I have a copy of the Bible that was given to my grandfather in 1893, probably so that he could prepare himself for confirmation in the Anglican Church of England. It is a standard edition, 'Appointed to be read in Churches', of the protestant version of both the Old and New Testaments dedicated to 'The Most High and Mighty Prince James, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c.' This edition was published by Cambridge University Press presumably around 1890, a time when it had generally become accepted by the scientific community that the Earth had to be many millions of years old, although nobody knew for sure just how many millions.

The introduction to The First Book of Moses called Genesis has the text arranged in two columns down each page with narrow margins on either side. At the top of each margin is a date 'Before Christ 4004' and by Chapter IV the date is '4003' and continues to decrease throughout the books of the Old Testament, following the accepted chronology to the end of the Book of Malachi, which is dated at Before Christ cir. 397. As the New Testament begins the chronology continues, anno domini, to the end of the Book of Revelation AD 96.

Whether my grandfather believed the authority of these dates I do not know, but I suspect that as a boy living in a very authoritarian social environment at the end of the Victorian era, he probably did. After all, it was generally assumed that you could not get a better authority than the Bible, even though the intellectuals of the day were well aware of the German theological 'Higher Criticism' of the exact nature of the biblical texts. This close reading and comparison had shown up many discrepancies and contradictions, which suggested that the texts had been gathered together from different sources over centuries, initially from oral traditions, before eventually being written down in a number of versions. By the end of the nineteenth century intellectuals and academics knew that the Old Testament could not be read simply as a historical document and that the calculation of the date of the Creation being in 4004 BC was no longer tenable. And yet here we have editions of the Bible still being printed with this date firmly in place.

Through marriage this same grandfather acquired an 'uncle' who was to help change the popular conception of the biblical chronology and the status of the biblical Flood as a historical event. Harold Peake was a well-known archaeologist and writer of an influential series of books on the subject. In 1930, 'Uncle' Harold published The Flood: New Light on an Old Story. In his preface he explained that he was concerned that understanding of the reality of archaeological data about the chronology of prehistory and the reality of such events as the Flood were taking too long to be completely accepted in churches and schools - and this was in 1930! As he wrote, 'the reforms in the teaching, though advocated for long, have not yet been fully effected'. My own 'discovery' of this relative's writing has been instrumental in the gestation of this book.

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