This morning I was reading from The Sacred Bridge, the newly authoritive atlas of the Bible published by Carta.Â I was very surprised to read this statement:
South of the Nahr el-Kebir rise the massive mountains of Lebanon, with a remarkably level, uninterrupted crest 42,000 feet (12,800 m) or more above sea level.
42,000 feet?Â Keep in mind that the typical cruising altitude for transcontinental airliners is 35,000 feet, almost a mile and a half short of 42,000 feet.Â I think what happened was that somewhere along the way the authors or editors mistook the height of Mt. Hermon which is just over 2,800 meters and somehow added a 1 in front of the figure.Â Then, they derived 42,000 feet from the conversion of the mistaken 12,800 meters.
I am very surprised that the editor(s) did not catch this, but this brings us to an important text-critical issue.Â As we see from this modern example, numbers are often messed up–even in original publications (if the first edition of a modern book could be considered the “original”).Â In the case of the Carta mistake, it wasn’t even just one figure–the measurement in feet or in meters–that was wrong, it was both and we can even see a plausible explanation for how the corruption happened.Â Therefore, we shouldn’t really be surprised when we see garbled numbers in ancient texts–numbers just lend themselves to error seemingly more readily than plain narrative text.
What do you think?