The Peleg Event - What Does it Refer to? (Pangaea)

Peleg is a rather obscure and mostly unknown character in the Bible. However, incidents around this rather unremarkable character of Peleg have give risen to many spectacular theories and what some might call, science fiction. Peleg is mentioned in the Book of Genesis 10:25 and a single simple passage of text has given rise to some remarkable ideas. Peleg is the son of Eber who is the great grandson of Noah's son Shem. This would place Peleg among the fifth generation after Noah.

"Two son's were born to Eber; the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the Earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan." - Genesis 10:25

It is the phrase "for in his days the Earth was divided' that has sparked so much intrigue. Interestingly, the exact same phrase is repeated later in the Bible.

"To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg (for in his days the earth was divided), and his brother’s name was Joktan." 1 Chronicles 1:19

Given the fact this phrase is repeated in the Bible we must consider it to have a potential importance or significance, but just what does it mean? There are two general schools of thought on this subject. The phrase could refer to a separation of the nations, much like the Tower of Babel separated the peoples by their languages. The second possibility is the actual physical separation of the earth. The general scientific idea of the physical separation of the earth, of the continents, is generally not in question. When and how it happened, remains a major debate.

Both Creationist as well as secular scientist agree that at one point all land masses were likely joined together. This single land mass is known as Pangaea. The single large continent was centered on the equator and was surrounded by the super ocean, Panthalassa. The land mass then broke apart and drifted away from each other. This left the separate continents as well as formed many of the mountain ranges we have today. This theory cannot be completely proven, but as mentioned, it is accepted by both secular scientist and creationist. 

Map Pf Pangaea
The theory of Pangaea was first developed in 1859 by a Christian geologist. He felt the shapes of the continents as they are now indicated they were once a singular land mass. His initial theory was based on the shape of the continents, but science has found further evidence that lends credibility to the theory. One example are fossils that have been found along the coast of South America and Africa which closely resemble one another and appear to be from the same species. This is considered to be potential proof the two land masses were once connected and the fossil records were moved when the continents moved, drifted apart. The idea of a single super continent also fits well with the biblical text.

Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear," Genesis 1:6

This passage from Genesis hints that all of the waters were in one place, a single ocean, which surrounded the dry land. This matches the theory of Pangaea and the super ocean of Panthalassa almost perfectly. 

Secular scientist believe Pangaea broken apart approximately 175 million years ago. How long this process took is uncertain. Some scientist say the movement, drift, took 30 million years. Other scientist believe the movement took much longer, lasting an amazing 120 million years. Creationist obviously believe this process took much less time. Some believe the mention of the Earth being divided in the days of Peleg is a direct reference to this event. For this to have happened in a single person's lifetime would have been, extraordinary. 

According to the Bible Peleg lived a total of 239 years, but even with this extended lifespan it seems unlikely the process of continental movement took place during Peleg's lifetime. If the continents had moved that rapidly the devastation from earthquakes and tsunamis alone would have been catastrophic. Mountain ranges forming in a matter of just a few years would have been all but un-survivable. While creationist believe Pangaea did exist and the continents separated into what we know today, most believe this process happened during the time of the flood. This makes far more sense, but if the continents did not move in the days of Peleg, what does the passage 'the earth was divided' mean?

It is interesting to note how the theory of continental drift has gone from an idea rejected by main stream science, to an almost universally accepted fact. In the 1960's and 70's some scientists suggested the idea of continental drift. The idea was rejected by the majority of geologist who called the idea of continental drift "pseudo-scientific fantasy". Now, just a short 50 to 60 years latter the opinions are exactly reversed. Anyone who does not believe in continental drift is in the extreme minority. It would seem Dr. Snider was well ahead of his time when he suggested the idea of continental movement all the way back in1859. 

There is another interesting theory regarding the passage 'the earth was divided'. The information it uses is compelling, but goes well outside the accepted course of human history. The belief is that the nations, not the continents, were separated during the days of Peleg. The theory involves the kingdoms of Babylon, Egypt and Greece. Accepted history tells us the Greek empire began in 800 B.C. (The Greece dark ages date back to 1,200 B.C.). Babylon was founded in approximately 2,500 B.C. and Egypt began in 3,150 B.C. with the early dynastic period. 

The theory of the nations being divided relies on a variety of discoveries and ancient texts. We will begin with the ancient kingdom of Babylon. In the year 331 B.C. the Babylonian empire was defeated by Alexander the Great. When he captured the kingdom it is said he took possession of some 1900 years worth of astronomical observations. These observations were believed to go back to the very beginning of Babylon, which would mean Babylon began in approximately 2,200 B.C. This represents a difference of 300 years from the accepted date for the founding of Babylon.

In 526 B.C. Egypt was conquered by the Persian King Cambyses. In his writings Constantinus Manasses stated the Egyptian kingdom had lasted just over 1,600 years. This gives Egypt a creation date of approximately 2,200 B.C. This calculation is off the accepted time period by almost 1,000 years. 

The final nation in this theory is Greece. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, who was an early church historian, the first Greek ruler began his reign in 2089 B.C.  This moves the date for the beginning of Greece back more than 1,200 years. Most believe the Greek nation began at approximately the same time as the first Olympiad which took place in 776 B.C.

With the new time line for when each of these empires began, it can fit neatly into the passage of "the earth was separated'. With these dates, all three of these nations, all of which spoke a different language, were begun during the lifetime of Peleg. The theory suggests that once people were separated by languages at the Tower of Babel, they had to gather with those who spoke the same language and formed their own communities. All of the elements line up and make sense, but the problem remains that the dates do not match what is traditionally accepted. Supporters of this new time-line insist the evidence is in their favor. They point out we should not accept something as fact just because it is accepted by the majority. A lesson some say we should have learned with the lesson of continental drift. 

Both of these theories rely on changing what are considered known facts by either historians or geologists. This does not dismiss them as being wrong, only in question. Many theories are disputed and considered incorrect. The key point is to keep an open mind and consider the facts presented in support of new ideas. It does seem highly unlikely the continents moved apart within a two hundred year time period. In addition, the physical evidence does not seem to support this theory. The idea of the separation of the great nations is far more plausible, but is froth with it owns problems. It could also be this passage meant something else entirely. I recently heard someone comment on how we have a mouse attached to our computer. If a researcher in the distant future hears or reads this it could obviously be more than slightly confusing. Why in the world would we connect a small furry rodent to our computer? 

There are many other possibilities for what the term "the earth was separated' could have meant. As a example many people say how divided our country is today, by race, ideology and politics. The division the Bible speaks of could have been political rather than by nations or even continents. The options are many, but concrete answers are hard to come by.  At some point in the future we may know exactly what this biblical passage means. For now, we are left to make our best educated guesses.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

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