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I am really getting a hard time in understanding the nuances of this text. I am not able to understand what is being referred to in the 'it' parts of this excerpt. It goes like this

'I propose to lay before you a concise history of Indian chronology extracted from Sanskrit books, attached to no system and as much disposed to reject Mosaick history, if it be proved erroneous, as to believe it, if it be confirmed by sound reason from indubitable evidence'.

Source: The Works of Sir William Jones: With the Life of the Author by Lord Teignmouth. In Thirteen Volumes, Volume 4

  • The Google Books version seems to include the word "Mosaick" rather than "Mosoick" quoted here. "Mosaick" is an old spelling of mosaic while "Mosoick" has no meaning as far as I know. Is this a typo? – laugh Sep 26 '17 at 19:03
  • @laugh apparently "Mosoick" means "of Moses". Today we would say "Biblical". "Mosaick" may be an alternate spelling of the same. Either way it's an outdated expression. – Andrew Sep 26 '17 at 19:09
  • @MuhammadEssaAbubakar if it's any comfort, I'm a native speaker and had a difficult time understanding it as well. Older English scholars did love their circumlocutions. – Andrew Sep 26 '17 at 19:17
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about an interpretation of an 18th-century text, not about learning English. – James K Sep 26 '17 at 19:26
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    The language is archaic, to be sure, but, as far as I can tell, even 18th-century British scholars spoke English. How anyone would vote to close this as "not about learning English" strains the bounds of credulity. – Andrew Sep 28 '17 at 6:14
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'I propose to lay before you a concise history of Indian chronology extracted from Sanskrit books, attached to no system and as much disposed to reject Mosaick history, if it be proved erroneous, as to believe it, if it be confirmed by sound reason from indubitable evidence'.

I will reject Mosaick history, if it (Mosaick history) is proved erroneous.

I will believe it (Mosaick history), if it (Mosaick history) is confirmed by sound reason from indubitable evidence.

I am equally disposed to both (to reject and to believe Mosaick history).

Who am I? I am the concise history of Indian chronology that William Jones proposes to lay before you. I am extracted from Sanskrit books. I am attached to no system.

(What is Mosaick history? At the time this was written (January 1788), more people took the Old Testament (Moses, Noah, the flood, etc.) as literal history, and did not take the historical accounts of other cultures seriously. (For instance, neither Darwin nor Schliemann had been born.) “Mosaick history” is the account from the Judeo-Christian tradition. “Mosaick” refers to “of Moses”. The term is still used, as in the “Mosaic distinction” idea of Jan Assmann.)

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'I propose to lay before you a concise history of Indian chronology extracted from Sanskrit books, attached to no system and as much disposed to reject Mosaick history, if it be proved erroneous, as to believe it, if it be confirmed by sound reason from indubitable evidence'.

It is partly the commas that are confusing here, and partly the unusual word "Mosaic" (here spelt in an archaic way), which means "relating to Moses".

I interpret the sentence as follows:

... as disposed (or as likely or as inclined) to reject the story of Moses (or Biblical history) if it is proved wrong, as to believe it if it is confirmed by sound deductions from undeniable evidence

The second "as" has the sense of "equally as [disposed]". So he's just as inclined to disbelieve it (if that's where the evidence leads) as to believe it (if that's where the evidence leads).

(So, all three its refer back to "Mosaick history".)

In other words his account of Indian chronology will be guided by the evidence rather than by preconceptions based on what the Old Testament says.

  • What does 'it' refer to; story of Moses or Indian Chronology? I mean what is intended to be proven wrong? – Muhammad Essa Abubakar Sep 27 '17 at 14:21
  • "It" refers to the stories/histories contained in the Bible and maybe particularly the Old Testament or the first five books of it (traditionally believed to have been written by Moses). – rjpond Sep 27 '17 at 14:42

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