In the light of modern science, this mass of myth and legend may seem childish and of trifling value, but each age spells its own advance, and the all-important present soon fades into the shadowy and forgotten past. It is therefore in reviving past history that progress is best measured and interpreted. The fancy so prevalent among the ancients that the sun entered the sea each night with a hissing noise seems to us utterly foolish and inane, but let us not ridicule past ages for their crude notions and quaint fancies, lest some of the cherished ideas of which we boast be transmuted by the touch of time into naught but idle visions.
It is therefore important for the student of history to study the past in all its phases, and whatever can be brought to light of the lore of bygone ages should have for us a charm and should find a place in our intellectual lives.
Though the resemblance of early Sumerian tradition to that of the
Hebrews is striking, it furnishes a still closer parallel to the
summaries preserved from the history of Berossus. The huge figures
incorporated in the latter's chronological scheme are no longer to be
treated as a product of Neo-Babylonian speculation; they reappear in
their original surroundings in another of these early documents, the
Sumerian Dynastic List. The sources of Berossus had inevitably been
semitized by Babylon; but two of his three Antediluvian cities find
their place among the five of primitive Sumerian belief, and two of
his ten Antediluvian kings rejoin their Sumerian prototypes. Moreover,
the recorded ages of Sumerian and Hebrew patriarchs are strangely
alike. It may be added that in Egypt a new fragment of the Palermo
Stele has enabled us to verify, by a very similar comparison, the
accuracy of Manetho's sources for his prehistoric period, while at the
same time it demonstrates the way in which possible inaccuracies in
his system, deduced from independent evidence, may have arisen in
remote antiquity. It is clear that both Hebrew and Hellenistic
traditions were modelled on very early lines.
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