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

biblical hebrew jcr.bhebrew at gmail.com
Mon Oct 22 05:42:17 EDT 2007


But Yigal, let us set aside the matter of whether we believe the ages to be
true or not. As you have said, choosing to believe any historical source is
a matter of faith. But what we are discussing here is not whether you
believe the account to be true or not but what the linguistic evidence shows
the author's intentions to be.

And as Shoshanna has quite clearly shown, the author of bereshith held a
month to be 30 days, held a year to be in the region of twelve months and
held Noah to be over 600 * 12 * 30 days old in the account of the flood. So,
unless we are going to start arguing that the author's idea of a day was
different it would seem clear that the linguistic intention of the author
was for us to understand that men had longer lifespans which gradually
declined from the days of Adam until they had reached stability in the days
of Moses.

Any observations you notice about increased lifespans in modern times are as
a result of medical intervention and feeding the advanced in age with
numerous varieties of death postponing pills and have absolutely nothing to
do with the natural evolution of mankind.

In any case, the general point, that modern assumptions about Sarah's age
and her expected beauty, undeniably just don't work in the greater context
of the patriarchal narratives. Whether you choose to believe she really was
still beautiful at this age is a matter of faith (guided by knowledge).
Whether you choose to accept that the text reveals Sarah as past the
expected age of child-bearing but not as aged as a modern day 90 year old is
a matter of being able to read Hebrew in a larger context and therefore very
much linguistic.

James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science
http://www.lamie.org/hebrew       Thesis 1 - Aleppo codex machine
translation
http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc  Thesis 2 - language acquisition simulation


On 10/22/07, Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:
>
> 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
> hand.
>
> 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
> bounds.
>
> 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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