After the Flood, by Bill Cooper
In the previous chapter, we took note of the genealogies of six Anglo-Saxon royal houses that traced their descent from Woden. Moreover, we noted that the lineage of Woden himself had also been preserved, and that this was traced back to Noah and Japheth, Japheth being known to the pagan Saxons as Sceaf. (1) We shall expand on this lineage in this chapter by noting the recorded descent of the pagan Danish and Norwegian kings. The royal ancestral list of Denmark and Norway is set out in the table that opens this chapter, which contains also five other ancestral lists. The source for each list is given beneath the table, but it will be noticed that three of the lists are of Anglo-Saxon origin, one early British, one Danish and the other Icelandic, i.e. six lists from four nations.
As we examine and compare the lists, we are struck by the astonishing points of similarity, and yet obvious differences, between them. Each ancestral list contains gaps, but never the same series of gaps, and each of their names is listed in at least one other of the lists (with the exceptions of Freawine and Fodepald). Moreover, we should also note that the names always appear in exactly the same sequence. There is neither confusion nor discrepancy over the chronological order of each successive generation. But one thing that these lists clearly are not, and that is mere copies of the same (allegedly fraudulent) Christian source.
It may be argued with conviction that Asser's list, for example, is merely a Latinised version of that which appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, even though Asser includes two patriarchs that the Chronicle omits. But that cannot be argued for Ethelweard's list, since that omits no less than seven important patriarchal names. Moreover, one of those omissions concerns the name of Noah, so it cannot be argued that Ethelweard's source-document was a pious forgery, for surely the object of such forgery would be to include biblical names, and Ethelweard himself had the integrity not to add Noah's name in conformity with other lists and traditions of which he was undoubtedly aware. Unless, of course, modernism is prepared to accept that Sceaf did rank as the name of the biblical patriarch, Japheth, amongst the pagan peoples of Europe. But that would only demolish the case that modernism has built up so carefully over the years, for what knowledge could pagan Saxons et al have had of supposedly non-existent biblical characters under the modernist scheme of things?
Exactly the same goes for the Edda list. That too omits the name of Noah, yet accurately passes down the names of most of the other patriarchs, Sceaf or Seskef included. Further to which is the consideration that the Edda list is an Icelandic, as opposed to English or Danish, record of patriarchal descent. Allowing for obvious linguistic variations, however, each name is recognisably that of a patriarch whose name also appears in the lists of Denmark and England. The third list that omits the name of Noah, as well as other patriarchs, is that preserved in Nennius, and we shall consider this shortly for what it tells us concerning the age of his source-material.
The very diversity of the nations from which these lists emerge argues powerfully against the charge of invention, for it is safe to assume that if these various peoples were inventive enough to forge the records of their own descent, as we are assured has occurred, then they were surely inventive enough to make up their own stories and not have to copy those of other, rival, nations that were in any case difficult to get to. The various poems, sagas and fictions that have come down to us from these countries show diversity enough, and reveal in that diversity their particular national biases. That is only to be expected. But these lists, these ancestral pedigrees, show no such diversity, save that of linguistic variation and genealogical gaps, which again are only to be expected. And if it is to be argued that these lists are virtually identical because the Norse peoples shared a common heritage, then that only argues more forcefully against their invention and for the extreme antiquity of the material contained within them, for that would have to go back to the times before these nations diversified and went their separate ways, and that point in history would long pre-date the coming of the Christian faith.
It is a sobering thought that under any other circumstances, the historicity of these common patriarchs would be accepted unreservedly on the basis of such evidence. Indeed, they would normally be accepted on much less evidence. And yet in this case, and over each one of these lists, the cry is invariably sent up of forgery, fraud and invention, which in itself may tell us more about the real historicity of these documents than a thousand learned works on the subject. For example, Keynes's and Lapidge's assertion that the Seth in Asser's list is synonymous with the Shem of Luke's gospel (and therefore the Sceaf of all the other lists--see previous chapter) becomes laughable when seen in the context of these other lists, where it is revealed that if that is truly the case, then the Danes, Saxons and Icelanders must all have been claiming a Semitic descent for themselves. For if that charge is good enough to lay against the Saxons, it is also good enough to lay against the Danes and Icelanders, and few scholars, I think, would want to risk their reputations on that assertion!
But we should note that when charges similar to those made by Magoun, Keynes and Lapidge et al, are set out before the reader, they are invariably made in isolation with little or no explanatory evidence to support them. Speculation is the sole argument, and it is left merely for the uninformed reader to conclude, after a sometimes tortuous exercise in word-play, that such tables of descent must be mythical, and that no serious scholar or intelligent layman would accept these records (or the book of Genesis which they corroborate) as serious history.
But what evidence is there for the true age of the material contained in these records? For if that material, demonstrably rather than suspiciously, dates from after the time when the Saxons, (and now the Danes and Icelanders), were converted to Christianity, then it would admittedly be difficult to refute the modernist charge of Christian compilation and fraudulent use. So we will here note certain items of external and internal evidence concerning these Saxon, Icelandic and Danish patriarchs that will indicate the definitely pre-Christian origin of these ancestral lists.
We will begin our considerations with the most fragmented of the lists, that of Nennius. It is given in chapter 31 of Nennius' Historia Brittonum, and is a fragment from a now lost record known to scholars as the Kentish Chronicle. It is a near-contemporary account of the arrival of Hengist on the Isle of Thanet, and it notes the decidedly pagan ancestry that the newly-arrived Saxons claimed for themselves. But the date of this document is the most crucial point, for the landing of Hengist took place in the very middle of the 5th century, and as Morris says:
'There is no other sign that the text owed anything to English records; and the British knowledge of Kent cannot have lasted long beyond the 6th century, if so long.' (2)
In other words, we can be certain that at least the Woden Geat line was in place amongst the Saxons by the mid-5th century at the very latest, long before the Christianisation of the Saxons. In fact, we would know from this that the ancestral list would itself date from much earlier times. (3) The list itself, as preserved in Nennius, displays certain internal evidences of a more extreme antiquity. For example, there is the curious appearance of the name Fodepald in Nennius' original Latin list, which Morris translates into English as Folcwald. (4) We meet with a curious corruption of this name in Henry of Huntingdon where he renders the name Flocwald. (5) All of which more than strongly hints at an ancient source that by Nennius' day was rendered illegible in places by damage and time. (Folcwald does not appear in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. But it does appear in the Saxon epic poem Widsith [1. 27: 'Finn Folcwalding'], and in the poem Beowulf [1. 1089]).
Of equal significance is the unabashed way in which it is so early stated in Nennius' source that the Saxons worshipped Geat as a deified ancestor. It came across to the British annalist who originally recorded the information as a shocking fact, and it clearly horrified him. Indeed, as far as the Britons were concerned, it characterised the Saxons even more than their rapacity and violence, for it was one of the first facts about the Saxons of which the early Britons, who were certainly Christian long before the mid-5th century, became aware. Thus it is clear that such idolatrous practices are not the manufactured accusations of later Christian writers. It is equally clear that the Saxons themselves would have revered their ancestral lists just as much as the ancestors whose names were enshrined therein, making tampering and falsifying a most unlikely event, and certainly not one that would be knowingly tolerated by the Saxons.
Which brings us to the Icelandic list. There we encounter a much fuller pedigree that carries the lineage of Othin (i.e. Odin or Woden) back to Seskef. The name Seskef is itself merely a variant of the Saxon Sceaf, who we noticed in the previous chapter as the biblical Japheth. But notice that the Icelandic list does not go back to Noah, an omission that places it right outside the pale of 'pious' forgeries. Iceland was first colonised by Norwegian Vikings in the 870s, and it cannot be pretended by any stretch of the imagination that either the Norwegian or Danish Vikings were Christian by this time. As in the case of the Saxon Sceaf, the Icelandic Seskef is a form of Japheth's name that would not have been used by any Christian forger who wished to falsify the records. For the Christian Icelanders, like the Christian Saxons, would have known Japheth under the Latin-cum-Hebrew form of his name, Iafeth, and not under the more ancient form that appears in the ancestral lists.
But the Icelandic list is practically identical to that of Norway and Denmark, and it is interesting to examine some of the characters who would have owned this list as their own ancestral tree. For example, just before the Norwegian settlement of Iceland in the 870s there lived one famous Viking who went by the name of Ragnar Lothbrok, known affectionately amongst his torture victims as 'Hairy Breeches'. His son, Ivor the Boneless (the Ingware of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) committed the pagan Rite of the Blood-eagle upon the living bodies of kings Aelle of Northumbria and Edmund of East Anglia. (6) This was a sacrificial rite to Odin, and it involved cutting out the lungs of a living man and laying them out on his shoulders, so that they resembled the outspread wings of an eagle. And it was such men as these who counted it an inestimable honour to be able to trace their descent from such patriarchs as Odin (Woden), Geat, Seskef and, in the case of the Norwegians and Danes, Noa. No friends of Christians these, and it is impossible to believe that they would have looked on as anyone, Christian or pagan, tampered with the sacred lists in which were enshrined the very ancestral gods of the nation, gods to whom even kings were sacrificed. The allegation is easy enough to make, but passing difficult to realise from a purely historical perspective.
It is simply impossible to imagine that any form of tampering with the royal lists would have been permitted in such an age and amongst such a people as these. And when we consider the purity and strictness with which these records were kept amongst such diverse languages and cultures, and the almost non-existent corruption of the names over the centuries, then such imaginings seem even more detached from reality. Indeed, it must stand as a lasting tribute to the scholars who were entrusted with the keeping of the ancient lists that those lists remained so pure and uncorrupted. They employed certain ingenious methods, of course, for preventing interference and damage to the lists, and one of these methods is demonstrated in Appendix 8, which deals with the descent of the East Saxon kings. But we shall see in the following chapter how the records of another race altogether were cherished and protected from age and interference, and how those same records added their own pagan but independent testimony to the historical reliability of the book of Genesis.
1. The earliest instance in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of Woden's lineage (back to Geat) appears under the year 547 (Parker Chronicle). An older instance by about a century occurs in Nennius. See below. The Parker list and Nennius list differ in several points of detail, so it cannot be pretended that the later Parker list is merely a copy of Nennius.
2. Morris, p. 4.
3. The list could hardly have been the ad lib invention of Hengist and his men as they landed. It was clearly a long-established and important part of their historical tradition that they brought with them from the continent, making it already ancient by the mid-fifth century.
4. Morris, p. 26.
5. Henry of Huntingdon, p. 39. See Bibliography. We see an interestingly similar corruption in William of Malmesbury, (p. 97. See Bibliography), where he renders the name Sceaf as Strephius.
6. Campbell, J., The Anglo-Saxons, Penguin Books, 1982. p. 148.