Until the nineteenth century, Biblical chronology constituted the authoritative source for both natural as well as human history. Depending on the ecclesiastical reference, our world was calculated to be either 4,000 or 6,000 years old. With the rise of natural sciences such as geology and palaeontology the concepts underlying these estimates came under scrutiny: ‘deep time’ was discovered.

Textual criticism, but particularly immediate access to new texts along with archaeological evidence from the ‘Lands of the Bible’ seemed at first to offer the opportunity to solidify beliefs in the Holy Scripture, shaken in an age of scientific research. With the decipherment of the Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian scripts of cuneiform and hieroglyphs, scholars hoped to prove biblical accounts from the Land of Goshen or the banks of the Rivers of Babylon. However, that was not to be. Despite intensive efforts by numerous scholars and clergymen (many qualified as both), Ancient Near Eastern sources revealed evidence of far longer dimensions for the history of human civilisation, directly contradicting biblical accounts. Some of them now appeared to have been merely ‘inspired’ by ‘Babylonian’ precursors. This certainly challenged the Christian establishment in many European countries; however, classical sources such as Herodotus’s Histories had already attributed ‘old age’ to pharaonic Egypt while the Arabic proverb “Man fears time; time fears the pyramids” hinted at Muslim scholars’ awareness of the great antiquity of our world.

Eintrag bearbeitet: 30-08-2023