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Title: The Controversy on Methusalem's Death
Subtitle: Proto-Chronology and the Origins of the Western Concept of Inerrancy
Author(s): O'LOUGHLIN, Thomas
Journal: Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales
Volume: 62    Date: 1995   
Pages: 182-225
DOI: 10.2143/RTPM.62.0.525857

Abstract :
From, at least, the mid-fourth century until the mid-fifth-century AD a controversy concerning a seemingly trivial fact engaged Christian scholars: when did Methuselah die? Although most of the major Latin fathers were drawn into the fray — and echoes of the debate continued in Latin exegesis for another five centuries — this controversy has escaped historians and is today unknown. So this paper has a double task. First, uncover from its remnants what we can know of this problem that elicited much exertion on the part of Jerome and Augustine at its height, and was discussed urgently before them by Hilary of Poitiers (mid-fourth century when the problem was becoming acute), and after them by Eucherius of Lyons (mid-fifth century when it was still a living issue). Second, to examine some of the effects of this controversy on the Latin theology, and, in particular, the Latin church’s understanding of scripture. While any conscious awareness of the controversy itself has disappeared, many of the ideas which underwent development in the controversy, such as the notion of inerrancy and of the fundamental role of the Hebrew text, became part of the life-blood of Latin theology.

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