NOTES FROM BORNEO, ILLUSTRATIVE OF PASSAGES IN GENESIS

By Alex. Mackenzie Cameron.

[Extracted from TSBA, 2, 264-6.]

Read 2nd December, 1873.



It is very interesting to come upon remains and ruins, traditions, names and peculiarities, which confirm Biblical accounts, especially those earlier records which are to be found in the Book of Genesis. These accounts are dear to us, not only as being furnished in the volume which has been called "the charter of our salvation"; but also as being the only reliable historical notice of prehistoric times, and which once lost, would plunge us into the most unpenetrable darkness regarding the early history of our race. It is, thus, a twofold pleasure we experience when the accounts of the first Book of Moses are confirmed to us by the researches of patient and learned scholars, and the discoveries of fortunate travellers.

I am fortunately enabled to add a few stones to the great building of independent, undoubted, and concurrent testimony to the history of the Book of Genesis, the testimony coming from the far-off, isolated, and semi-barbarous Island of Borneo.

It cannot be my intention here to go into a physical or descriptive account of this great island, twice the size of Great Britain, lying midway between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, or of the various interesting races who people it. But I have found two traditions there held by the Dyaks—supposed to be the aboriginal inhabitants—and a few other [p.265] things, which are strangely confirmative of several very interesting and important particulars in the Book of Genesis.

The first tradition is one relating to a great Deluge, and relates what part the great ancestor of the Dyaks took in it. There was a great general inundation when the ancestors of the human family—of the Chinese, Malays, and Dyaks—apparently dwelt together. The three had to swim for their lives, and all three came safe to land again. A story here appears to be foisted on to the original account. The Dyak, it is stated, took most care of his weapons of warfare; while the Chinaman took care of his books. Hence the former lost the art of letters; whilst the latter lost the art of fighting.

The second tradition tells us that, at a very early period of Dyak history, a great ancestor of the Dyaks determined to construct a ladder by which he could climb up to heaven. It is stated that he went on with his work, and got up pretty high, when suddenly one night a worm eat into the foot of the ladder, and brought it all down.

Here, then, we have two undoubted, original, and independent confirmations of the Bible accounts of the great Deluge and the Tower of Babel.

The third fact I have to furnish from Dyak-land for the service of Biblical Archaeology is a most curious and remarkable one. One of the only two names for the Supreme Being among the Dyaks is Yaouah. This is remarkable, as isolated from the current of the world's knowledge, not getting the name even from the later Chinese or Malay mariners, these Dyaks should still have the same historical name of the Supreme Being, that, according to the results of modern criticism, was one of the two earliest names of Deity even before the Deluge. The form of the name, too, comes nearest to what modern critics have determined for what we read as Jehovah in our Bibles. Can it, then, be possible that the worship of Jehovah by our early progenitors was a myth invented by Moses or subsequent writers? Rather, do we not find here one more testimony added to that of many others, that God was actually worshipped at the earliest periods of human history as Yahveh? Of His knowledge and worship, thus, there is an unbroken con- [p.266] tinuity from the time that men "began to call themselves Jehovites" down to the present; and this is most consolatory.

Lastly, I would state together five other facts from Dyak-land, which confirm statements and inferences of the Book of Genesis, and which serve equally with the traditions and name of God mentioned above, to refer the Dyaks themselves to the very highest antiquity. They believe in one great and good Almighty Spirit—the Supreme Being; and also in a powerful and malignant Evil Spirit. The worship of the Dyaks is carried on without temples, or a peculiar priestly class. And there is no idolatry. The statements of the Book of Genesis, and what we may infer from them, show us the worship of Jehovah carried on without the agency of a peculiar priestly class, and without temples; while the memory of the "old serpent"—the Devil—must still have remained fresh. There were no "idols," till we come to the very late period of the history of the immediate progenitors of the Hebrews; and then we may say we begin at once with the initial processes of idols, temples, &c., in the sacred teraphim, groves, &c.