(Reprinted and updated from Journey Magazine, Lynchburg, Va., USA, pp. 16-19, Jan.–Feb. 1988)
There is no modern history — without its foundation in ancient history. Indeed, there is no ancient history, at all, without the Bible. Unaided by the historical information contained in the Holy Bible (as the infallible because inspired Word of God) — it is impossible to know in depth what really happened, anywhere, in ancient times. Indeed, without understanding ancient times in depth, one cannot really understand even the present time. The reason for this, is obvious. In order to get preserved for more than three or four generations (cf. Ex. 20:5 & Ps. 78:1-6), the account of “what happened” needs to get written down and transmitted to posterity (cf. John 20:30-31 & 21:24-25). Without such writing down (or ‘inscripturation’), the account soon gets forgotten. Alternatively, without inscripturation, all accounts quickly degenerate into monstrous myths — whether ancient, or modern. We may well learn something about the structure of ‘prehistoric’ plants and animals from the fossil records — as studied by palaeontology. Indeed, we can even learn a little about ancient man by examining his unearthed artifacts — as studied by archaeology. However, all the study of man’s ruined cities and crumbling constructions everywhere in the world (even when all put together) still tell us very little about bygone civilizations (or even about our modem world) — without accompanying inscriptions. It is the writing on the ancient cuneiform tablets of Sumeria which enables us to understand their significance. It is not the tablets themselves which interpret the writing thereon. It is the writing on the 1776 Declaration of Independence which puts that history into perspective — not Philadelphia’s Independence Hall where that written proclamation was made. Sir George Cornewall Lewis is the great authority on early Roman history. As he exhaustively demonstrates, in order to acquire anything like an adequate grasp of ancient human events — it is quite essential to study written records made at that time, or alternatively at least reliable copies thereof. Indeed, past tradition is not transmitted orally from one generation to the next, with any kind of accuracy ~ for longer than a century. Only inspired writings give us infallible information about ancient events. Yet adequate (though non-infallible) information about those ancient events, can be given by non-inspired written records (or reliable copies thereof) — if inscripturated very soon after those events. However, the earliest written records of remote history anywhere, have very seldom been preserved. Indeed, there are many occurrences of the widespread destruction of ancient writings (whether by wars, by disuse through updatings, or by natural disasters, etc.).
Especially in ancient Greece — the moist climate there quickly destroyed most records on wax tablets, parchments, or papyri. There, if all the ancient inscriptions still found on stone were now to be written down anew in a book — it would altogether amount to but a few pages. Things are slightly better in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where writing materials have been better preserved in the much drier climate. Yet there too, even the sum total of all inscriptions discovered to date, only gives the most fleeting (and inaccurate) glimpses of Egypt’s past. Thus, the 450 B.C. Herodotus uncritically and dramatically endorsed the Egyptians’ own claim to a 13000-year antiquity. Later, around 60 B.C., this was expanded to 23000 B.C. Indeed, later still, several thousand extra years were mythically added.
Even in Mesopotamia, only the record of a brief period of later Assyrian history is somewhat comprehensive. On the other hand, the ancient Babylonians numbered the years of their own history in hundreds of thousands. Rightly did the great Cicero, around 70 B.C., express his distinct doubts as to the accuracy of transmitted Babylonian records claiming an antiquity of some 270 thousand years.