way through.
The Biblical data show us plainly that, for humans, death due to 'old age' can be adjusted to any value one pleases between the present average near 75 years out to the pre-Flood average near 925 years. Obviously then, there is nothing any more intrinsic about the age of death due to 'old age' than there is about the age of death due to starvation. Thus, not only are the shapes of the survival curves due to starvation and 'old age' similar, but also the fact of the non-intrinsic nature of the age at which they are evidenced is shared. It is surely but a tiny step to see that 'old age' is just another pathology—to see that Curve 2 is always the signature of some pathology acting, and that once all pathologies have been cured one will necessarily get Curve 4, which must then be regarded as the normal state for biological bodies in this present world.
There is no good theoretical reason from the field of biology why there should be a fixed time limit on life. Time itself is benign—it does not kill. Only disease and other mortal forces kill.
Clearly, death due to 'old age' is not something intrinsic to biological life. Progressive 'aging' culminating in death is not the natural state of biological bodies, including human bodies, any more than progressive slowing down and coming to rest is the natural state of physical bodies. Immortality (Curve 6) is the natural state, and random death (Curve 4) the practical reality one should expect in this present, fallen universe.
'Old age' (Curve 2) is just another pathology. (I have previously called it Malady X [read: malady X-bar].) It is a disease, the most serious disease faced by humankind today. The fact that all of humankind has lived with an acute case of this disease for 5000 years now, and gotten quite used to it, does not in the least mitigate its extreme seriousness or the urgency of the need to bring forward its cure—to which task I hope to turn in future articles in this series. ◇
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
Thank you for The Biblical Chronologist. Each issue interests and provokes thought, even thoughts of the minor variety. It is one of these thoughts that I have in mind as I write today. In Volume 7, Number 4, under "The Data" heading you mention Lamech "who appears to have died in the Flood." You cite Genesis 5:31 as evidence as that verse says Lamech died at the age of 777.
Yes, Lamech did live to be 777, but he missed the Flood by five years. Lamech was 182 years old when Noah was born (Genesis 5:28). Lamech lived another 595 years after the birth of Noah (Genesis 5:30).
Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came (Genesis 7:6). If that is the case, Lamech already was dead and had slipped into his eternal rest five years before Noah, wife, three sons and their three wives entered the Ark.
J. E. Kuyper
Silver Lake, WI
Thanks for pointing out this detail. I am sure I confused other readers with it as well.
I skipped over this detail because the purpose of my parenthetical comment about Lamech: "[who appears to have died in the Flood]" was to point out that he died of some other cause than Malady X ('old age'), so he should be excluded from the compilation of life span data of Table 1. (See original context.) The issue of precisely how he died was not the focus there, but let me focus on it briefly here.
I agree with the Biblical numbers you have presented, but feel the conclusion that Lamech died five years before the Flood is quite uncertain, and continue to feel that it is not unlikely (though also uncertain) that he died in the Flood.
My reason for this is rooted in the fact that the numbers found in Genesis 5 give evidence of having been rounded off (as is also true with many other Bible numbers of chronological importance). (I have previously discussed rounding of Biblical chronological numbers in Volume 1, Number 3, pages 1–2, and Volume 2, Number 4, footnote 6 on page 3.) Your calculation involves subtraction of two large numbers of nearly the same size, both of which may have been rounded up or down by five years. Such computations are well-known in science for producing imprecise (i.e., large relative uncertainty) results.
Notice the final digit in each instance in this exhaustive list of numbers from Genesis 5: 130, 800, 930, 105, 807, 912, 90, 815, 905, 70, 840, 910, 65, 830, 895, 162, 800, 962, 65, 300, 365, 187, 782, 969, 182, 595, 777, 500. Of these 28 numbers, 11 end in 0, 8 end in 5, 5 end in 2, 3 end in 7, and 1 ends in 9. None of these numbers ends in 1, 3, 4, 6, or 8. One does not need to do a probability computation to recognize that it is highly improbable that 28 integers, chosen at random, will have zero occurences of ending in five of the possible Arabic numerals 0 to 9. But for those who like probability calculations, I find that one can expect this sort of thing to happen less than four times in a billion tries. The evidence is pretty strong here that these numbers have been deliberately rounded off.
There is nothing wrong with rounding numbers, of course. These numbers were all certainly rounded to the nearest year at least—there is no way each of these individuals died exactly on the same day of the year they were born on, for example, and no reputable scholar would ever suggest that these numbers were meant to be understood as accurate to the very day. But it appears wrong to assume that these numbers have only been rounded to the nearest year. They show a strong preference for rounding to the nearest decade or half-decade, and a lesser preference for rounding to the nearest 2 or 7 (also separated by a half decade).
Again, there is nothing wrong with rounding. We do this in science all the time. We do it to avoid misleading others into thinking a measurement is more precise than it really is. For example, if I measure the length of the road from my house to my neighbor's house using my car's odometer, I will need to give the result to the nearest tenth of a mile—like this: 2.3 miles. If I measure it with a surveyor's tape I can be much more precise—like this: 2.2741 miles. Though the 2.2741 measurement is much more precise than the 2.3 measurement, both are valid statements about the measurement made; neither is wrong.
It appears to be an interpretive error to treat the numbers in Genesis 5 as if they were exact to the year. It is like saying Dr. Aardsma measured the distance to his neighbor's house to be 2.3 miles with his car's odometer, and he measured it to be 2.2741 miles with a surveyor's tape measure; therefore, the road between Dr. Aardsma's house and his neighbor's house is (2.3-2.2741=) 0.0259 miles longer when measured by car than when measured by surveyor's tape!
In actual fact the road is the same length no matter how one measures it—it doesn't grow or shrink depending upon which instrument one chooses to measure it with. The conclusion that it is 0.0259 miles longer when measured by car than when measured by surveyor's tape is wrong because it treats a measurement which has been rounded to the nearest tenth of a mile (2.3) as if it were precise to the nearest ten-thousandth of a mile (2.3000).
To know for certain whether Lamech died in the Flood we would need numbers whose precision extends at least to the nearest whole number of years. Genesis 5 does not appear to supply us with numbers having this level of precision.
You have subtracted the number of years Lamech lived after he became the father of Noah (595) from Noah's age at the coming of the Flood (600) to conclude that Lamech died 5 years prior to the Flood.
A scientist would immediately ask about rounding in these numbers. And we would all certainly want to grant at least plus or minus half a year. This transforms the computation to look as follows:
But, judging from the list of 28 numbers given above, half a year underestimates the amount of round-off in these numbers. It is not at all clear what system of rounding was used with these numbers—bear in mind that it is far from clear even that they were initially recorded in a base 10 number system—so it is a little difficult to know just how much round-off to allow. I have previously proposed a standard ±5 years in an effort to cover the worst case. Let me be a little more careful here.
In the present case one number ends in 0, suggesting the possibility of rounding to the nearest decade (i.e., ±5 years). The other ends in 5, suggesting rounding to the nearest 5 years (i.e., ±2.5 years). In that case the computation becomes:
Here the possibility that Lamech died 0 years before the Flood (i.e., that he died in the Flood), rather than 5 years before the Flood, is explicitly seen.
In addition to round off there is the whole matter of textual variants which also impacts this question. In the Septuagint—the version of the Old Testament most frequently quoted from in the New Testament—the pertinent number for Lamech is given as 565 years, rather than the 595 years found in the Masoretic Text and used above. This results in Lamech dying 35 years prior to the Flood. It would seem inappropriate for anyone to hold strongly to the conclusion that Lamech died five years prior to the Flood in the face of such uncertainties.
With such difficulties in mind, my statement, that Lamech "appears to have died in the Flood" might be expanded as follows: "Lamech died too young to have died of Malady X. We don't know why he died. It may have been some other illness, or he may have been murdered, or he may have encountered some accidental death. The Bible is silent on this. But it seems coincidental that Lamech alone, of all the pre-Flood patriarchs, would die prematurely, yet within round-off uncertainties of the Flood, and it seems curious that the Bible would fail to mention the cause of his premature death, unless the cause was already implicit in the narrative itself. These considerations suggest the possibility that the cause of his death may have been, in fact, the Flood. This seems to me the most probable conjecture we can make on this matter given the intrinsic uncertainties and limited information we have regarding it at present."
Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
A review article giving background information for this research project can be found in The Biblical Chronologist, Volume 7, Number 3.
On August 10 we received one of the two images of Mt. Cilo ordered from Space Imaging over a year ago. A tiny segment of the overall image, showing IO3, is shown in Figure 4. The new image appears to be taken from the west, as was the case with the Figure 3 photo, but more overhead than the Figure 3 photo.
The most important observation from the new image is that IO3 is still there. Since the primary objective of obtaining a modern image was to answer this question, we may declare "success" in regard to this objective at this stage.
We are still unable to come to a definitive conclusion in regard to the ultimate question of whether IO3 is remains of the ark however. We had hoped that the better resolution of the newer cameras might help settle this question. The resolution of the new image is obviously much superior to the older photo. Notice the boulder field to the right of IO3 in Figure 4 for example. The focus is also excellent and the skies are clear of cloud. Unfortunately, there is more snow on the ground than we would prefer. IO3 has an "arm" of snow extending up the mountain, and the remaining outline of IO3 seems to be blurred by a blanket of snow. This amount of snow is not surprising for early August. But it renders the superior resolution of the new image of little benefit. Basically, it is difficult to tell very much about an object which is buried by snow no matter how good the resolution of one's camera may be.
A second image is due to be acquired before October 15. We can expect much less snow in that image whenever it has been successfully acquired. It should also offer a view of IO3 from yet another perspective. So there is potential of learning considerably more about the true nature of IO3 from this remaining satellite image. ◇
The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 Mulberry St., Loda, IL 60948-9651.
^ J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987), The Return of the King, 136.
^ These data were collected in 2001 from wild type Drosophila raised in the longevity research laboratory at Aardsma Research and Publishing.
^ The 0.7 is calculated as the square root of the sum of the squares of the two 0.5 uncertainties. All uncertainties are 3σ.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 5000–3000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 2.4 (July/August 1996): p. 3, footnote 6.
|Volume 7, Number 6||November/December 2001|
In the premier issue of The Biblical Chronologist, Gerald Aardsma predicted that mainstream bias against his discovery of a missing millennium in Biblical chronology would "only be overcome when the data heaped up against it has become so mountainous that every grade school child can immediately see what it means." It appears that data concerning the earliest writing can now be added to the growing heap.
The argument can be easily summarized. One notes the dates when writing first appeared for specific languages. When these dates are compared with traditional Biblical chronology, a serious difficulty is encountered. Multiple languages are seen to have existed long before the date for the Dispersion from Babel, in apparent contradiction to the record of the origin of language diversity at Babel found in Genesis 11:1–9. This difficulty disappears when the 1000 missing years discovered by Aardsma are restored to Biblical chronology.
The currently accepted date for the earliest texts written in Sumerian cuneiform is approximately 3200 B.C. or perhaps even a century or two later. These texts were discovered at Uruk in southern Mesopotamia at the Uruk IV level, which goes as far back as 3300 or 3400 B.C.
Sumerian cuneiform, written with a reed stylus on soft clay, appears to have arisen from an accounting system that has allegedly been traced back to about 8000 B.C. This system used counters in the form of small, mostly geometrically shaped tokens of clay or stone. Each token was supposed to represent a commodity, such as an animal, parcel of land, or measure of grain.
The token system, however, always remained independent of the language or languages spoken by its users. In contrast, once cuneiform writing began to extend beyond the old applications of the token system and became more expressive, it rapidly developed clear, close, and crucial connections to the Sumerian language.
At least by 2800 B.C., the earliest cuneiform images were adapted to represent syllables, so that anything spoken could also be written. The Sumerian language is not related to any other known language, ancient or modern.
In Egypt, a rather different system of writing, one that used hieroglyphic symbols, appeared at about the same time as cuneiform in the "late Predynastic" period, as early as 3100 or 3000 B.C. according to presently accepted standard chronology. This period was characterized by "great cultural change and technological innovation, with a system of government increasingly concentrated around the royal court."
The development of writing in Egypt may be the result of "stimulus diffusion" by which Egypt gained the "notion of writing" through trade with the Sumerians. However, it must be stressed that the Egyptian system is quite alien to the Sumerian and represents a distinctly local creation.
Egyptian hieroglyphics are clearly distinctive, but a more important observation in regard to tests of Biblical chronology is the distinctive nature of the language represented. Ancient Egyptian, classified as Afroasiatic or Hamito-Semitic, is completely unrelated to Sumerian. Both languages are surprisingly well attested and understood, considering their great antiquity.
Once writing had become firmly established in Mesopotamia and Egypt, there was little need for any other society in contact with these great civilizations to invent writing independently. However, there are a few other cases where writing seems to have emerged more or less independently. These provide additional evidence for the simultaneous existence of distinct languages.
Clay tablets found at Susa in modern Iran bear witness to a distinct script nearly as old as the oldest found in Mesopotamia. This script appears to have originated somewhat before 3000 B.C.
Superficially, a large number of signs seem entirely abstract—which, considering the probability that the script developed explosively during the Jemdet Nasr Period ( ca. 3050–3000 B.C.E.), suggests that its developers consciously chose geometric and other nonpictographic shapes and introduced them into conventional usage. The extent to which pictography may have been represented in a dead script is, however, difficult to discern.
Unfortunately, these texts have not been fully deciphered, and the symbols used apparently do not directly represent the sounds of their underlying language. The development of this third ancient script was either cut short or later texts employing it have yet to be found. The suggestion that these economic or administrative texts are written in a precursor of the Old Elamite language (Proto-Elamite) still remains in doubt. Without a definite tie to a specific spoken language, the exact linguistic significance of these "Proto-Elamite" texts is open to question. However, the following three points seem relevant to the present study: (1) a third type of script appeared at yet another place at about the same time as Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics, (2) it also emerged rather suddenly, and (3) the language behind it, although still unidentified, was probably neither Sumerian nor Egyptian.
Yet another script had emerged independently by about 2500 B.C., namely the Indus script.
From the fourth millennium until about 2600 B.C.E., the Early Harappan cultures of eastern Baluchistan and the Indus Valley used "potters' marks" but had no real writing. The Indus script came into being during the short transition period that led to the emergence of the literate Indus Civilization around 2500. … The first seafaring Indus merchants probably saw writing being used by their western trade partners, who had become literate much earlier. Instead of copying foreign script signs, however, the Harappans devised their own; some at least go back to local Early Harrapan symbols.
The story of this script reminds one of the "Proto-Elamite" script. The Indus script changed little during its relatively brief history. Around 1900 B.C., when the urban centers of its home civilization fell, the script ceased to be used except in one remote area, where it hung on for another few hundred years.
The Indus script has not been deciphered either, in spite of intense interest and thousands of texts available for study. This failure is due to several problems: the longest text has only twenty-eight signs, the average number of signs is only five per text, no helpful ancient translations have been found, and the language of the Harappans remains uncertain.
Some remarkable differences between the Indus script and all the others justify confidence in the claim that the Indus script really did arise independently from the scripts mentioned above, even though the idea of writing may have been borrowed. Most texts are on steatite seals, not written with a stylus on clay tablets. The inventory of signs or symbols is in the range of only 150 to 400. Some of these are stick figures or sketches of birds or fish, but most appear to be purely geometric figures.
These features suggest that the signs mostly represent syllables, but it is far from certain what they are. Believing that the language should belong to the Dravidian family, which "is the most likely candidate historically," one epigraphist has suggested a match with specific Proto-Dravidian syllables for at least some of the Indus script signs. If that result can be sustained, the Indus script qualifies as yet another writing system testifying to a distinct language which was in use before 2500 B.C.
The traditional Biblical chronology shown in Table 1 and selected for special scrutiny differs from Aardsma's chronology by only the disputed 1,000 years mentioned above. Both use the figures found in the Masoretic text, as opposed to the Septuagint and other textual witnesses, and both exclude ad hoc assumptions about gaps in the genealogies.
This uncorrected chronology seems fairly representative of conservative scholarship. The "timeline charts" at the back of the Ryrie Study Bible, for instance, agree with it rather nicely. The date for the beginning of the reign of King Saul is given there as 1050 B.C., and a note states, "Dates beyond this point are historically verifiable and relatively certain." The starting date for the reign of King David is listed as 1010 B.C. Dates before 1050 but not before 1600 B.C. are called "[t]raditional dates," and dates earlier than that are noted as "uncertain." The earliest date charted is the birth of Abraham in 2166 B.C.; the birth of Esau and Jacob is given as 2006 B.C.; and the death of Joseph is shown as 1805 B.C. Such exact dates could have been provided in Table 1 as well, but for simplicity I have rounded
them to the nearest century.
Table 1 shows the problem clearly. Genesis 11:1 describes the setting for the tower of Babel episode as a time when "the whole world had one language and a common speech." Indeed, if those living at the time had all descended from a single family that survived the Flood only a couple hundred years earlier, it is difficult to imagine how they could have developed any large differences in dialects in such a short time, given historically observable rates of language change. So how can one account for the documented coexistence of languages as diverse as Sumerian and Egyptian before Babel, and both before and after the Flood?
Aardsma claims that 1 Kings 6:1 originally specified 1480, not 480, as the number of years from the Exodus to construction of the temple under King Solomon. He has demonstrated in numerous articles that restoring that millennium to the chronology of Table 1 produces excellent agreement with secular history, confirming his claim. The emergence of writing in the corrected chronology, as shown in Table 2, is merely one more demonstration of the same kind.
Notice that the right column is practically the same in Tables 1 and 2, but the large correction has pushed all Biblical events earlier than the birth of Eli back in time,
so that just in Table 2 both the birth of Peleg (the time of Babel) and the Flood occur well before the first emergence of writing and the earliest witness to the existence of multiple languages. The problem of multiple languages before Babel disappears.
Aardsma has suggested that the presently accepted date for the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt needs to be moved back by two to three hundred years. This adjustment to secular chronology might possibly move the date of the first appearance of Egyptian hieroglyphs back two to three centuries as well. The net effect of such an adjustment would be to push the first appearance of Egyptian hieroglyphs back closer to, but still apparently later than Babel.
Aardsma has also suggested that presently accepted Uruk dates ought to be pushed back to earlier times, perhaps by as much as 400 years. This adjustment to secular chronology would alter Table 2, moving the first appearance of Sumerian cuneiform into the century before the Flood. If this adjustment to secular chronology proves to be warranted, it still would not mean that multiple languages were necessarily being spoken before Babel in Aardsma's chronology, because Sumerian would then be the only language having documented evidence of an earlier existence. It would imply that Sumerian was the universal language spoken by Noah, his family, and the rest of the known world before the Flood and until Babel.
The evidence presented here should not be regarded as incontrovertible. The dating of ancient texts already found can certainly be open to question and may require some adjustment as more studies are completed. Also, new texts are still being found, and it is possible that some not yet carefully studied will prove to be older than any texts accurately dated so far. But the dates collected here are generally based on many thousands of well-studied texts, so large corrections, though admittedly possible, do not appear to be highly probable. For the time being, and until they are overturned by future developments, the currently widely accepted dates for the earliest writing fit into the growing body of evidence for the missing millennium.
It is important to take seriously the problem of multiple languages before Babel (and also before the Flood) which appears in traditional Biblical chronologies. Aardsma's corrected chronology offers a nice solution to this problem, and it does so without introducing new, insurmountable difficulties.
An important result of this solution is that the Genesis 11 specification of a universal language prior to Babel is upheld. It would take texts reliably dated before about 3400 B.C. showing at least two very different languages to cast serious doubt on the historical validity of the Genesis 11 record according to Aardsma's chronology. ◇
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
I am a new subscriber to The Biblical Chronologist. I concur wholeheartedly with your theory of the missing millennium in 1 Kings 6:1. After reading your article in the July/August 2000 issue I have two questions:
Where did the Kenites get the copper from to make Israel's weapons? Is there a copper mine at Mt. Yeroham? In Exodus 12:35–36 the Bible says they borrowed silver and gold from the Egyptians, but there is no mention of copper.
How does one reconcile the fact that inserting an extra thousand years in 1 Kings 6:1 throws off the entire prophetic scheme of the coinciding seven day week with the six one thousand year days and the seventh one thousand year day of the millennium or Kingdom of God? According to your theory it should be eight one thousand year days.
I would appreciate very much if you would answer these two questions for me.
No, there are no copper mines at Mount Yeroham. The copper ingots which were found at Yeroham would have been cast elsewhere and carried to Yeroham, possibly by Kennite tradesmen.
One possible source of the copper would have been Timna', located about 130 kilometers (80 miles) due south of Yeroham and 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Gulf of Aqaba. Timna' contains extensive mine workings from various periods, including EBIV, the period encompassing the Israelites' stay at Sinai. Here is a brief description of the mines and smelting site at Timna' from this period:
A group of mine workings in a low range of hills next to Giv'at Sasgon, in close proximity to Site 149, was the source of blue bisbeeite-chrysocolla ore. Site 250, discovered in 1967, was excavated in 1990. There were essentially two mines—250 and 250A—which were shelterlike "caves" with a thick vein of mineralization, mainly the blue-ore bisbeeite. …
Mine 250A was a much larger mine, partly destroyed by a huge rockfall. It was essentially also a mineralized, shelterlike cave created by following the mineral vein horizontally. …
Site 149 is located on a small, solitary hillock in the middle of the wide estuary of Nahal Timna'. It was excavated in 1984. There was a workshop area on the lower slope of the hill… Crushing anvils and mortars and many small stone hammers were found in small groups, as if workers had just left for a short break. Inside some of the mortars were chunks of blue ore and finely crushed blue ore…; malachite ore was found dispersed in the workshop as well. The smelting charge was obviously prepared here. … Fragments of slagged clay crucibles, found on the floor of the workshop, are additional evidence for casting, perhaps of the bar ingots found at contemporary sites in the Negev.
Traditional Biblical chronolgy since the time of Ussher (A.D. 1650) has tended to place the date of Creation near 4000 B.C. We are living roughly 2000 A.D. This works out nicely to 6000 years since Creation. If one assumes that God has modelled the plan of history on Creation Week, with six days of work and one day of rest, corresponding to six millennia of mundane history followed by a millennial reign of Christ, then it is easy to deduce that we must be poised at the brink of the return of Christ.
The trouble with this is both in the assumption that God has modelled the plan of history on the pattern exhibited in Creation Week—which idea is found nowhere in my Bible, at least—and in the facts of Biblical chronology, which fail to support the idea that there have been just six millennia of history since Creation, as you have noted.
This later problem is hardly unique to the Biblical chronology which results from restoration of the missing millennium to 1 Kings 6:1. There is a very respectable history of Christian chronological scholarship stretching back long before Ussher which tends, more or less uniformly, to settle on a date for Creation nearer to 5000 than to 4000 B.C. You can easily check this out by consulting the portion of Hales' list of Creation dates reproduced in The Biblical Chronologist, Volume 6, Number 2. There you will find, for example, that more than one thousand four hundred years before Ussher, Julius Africanus (A.D. 218) computed the date of Creation to be 5500 B.C., and of similar early-Christian antiquity, Eusebius (A.D. 315) placed it at 5200 B.C.
So early Christian chronologists would tend to concur with the missing millenium chronology in the conclusion that Christians today are living in the eighth millennium since Creation. That this conclusion destroys the whole (extra-Biblical) idea that God has modelled the plan of history on Creation Week they would probably regard with considerable indifference. And so should we.
God has given us chronological data in the Bible stretching back to Creation so we might accurately know the past, not so we might predict the future. The (ab)use of Biblical chronological data to predict the future is really no different than the (ab)use of astronomical data (e.g., the motions of planets) to predict the future. Such an abuse of Biblical chronological data is, in fact, just another form of astrology—and Christians have no business dabbling in astrology.
Christianity is uniquely a historical faith. It is rooted and grounded in verifiable claims about what God has done in history. Creation, the Flood, the Exodus, Jesus' Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection are all facts of history—events which took place in real time on this real earth. God has given us chronological data in the Bible stretching back to Creation because it is of paramount importance to legitimate faith that history should be accurately remembered.
No such importance attaches to a knowledge of the future—which is perhaps why God, having shared with us the absolute chronology of the past, has elected to keep to Himself the absolute chronology of the future (Mark 13:32).
Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
The second satellite image we had hoped for has not been acquired this summer, so we must wait again until next summer. Our contract calls for this image to be taken at a low angle, rather than overhead, which is proving to be more difficult for the commercial satellite company than we had anticipated. This has caused the long delay with this image. It may be necesary to renegotiate the parameters of this final shot before next summer. ◇
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Mount Sodom Confirms Missing Millennium," The Biblical Chronologist 1.1 (January/February 1995): 1, footnote 4. See 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), for an early, substantial account of his missing millennium theory, and Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101" The Biblical Chronologist 6.4 (July/August 2000): 12–15, for a more recent but much briefer review of it.
^ Piotr Michalowski, in "Origin" subsection of "Meso- potamian Cuneiform," Section 3 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 33; Jerrold S. Cooper, in "Sumerian and Akkadian" subsection of "Mesopotamian Cuneiform," Section 3 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 37.
^ Marc Van De Mieroop, Cuneiform Texts and the Writing of History (New York, NY: Routledge, 1999), 2, 9–10; Florian Coulmas, The Writing Systems of the World (New York, NY: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 72; J. Nicholas Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History (New York: Routledge, 1994), 55, 57, 63, 66.
^ C. B. F. Walker, "Cuneiform" in Reading the Past: Ancient Writing from Cuneiform to the Alphabet, introduced by J. T. Hooker (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990), 19.
^ Harriet Crawford, Sumer and the Sumerians (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 18. See also pp. 13–20 for an excellent overview of the dating of each period of Sumerian civilization.
^ J. Nicholas Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History (New York: Routledge, 1994), 54. Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Before Writing, Vol. I: From Counting to Cuneiform (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1992), 8–9, describes a hollow tablet with an Akkadian cuneiform inscription on the outside and forty-nine counters on the inside that became "the Rosetta stone of the token system." This tablet was found at Nuzi in northern Iraq.
^ Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Before Writing (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1992), 36. The rest of the chapter, up to page 48, is rich in absolute dates for counter tokens. See also Peter T. Daniels, in "The First Civilizations," Section 2 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 23, for an overview of the work of certain critics who cast some doubt on the claim by Schmandt-Besserat that this accounting system had any significant connection to the invention of writing.
^ Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Before Writing (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1992), 152.
^ C. B. F. Walker, "Cuneiform" in Reading the Past: Ancient Writing from Cuneiform to the Alphabet, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990), 21–22.
^ Peter T. Daniels, in his introduction to "Part II: Ancient Near Eastern Writing Systems," in The World's Writing Systems (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 19; J. Nicholas Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History (New York: Routledge, 1994), 36.
^ Florian Coulmas, The Writing Systems of the World (New York, NY: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 57, 60; W. V. Davies, "Egyptian Hieroglyphs" in Reading the Past (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990), 81-82, 112; Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 5, 11; Robert K. Ritner, "Egyptian Writing," Section 4 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 73.
^ W. V. Davies, "Egyptian Hieroglyphs" in Reading the Past (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990), 110.
^ Robert K. Ritner, "Egyptian Writing," Section 4 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 73. W. V. Davies, "Egyptian Hieroglyphs" in Reading the Past (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990), 112, and Peter T. Daniels, "The First Civilizations," Section 2 in The World's Writing Systems, 24, express essentially the same conclusion.
^ Robert K. Englund, "The Proto-Elamite Script," Section 10 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 162.
^ Robert K. Englund, "The Proto-Elamite Script," Section 10 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 160.
^ Asko Parpola, "The Indus Script," Section 11 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 165. Florian Coulmas, The Writing Systems of the World (New York, NY: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 180, states that the pre-Aryan civilization unearthed at Harappa in the Punjab flourished "between 3500 and 2000 BC."
^ Asko Parpola, "The Indus Script," Section 11 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 165–166.
^ Florian Coulmas, The Writing Systems of the World (New York, NY: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 180.
^ Asko Parpola, "The Indus Script," Section 11 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 167.
^ Asko Parpola, "The Indus Script," Section 11 in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996), 170. Florian Coulmas, The Writing Systems of the World (New York, NY: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 180, urges caution in accepting the claims of scholars who may be too eager to establish a link to a particular modern ethnic group in India, but Parpola's tentative readings appear convincing.
^ Charles Caldwell Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Translation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 2108–2115.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 3 (Table 1), lists 29 passages forming the "[p]rimary chain of the Biblical computation, based on the Masoretic text," stretching from King Solomon back to the creation of Adam. This chain includes only two links not documented by individual generational spans, 1 Kings 6:1 (480 or 1480 years) and Exodus 12:40 (430 years). Aardsma's Table 1 includes unrounded figures covering the period shown in the present article in Table 1. Without the 1000-year correction, his dates for the creation of Adam and the birth of Noah, Abraham, and Jacob would be 4176±26, 3120±21, 2167±15, and 2007±13 B.C., respectively. The one-year discrepancy between Ryrie and the central dates charted by Aardsma is entirely due to their starting with 930 and 931 B.C., respectively, for the start of the reign of King Rehoboam in Judah. See Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, new revised edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1983), 79, to understand the discrepancy and why either date can be used.
^ See 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), for an early publication of his claim. See also Gerald E. Aardsma, "Mount Sodom Confirms Missing Millennium," The Biblical Chronologist 1.1 (January/February 1995): 1–4; Gerald E. Aardsma, "Noah's Flood: The Irish Evidence," The Biblical Chronologist 5.3 (May/June 1999): 1–7; and Gerald E. Aardsma, "Yeroham: the True Mount Sinai" The Biblical Chronologist 6.4 (July/August 2000): 1–11 for a representative selection of articles on synchronizations for the times of Abraham, Noah, and Moses, respectively.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Chronology of Egypt in Relation to the Bible: 3000–1000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 2.2 (March/April 1996): 1–9.
^ Based on reports of cultural discontinuities in the region, Gerald E. Aardsma, "Research in Progress," The Biblical Chronologist 1.4 (July/August 1995): 6–10, suggests that "[t]he Uruk period in South Mesopotamia was terminated by Noah's Flood," and "[t]he Jamdat Nasr period in South Mesopotamia was terminated by the Dispersion of mankind from Babel," making these periods 300 years earlier than dates "presently accepted" (page 8). The figure 400 comes from Gerald E. Aardsma, "Toward Unification of Pre-Flood Chronology," The Biblical Chronologist 4.4 (July/August 1998): 1–10 (especially page 6).
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Yeroham: the True Mount Sinai" The Biblical Chronologist 6.4 (July/August 2000): 1–11.
^ Beno Rothenberg, "Timna'," The New Encyclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 4 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 1479.
^ Gerald E. Aardsma, "Biblical Chronology 101" The Biblical Chronologist 6.2 (March/April 2000): 12–13.