[b-hebrew] Assumptions about ANE ages that just don't work.

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Oct 22 02:14:31 EDT 2007

Dear Bryant,

I agree with almost every word that you wrote here. Science cannot DIS-prove
anything. Faith and knowledge are not mutually exclusive. I also agree that
most people, myself included, need both faith and knowledge. And what you
wrote about C-14 is correct, and basically not relevant to the issue at

What is at hand is the accepted rules for our discourse. Since we are all
people of different (and some of no) faiths, arguing faith-based absolutes 
is useless. I'm not suggesting that we not allow any faith-based statements, 
only that once we all know where each of us stands, we end the 
back-and-forth statements.

On a list like this, the only thing that can advance our understanding is a 
study of the text and its background, using accepted scientific method. This 
does not mean that we have to "prove" everything - what it means is that the 
only things that we can accept for granted are those things that do NOT 
demand a particular faith-based premise. This includes even the very 
existance of God, not to mention the idea that He wrote the Torah. Both of 
these assumptions are statements of faith. One can accept them or not. But 
having made your statement of faith, which others can agree with or not, 
there is simply no more common ground to move forward on.

These are the ground rules for our discourse - please stay within their 

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bryant J. Williams III" <bjwvmw at com-pair.net>
To: "Yigal Levin" <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il>; "b-hebrew"
<b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2007 7:14 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Assumptions about ANE ages that just don't work.

> Dear Yigal,
> I, for one, do NOT subscribe to the presupposition that "One of the basic
> premises of any science, including the study of history and of
> linguistics, is
> that the laws of nature, and the rules that govern human behavior, were
> always
> what as the are now." Furthermore, the fact that longer lifespans are
> mentioned
> with the given ages of those people in no contradicts the physical
> evidence.
> Just because there is an absence of physical evidence does not mean that
> there
> was no evidence.
> I must remind you that just because something is taken on faith does not
> mean
> that faith is blind or without knowledge. Everyone everywhere uses faith
> in some
> form. The question then lies as to the basis, content and object of that
> faith.
> Faith and knowledge are both intuitive, intellectual and experiential.
> They are
> both needed in this life. Now, reason and knowledge will take a person
> only so
> far, but faith will act on previous evidence and proceed forward. The
> question
> then hedges on the accuracy of the knowledge that faith will use. In this
> case,
> the literary record clearly indicates that lifespans diminished over time.
> This
> is especially true after the Noahic Flood. None of us present today were
> there.
> Therefore, the question of according credibility comes the fore. How much
> credibility (FAITH) do I give to the written testimony? Do not make the
> mistake
> of separating faith from knowledge.
> Furthermore, it is clear from Genesis 4-11 that mankind was "dying."
> Fulfilling
> the promise of God in Genesis 2-3.
> Regarding carbon 14 dating.
> "The C-14 within an organism is continually decaying into stable carbon
> isotopes, but since the organism is absorbing more C-14 during its life,
> the
> ratio of C-14 to C-12 remains about the same as the ratio in the
> atmosphere.
> When the organism dies, the ratio of C-14 within its carcass begins to
> gradually
> decrease. The rate of decrease is 1/2 the quantity at death every 5,730
> years.
> That is the half-life of C-14. "
> "The Limitations of Carbon 14 Dating "
> "Using this technique, almost any sample of organic material can be
> directly
> dated. There are a number of limitations, however. "
> "First, the size of the archaeological sample is important. Larger samples
> are
> better, because purification and distillation remove some matter. Although
> new
> techniques for working with very small samples have been developed, like
> accelerator dating, these are very expensive and still somewhat
> experimental. "
> "Second, great care must be taken in collecting and packing samples to
> avoid
> contamination by more recent carbon. For each sample, clean trowels should
> be
> used, to avoid cross contamination between samples. The samples should be
> packaged in chemically neutral materials to avoid picking up new C-14 from
> the
> packaging. The packaging should also be airtight to avoid contact with
> atmospheric C-14. Also, the stratigraphy should be carefully examined to
> determine that a carbon sample location was not contaminated by carbon
> from a
> later or an earlier period. "
> "Third, because the decay rate is logarithmic, radiocarbon dating has
> significant upper and lower limits. It is not very accurate for fairly
> recent
> deposits. In recent deposits so little decay has occurred that the error
> factor
> (the standard deviation) may be larger than the date obtained. The
> practical
> upper limit is about 50,000 years, because so little C-14 remains after
> almost 9
> half-lives that it may be hard to detect and obtain an accurate reading,
> regardless of the size of the sample. "
> "Fourth, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 in the atmosphere is not constant.
> Although
> it was originally thought that there has always been about the same ratio,
> radiocarbon samples taken and cross dated using other techniques like
> dendrochronology have shown that the ratio of C-14 to C-12 has varied
> significantly during the history of the Earth. This variation is due to
> changes
> in the intensity of the cosmic radiation bombardment of the Earth, and
> changes
> in the effectiveness of the Van Allen belts and the upper atmosphere to
> deflect
> that bombardment. For example, because of the recent depletion of the
> ozone
> layer in the stratosphere, we can expect there to be more C-14 in the
> atmosphere
> today than there was 20-30 years ago. To compensate for this variation,
> dates
> obtained from radiocarbon laboratories are now corrected using standard
> calibration tables developed in the past 15-20 years. When reading
> archaeological reports, be sure to check if the carbon-14 dates reported
> have
> been calibrated or not. "
> "Finally, although radiocarbon dating is the most common and widely used
> chronometric technique in archaeology today, it is not infallible. In
> general,
> single dates should not be trusted. Whenever possible multiple samples
> should be
> collected and dated from associated strata. The trend of the samples will
> provide a ball park estimate of the actual date of deposition. The
> trade-off
> between radiocarbon dating and other techniques, like dendrochronology, is
> that
> we exchange precision for a wider geographical and temporal range. That is
> the
> true benefit of radiocarbon dating, that it can be employed anywhere in
> the
> world, and does have a 50,000 year range. Using radiocarbon dating,
> archaeologists during the past 30 years have been able to obtain a much
> needed
> global perspective on the timing of major prehistoric events such as the
> development of agriculture in various parts of the world."
> (http://id-archserve.ucsb.edu/Anth3/Courseware/Chronolgy/08_Radiocarbon_Dating.h
> tml). BTW, I am using 1 of 1,900,000 results.
> Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Yigal Levin" <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il>
> To: "b-hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Sunday, October 21, 2007 9:07 PM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Assumptions about ANE ages that just don't work.
>> One of the basic premises of any science, including the study of history
>> and
>> of linguistics, is that the laws of nature, and the rules that govern
>> human
>> behavior, were always what as the are now. This allows scientists to use
>> carbon 14, for example, to date organic material - since the C14's rate
>> of
>> decomposition has been the same for thousands of years. Since there is NO
>> physical evidence that would show that people's lifespans were ever
>> significantly different than they are now, taking the long lives in
>> Genesis
>> (or in any other ancient text) literally is a matter of faith, not
>> science.
>> Insisting that "everyone" lived longer back then is a leap of faith, not
>> even mentioned in the text. Insisting that "it would not be wise to
>> contradict Moses" is a statement of faith - science is built upon
>> contradicting and challenging old assumptions. This list is NOT a forum
>> for
>> the discussion of faith. Unless anyone has anything really new to
>> contribute
>> to the matter, I suggest that we end this thread.
>> Yigal Levin
>> ----- Original Message ----- 
>> From: "Shoshanna Walker" <rosewalk at concentric.net>
>> To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
>> Sent: Monday, October 22, 2007 4:12 AM
>> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Assumptions about ANE ages that just don't work.
>> > Not ALL OF US don't believe that the ages in Bereishit are correct.
>> >
>> > Also I don't think it is accurate that the Torah mentioned these ages
>> > of only a select few individuals who lived hundreds of years (I think
>> > someone on this list mentioned this).
>> >
>> > The first men, the Nefilim, were giants and had lifespans of nearly
>> > 1000 years, but they were physically too strong, at the expense of
>> > their spiritual selves.  The remedy was to reduce their lifespans and
>> > physical strength.
>> >
>> > So in Bereishit 6:3, G-d tells us of His plan to reduce the human
>> > lifespan to 120 years.
>> >
>> > And He did it gradually.  Noach's son, Shem, lived 350 years less
>> > than Noach, and his son, Arphaxad, lived less than he.  By the time
>> > of Avraham, the tenth generation after Noach, the lifespan had
>> > dropped to 175 years with Yaakov living 147 years.  After that it
>> > dropped to 70 years, with exceptions that approach 120 years.
>> >
>> > So Sarah at 90 years was old - even too old to bear children, and the
>> > reason for her beauty at that age, was that she became beautiful as a
>> > result of G-d's angels communicating to her, just as the Midrash
>> > tells us that Queen Esther, when she approached Achashverosh without
>> > his summoning her, at great danger to herself, had angels accompany
>> > her when she went in to see him, and cause her to be irresistably
>> > beautiful to him, otherwise, he could have been angry enough to have
>> > her killed.
>> >
>> > Shoshanna
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > What are the presuppositions/assumptions being applied that would
>> > justify taking
>> > the ages = season? It appears that just because we do not believe that
>> > the
>> > ages
>> > in Genesis are correct because "no one could live that long" does not
>> > necessarily mean that that is so. The ages mentioned are in the text.
>> > There is
>> > NO justification or evidence to prove that they are incorrect.
>> > Furthermore,
>> > since Moses wrote it that way, and he was closer to the source(s) than
>> > any
>> > of
>> > us, then it would be wise not to contradict him especially in
>> > comparison
>> > to the
>> > Sumerian Kings List.
>> >
>> > Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
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