From Adam to Noah-The Numbers Game: Why the genealogy puzzles of Genesis 5 and 11 are in the Bible
Atlanta, GA: Sliding Stories (2012), Paperback, 256 pages. $AU24.11 on-line. Kindle edition $US20.99
Reviewed by Ted Witham
This ambitious book aims to demonstrate that an accurate solar calendar puzzle has been embedded in the pages of Genesis. This becomes the basis for a new ‘scientific’ way of reading the Bible as the report of a school for insight.
Leonard Timmons is an engineer, and hopes that his book is written with an ‘engineer’s spirit’. The book proceeds by engaging us deeply in the search for the calendar and then opening out the discussion to wider Biblical issues.
The proof that there is a solar calendar hidden in the text is mathematical. The ages of the patriarchs and the years before or after Noah’s flood are manipulated to show a regular calendar of 365 days with four intercalary days after four years. I found the maths difficult to follow. They depended partly on ‘special looking’ numbers like 777 and partly on multipliers (182 x 2 + 1 = 365). Mr Timmons makes no mention of the fact that Hebrew has no numbers, the letters of the alphabet standing in for them, and I wondered whether the relationship between the value and the shape of the number would always apply. For example, 777 does look somewhat ‘special’ in Hebrew, where it is written 7 hundreds 7 tens and 7, with the seventh letter of the alphabet (zayin – ז ) in the place of the 7.
Overall, I was happy to go along with Mr Timmons’s discovery of a calendar, but I was disappointed that no mention was made of similar uses of the Biblical texts.
1. Kabbalah, the mystic use of numbers dates back to at least the 5th Century BCE, and would have been a useful comparison and test of Mr Timmons’s theory.
2. A calendar is presented in the Bible. It seems to have two forms, pre- and post-Exilic, and these calendars are lunar rather than solar. In addition, other ancient civilisations, in particular neighbouring Egypt hid calendar puzzles in their monuments. What light did these other calendars shed on the Genesis 5 calendar?
These would have contextualised and validated Mr Timmons’s findings.
Discovering the calendar puzzle provides Mr Timmons with a framework for understanding other aspects of the Bible. He interprets the Flood story, for example, as a story not about water but about being flooded by people. The Flood, he claims, is the first time in history a fort (the Ark) was built to withstand a siege.
This is an interesting interpretation: what concerns me is that Mr Timmons appears to believe his is the final interpretation. The idea of a fort fits the text, he says, so that is what it must be about. While I applaud his close reading of the text, I believe other interpretations are possible and readers must keep an open mind.
Mr Timmons would have made these discussions clearer if he had pursued his insight that all the stories in Genesis 1-11 are artifices. Whether or not they describe historical events, stories are made up of words designed to communicate specific ideas. I wasn’t sure when Mr Timmons saw a story as historical (the first siege) and when he saw them as guides to other truths (angels as insights).
The book may have benefited overall from a tighter focus: is it about calendars, or is it about a way of reading the Bible? If it is about both, then the relationships between the calendar puzzle and the framework for understanding scripture needs to be clearer.
It would surely have benefited from conversations with other sources, whether scholarship about other calendars, or the study of Biblical Hebrew and the limits of what can be known.
Leonard Timmins has produced a fascinating thesis about the solar calendar and is clearly enthusiastic to share his findings with a wider audience. In the end, however, he did not provide me with a reason to care about his discovery, and to that extent, failed to carry me into the broader ideas he has about understanding the Bible.