Can the Babylonian Calendar Help Explain the Ages of Patriarchs Recounted in the Book of Genesis? - Part 2
The ages of Adam and his descendants in the Book of Genesis appear incredulous when compared to the average lifespan of Man throughout history. Though there have been several attempts to justify the numbers mathematically, none can be applied to all cases equally.
In the first part of this article we compared data from a Saturn transit calendar to the generations of Man compiled from the book of Genesis and saw how the numerical similarities in the relationships, and the orders of magnitude, were undeniable. In this, the second and concluding part, we take a more detailed look at values for Saturn’s transit through the houses and the possibility that the ages of Adam and his descendants have their origin in Babylonian astronomical diaries.
The planet Saturn, viewed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its 2009 equinox. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Prometheus astrology software was used to compare the order of magnitude for the Age after first born with the transit days for Saturn. The software is capable of calculating the location of celestial objects at any point in time from which it is possible to determine the date and time that the Sun, Moon or a planet exits one sign or house and enters the next. A database of 1,937 transits for Saturn through the 12 houses was generated for the period 2300BC and 1BC, which reflects the earliest known Sumerian interest in omens as well as providing a large sample. The houses were used instead of the signs because they are more representative of the Babylonian zodiac system of 12 equal segments of 30°. The Years after first born value for each patriarch was then compared against computed transit days to find the closest match:
Frequency of ‘Years after First Born’ in Saturn Transits 2300-1BC
Note: Noah 1 age based on a corrected Age at first born value equal to 146 (500 - 354), although this value is only representative. Though the Years after first born value for Noah (450) had an exact match in the database it has been omitted in the analysis below.
Note: Probability 1 of a number matching by chance based on 506 distinct transit days values in the range 11 to 1,220 in the computed data. These values were used to generate all additional values in the range ±n using the formula round (transit days / 354 * n) yielding 636 in 1,223; 829 in 1,244; and 1,134 in 1,322 distinct values for ±1 days; ±7 days; and ±29.5 (I.e. the average lunar month) respectively.
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Covenant with Noah . Mosaic by Boris Anrep from the Blessed Sacrament chapel of Westminster Cathedral, London. ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )
Considering the Margin of Error
With the exception of Enoch, who has already been identified as a special case in Genesis, the Years after first born values for the patriarchs show a high correlation with the possible transit days for Saturn passing through the houses, especially when taking into consideration factors that could affect the accuracy of the observations, completeness of the data in compiling a diary, condition of each tablet when translated and the ability of the author(s) to understand the content.
For example, in Enoch’s case it cannot go unnoticed that the difference in days is almost the same as his Age at first born , which might be construed as an error introduced at some point, i.e. the Age at death was actually 300, not 365. However, this comparison is only intended to show the likelihood that the data used to compile the generations of Man was acquired from the Babylonian astronomical diaries. The generations of Man per se is not a transit calendar and there are too many unknowns to place the data at a point in history including: the often arbitrary insertion of intercalated months in the Babylonian calendar; provenance of the tablets; personal or political motive in determining the sequence; and errors introduced by scribes in subsequent copying, any one of which could result in an erroneous Years after first born . Also, in the absence of the actual Babylonian calendar for the period in question, the Days before transit values have been calculated from the computed Entry date for each transit based on the Gregorian calendar, so there is no point in trying to narrow down the historical date by matching this value with Age at first born .
Genesis, First Book of Moses. ( CC0)
An Incomplete Account
The Hebrew Bible cannot be relied upon as the word of God or even as a reliable historical document because it is not a chronological compilation. The stories, teachings and commentaries on which all Bibles are based emerged during the period of Roman domination of the Jews in Palestine and contain only a selection of the known historical documents available at the time (the others surviving as inclusions in subsequent variations of the Bible or as separate accepted sacred texts). However, the Bible as a single book only appears around 800AD before which it existed as a collection of scrolls, increasing the possibility that the final content was edited, and many contemporary manuscripts that have emerged since that time contradict what we know as ‘The Bible’. The content has also been subjected to interpretation and translation, most significantly into Greek and Latin, the latter of which saw the introduction of 27 additional books (the New Testament in the Catholic Bible) following the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire. Though the content and arrangement of books may be different across the many traditions and divisions of the Christian religion, the first five books of the original Hebrew Bible (The Pentateuch) persist to form the basis of monotheism, the story of creation, the genealogical record before and after the flood, and the birth of the Jewish nation.
According to William Propp, an expert on the history and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and former Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History and Judaic Studies at the University of California:
“... when it comes to Genesis through Second Kings, sometimes called the primary history, it’s not really clear who the authors are … Some of the descriptions appear to be eyewitness and occasionally we can show that we can corroborate events described from Babylonian chronicles or whatever but the anonymous historians [of the primary history] must often have relied upon a variety of sources; royal chronicles, possibly treasury records, folk tales, earlier efforts at historiography …”
William Propp, “Origins of the Bible” presentation Colloquium 2015
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Borrowing from the Babylonians
There can be no doubt that the Judeans borrowed frequently from the Babylonians in compiling a prehistory for their national roots and the basis for their religion, which may have emerged during a period of captivity in Babylon following the fall of Jerusalem. The Babylonian astronomical diaries would have provided a historical framework to link ideology with oral traditions that had survived since the time of Abraham. If correct, the legitimacy of Genesis as an accurate record of history falls apart because Ussher’s date for creation must be adjusted by at least -1,576 years (based on 19 patriarchs being 25 years on average when the first son is born and Abraham living to 70 years), placing it at 2428BC, well within the recorded history of the ancient Sumerians and Early Dynastic Period of Egypt. It would also challenge the existence of the patriarchs as a credible list linking Abraham, the father of monotheistic religions, to Adam.
By Dean Talboys
Dean Talboys is the author of The Stonehenge Observatory .
Propp, William, Origins of the Bible , 2015
Sachs, A. J., Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia , (completed and edited by H. Hunger), 1988
Ussher, Rev. J., The Annals of The World , 1658
White, Gavin, The Exaltation System in Babylonian Astrology , 2009