SCIENCE will tell us how, when, and where the Creative fiats and the designs of heaven were realized and worked out on earth.
Here is the separate province of each, without fear of clashing, or room for controversy.
THE DETAILS OF THE CREATION NARRATIVE.
Sec.1. The Explanation of the Verses.
It remains only now to go over the narrative, the general bearing of which I have thus endeavoured to vindicate, so that minor matters of detail, in which it is supposed (1) that some contradiction to known physical fact may still lurk, and (2) something that negatives the explanation suggested, may be cleared up.
Let us take it seriatim:—
"In the beginning God created the heaven (plural in the original) and the earth."
As I have before remarked, we have no real need to discuss whether "bara" means originated (created where nothing previously existed), or whether we should render it "fashioned," i.e., moulded material (thus assumed in terms to be) already in existence.
Either will yield perfectly good and consistent sense; but, as a matter of fact, there is a virtual consensus of the best scholars that the word is here used to denote original production of the material.
It is also clear that the text is intended to embrace the whole system of planets, suns, stars, and whatever else is in space. So the Psalmist understood it: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." Nor is there any reasonable doubt, exegetically, that the subsequent allusion to the sun, moon, and stars, refers (as the sense of the text itself obviously requires) to their appointment or adjustment to certain relations with the earth, and assumes their original material production in space, to have been already stated or understood.
"And the earth was (became) without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
I have, in another connection, already remarked on this verse, and so shall not repeat those remarks.
[Footnote 1: Psa. xxxiii. 6, and so Psa. cii. 25; cf. 2 Peter iii. 5.]
[Footnote 2: Waste (R.V.).]
I will only say that the elemental strife and rushing together of chemical elements under the stress of various forces and the presence of enormous heat, would naturally envelop the globe in dense vapours, a large portion of which would be watery vapour, capable of condensation or of dispersion, under proper conditions, afterwards to be prescribed and realized. As it is beautifully expressed in Job xxxviii., "When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling-band for it" (verse 8).
Then commences the serial order of Divine acts with reference to the Earth:—
(1) "AND GOD SAID; LET THERE BE LIGHT: AND THERE WAS LIGHT."
This verse is commonly taken as indicating a creation of light for the first time in the entire cosmos or universe. And if it be so, there is no objection, on any scientific ground, to the assertion that there was once a time when as yet the vibrations and waves which we connect with the idea of Light, had not yet begun. It is true that nebular matter, as now observed, is believed to be, partially at any rate, self-luminous. But this fact, supposing it to be such, is not inconsistent with a still earlier time when light had not yet begun. From the "wave-theory" of light, which is one of those working hypotheses which are indispensable, and which, in a sense, may be said to be demonstrated by their indispensability, it can clearly be seen that if light is caused by rapid vibrational movement, there must have been—or at any rate there is nothing against an authoritative declaration that there was—a moment of time when the first vibrational impulse was given, when, in fact, God said "Let there be light, and there was light," before which also there was "darkness upon the face of the deep."
[Footnote 1: It also needs only to be remarked, in passing, that we are really in complete ignorance as to the light-medium, the "luminiferous-ether" outside the comparatively thin stratum of our own terrestrial atmosphere. We do not know whether there might not have been a condition of the medium in which, up to the moment of a creative fiat, it was incapable of transmitting light-waves.]
There is no necessary connection between the creation of light per se, and the existence of any particular source (or sources) of light to our planet or to other planets.
No justification is now needed for such a remark, and the almost forgotten cavils of one of the "Essays and Reviews" may still survive as a "scientific" curiosity, to warn us against too hastily concluding that (in subjects where so little is really known) the Bible must be wrong, and the favourite hypothesis of the day right.
But as a matter of fact, the text, especially when read in connection with Job xxxviii., need not be taken to refer to any original creation of light in the universe generally, but merely to the letting in of light on the hitherto dark and "waste" earth. The command "Let there be light" was followed on the next day by the formation of a firmament or expanse. So that all the verse necessarily implies is, that the thick clouds and vapours which surrounded the earth were so dealt with, that light could reach the earth: the light was thus divided from the darkness, and the rotating globe would experience the alternation of day and night.
The "day" having thus been created formally (so to speak), the Divine Author proceeds to mark, by His own Procedure, the use of the "days" which He had provided for the earth.
On this view, of course, the origin of light as a "force"—the first beginning of its pulsations—is not detailed, any more than the origin of electric force, or heat, or gravitation.
Here, too, I may remark that the idea of creation, which it has been one of my chief objects to develop, is illustrated. This remark holds good, whether an original creation of light is intended, or only an arrangement whereby light was for the first time introduced to the earth's surface. The idea of creating light not only involves the Divine Conception of the thing, and the marvellous method of its production, but doubtless, also, all those wonderful laws of reflection, refraction, polarization, and a thousand others, which the science of Physical Optics investigates.
[Footnote 1: And this is still a mystery to us. What light is we do not know—we can only speak of our own sensation of it. Nor do we know what vibrates to produce light. Hypothetical terms, such as "ether," "luminiferous-medium," and so forth, only conceal our ignorance.]
Naturally enough, in this case, the double idea involved in creation—the Divine concept and its realization—will, in the nature of things, fall into one. No process of evolution is required; none is indicated by science. Directly the Divine hand gave the impulse concurrently with the Divine thought—light would be. In the nature of things there is no place for a line between the Divine fiat and its realization, as there is in the production of life-forms on the earth. Or, on the other view, directly the Divine command went forth, the vapours would clear and allow the transmission of light.
(2) "AND GOD SAID, LET THERE BE A FIRMAMENT (EXPANSE) IN THE MIDST OF THE WATERS, AND LET IT DIVIDE THE WATERS FROM THE WATERS....AND GOD CALLED THE FIRMAMENT HEAVEN."
There has been gathered round this verse what I may call rather an ill-natured controversy, because there is no real ground for it; and the objections taken seem rather of a desire to find out something against the narrative at any price, than to make the best of it. The verse, when duly translated, implies that an "expanse"—the setting of a clear space of atmosphere around the globe—formed one of the special design-thoughts of the Creator, followed by its immediate (or gradual) accomplishment. I think we should have hardly had so much cavilling over this word "expanse" if it had not been for the term subsequently used by the Seventy in their Greek version ([Greek: stereoma]). The ancients, it is said, believed the space above the earth to be "solid."
Now I would contend that even if the Hebrew writer had any mistaken or confused notions in his own mind, that would not afford any just ground against revelation itself. But I would point out that many of the expressions which may be quoted to show the idea of solidity, are clearly poetical. And if we go to the poetic or semi-poetic aspect of things, may I not ask whether there is not a certain sense in which the earth-envelope may be said to be solid? The air has a considerable density, its uniform and inexorable pressure on every square inch of the earth's surface is very great. Such a word as [Greek: stereoma] (firmamentum) does not imply solidity in the sense in which gold is solid—as if the heavens were a mass of metal, and the stars set in it like jewels; it implies, rather, something fixed and offering resistance.
It is obvious that a creative act was necessary for this "expanse." We know of spheres that have no atmosphere; and we are so ignorant of the true nature of what is beyond the utmost reach of our air-stratum, that there is room for almost any consistent conjecture regarding it.
Moreover, observe that the atmosphere is not a chemical combination of gases, and one, therefore, that would take place like any other of the metallic, saline, or gaseous combinations, of which no detailed account is given—all being covered by the general phrase, "God created the heaven and the earth." The air is a mechanical mixture, pointing to a special design and a special act of origin. The necessary proportions of each gas and its combined properties could not have originated without guidance.
But the main purpose of the expanse, as stated in the text, was to regulate the water supply. That vast masses of watery vapour must at one time have enveloped the globe, seems probable—apart from revelation; and that part of this should condense into seas and fresh-water, and part remain suspended to produce all the phenomena of invisible air-moisture and visible cloud, while an "expanse" was set, so that the earth surface should be free, and that light might freely penetrate, and sound also, and that all the other regular functions of nature dependent on the existing relation of earth and air should proceed—all this was very necessary. And when we recollect what a balanced and complex scheme it is—how very far from being a simple thing; we recognize in the adjustment of earth's atmospheric envelope, a special result worthy of the day's work.
Whether the separation between the condensed but ever re-evaporating and re-condensing water on the earth's surface, and the water vapour in the atmosphere, is all that is meant by the division of the "waters that are above the firmament" from those below, it would not be wise to assert. We know so little of the condition of space beyond our own air, and so little of the great stores of hydrogen which have been suggested to exist in space (and might combine to form vast quantities of liquid), that we may well leave the phrase as it stands, content with a partial explanation.
(3) "AND GOD SAID, LET THE WATERS UNDER THE HEAVEN BE GATHERED TOGETHER UNTO ONE PLACE, AND LET THE DRY LAND APPEAR: AND IT WAS SO. AND GOD SAID, LET THE EARTH PUT FORTH GRASS (VEGETATION), HERB YIELDING SEED, AND FRUIT TREE BEARING FRUIT AFTER ITS KIND, WHEREIN IS THE SEED THEREOF."
The only remarks that the first part of this verse calls for, are, first, that it explains how far from mere chance-work the emergence of land from the water was; second how well it illustrates the use of terms relating to creation.
The whole scheme of the distribution of the surface of earth into land and water is one which demanded Divine foresight and a complete ideal which was to be attained by the action and reaction of natural forces, just as much as the production of the most specialized form of plant-or animal-life.
[Footnote 1: Compare Job xxxviii. 10, 11, and Psa. civ. 9.]
This is not the place to go into detail as to how much of the world's life-history and its climatic conditions depend on the distribution of land and water. It is sufficient to recognize the immense importance of that distribution.
But, in the second place, it will be observed that while it is natural to suppose (though not logically necessary) that the working out of the Divine plan commenced immediately on the issue of the Divine command and the declared formulation of the Divine scheme, yet we know—few things are better known—that the whole scheme was not completely realized in one day, or one age—certainly not before there was any appearance of plant-life, aquatic, or dry land, or any appearance of animal-life.
I believe (though I have lost my reference) it is held by some authorities that the position of the great oceans as they are now (and omitting, of course, all minor coast variations) has been fixed from very early geologic times. But, apart from that, we have ample evidence of whole continents arising and being again submerged; and of continual changes between land and water of the most wide-reaching character again and again happening during the progress of the world's history. So that here we may see clearly an instance where the revelation of the creative act must be held to refer to the great primal design—teaching us that it is a fact that at first all was laid down, foreseen, and designed by the Creator; but not referring to anything like an account of the results upon earth, which, for aught we know to the contrary, may not yet be complete.
As to the second part of the text, we are here introduced to the commencement of life-forms on earth.
No separation is recorded. Directly the chemical elements of matter have so combined that a solid earth and liquid water (salt and fresh) are formed, and the cooling process has gone on sufficiently long to enable the dense vapours partly to settle down and condense, partly to remain as vapour (dividing the waters above from the waters below)—directly this process is aided by the admission of diffused light and by the adjustment of the atmosphere, and the superficial adjustment of the distribution of water and land surface is provided for, then plant-life is organized.
It will be observed that even aquatic plants and algae though growing in or under water, are nevertheless connected with the earth; so that the phrase, "Let the earth bring forth," is by no means inappropriate.
The earliest rock deposits are able to tell us little about the first beginning of plant-life. Moreover, as animal-life began only with the interval of one day (the fourth), we should expect to find—on the supposition that the heavenly fiat at once received the commencement of its fulfilment on each day—that the first lowly specimens of vegetable and animal life are almost coeval. And this is (apparently) the fact.
It is to be remarked that plant and animal always appear in nature as two separate and parallel kingdoms. It is not that the plant is lower than the animal, so that the highest plant takes on it some of the first characters which mark the lowest animal: but both start separately from minute and little specialized forms so similar that it is extremely difficult to say which is plant and which is animal.
[Footnote 1: See this well summarized in Nicholson's "Manual of Zoology" (sixth edition, 1880), p. 13, et seq.]
All the beginnings of life in either kingdom would therefore be ill-adapted (most of them, at any rate) for preservation in rock-strata.
[Footnote 1: I think this is quite sufficient, without relying on the evidence of the great quantities of carbon in the earliest (Laurentian, Huronian, &c.) strata in the form of graphite. It is possible, or even probable, that this may be due to carbon supplied by masses of little specialized Thallophyte and Anophyte vegetation.]
All we know for certain is that vegetable-life was closely coeval with the lowest animal-life, and that it was very long before specialized forms, even of cryptogams, made a great show in the world.
Probability is entirely in favour of the actual priority being in vegetable forms; and more than that is not required. For the Mosaic narrative, while it places the origin of the vegetable kingdom actually first, lets the fiat for the animal kingdom follow almost immediately.
As to the order of appearance of the plants, I will reserve my remarks for the moment.
(4) "AND GOD SAID, LET THERE BE LIGHTS IN THE FIRMAMENT OF THE HEAVEN, TO DIVIDE THE DAY FROM THE NIGHT; AND LET THEM BE FOR SIGNS, AND FOR SEASONS, AND FOR DAYS, AND FOR YEARS: AND LET THEM BE FOR LIGHTS IN THE FIRMAMENT TO GIVE LIGHT ON THE EARTH."
The sun and the stars, and all the host of heaven, are clearly understood to have been created "in the beginning," under the general statement of fact which forms the first verse of the narrative.
The 14th verse has always been understood to refer to the establishment of the relations between the earth and the sun, moon, and stars, which have, as a matter of fact, been recognized by all ages and all people ever since. The writer of the 104th Psalm certainly so understood the passage—
"He appointed the moon for seasons; The sun knoweth his going down."
The writer was instructed to use popularly intelligible language, and so the text speaks of the lights as they appear in the sky or firmament.
Even if we suppose that before this act, the sun was already incandescent, and the moon capable of reflecting the light, the whole arrangement of the earth's rotation may have been such that the alternations of light and darkness may have been very different from what they are now, and the seasons also. A moment's reflection regarding the obliquity of the earth's axis, nutation, the precession of the equinoxes, the eccentricity of the orbit and the changes in the position of the orbit, will show us what ample room there was for a special adjustment and adaptation between the earth and its satellite and between both to the solar centre. So that faith which accepts this as a Divine arrangement made among the special and formal acts of Creation, cannot be said to be unreasonable, or to be flying in the face of any known facts.
[Footnote 1: Ver. 19, &c. The same word is also used of "making" priests (l Kings xii. 31), and appointing (R.V.)("advancing" A.V.), ("making," as we familiarly say) Moses and Aaron (1 Sam. xii. 6).]
[Footnote 2: And the Psalmist justly speaks of God as preparing the light of the sun (Psa. lxxiv. 16).]
It is very remarkable, as showing how little we can attribute this narrative, on any basis of probability, to mere fancy or guess-work, that this matter should have been assigned to the fourth day—after the fiat for plant-life had gone forth.
But the fact is that the unregulated light, and the vaporous uniform climate that must have continued if the fourth day's command had never issued, though it might have served for a time for the lowest beginnings of life, especially marine or aquatic, would ultimately have rendered any advance in the series of design impossible. Such a fact would never have occurred to an ignorant and uninspired writer.
It is here impossible to say whether the whole arrangements indicated were made at once in obedience to the Divine Design, or were produced gradually.
It has been suggested that uniformity of climate and temperature continued up till the carboniferous ages, at any rate; and it is only in the later ages that such differences of fauna in different parts of the world appear, as to show differences of climate more like what we have at present.
Whether this is so or not, I am not concerned to argue. The narrative tells us that God did, at a certain point in his Creative work, design and ordain the necessary arrangements; and physical science may find out, when it is able, how and when the adjustments spoken of came about.
(5) AND GOD SAID— (i.) Let the waters bring forth the moving creature that hath life, (ii.) Let fowl fly above the earth on the face of the expanse.
As to (i.) the "creation" consisted of—great sea-monsters (or water monsters), and every living thing that moveth.
Then the animal life received a blessing. Animals, even the lowliest, are capable of a new feature in life—happiness in their being, which cannot be predicated of plants.
(6) AND GOD SAID— (i.) Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind ... the beast of the earth after its kind (Carnivora), cattle after its kind (Ungulata), and everything that creepeth on the ground after its kind.
(ii.) Let us make man.... So God created man in His own image—in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.
(7) Then followed the day of rest.
[Footnote 1: See page 178.] [Transcriber's Note: Chapter XIV.]
Sec. 2. The Order of Events considered.
It was convenient first to bring these later Creative Acts together before beginning any remarks about any one of them.
It will now be desirable to notice what occurred, because here the question of order is concerned. I could not avoid a partial statement on this subject at an earlier page, nor would it be quite sufficient simply to refer the reader back to those pages. At the risk of some repetition, I will therefore consider the subject here. It will be observed that on the older interpretation, which passed over the special act of God in designing and publishing the design, and descended at once to the earth to the process of producing the designed forms, this order was matter of great importance.
Granting the supporters of this view that the six days are unequal periods often of vast duration, with or without important subdivisions, they are bound to make out that each creation began, and was at any rate well advanced, before the next began. We ought, in fact, to see a period more or less prolonged when the whole of what is indicated in the plant verse was well advanced, before any marine or fresh-water life appeared at all.
[Footnote 1: There was "evening and morning" of the third day, i.e., beginning and completion, and also the whole interval of the fourth day, before the command of the fifth.]
All attempts to make out that this was so, have proved failures. It is assumed, for instance (and justly so), that life on the globe began with low vegetable forms; these represented the "grass" of the text, and it is suggested that the "fruit tree" is represented by the Devonian and Carboniferous conifers. This in itself is a very strained view. It is recollected that the terms used are not scientific, but for the world at large; but without confining "fruit tree" to mean only trees having edible fruit, still the appearance of a few first species of conifers in the Devonian, can hardly be called an adequate fulfilment of the requirements of the passage. But even so, myriads of fish and other animals existed before the Devonian and Carboniferous plant age.
The animal forms that so existed, have therefore to be ignored, or are assumed to have been created without special notice: and it is said that the Mosaic period of "moving creatures of the deep," fishes and monsters, only began when the rocks begin to show great abundance of shells, of fish, and subsequently of huge reptilians which prepared the way for birds—which gradually make their appearance towards the Trias.
But the Devonian "age of fishes" (Devonian including old red sandstone) was far too important a period to be thus got rid of; and it is difficult to understand why the narrative should exclude all the extensive and beautiful (though often little specialized) orders of marine life—all the Corals, the Mollusca and Articulata, which had long abounded—especially some of the Crustaceans, not an unimportant group of which (Trilobite) had also culminated and almost passed away before the Devonian; to say nothing of the fact that land "creeping things" (scorpions among crustacea, and apparently winged insects) had occurred.
[Footnote 1: It is remarkable that the Trilobites rapidly culminated, so that we have the largest and most perfect forms, such as Paradoxus, with the lowest (Agnostus) in the same beds in Wales (Etheridge's "Phillips' Manual," Part II. p. 32).]
It is a special difficulty also, that if insects are included among the "creeping things" of the earth then various families of the "land-creation" (sixth day) became represented before the great reptiles of the "water-creation" (fifth day).
The fact is that a glance at the subjoined Tables (which are only generally and approximately correct) will suffice to show how the main features of the progress of life-forms differ from what is required by the older methods of reading Genesis. To reduce the table within limits, I have grouped together all the lower forms of life in the animal table, viz., the sponges, corals, encrinites, and molluscs. It is sufficient to say that these appear in all the rocks except the very oldest—the Caelenterata beginning, and the Molluscoids exhibiting an early order in brachiopoda, which seems to be dying out. Crustaceans and insects appeared as early as Silurian times.
The idea of successive "kingdoms" or "periods," each of which was complete in its actual fauna upon earth before the next was fully ushered in, can no longer be defended.
It is in the completion of one class of life before the other, that the fallacy of the period theory lies—for completion is essential to that theory which supposes "the Mosaic author" to have intended to describe the process of production on earth.
But it is quite impossible to deny that there is a certain observable movement and gradual procession in the history of life which is exactly consistent with what is most likely to have happened, supposing the Divine designs of life-forms were first declared in successive order at short intervals of time, and then that the processes of nature worked out the designs in the fulness of time and gradually in order, each one beginning before the next, but only beginning.
I do not deny that it is perfectly conceivable that the Creator might have designed the forms in one order, and that the actual production or evolution of the corresponding living creatures might not have been (for reasons not understood) exactly, or even at all, coincident with the order.
But it is impossible to deny the strong feeling of probability that the commands would begin to be worked out, in the order in which they were uttered.
And here it is that the correspondence which undoubtedly exists, gives rise to controversy.
From one point of view it is just enough to encourage the "period" holders to try and arrange a scheme; but it is just hot enough to prevent their opponents (justly) taxing them with straining or "torturing" the text and failing fairly to make out their case after all. From another point of view the correspondence is so far established, and so undeniably unprecedented (in human cosmogonies) and noteworthy, as to demand imperatively our careful consideration and compel us to account for it.
It will be observed, first of all, that the whole "creation" (omitting all incidental and preparatory works) is stated in groups each having an order within itself.
Group 1. God created (both land and water) "vegetation"—plants yielding seed, fruit-trees.
Group 2. In water, not necessarily excluding amphibia:—Great aquatic monsters; fish and all other creatures that move. In air:—Winged fowl.
Group 3. On land generally—for some forms are amphibious:—Beasts (Carnivora), cattle (Ungulata, &c.), and other things that creep on the ground (the smaller and lower forms of life collectively).
The order within the groups is evidently of no consequence, because the writer does not adhere to it in two consecutive verses dealing with the same subject; while the "versions" seem to point to some variations in the text itself as to arrangement, though not as to substance.
But as regards the order of the groups themselves, it is, as I said, very natural (but yet not logically inevitable) to expect that when the results came to be existent on earth, those results should exhibit a sequence corresponding to the order in which the groups were created. And it is never denied (in any of the most recent publications) that to this extent nature confirms the belief.
[Footnote 1: I have done my best to verify this from the well-known latest Manuals of Etheridge, Seeley, and Alleyne-Nicholson.]
I am aware that Professor Huxley's recent articles may at first sight seem to go against this; but that is not so on any grounds of actual fact, but of a particular interpretation—which I submit is wholly unwarranted.
For instance, it is insisted that the "sea-monsters" of the second group included sirenia and cetacea (dugongs, manatees, and whales, dolphins, &c.), which are mammals. In that case a portion of the command would not have been obeyed—a number of the designed forms would have been kept in abeyance—for a long time. And the same is still more true if bats—a highly placed group of mammals—were included in "winged fowl."
But both these interpretations are distinctly arbitrary, incapable of holding good, and also entirely ignore the conditions of a Revelation.
The narrative is not discussed or defended as an ordinary secular narrative, which is true according to the writer's uninspired intention or the state of his personal knowledge. It is defended as a Revelation. The distinction is as obvious as it is important, directly a moment's consideration is accorded.
If we assume, for a moment, that God did (on any theory whatever of Inspiration) instruct, direct, or enable the writer in making the record, then it is obvious that the writer either put down what he saw in a vision, or what was in some other manner borne on his mind. In any case, he could have had no critical knowledge, and no historical knowledge as an eye-witness, of the actual facts; and he may very well therefore have used language the full meaning of which he did not apprehend. What alone is essential is, that the narrative as it stands, on an ordinary critical, linguistic, and grammatical interpretation, should not contain anything which is untrue. Suppose, for example, the word "tanninim" to be incapable of bearing any other meaning linguistically than "cetacean," then the narrative might be objected to; but if it will bear a meaning which is consistent with fact, then it is no matter that the writer at the time had an erroneous, or (what is more likely) no defined, idea in his own mind of the meaning. And so with "winged fowl"—the objection fails entirely, unless it can be shown, not only that the writer might have thought "bats" to be included, but that linguistically the word cannot have any other meaning than one which would include bats.
[Footnote 1: As is constantly the case in prophetic writings. Revelation tells of the remote past sometimes as well as the future, and in neither case could the inspired writer fully understand the meaning that was wrapped up in his sentences.]
[Footnote 2: As a matter of fact, in the one case, if the writer's knowledge were of any importance, it is almost certain that he did not mean cetacean or sirenian. In the other case it is impossible to say whether he thought "bats" were included or not. It is not in the nature of things that the writer could ever have seen or even heard of a manatee or a dugong; nor is it likely that he had been a sea-farer, or could have seen any Mediterranean cetacean. As far as his own knowledge went, he probably had but a very confused idea. And if we refer to the poetic description in Psalm civ. 25, 26, we find "leviathan," though distinctly a sea creature, still one of which the writer had only a vague traditional idea, certainly not a known Mediterranean dolphin, for in Job xli. the same term is applied to the crocodile.]
We have every right, then, to say that the "tanninim" of the text may be taken to refer to that great and remarkable age of Saurians which is not only of very great importance in itself, but becomes doubly so when we see its connection backward with the fishes, and forward through the Pterodactyles to Odontoformae (Apatornis and Icthyornis) and modern winged birds (Hesperonis for the Penguins); and through the Dinosaurs with the Saurornithes, with the Dinornis and the struthious birds; and through the Theriodonts with the mammalian carnivora.
[Footnote 1: And perhaps the pachydermatous mammals (Nicholson, "Zoology," p. 566).]
In that case the sequence of the two groups, plants and aquatic animal-forms, is explained. They come almost together—plants being probably actually the first, and mollusca, fishes, and saurians.
There is, further, no real dispute that the Saurians led up to the Aves, and that the third group (of mammals) follows all the members of the second group. The earliest known mammal (microlestes) is an isolated forerunner of not very certain location, the real bulk of the mammalian orders beginning in the Eocene. Seeing, too, how very closely one Creative command is recorded to have followed on the other, it is not in any way against the narrative that some land forms of crustaceans and insects (and possibly others) began to appear at an early stage, when the vegetable and water-animal forms had only progressed as far as the Silurian and Devonian ages. Nor should we wonder if mammalian forms had occurred earlier. I mention this because of the evident gap in the geologic record between the Cretaceous and the Eocene, and because in the article of December, 1885 (and elsewhere), Professor Huxley has used language which suggests that mammals may have existed of which the rocks give no sign. E.g. (p. 855): "The organization of the bat, bird, or pterodactyle, presupposes that of a terrestrial quadruped ... and is intelligible only as an extreme modification of the organization of a terrestrial mammal or reptile." The italics are of course mine. And again (p. 855), "I am not aware that any competent judge would hesitate to admit that the organization of these animals (whales, dugongs, &c.) shows the most obvious signs of their descent from terrestrial quadrupeds."
I do not quote these words of so great a master as presuming to question them (even if, as a scientific verdict, I had any motive for so doing), but merely to point out as a matter of plain and fair reasoning, that if a Divine Creator had designed certain forms to be gradually attained by the processes of Evolution, it would not be necessary that any actually realized form or tangible creature should have existed as ancestors. Logically, the necessity is either that certain animals should have actually existed whose descendants gradually lost or gained certain features and functions till the forms we are speaking of resulted, or that certain patterns or designs should have been created according to which development proceeded by regular laws till the forms in question resulted.
A few words as to the terms used in describing the contents of each group, may be added. It is obvious that the terms are intended to be exhaustive of certain main groups which are described sufficiently, without being cast in a form which would have been incompatible with the use (at the time) of a human agent as the medium of the recorded Revelation.
(1) "Vegetation" (of an indefinite character, but not bearing seed), plants bearing seed, trees bearing fruit with the seed in it—certainly exhaust the entire range of plant-life.
(2) Moving creatures that live (and fish are afterwards expressly mentioned) and great monsters (tanninim), cover the entire field of life up to Reptilia as far as these are aquatic forms.
(3) The terms used for the third group are also obviously exhaustive—the separate mention of the cattle and the beast (Carnivora and Ungulates) is a form which is invariably noticed throughout the Old and New Testaments. The "creeping things" would include all minor forms, all land reptiles not described above as the "tanninim," and insects.
And it is remarkable that the tortoises, the snakes, and, the more modern forms of crocodile and lizard, and the amphibia and higher insects, are all cainozoic—some of them were preceded by more or less transitory representatives, e.g., the Carboniferous Eosaurus and Permian Protosaurus the ancient Labyrinthodons and Urodelas, Chelonians and the amphicaelian crocodiles. Snakes have no palaeozoic representative.
Land insects, as might naturally be expected, go back to the times when land vegetation was sufficiently established, and appear gradually all along the line from the Silurian onwards. The modern types, however, are Tertiary.
The succession, we observe, may be illustrated by the resemblance of a number of arrows shot rapidly one after the other in so many parallel courses: all would soon be moving nearly together.
Plant-life, the subject of the first Divine designing, has, as far as we can reasonably say, the start. According to known laws it appears in elementary and undeveloped forms, and gradually progresses. One group (Cryptogams) reaches a magnificent development and begins to die away in point of grandeur, though still abundantly exemplified. Phanerogamic plants in their lowest groups of gymnosperm exogens then begin to appear in the Devonian conifers, gradually followed by cycads. And it is not till Cainozoic times that we have the endogenous grasses and palms and angiospermous exogens.
But the command regarding animal life had followed the other after a short interval, so that we soon see this developing pari passu with the other groups—first the lower marine forms and gradually advancing to the Pisces, Amphibia, Reptilia, and then to Aves, as a special division in the second great design group. Lastly the mammals appear and man. But throughout all, we see the rise, culmination, and decay of many transitory and apparently preparatory groups—such as, for example, the Labyrinthodons and Urodelas—preceding the modern types of Amphibia; ancient fish-forms preceding modern ones, and either dying out or leaving but a few and distant representatives; or again, the whole tribes of ancient Saurians, of which something has already been said. All these wonderful under-currents and cross-currents, rises and falls, appearances and disappearances, nevertheless all work together till the whole earth is peopled with the forms, designed in the beginning by the Heavenly Creator.
[Footnote 1: Nor should we be surprised to find (should it be so discovered) that some animals appeared after man. (Cf. "Nineteenth Century" for Dec. 1885, p. 856.)]
No account of Creation can be other than wonderful and mysterious; nor can the mystery of the Divine act be explained in language other than that of analogy.
We can speak without mystery of a human architect conceiving a design in his mind; and when he utters it, it is by putting the plans and details upon paper, and handing them over to the builders, who set to work (under the architect's supervision, and in obedience to all the rules he has prescribed as to the methods of work and materials to be used).
All this we can transfer by analogy only, to a Divine design. The design is in the Divine mind, and He utters it in no material plans or drawings: the forces of nature and the chemical elements, His obedient builders, have no hands to receive the plans or eyes to scan them; but we can perceive the analogy directly, and that is all that is necessary for Faith.
The origin of all we see in the world and in the entire Cosmos is, then, in God; and as regards the adjustments of our globe and its relations, and the actual life-forms in plant and animal, they came into existence pursuant to groups of types or designs, made by the Divine Mind, and declared by Him from His Throne in heaven, in six several days—periods of the rotation of our earth.
That is the message of Revelation. It requires no straining of the sacred text: it takes everything as it stands, and the seemingly lengthy explanation it requires is not to manipulate the text, but to clear away the heap of mistaken conceptions that have gathered round it:—to establish the idea, that the terms "God said, Let there be," and so forth, mean Heaven work, in the design and type—not earth work in its realization and building up. Establishing this by illustration and argument, nothing more is required in the way of textual exegesis except to argue for the rejection of perverse and unsustainable meanings long given to "days," to "expanse" or "firmament," and to "great whales" in the narrative.
It will be admitted readily that if this account of Creation is the true one, if the meaning assigned to the Genesis narrative is correct, it affords no hindrance to any conclusions that may progressively be demanded by the investigation of life-history on earth.
It requires us to believe that the forms which life assumes are not chance forms, nor the unpremeditated results of environment and circumstance. But we are not told positively which forms are transitory, which are final.
It is only a matter of probable opinion, which it is quite open to any one to dispute, that there is any indication of finality. I should personally be inclined to think that we have indications that carnivora, ungulates, and birds are final forms; that no evolution will ever modify a bird further into anything that is not a bird; that no transition between the ungulates and the carnivora is possible; that the proboscideae are not a final but a transitory type, dying out gradually—our elephants and similar forms will disappear as the mastodon did.
But I admit this is all mere speculation, in which I ask no one to follow me.
On one important point only is there a difference; and if the text is ever proved wrong on that, it must be given up. But it is here that all scientific knowledge fails, in any way whatever, to touch the sacred text. There is an unique and exceptional account of one "special creation." A man "Adam" is described as having been actually created, not born as an ultimately modified descendant of ancestors originally far removed from himself. That is not to be denied; not only was his bodily form specially created (conformably to the type created in Genesis i. 26), but a special spiritual and higher life was imparted—for I believe that no one disputes this as the meaning of the expression, "breathed into his nostrils the breath of lives, and man became a living soul."
It must be noted again—although I have before alluded to this in some detail—that it is not impossible that, pursuant to the general command "Let us make man," there may have been other human creations, perhaps not endowed with the higher life of Adam. If it is found difficult to realize this because the image of God is connected (from the very first) with the design of Man's life-form, still it is to be remembered as an undeniable fact, that the form, though one assumed by God Himself in the Incarnation, is connected in structure and function with the general animal (Mammalian) type, and that even the Adamic or spiritually endowed man may, by neglecting the higher and giving way to the lower nature, develop much of the purely bestial in himself. So that the bare possibility of a pre-Adamite and imperfect man cannot be a priori denied. More than that it is not necessary to say. Nor is it necessary that any origin of man should be limited to six or eight thousand years back. If the state of the text is such that a perfect chronology is possible, then all that the Bible goes back to chronologically is the particular man Adam. And it is quite impossible that any scientific or historical contradiction can arise therefrom.
[Footnote 1: It should be borne in mind that just as Revelation is often absolutely silent on many points that mere curiosity would like to see explained, so also, the Divine Author may have allowed parts of the original text of Revelation to be so far lost or obscured as to leave further points that might have been once recorded, now doubtful. All that we may be quite sure of is that the text has been preserved for all that is essential to "life and godliness."]
PROFESSOR DELITZSCH ON THE GARDEN OF EDEN.
The information here put together is a compilation from papers in "The Nineteenth Century," and other sources. It has no pretentions to originality, but only to give a brief and connected account of the subject, more condensed and freed from surrounding details than that which the original sources afford.
Before entering on the subject, I would again call attention to the surpassing importance of these early chapters of Genesis. And, I add, that unbelievers are especially glad to be able to allege anything they can against them, because they are aware that hardly any chapters in the Bible are more constantly alluded to, and made the foundation of practical arguments by our Lord and His Apostles, than these early chapters in the Divine volume. If these chapters can be shown to be mythical, then the divine knowledge of our Lord, as the Son of God, and the inspiration of His Apostles, are put in question. All through the Old Testament, allusions to Adam and to the early history in Genesis occur; and among other passages, I will only here invite attention to the 31st chapter of Ezekiel, where there is, in a most beautiful description of the cedar-tree, an allusion to "Eden, the Garden of God" (see also chapter xxviii. ver. 13), which some have thought to indicate that the site was still known, and existing in the time of the prophet. This at least may be remarked, that in verse 9, where the prophet speaks of the "trees that were in the Garden of God," the word were is not in the original, and the sense of the context would rather denote the present tense—"the trees that are in the Garden of God."
But it is in the New Testament that the most repeated and striking allusions to Adam, the temptation of the woman by the Serpent, and the entrance of sin and death into the life-history of mankind, occur.
[Footnote 1: See on this subject page 137 ante.] [Transcriber's note: Chapter X.]
As regards the narrative of Eden itself, there has been, from the very earliest times, some disposition to regard it as mystical or "allegorical," i.e., to regard it as representing spiritual facts of temptation and disobedience, under the guise or story of an actual audible address by a serpent, and the eating of an actual fruit. The earliest translators seem to have glossed the "Gan-'Eden," everywhere in the Old Testament (except in Gen. ii. 8), by the phrase "the paradise of pleasure," or some other similar term. And the Vulgate always uses some phrase, such as "place of delight," "voluptas," "deliciae," &c. It must be admitted that there is some temptation to this course, because of the inveterate tendency of the human mind to reduce things to its own level—to suppose everything to have happened in ways which are within its present powers to comprehend. We figure to ourselves the fear and dislike we should ourselves experience, of a large snake; we imagine the amazement with which an intelligible voice would be heard to proceed from such a creature; so far from being tempted, we should at once be moved to hostility or to flight; and thus we are inclined to throw doubt on the narrative as it stands.
But this is to do what we justly complain of modern materialists and positivists for doing—reducing everything to terms of present experience and knowledge.
It has to be borne in mind, that under the conditions of the case, the serpent was neither ugly, dangerous, nor loathsome, but beautiful and attractive; that the residents of the Garden were familiar with the "voice of God"—i.e., they had habitual intelligible communication with heaven: probably, also, free intercourse with angelic messengers (inconceivable as it may now seem to us) was matter of daily experience to them. The woman would then recognize in the voice an Angel communication; and unaware at first that it was an evil angel, it would excite no surprise in her at all. Sensations of terror, surprise, dislike, and so forth, were ex hypothesi unknown. Why then should not the narrative be exact, unless, indeed, we have some a priori ground for supposing that human nature never could have been in a state where the voice of God and angels sounded in its ears, and where innocence and the absence of all evil emotion was the daily condition of life? The unbeliever may sneer at such a state, but reason why it should not have been, he can give none. So, again, with the idea of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" and the "tree of life." We are no doubt tempted to think that these terms may be symbolic; but a more careful reflection, and a deliberate rejection of the influence of present experiences, may lead us to accept the narrative more literally. Even now, we are not unfamiliar with the ideas of medicinal virtues in plants and fruits. I see nothing impossible in the idea that God may have been pleased to impart such virtue to the fruit of a tree standing in the midst of the Garden, that physical health, immunity from all decay, and constant restoration, should have been the result of eating the fruit; and the eating of this fruit, we know, was freely permitted. The late Archbishop Whately suggested, and I think with great probability, that the longevity of the earliest generations of the Adamic race may have been due to the beneficial effects of the eating of this fruit, which only gradually died out. Just as we know at the present time, that peculiarities introduced into human families, often survive from father to son, till they gradually die out after many generations.
Again, as regards the "forbidden tree," it will not seem impossible, that as a simple test of obedience in a very primitive state, the rule of abstinence from a particular fruit may have been literally enjoined, and that the consequence of the moral act of disobedience (rather than the physical effect of the fruit eaten) should have been the knowledge of evil, the first sensation of shame, terror, angry dissension, and, worst of all, the alienation from God the source of all good, which followed.
All such considerations of the reality of the history must gain greatly in strength, if we can demonstrate that the Garden of Eden, the scene of the temptation, the place where the trees that were the vehicles of such consequences to the occupants of the garden, stood, had a real existence and geographical site. Now I need hardly remark that the Mosaic narrative unquestionably professes a geographical exactness and a literal existence of the garden, as no fabled locality—no Utopia or garden of the Hesperides. I need only refer to the data afforded to us by Gen. ii. 8-14.
The Lord, it is said, planted a garden in Eden: it was "eastward;" but that does not directly indicate its site. From Gen. iv. 16, we also learn that the land of Nod where Cain dwelt (after the murder of Abel) was on the east of Eden.
A river went out and watered the garden. After passing the limits of Eden, the river is said to have divided itself, or parted, into four heads, i.e., arms or branches. The first branch was called Pison. This branch "compasseth," i.e., forms the boundary along the whole length of, "the Havilah." This country is spoken of as being a tract wherein was produced good gold, "b'dolach" (translated "bdellium") and "shoham" (translated "onyx.") The second branch was Gihon, which is described as similarly compassing the district of Kūsh. Here our A.V., by substituting "Ethiopia" for the original "Cūsh," has made a gloss rather than a translation; and this gloss has given rise to several errors of commentators in identifying the site of Eden. The Revised Version has corrected the error.
The third branch was Hiddekel, the Diklatu of the Arabs, the Tigra of the old Persians, and the Tigris of later writers. This is said to run eastward towards Assyria. The fourth river was the Frat or Euphrates. Observe, in passing, that the author gives no detail about the great river Euphrates, as being well known; while he adds particulars about the Tigris, and describes the Gihon and the Pison in some detail.
[Footnote 1: So the margin of the A. and R. Versions more correctly.]
Now it will at once strike the reader that two of these rivers are well known to the present day. The others are not.
It is in the identification of these two, and of the districts which they "compassed," which form the difficulties of the problem. Up till recent times, it is remarkable what a variety of speculations have been attempted as to the situation of Eden. Dr. Aldis Wright, the learned author of the article "Eden" in Smith's "Biblical Dictionary," remarks: "It would be difficult, in the whole history of opinion, to find any subject which has so invited, and at the same time completely baffled, conjecture, as the Garden of Eden." And in another place he thinks that "the site of Eden will ever rank with the quadrature of the circle, and the interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy among those unsolved, and perhaps insoluble, problems which possess so strange a fascination." It is, however, to be remarked, (1)that all that was written before Professor Delitzsch's researches were made known; and (2)that really a great mass of the conjecture and speculation has been purely in the air—undertaken without any reference to the plain terms of the text to be interpreted. It is the extravagance of commentators, and their insisting on going beyond the narrative itself, that has raised such difficulties, and made the problem look more hopeless than it really is.
To what purpose are "the three continents of the old world" "subjected to the most rigorous search," as Dr. Wright puts it—when it is quite plain from the text itself, that the solution is to be sought in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, or not at all? The whole inquiry seems to have been one in which a vast cloud of learned dust has been raised by speculators, who began their inquiry without clearly determining, to start with, what was the point at issue. Either the description in Gen. ii. 3-14 is meant for allegory, or geographical fact: this question must first be settled; and if the latter is agreed to, then it is quite inconceivable that the words should imply any very extensive region, or any fancied realm extending over a large proportion of one or other quarter of the globe. The problem is then at once narrowed; and it is simply unreasonable to look for Havila in India, or for Pison in the province of Burma, as one learned author does!
Yet commentators have forgotten this; and gone—the earlier ones into interpretation of allegory—the later into impossible geographical speculation; while only the most recent have confined themselves to the obvious terms of the problem as laid down in the narrative itself—a narrative which (whether true or false) is clearly meant to be definite and exact, as we have seen. Our A.V. translators are to be held, to some extent, responsible for the freedom which speculation has exercised, by themselves taking the Cūsh of the narrative to "Ethiopia," i.e., to the African continent—for which there is no authority whatever.
As regards the allegorical interpretations, they are too extravagant for serious notice. Souls, angels, human passions and motives, are supposed to be represented by towns, rivers, and countries. To all this it is enough to reply—What reason can we have for supposing an allegory suddenly to be interpolated at Gen. ii. 8? There is no allegory before it, there is none after.
Then as to the early geographical expounders. Josephus and others supposed the allusion was made to the great rivers known to ancient geography, all of which ran into that greatest river of all, which encircled the globe. In this view, the Gihon might be the Nile, and the Pison the Ganges! Here, again, it may be remarked it is impossible to read the narrative and believe that the author meant any such widespread region. Even if the author had the ancient ideas about cosmography generally, that would not prevent his being accurate about a limited region lying to the east of a well-known river in a populous country. In later times Luther avoided the difficult speculation by supposing that the Deluge had swept away all traces of the site! But unfortunately for this convenient theory, it is a plain fact that the Deluge did not sweep any two out of the four rivers named. The reader who is curious on the subject, will find in Dr. A. Wright's article a brief account of the various identifications proposed by all these commentators. It would not be interesting to go into any detail. I shall pass over all those extravagant views which go to places remote from the Euphrates, and come at once to the later attempts to solve the question in connection with the two known rivers, Euphrates and Hiddekel (Tigris); as this is the only kind of solution that any reasonable modern Biblical student will admit.
The different explanations adopted maybe grouped into two main attempts: (1) to find the place among the group of rivers that surrounds Mount Ararat in Northern Armenia, vis., in the extreme upper course of the Euphrates near its two sources; (2) to find the place below the present junction of the Euphrates and the Tigris, along some part of the united course, which is now more than two hundred miles long, and is called "Shatt-el-'Arab."
But neither of these attempts has been successful: the first must, indeed, be absolutely dismissed; because the Hebrew phrases used in describing the four branches of the river that "went out," and watered the garden, and then parted, cannot be applied to four independent sources or streams—upstream of the Euphrates. It will not, then, satisfy the problem, to find four rivers somewhere in the vicinity of the Euphrates, and which, in a general way, enclose a district in which Eden might be placed. It may, indeed, be doubted whether this first attempt (which I may call the "North Armenian solution") would ever have been seriously entertained, but from the fact that the name Gihon—or something very like it—did attach itself to the Araxes or Phasis, a considerable river of Armenia. Finding a Gihon ready, the commentators next made the Pison, the Acampsis; and then as Pison was near the "Havila land," this country was laid on the extreme north of Armenia; all this without a particle of evidence of any kind. I may here take the opportunity of remarking that a chance similarity of names has been, throughout the controversy, a fruitful source of enlarged speculative wandering. Thus this name Gihon (Gaihun, Jikhun, Gēōn, &c.) that appears in North Armenia, again appears in connection with the Nile; while again the name "Nile" has wandered back to the confines of Persia, and one of the Euphrates branches is still called "Shatt-en-nil." The ancients, indeed, had very curious ideas about the Nile. Its real sources being so long undiscovered—no Speke or Grant having appeared—imagination ran wild on the subject. Not only so, but it is remarkable that the name Cush should have acquired both a Persian Gulf and an Egyptian employment: and the writer of the able article in "The Nineteenth Century" (October, 1882) points out several other singular instances in which names are common both to the African-Egyptian region, and to this.
[Footnote 1: And it is astonishing to find the error generally perpetuated in maps attached to modern Bibles.]
[Footnote 2: As distinct from a real philological connection of a modern name with a more ancient one, and so forth.]
Turning now to the second of the two theories, the identification of the site on the lower part of the Euphrates after its now existing junction with the Tigris (and which the supporters of the theory have justified by making the Gihon and Pison two rivers coming from Eden) must also be set aside.
For the important fact has been overlooked that it is quite certain, that anciently, the joint stream, (Shatt-el-'Arab), as it now is, did not exist. Though the Genesis narrative tells us of a junction immediately outside the southern boundary of the Garden, the Euphrates channels and the Tigris branch (with part of the Euphrates water in it) flowed separately to the Persian Gulf. It is quite certain that, in the time of Alexander the Great, the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris were a good day's journey apart. For this separate outflow there is the incontestable evidence of Pliny and other authors quoted by Professor Delitzsch. I may here also remark, that anciently the Persian Gulf extended much farther inland than it does now. In the time of Sennacherib, an inland arm of the sea extended so far, that a naval expedition against Elam was possible; more than one hundred miles inland from the present sea-line. The extension was called Nār Marratum. In Alexander's time, the city of Charax (now Mohamra) was founded close to the sea (that was in the fourth century B.C.). It is known from later histories, that shortly before the birth of our Saviour, the city was from fifty to one hundred and twenty Roman miles inland. The change is due to the "Delta," or alluvial formation at the mouth of the rivers.
Turning, then, to the recent inquiries (published in 1881) by Professor Fried. Delitzsch, it must be confessed that the results obtained are such as to completely avoid all the difficulties that beset the other explanations: yet we ought not to be too confident that it is a final or absolute explanation. A certain caution and reserve will still be wisely maintained on the subject. At any rate, they show that an explanation, one that answers all the conditions of the problem, can be given; and that is a great thing.
[Footnote 1: "Wo lag das Paradies" (Leipzig, 1881) is the title of the book.]
[Footnote: Professor Friedrich Delitzsch is Professor of Assyriology in the University of Leipzig.]
In placing the site on the Euphrates, and far from the mountain sources, there is no violence done to the Hebrew language used to describe the first river, as one that "went out," and watered the Garden. The words do not require that the river should actually take its rise within the Garden limits; but it is necessary that the river should be so situated, that its waters could be distributed by means of creeks or canals across the Garden, that it could be said the river "went out and watered the Garden." Now it is a remarkable fact, that in the district just above Babylon, the bed of the Euphrates is in level much higher than the bed of the Tigris (Hiddekel) to the east, and that hence there always have been a number of very variable channels leading from the Euphrates eastward to the Tigris. These, it is well known, were often enlarged by the ancients and converted into useful "inundation canals" for irrigation and the passage of boats. Imagine, then, the high level river bed of the Euphrates, and various streams flowing off it down to the valley of the Tigris, and we have a most efficiently irrigated "Garden," and one accurately described by the text—the great river "went out" and watered it. The Euphrates, moreover, is liable to great flushes of water from the melting of the snows in wide tracts of mountain or highlands from which its waters are collected, and these volumes of water found vent from the overcharged mother-channel by escape, not only through the side channels, just spoken of, but also by other important branches on the other side. Every one who has seen one of the great rivers of Northern India will at once realize the changes that take place where a river liable to floods has its bed at a high level. It is almost a matter of certainty that, in the course of years, the branches and channels of rivers so constituted will change, and old ones be left dry and deserted. These essential topographical conditions have always to be remembered in interpreting the narrative of Genesis ii.
In fact, they furnish us with points which help us in the problem at the outset. (1) There is a part of the Euphrates, just above Babylon, where the river naturally furnished abundant irrigation for a Garden planted eastward of it, by means of natural irrigation channels flowing from the high level down to the lower valley of the Tigris; and (2) there is also a point from which the Euphrates did branch out, and several important arms anciently existed.
Nor is the locality, in point of verdure and fertility, unsuitable. Not only do the ancient histories make frequent mention of the canals and streams flowing from the Euphrates which I have alluded to, but they speak of the palm groves, the vines and the verdure of the Babylonian or Chaldean region. Herodotus, in his first book, has the most glowing description of the scene; and the kings of Babylon had numerous enclosed gardens or parks: these were imitated in Persia, and gave rise to the Persian name "Firdaus," which Xenophon imported into Greek in the form of [Greek: paradeisos] or "paradise"—the term which was adopted by the Seventy translators.
The actual locality which Professor Delitzsch proposes as the most probable site of the Garden of Eden is between the present Euphrates and Tigris, just to the north of Babylon. The boundaries would be—roughly and generally speaking—the two rivers for East and West; while for the North and South boundaries we should draw parallel lines through Accad on the North and Babylon on the South.
But granted that the general locality and the relations of the river Euphrates and Tigris satisfy the requirements of the text by such a location as this: how about the other two and the countries which they compass? The troubles of the earlier commentators will warn us, that we need not be too ready to force names, and to identify one river, and then, because we have fixed that, make the country which the text requires follow it!
It is, however, in this matter that Professor Delitzsch's work is so satisfactory. He has pointed out, that there is historical evidence (and also that the local traces are not wanting in the present day) to prove that, just below Babylon, we can find two prominently important channels or branches of the Euphrates, which will at least supply the place of Pison and Gihon. As to the first, it is known that in historic times a great channel called by the Greeks Pallakopas (navigable for ships) used to carry off the surplus water of the Euphrates when swollen in the summer season by the melting snows of the Armenian mountains. It branched off from the main river at a point somewhat north of Babylon, and flowed into the Persian gulf. There is, indeed, no direct evidence to show that this branch bore a name resembling Pison. Palgu is the Assyrian whence the Greek Pallakopas was derived. It is remarkable, however, that the word Pison closely resembles the cuneiform term "pisana," or "pisanu," which is used for a water-reservoir, a canal or a channel; and as this "Pallakopas" was the channel par excellence, it may very possibly have been called "pisana" or Pison, the (great) channel. The identification of the channel called "Pallakopas" will be found mentioned in Colonel Chesney's work, "An Expedition to the Tigris." The name, however, of this channel is not the only means we have of identifying it. The Scripture says that the Pison compasses the land of Havilah. Now let us remember, that the Scripture tells of two Havilahs: (1) The second son of Cush and brother of Nimrod, and (2) one of the great great grandsons of Shem (Gen. x. 29). One we may call the Cushite Havilah, the other the Joktanite Havilah. The dwelling-place of the brother of Nimrod is not mentioned, but it is stated that the Joktanite Havilah dwelt in "Mesha." The tenth of Genesis is an important chapter, as showing how the descendants of Noah branched out and spread over the countries all round the Euphrates; some going north to Assyria (Nineveh), others to the east and west, and others south, to Arabia and Egypt. Now it so happens that the whole country west of the great Pallakopas channel, was called by the Assyrians "Mashu." Professor Delitzsch identifies this Mashu of the cuneiform inscriptions, with the "Mesha" mentioned in Scriptures, as the home of Havilah. We have also in Gen. xxv. 8, mention of a land of Havila that is "before"—i.e., eastward of—"Egypt as thou goest toward Assyria," which would answer very well to this locality, west of the Euphrates. It is also known (from sources which it would take too long to detail) that this country did yield gold-dust. Pliny also mentions "Bdellium," if that was the substance known as "B'dolach." It is indeed uncertain what this was, but Gesenius long ago rejected the idea that it was a stone, because there is no prefix to it, as there is to "shoham," which follows, and certainly is a precious stone. The manna in the wilderness is described as being of the "colour of bdellium," and was also like hoar-frost; hence the idea that b'dolach was a crystal. But a fragrant and precious gum-resin seems more likely. The Magi who came to worship the Infant Saviour from near this locality, brought offerings of gold, and also fragrant gums and myrrh. Was "bdellium" (as probably being a fragrant gum) one of these offerings?
[Footnote 1: See Gen. x. 9.]
[Footnote 2: See also 1 Sam. xv. 7.]
[Footnote 3: Exod. xvi. 14; Numbers xi. 7: "The appearance (lit. "eye") of it was as the appearance of bdellium" (R.V.).]
The "Onyx," or "Shoham," was most probably a pure red cornelian, and this also was found in the Babylonian provinces, and was specially worn by the Babylonian kings.
So the country west of the Euphrates answers very well to Havila without any forcing, and without any placing it there because of the river rendering such a plan necessary.
As to the fourth river (Gihon), Delitzsch identifies it, still more clearly, with a channel known as the "Shatt-en-nil," which branches off from the Euphrates at Babylon itself, and passing the Scriptural city of Erech, rejoins the main river lower down. A clay tablet has actually been discovered, having the Euphrates, Tigris, and this Shatt-en-nil channel together: the name of the latter is given as "Kāhan de," or "Gughande," a name which closely resembles Gihon. The channel is, however, identified independently of the name. For the Gihon is particularized in the narrative, by the fact that it "compasses" the land of Cush. This (as already pointed out) is not the Ethiopian Cush.
Delitzsch states, that the whole country bounded by this branch was anciently called Kash-shu, which he identifies with the Cush of Genesis ii. The syllable "Kash" appears throughout this locality. In fact Kash-du or Kal-du is the origin of the familiar name Chaldea. In the Hebrew, Kush (Cush) is the name given to the father of Nimrod, who "began" his kingdom about this very site—Erech, and Calneh, and Accad (Gen. x. 8, 10). Hence it is not surprising that relics of the name should be found all round this neighbourhood. Nor does the evidence end here. The district immediately around Babylon was called "Kar-dunish-i," i.e., the "Garden of the god Dunish." Now Kar is the Turanian form of the Semitic Gān, or Ginā (garden); and what is more likely than that, as the true story was lost in the heathen traditions and mythology that grew up, the "garden" was attributed to the god Dunish—whereas the real original had been not "Gandunish," but "Gan'Eden?" This, though only a conjecture, is the more probable, as one of the inscription-names of Babylon itself was "Tintira," which, though a little obscure, certainly means either the "grove," or the "fountain," of life.
We thus find, not only that four great branches of the river that "went out," and watered the Garden can be traced, but that the two really do "compass" tracts, that can, with the highest degree of probability, be identified as Cūsh or Kash, and Havilah. The importance of Professor Delitzsch's work may now be briefly glanced at. It may be objected, that such a process of reasoning as that put forward, is not convincing to a general reader who has not the means of criticizing or testing Professor Delitzsch's conclusions: he therefore cannot be sure that, in selecting two channels to represent the Pison and the Gihon, and in identifying "Mashu" with Mesha of Havilah, and one of the Babylonian districts with Kush, the Professor has at last hit off a solution of the problem which will not in its turn be disproved, as all earlier solutions have been. There is, however, this important conclusion to be safely drawn, viz., that a complete explanation in exact accord with the Hebrew text is possible, and that hence nothing can be urged against the narrative, on the ground (hitherto sneeringly taken) that the geography was impossible and so forth.
Next let me very briefly sum up what it is that Dr. Delitzsch has done—marshalling the evidence, beginning from the broad end and narrowing down till we arrive at the point.
(1) First, then, we are fixed by the narrative to some place between the Euphrates and the Tigris.
(2) We find in the ancient inscriptions of the chief city of this locality, constant allusions to a Garden, a primitive pair and a temptation: one of these almost exactly reproduces the Bible story; it is not of the earliest date and is a copy. But discovery is far from being exhausted; all that we know is consistent with the idea of an original story, gradually corrupted by the addition of legends, and introduction of mythological persons and heathen divinities. The true belief in one God, who made Himself known by voice or vision to His true worshippers, seems early to have been confined to a few of the Shemitic families, while the others "invented" gods of their own.
(3) We find that the region about Babylon itself was called Kar-dunishi—which easily recalls Kar or Gan-Eden. We also find the name (Tintira) applied, indicating a "grove" or "fountain" of life; in the locality where the direct legends most abound.
(4) We find from ancient authors that the district was one of rich verdure—a land of gardens and irrigation.
(5) We find that some way above Babylon about Accad, the level of the river bed Euphrates is so much higher than the valley of the Tigris eastward, that numerous streams flow off from it, which would serve admirably to irrigate a garden situated between the two, eastward of the Euphrates.
(6) We find that the Persian Gulf once extended more than one hundred miles farther inland than it does now. That there was no joint outflow of Tigris and Euphrates, but, though they did join their streams above, they parted again and had still separate mouths—of the Tigris branch one, of the Euphrates several.
(7) Lastly, Professor Delitzsch finds two channels which answer to Pison and Gihon.
(8) He proves these two to be the right ones by considering the countries which they "compass:" and actually finds the one that he supposes to be the "Gaihun," called, in the cuneiform clay tablets, "Kahan or Gaghan-de."
It is really only in (7) and (8) that there is any room for doubt and for further inquiry.
At any rate, the credibility of the narrative, and a belief in its purpose, as a topographically exact statement of fact, not an allegory or legend, is established.