As I mentioned in my last post, one biblical supernatural tale after another is being disproved by science, and conservative Christians are abandoning the literal interpretation of passage after passage of the Bible, the “inerrant, unchanging, Word of God”. However, conservative Christians continue to cling desperately to the fantastical supernatural claim that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. For the life of me, I cannot understand their logic for maintaining this dichotomy. I will intersperse my comments in red.
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How should we interpret the Genesis flood account?
In a Nutshell
“I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.” — Genesis 7:4
The History of “Flood Geology”
In the 1950s, Bernard Ramm, a baptist theologian and author of The Christian View of Science and Scripture, along with J. Laurence Kulp, a geologist and Plymouth Brethren member, critiqued Price’s book by pointing out critical errors and omissions.4 Ramm, Kulp and others encouraged the American Scientific Affiliation and other organizations not to support flood geology.5 In 1961, Young Earth Creationists Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Jr. updated Price’s work by writing The Genesis Flood. This book argued that the creation of the Earth was relatively recent, and that the Fall of Man started the second law of thermodynamics. The book also claims that Noah’s Flood was global and produced most of the geological strata we see today. Many regard the work of Morris and Whitcomb to be a major foundational step in the development of modern day creation science, which has since gained a worldwide foothold.
Let us now consider the actual evidence for this position from both the Bible and from science.
A Local Flood
Genesis 6:17Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
17 “Then I myself will bring the flood of water over the earth to destroy from under heaven every living thing that breathes; everything on earth will be destroyed.
The Flood commenced on the seventeenth day of the second month. The gates of heaven broke loose, and the depths of the earth opened to send forth streams of raging, boiling water, swallowing everything in its path. Rain fell for forty days and forty nights and the water which covered the earth rose higher and higher. It covered the peaks of the highest mountains. Every living thing died, and all growing things were destroyed. Amid this terrible scene of ruins and devastation the Ark, guided by G-d, floated securely. But the ship was fiercely tossed about and shaken at the heights of the stormy flood, so that it seemed to Noah that it was about to break apart.—
Does anyone really believe that there are “mountains” in the Euphrates River Valley??
Contextual evidence also suggests that Greek geographers developed comparable maps during the middle of the first millennium, where Greece was positioned in the middle of a circle surrounded by oceans.10 These maps remind us that people were most familiar with the regions surrounding their homelands. Therefore, to say that something happened in the kol erets –– or referring to “all people” (Genesis 6:13), –– would have been an appropriate way of referring to the entirety of Earth and its population in a manner in which ancient Israelites would have been familiar. Davis A. Young, author of The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church’s Response to Extrabiblical Evidence, sums this up when he states:
“Given the frequency with which the Bible uses universal language to describe local events of great significance, such as the famine or the plagues in Egypt, is it unreasonable to suppose that the flood account uses hyperbolic language to describe an event that devastated or disrupted Mesopotamian civilization — that is to say, the whole world of the Semites?” 11
Scientific Problems with a Universal Flood
First, a universal flood would have changed the topography of the land. For example, in the event of a worldwide flood, the Hidekkel, or Tigris, and Euphrates rivers of Genesis 2:14 would have disappeared under layers of flood-laid sedimentary rock.12 Instead, the Euphrates is mentioned again in Genesis 15:18, and the Hidekkel is alluded to in Daniel 10:4. This suggests that the rivers’ integrity was maintained.13
Second, it would require an inordinate amount of water to flood the entire Earth. One popular explanation for this problem is that prior to the flood, the world was watered by mist from a global canopy of water vapor which then condensed, causing the first rains to flood the Earth (Genesis 2:5-6). However, this explanation is incongruent with archaeological evidence that concludes ancient Mesopotamia — the land of the Tigris and Euphrates — was “an extremely arid environment that necessitated the use of irrigation for successful agriculture.”14 Furthermore, the pressure necessary for the condensation of such a large quantity of water would have been fatal for all living creatures. In fact, a closer look at the Septuagint version of the Old Testament shows that the word for fountain was used in place of the word for mist. Some modern translations have used similar words like stream and spring.15 In either case, the water is said to have risen from the Earth, which makes it more likely that these terms were referring to irrigation canals.16 Irrigation canals?? You’ve got to be kidding me. A similar terminology is used in reference to the flood (Genesis 7:11), where “fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.” Irrigation canals in the sky?? But when we look closely at the original Hebrew text and consider the use of the words fountains and deep in other passages, it is more likely that the fountains of the deep were also irrigation canals.17
Another supposition is that all animals and humans are derived from the survivors on Noah’s Ark. There are several problems with this idea. First of all, there is no way that the 2 million known species of animals could have fit onto the ark — not to mention the estimated 10 to 100 million species yet to be discovered. The dimensions of the Ark were 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits (Genesis 6:15). At 18 inches per cubit, the Ark would have been 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall. This was indeed a large ship by the standards of the time, but not nearly large enough to carry such a vast and varied cargo. Getting all of the animals to fit on the ark, along with the necessary food would not have been feasible. Some have argued that not all species were included, but only representatives of each type. Not only would this still represent an improbably great number of creatures, it would also require that the evolution of related species be drastically accelerated after the flood, in order to account for current diversity of species.
Finally, the migration of animals across mountains and oceans is quite difficult to explain. To make matters worse, there are no traces of animal ancestors along the proposed courses of migration. These are just a few of the many scientific problems with interpreting Genesis 6-9 as a truly universal flood. Efforts to find physical evidence of a global flood have failed. Even some of the most capable Christian researchers, including John Woodward, George Frederick Wright, William Buckland and Joseph Prestwich, all failed in their searches. Young states, “It is clear now that the evidence they were searching for simply does not exist.”18
The Location of the Flood
“Nevertheless, the stratigraphy of some of the Mesopotamian flood deposits, literature pertaining to Gilgamesh and ancient Sumerian cities, the New Eastern setting of the biblical account, and the obvious affinities of the biblical and Mesopotamian flood traditions all converge to suggest that there may very well have been a catastrophic deluge in the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys that severely disrupted the civilization of that area — a civilization that represented the world to the biblical writer — and it may be that this is what the biblical story is all about.”20
The location of the flood remains mysterious and of continued interest to modern geologists.
Other Flood Stories
Some of the most notable compilations of these stories were collected by James Strickling and Byron C. Nelson.23 Strickling did a statistical analysis comparing 61 flood stories from around the world. After comparing their similarities and differences, he concluded that one family of eight people could not have populated the Earth after a worldwide flood catastrophe. In order to account for the many stories throughout the world, Strickling concludes, “Either catastrophic flooding of global or near-global dimensions occurred more than once, or there were more survivors of the Great Deluge than one crew, or both.”24 In 1931 Nelson compiled more than 41 flood stories and found that despite their remarkable similarities, there were also striking differences. For example, only nine of the 41 stories mention the preservation of animals and only five mention that there was divine favor on those saved from the flood. 25 With regard to these differences, geologist Dick Fischer writes, “However tempting it might be to attribute all those ancient stories to a one-time global catastrophe to conform with the traditional interpretation of the Genesis Flood, a literal reading of Genesis does not require it, and the unyielding revelations of nature and history disavow it.”26
According to the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, the “Flood stories are almost entirely lacking in Africa, occur only occasionally in Europe, and are absent in many parts of Asia. They are widespread in America, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific.”27 This evidence again raises concerns for the theory that flood stories have all spread from one original source.
Lessons of the Flood