Ancient history has fascinated me ever since High School, where I first became mature enough to appreciate it. The Biblical record, in particular, came to the forefront of my interests as faith came to the forefront of my life. I'll never forget the reverent awe with which I devoured James Ussher's The Annals of the World, and I still have a sizable collection of (computerized) primary sources, both sacred and profane, that I intend to read through one day.
Through these pursuits, I also became vividly aware of the shortcomings inherent in the secular-Darwinist model of history. Out-of-place artifacts (OOPARTS) became emblematic of this, and my readings in the literature surrounding them have brought some singularly mind-expanding perspectives (some relevant links can be found here and here).
Secular attempts to explain these anomalies are also telling. I remember one day a year or so previous, when I was waiting my turn at a local plasma donation clinic. The waiting room had a TV playing for the benefit of visiting donors, and the current program happened to be "Ancient Aliens". This particular episode centered around the technological feat represented by the Egyptian pyramids, also exploring an alternative theory of their intended use that I was already familiar with (link can be found here). As you can imagine, my antenna rose straight up. I watched the program in rapt attention right up until the point they asserted that the pyramids, being structures beyond the technological capacity of Ancient Man, had to be the work of extraterrestrials.
No, no, NO! A thousand times, NO!
Though it was an otherwise pleasant day, I left the clinic in a mood slightly more frustrated than usual. While I applaud alternative theorists in all academic fields for their open-mindedness to new ideas (as evidence supports them), most of them are still dominated by the same set of preconceptions as their establishment peers. Namely, that human history represents a linear ascent from primitive barbarism to increasing levels of social and technological complexity. Anything from the distant past is by definition less advanced - any anomalies to this trend must therefore be the result of some form of outside intervention.
|Image: The Lighthouse Keeper|
Even most Biblical traditionalists assume something quite similar. The common picture of Ancient Man presented from both the pulpit and Sunday School classroom is a race of shepherds and subsistence farmers, with few other pursuits apart from tending sheep and harvesting crops. The Patriarchs of old, while they communicated with God in a way hard to fathom for us today, are assumed to have been more or less simple men with few - if any - things to impart in terms of intellect or science.
But is this really what follows from the presented evidence of Scripture? Let's stop and think about this for a moment. In its beginning chapters, Genesis gives us an account of two beings, a man and a woman, who represented the pinnacle of of a "very good" Creation. They literally spent the first moments of their existence in a state of perfection, spiritual, mental and physical. Even when after the Fall, they still would have remembered this former state - and given accounts of it to multiple generations of their descendants.
Can we even grasp the potential capabilities of a people just a few years removed from the very hand of God? Let's consider this passage as an example:
"And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died." (Genesis 5:5)
How many of us simply read on through the rest of that familiar genealogy without stopping to consider its mind-blowing implications? Human beings with an average life expectancy of 900 years? What would it mean if any one of us were endowed with such a lifespan? To put that in some perspective, Sir Isaac Newton would still be alive today and so would Einstein. The two of them could even be collaborating in their research. What would that mean for the scientific and technical advancement of the world?
Prior to the Flood, something like this could have been fully possible for anywhere from 1656 years (Masoretic text) to 2262 years (Codex Alexandrinus). Even conservatively adopting the former estimate leaves us with a span of time roughly approximating that from the so-called "Dark Ages" (5th century AD) to the twenty-first century. Think of all the revolutionary social and technological changes that have occurred across the world within those years. What could a race of beings with 900-year lifespans have accomplished in the same amount of time?
The picture provided by a Biblical view of history is that of a mighty - but wicked - world civilization wiped out in a cataclysmic event and then partially rebuilt by a remnant of survivors who, while lacking the resources and lifespans (400 years as opposed to 900) of their forebears, nevertheless reached a highly developed state of society. God Himself stated that "nothing shall be restrained from them which they shall imagine to do". We then read that this civilization was fragmented by a supernatural act of judgment brought on by their pride and rebellion. Many disparate groups then spread across the globe - the ancestors of the cultures and civilizations we know today. Many of these initially maintained high levels of both knowledge and culture, with both gradually being lost through a variety of factors, chief of which was the continuing decline of the human lifespan (finally settling on its current level following the death of Moses - still described as a physically vigorous man at 120). Other events, such as war, disease and corruption also played their part in destroying former records.
In short, I believe our ancestors were capable of - and accomplished - far more amazing things than we are willing to give them credit for, perhaps (as I personally believe quite likely) even surpassing what we have accomplished in our own time. And they can therefore impart far more lessons to our own time, both from their successes and their mistakes. We need only be willing to learn (some sources that have already explored this in fiction are available here and here).
|Image: Den of Geek|
Join me next week as we continue our journey through the Dark Corners of Heaven and Earth.