As a long time believer in the historicity of the Bible, I have spent years trying to shoehorn all of human existence (what we know from anthropology, geology, paleontology etc.,) into the Old Testament writings. As a result, my perception of our history, if you were to chart it on a 3 dimensional grid, looked something like a funnel.
But there’s a serious problem with the funnel. As we travel backwards in time, from our present vantage point in the twenty-first century, the diameter of the funnel keeps getting smaller. Eventually we reach a point in time with barely enough space to squeeze a couple of naked humans through from the other side. It’s a classic case of there not being enough gas in the time machine to get us where we need to go (or come from). It’s a “Not-enough-time” machine.
While this funnel managed to keep all my young-earth ducks in a 6000 year old row, it left very little real estate to house the collective findings of those experts in the archaeology department not constrained by a ‘literal’ Biblical timeline. My funnel vision simply didn’t allow for any other players on the human stage beyond those mentioned in Genesis. The wrong answer would be to ignore all those museum warehouses jacked full of evidence that tells a wider, longer story than does Genesis. Stories that involve people that looked sort of like me, with out-of-control body hair, bad teeth and a meager collection of rustic tools. Wait a minute – that is me!
With all this evidence practically demanding that the so-called Bible literalists redraw the chronological map, the challenge is ominous. What do we do with over 7,000 years of Chinese history, for example? There is only so much room in that funnel to cram in all those Dynasties (be careful not to crush the terracotta warriors.) All those Emperors must fit in sometime after Noah and just before egg rolls hit prime time in the seventies. And if we decide that universal flooding is the only way of staying true to the text, what do we do with the Babylonian flood myth, already on library bookshelves centuries before the Hebrew scribes had sharpened their quills. Or what about the evidence of early man in the south of France. Who knew those Neanderthals were such discriminating vacationers. Their 30,000 year expiry date, if you don’t count the neanderthal DNA in 20% of the current population (judge not lest you be judged), surely won’t fit into the funnel.
Bottom line is, the funnel, that many of us have adopted as the Biblical way, the literal shape of all of human history just doesn’t work in the real world. While the funnel may be an accurate description of Judeo-Christian chronology backwards into the mists of Hebrew antiquity, it isn’t the whole picture. The fourth chapter of Genesis hints at this. After murdering his brother, Cain was worried that he would become a victim out of revenge. He was marked to dissuade any strangers who confronted him from pulling the trigger. Cain then proceeded to build a city. Tell me who, apart from the People’s Republic of China, builds cities for inhabitants that don’t exist?
Forget the funnel. It’s time we start celebrating the cylinder. Using a cylinder (or silo) as our template, the historical sciences can now extend back in time at full bandwidth. Native north Americans, for example, don’t have to make their way to the great plains via the Ark. Pre-adamites, as they’ve been referred to since Galileo’s day, don’t need to be wished away or written out of the story because we are afraid of the date on their drivers licences. Our Nordic ancestors are now free to meander on the shores of the North Atlantic (meanderthals?) while to south and east, the Israelites argue about how to cross the Jordan without losing their Crocs in the mud.
The greatest upside to viewing history as a cylinder is that we don’t have to toss our Biblical funnel into the ditch. The funnel fits securely inside The cylinder. No need argue over timelines we could never dismantle in a million years.
The funnel is amazing for what it is: the absolutely true story of Yahweh attempting to communicate with “those ones”. And as the science community does what it does best, and continues to uncover more evidence every day, the diameter of the cylinder only increases. Our understanding of ancient civilizations becomes clearer. And the funnel people never have to worry about losing their place in the story line.
That’s why they’re called chosen.