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PRE F À CE,
IT was the author's intention to publish, several years
since, the result of disquisitions, begun in early life and continued amid a variety of professional labours, not to mention emergent avocations, and peculiar difficulties, from the mysterious nature of the subject ; but most of all, from the want of a collateral history, commensurate with the Sacred Annals of the Hebrews. A record, similar to the Chronicles of the Kings in Judah and Israel, well attested, proceeding from the same point of time, and referring to the same persons, events, and dates, would have been a desirable acquisition.
Such a separate record never did exift. For from the BEGINNING, as defined by Mofes, to that POINT in time, with which the Sacred Annals terminate, nothing is with certainty known, respecting the Gentile Antiquities, besides the reports of the inspired writers; and whatever events they have preserved from oblivion, so far from comprising a full history of all nations, amount to no more than a few concise hints concerning a very few of the idolatrous tribes, conti. guous to Babylonia and Palestine.
ACCORDING to Archbishop Usher, (who in the arts of computation, and historical arrangement, excelled all his predecessors), the Hebrew scriptures contain the a 3
History of 36 centuries, measured by astronomical years, singly, or in combination, generations, magistracies, &c. Moderate and every way credible, though not universally adopted, is this quantity of intermediate time. That luminary of his age, having long poised, in an equal balance, the merits of the Hebrew and Greek computation, from Adam to Abraham, found the former to preponderate, and judiciouly decided in favour of evidence, stampt with every signature of probability and truth.
His preference, more from the strength of reason, than respect to the authority of his name, reformed the sentiments of his country, and confirmed those on the continent, wherever assent to the Hebrew chronology had not previously obtained an establishment, as, indeed it had done, in the weftern church, from the days of Jerome ; and about the era of the Reformation, it derived canonical authority from a decree of the council at Trent, before, or about, A. D. 1542.
In Britain, however, during the currency of the xviiith century, the spurious chronology of the Septuagint, so justly exploded 150 years ago, has again risen into credit, and superseded the genuine notations of Moses, the firft Chronologer and Historian.
This gradual change of national opinion, concerning the wilful corruption of the Hebrew oracles, and the superior integrity of the Alexandrian version, (chiefly with regard to those numbers which determine the years of the world prior to Abraham), disconcerted the author's measures, and unavoidably protracted the
design of publishing his arrangements of the Sacred History, constructed on the authority of the Hebrew numbers *, the prime source of computation.
IN a Dissertation not yet published, but kept in reserve for the RESEARCHES, the comparative merits of the Hebrew and Greek computations are, at large,
*Slow was the transition from the reformed chronology by Usher, to the antiquated errors of the Alexandrian school : In 1922 Whifton published the first volume of his effay for restoring the true text of the Old Testament. Other authors adopted his wild position, that the extended chronology of the Greek Pentateuch is preferable to the more concife scheme of tho Hebrew text. Kennicott collated a great many MSS. not without the hope of finding a confiderable majority in favour of the world's superior antiquity. All his writings, those published after the edition of his Hebrew Bible not excepted, express his full conviction, that the Jews of the second century wilfully mutilated the chronological notations in the Hebrew GENESIS : but the result of his laborious investigations did not justify the augmentation of any one number, much less of all. His learned contemporaries, however, gave him implicit credit for a decision, absolutely incapable of evidence, sufficient to enforce belief ;-the authenticity of the Septuagint Chronology. By respectable authors. has this doctrine been maintained, (1.) in a Sermon, printed 1792, where it is affirmed, “ That the space from the hour of the Fall to the present day is full 7000 years ;"mand (2.) in a late English verfion of the Pentateuch, the exaggerated numbers in the with chapter of GENESIS are taken from the 70 Interpreters (as they are called), under the folemn declaration, that the version is faithfully translated from corrected texts of the original. In the former case, extreme credulity, in the latter, the deceiveableness of Romilh impofture, exemplified. at
eonsidered, and a more succin& view exhibited in the ensuing ANALYSIS. Beit, in a form some what more diffusive, remarked, that
1. The marvellous stories, transmitted concerning the formation of this version, if true, amount to much stronger evidence, than that alleged for the authenticity of the original ; or, to invert the argument, is it pro• bable, that the testimony of Moses, alone, was sufficient to induce conviction ; and that the testimony of 70 Scribes, shut up in separate cells, who all translated the same writings, so as not to vary in one phrase or particle, was requisite to establish the honesty, skill, and inspiration of the translators? If this query be answered in the affirmative, unavoidable is the inference, that loowi GEDDES was under obligations to produce evidences of his skill and fidelity, 70 degrees stronger than Moses for his veracity as an inspired writer, which character this consummate critic has ventured to controvert, with needless repetitions of his belief.
2. KENNICOTT alleges, that some copies of the Hebrew Pentateuch, having the larger numbers, were cxtant in the 4th century. On the report of Eusebius the credibility of this fact is said to reft. Other evidence is produced to confirm the belief of copies existing in the 7th, and even subsequent centuries *. With all deference to the veracity of these witnesses, be it remarked, that their evidence is good for nothing. It ought to have been proved, by evidence, direct or circumNantial, that copies having the larger numbers did * Kennicott's remarks on select passages, 1987. p. 19.