Articles

Noah’s Ark and Sir William Jones


Abstract


Sir William Jones (1746-1794) is considered one of the founders of the modern study of Indian culture and religion. His translations from Sanskrit and his founding of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta were instrumental in making India better known in Britain and Europe. Nowadays particular attention is paid to a passage in which he posits the existence of an ancient language that modern linguists call Indo-European. The present article questions to what extent this hypothesis is indebted to Jones and notes the work of earlier linguistic scholars. It also argues that his historical speculations about both linguistic history and the history of the ancient world were vitiated by his faith in the literal truth of Biblical history, most notably the idea that Noah and his sons and their wives were the only survivors of a great flood that occurred in 2348 BCE. The article also reviews the gradual decline of Biblical literalism both before and after Jones and how this affected European studies of India and its ancient history.

Keywords

Sir William Jones; India; Noah's Ark; Orientalism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13135/1825-263X/3315

References


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