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He sought to quantify the age of the Earth much as others sought to measure its physical quantities, consulting in the process all the extra-biblical evidence available to a scholar. The Israelites themselves, by contrast, were no more interested in the precise age of the Earth than in giving a precise value to the hours of the day.
Neither they nor any other ancient people had a system of absolute dating, except insofar as they occasionally dated events by reference to the Exodus.
Similarly, almost nothing was known about the history of ancient Egypt, which, we now know, was ruled by kings from around 3000 BC.
The preceding Stone Age and the geological periods before the earliest traces of man were not even conceived of.
Ussher is often cited as standing on the opposite side from modern scientists, who invoke carbon and other dating methods to justify much longer spans of time.
In this view the bishop represents religious fundamentalism and the scientists post-medieval European enlightenment.
But in I Chronicles -27 Ephraim, one generation after Levi, and Joshua, one generation after Moses, are listed not three but ten generations apart.
It is no good, therefore, trying to understand ancient genealogies with the assumptions of a modern mind.
When Genesis states that at such-and-such an age ‘X begot Y’, it may seem that we are dealing with a seamless genealogy from father to son, but it isn’t necessarily so.
In practice, they were repeatedly abridged, and the length remained fairly constant at around ten generations, the same length as those preserved in Genesis 5 and 11, which, of course, once written down, lost the flexibility of open-ended oral genealogies.
What the persistence of the age of paternity does evidence in these latter genealogies is the tradition’s authenticity, of its going back to a time when mankind could place generations chronologically in relation to an absolute beginning, whether the Creation, as with the Genesis 5 genealogy, or the Flood, as with the Genesis 11 genealogy.As generations accumulated, continuing to remember every generation would have become increasingly impractical; the generations would have had to be pared back.