Dr.H.Grattan-Guinness, in a recent letter to the Rev.J.W.Stevenson, of the China Inland Mission, deals in a very trenchant manner with Mr. Dimbleby's calculations. Dr.Guinness is one of the leading authorities of the day on astronomical science. The following is an extract from his letter:

Shanghai, 2nd June, 1897.

Dear Brother, You have asked me whether Mr.Dimbleby'a pamphlet, entitled "The New Era at Hand" which has been so widely circulated, is trustworthy in its statements. I regret to have to tell you that it is not, and that those who have put faith in his conclusions have been taken in by the high-sounding titles which he gives himself, and by the tone of assurance and confidence in which he writes of astronomical and chronological matters. I have carefully examined his productions, and find that his astronomy and chronology are as baseless as the vision of a dream. English astronomers regard him as a mere mountebank, and take no notice whatever of his writings. They know that "The British Chronological and Astronomical Association," of which he vauntingly styles himself "Premier Chronologist" is a mere hole-in-the-corner association of a few ignorant pretenders to astronomical knowledge, and that nine tenths of the eclipses and transits he writes about, and which he claims to have been the first to calculate, never happened at all. They know this for a fact, and think the best thing to do is just to let him alone and take no notice of his publications, as no one at all versed in astronomy could possibly be deceived by him, and as the attempt to reply to him would call more attention to his views than it would be wise to bestow. This silence of astronomers has given Mr. Dimbleby the opportunity to obtain a large circulation for his publications among persons unversed in the science; and, according to his account, thousands of copies of his works have been "distributed throughout the English-speaking world." This would not matter so much were it not that many persons have been led, through his writings, to entertain baseless expectations as to the events which he says will take place next year (in 1898) including the close of "The Times of the Gentiles," the "Great assize by the Ancient of Days," "The resurrection of the just," and "The coming of the Lord Jesus." Some students in China have, to my knowledge, through reading his works, been led to abandon the effort to pass in their college examinations, as not worth while since the end of the age would take place next year, and the evil is spreading. All this is very serious, and the results which will follow, later on, will be more serious still. There will be a profound disappointment when the time comes and Mr. Dimbleby's prophecies are falsified; and then there will be a reaction, and doubt will be thrown on the truth of Scripture, and the value of the study of prophecy. The great doctrine of the second coming of our Lord will, once more, be brought into contempt, and men will scoff at the warnings and promises of the Word of God with reference to the second advent. Under these circumstances it seems the duty of those who, like myself, have bestowed special study on these subjects to warn people against Mr. Dimbleby's false statements and baseless conclusions. I have already done so in some letters I published last year in the English Churchman. As you have not seen these I will now briefly point out some of those features in Mr. Dimbleby's publications which render them so objectionable.

I. The titles he gives himself on his publications of "Premier Chronologist to the British Chronological and Astronomical Association" and "First Calculator of all Eclipses and Transits," are not only most boastful but are misleading and worthless. Some good people in China re-published one of Mr.Dimbleby's tracts and stated on the title page that he was "Premier-Chronologist and Astronomer to the Queen!" Of course, the claim is utterly false. Anyone can gather half a dozen credulous people together and call the little coterie a "Chronological and Astronomical Association" and entitle himself its "Premier Chronologist"; but what would be the value of such a society or the worth of such a title? Mr. Dimbleby's titles have been manufactured in this way. As to the statement that he is the "First Calculator of all the Eclipses and Transits" it is not only utterly false but ludicrously absurd. It would be difficult for me to express to you the feelings with which anyone who is acquainted with astronomy must regard Mr. Dimbleby's method of calculating eclipses and transits. He has no more idea of the elements which have to be taken into account in making such calculations than a child of six years old. He tries to work out their dates by a rule-of-thumb method he has invented, which only leads him into a hopeless quagmire of false conclusions. To crown all he calls himself " Prize Essayist on Universal Time." Would you believe it that the prize in question was bestowed, not by any board even pretending to astronomical knowledge, but by "The Balloon Society of the Royal Aquarium"!

II. His attempt to settle the exact year in which the end of "The Times of the Gentiles" and the coming of Christ are to take place is one which no Christian ought to make, for it is written," Of that day and hour knoweth no man" (Matt xxiv 36). No one with proper reverence for the teachings of Scripture would attempt to fix the date of that great day. It is pure presumption to claim to have discovered what Scripture asserts to be intentionally hidden by the hand of God from human knowledge.

III. In justification of his attempt to predict the time of the second advent Mr.Dimbleby says, "If it be said that men have made calculations before and the time has passed, I must deny such a statement" (The New Era p8). What shall we say to this barefaced denial of indisputable facts? It is notorious that attempts have been repeatedly made to fix the date of the second advent, and have been falsified by tho course of events. The attempt was made by Miller and the Millerites in America in 1843, when thousands were led to expect the second advent to take place on a given date and were disappointed. The same attempt has been made again and again in our own times by the Rev. M.Baxter. From my study of the interpretation of prophecy I know that a volume might easily be filled with accounts of instances in which good people have erroneously anticipated the date of our Lord's return.

IV. His attempt to fix the exact date of the creation of Adam and then to build on to this date a complete scheme of Bible chronology, including the period of the second advent, is about as wise as the ambitious effort of the men of Babel to build a tower whose top would reach unto heaven. There are at least three chronologies of patriarchal times which claim to be Scriptural: the Hebrew, the Septuagint, and the Samaritan, and they are in hopeless disagreement, the Septuagint differing from the Hebrew by 1300 years. And further, if the Hebrew chronology be selected as the most trustworthy for these early dates, there are gaps in it which no ingenuity can fill. This fact has been clearly shown by many competent chronologers. The New Testament and the Old are not agreed as to the period occupied by the Judges who followed Joshua. While Paul's statement in Acts xiii agrees with the chronology in the Book of Judges it conflicts with that in 1 Kings vi 1. If Paul's statement as to the four hundred and fifty years of the Judges in accepted, the view that the creation of Adam took place about four thousand years before the Nativity must be abandoned. Mr Dimbleby puts the creation of Adam in the year B.C. 3999, assigning this not as a probable date but as absolutely certain. In this assumption he is manifestly wrong.

V. Mr Dimbleby's attempt to confirm the date which he infers from Scripture for the creation of Adam (B.C. 3999), by a set of eclipses and transits which he asserts took place at that remote period, is one of the most absurd attempts ever made by any writer on chronology. No astronomer, however skilled, can calculate the exact dates of the transits of Venus and Mercury for six thousand years ago, and if they were calculated, no one could verify them for nobody saw them or recorded their occurrence. Mr Dimbleby, who in one of his publications confesses that he has no knowledge of mathematical astronomy, pretends to have calculated them all! His method is to construct a table, based on the notion that fifteen transits of Mercury occur regularly at the same times every ninety-two years, and then to reckon those dates of the transits of the planet by means of this fallacious cycle all the way back to Adam. You may imagine the result! No astronomer could glance at the table which he gives of the transits of Mercury calculated in this way (New Era at Hand, p16) without laughing at it. It is utterly untrue that the transits of Mercury are exactly repeated every ninety-two years. Mr.Dimbleby's table is simply nonsensical. Even in the list which he gives of the dates of modern transits of Mercury there are numerous errors, transits being left out which did occur, and others put in which never occurred at all. His statements as to the transits of Venus are equally false and misleading. He has not the faintest conception of the true method of calculating these astronomical occurrences, nor of the mathematical ability necessary for the computation, and merely works by a fallacious method of his own invention similar to that which he employs in the case of Mercury.



Note by IHT upon the above letter by Henry Grattan-Guinness:

It has to be admitted with sadness that professional jealousy is not confined to the secular world, and one cannot fail to detect it in the above letter. However most of his comments upon Dimbleby's lack of mathematical expertise in the field of three-dimensional geometry are true, and Dimbleby's grandiose invented titles and sense of pride in his own fallible achievements cannot but be reckoned unworthy of a Christian.

However even the Grattan Guinness letter fails in one or two places. His paragraph IV has been overtaken by the work of Bullinger and Anstey (notwithstanding the former's hyper-dispensationalism which I reject completely) and Anstey's magisterial chronology remains to this day in my view the unsurpassed work on the subject. Anstey has no qualms about treating the creation of Adam as a reliably documented epoch from which all other dates may be reckoned, and he deals in a thoroughly satisfactory manner with the various chasms and cruxes which Grattan Guinness was unable to resolve. It must be noted too that for all the scorn which Grattan Guinness pours upon "date setters" for the second advent, he himself was not immune from the temptation to that very practice in his "The Approaching End of the Age" (of which I have a copy of the fourth edition published 1880). He offered us 1923!

In spite of its numerous imperfections however, I think Dimbleby's work should be accessible by those who try to grapple with the many thorny problems of Biblical Chronology, and that is why I have made it available as a download. His table (p21) relating the sabbath days to the solar cycle is at least worth looking at, and is a good indication that the Jubilee period, being "hard-wired" into the construction of the solar system, is one of 49 years and not the 50 years which some have ascribed to it (the celebrated fiftieth year being simultaneously the first of the next forty-nine).

Unless, of course, I am mistaken!

IHT
Oxfordshire
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