Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Xia Dynasty 

Why should we study dynasties? What is the point? Lots of reasons, especially if you like history as I do. But one of the most important is that studying dynasties gives you a feel for the pattern of development, which is to say, how a dynasty rises, prospers, begins to decline, and ultimately falls.

Americans tend to be poor at this, because they have had only one dynasty, so they have no concept the pattern, and what are some of the warning signs of a civilization in decline. But it must be admitted that sometimes Chinese people are not very good at it either, because many modern young people are so caught up in their current life, that they don’t have time, or see the need to look at the “big picture.” I have met some Chinese young people who study history and are interested in it. These are some of the most interesting young people I have met. But they are the minority. Most do not see the importance of history.

The first item on any list of China’s dynasties is the Xia Dynasty I have seen it referred to as “prehistoric,” but that’s mainly because we don’t have volumes of historical data writeen during or just after the Xia Dynasty. So by “prehistoric” is not meant that it did not actually exist. It means that there was no one there just before and after the end of the Xia Dynasty to tell us what it was like. In addition, there is little or no archeological evidence to support what has been written or imagined.

So I think it might be useful to make comparisons with events talking place in other parts of the world at the same time. Chinese accounts of the Xia Dynasty include mention of a massive flood from which they were rescued by Yu the Great. The Bible also talks about a great flood, but one that covered the whole earth. For me, the most striking similarity between the Biblical flood and the Great Flood of China is the time frame. The time frame for the Biblical flood and the time frame for the Great Flood of China were established separately by different groups of people, yet they are within a hundred years or so of each other. Given the many millennia of human history, that’s impressive.

I am not sure how the Chinese estimate for the time of the Xia Dynasty was determined. In the case of the Biblical flood, there are problems with getting to an accurate date, because the time has traditionally been calculated from the time of creation. But there are lots of arguments about precisely when the creation took place, so calculating from an enent, the time of which is uncertain, is going to give you an uncertain date for the flood.

Many people don’t realize that among creationists, there are two main divisions: young earth creationists and old earth creationists. Both groups believe that God created the heavens and the earth, but they differ sharply on the length of the creation process (seven 24-hour days, vs. billions of years). There are recognized and accomplished scientists in both groups, so it is not correct to assume that the division is between scholars and theologians. Rather, it is a division between two different groups of scholars who have very different views of the time frame.

Anyway, my point is that it would be better if we could use a means of determining the date that did not rely on knowing the date of creation, since there is not common agreement about that. Here’s one that does not use the date of creation at all. Mind you, it is still based on the genealogies in the Bible, but it uses reference points that are commonly known (the birth of Christ and the date when Solomon laid the foundation of the temple):

So this puts the date of the Biblical flood at 2304 BC. And Wikipedia dates the Great Flood in China as taking place during the same time period. But while there are similarities between the two accounts,

  1. Both accounts describe a flood that was massive and very consequential.
  2. Both accounts took place at the same time in history.
there is also one key difference, and if we just sweep this difference under the carpet, we are not being true to history. We need to examine it. We may or may not be able to resolve it, but we need to examine it.

The key difference between the Biblical flood and the Great flood of Chinese antiquity is that the Bible describes a flood that covered the whole earth and killed every human being except those in the ark, which obviously has huge implications for cultural anthropology. It should be noted that this extraordinary claim is not universally accepted by any means. It is hotly debated, even by those who believe that the Biblical flood may be an actual historical event.

I won’t go into all the arguments here—you can research them if you want to. But it must be said that whatever issues people may have with the Biblical account, the Bible’s descriptions of a flood that covered the whole earth are quite explicit. They clearly describe a flood that covered the whole earth and killed all the people (as well as all other mammals). As Got Questions orrectly points out, if the flood was localized, there would have been no need for an ark.

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