ABSTRACT: The story of Noah's flood is explained by the catastrophic
flooding of the Mediterranean basin. This event is well attested to by the
geologic evidence and the facts surrounding that deluge fit quite well the
Biblical description of the events in Genesis 6-9. The Biblical facts are
then correlated with the known geologic data.
WHAT IS A TRUE STORY?
What makes a story true? Consider this:
Charles Darwin was on the deck of the boat when the meteor fell from
the sky. The meteor struck the water's surface, created a huge wave which
then sank the ship. Darwin's wife, Cleopatra, was sleeping below deck and
was also lost in the incident.
The above story is absolutely false. But why? All the parts of the
story are true. There was a Charles Darwin and a Cleopatra. Meteors have
struck the ocean's surface and created great waves. Cleopatra did sleep on
a boat. Boats sink. Darwin was indeed often on the deck of a boat. So why
is this story false? Because the individually true events were not co-
joined spatially and temporally in actual history.
What does this tale have to do with the Biblical Flood? We have an
account in Genesis which is purported to represent an actual historical
event. Like the story above, the account's fidelity depends both on the
truth of the individual facts as well as on the actual confluence of those
facts. If the account can not claim these two justifications for truth,
then the account is wrong.
THE GENESIS FLOOD
What are the facts purported to have occurred in the Genesis Flood?
These are the facts taken from the account.
1. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth (Genesis 5:32)
2. Noah built a boat, pitched it inside and out (Genesis 6:14)
3. Noah brought two of "every kind of animal that moves along the ground"
4. The great deep broke open (Genesis 7:11)
5. The rain fell for 40 days and nights (Genesis 7:12)
6. The ark floated above the "high mountains" (Genesis 7:18-20)
7. The rising of the waters apparently lasted for 150 days (Genesis 7:24)
8. He stayed on the ark a little over a year (Genesis 8:13)
It is against these facts that the veracity of the story must be judged.
We will never be able to prove that the event occurred. The best we can
do is say that the story is plausible. In order show plausibility the
individual facts must be true or be capable of being concorded, AND the
facts must co-join in the explanation both spatially and temporally. As
per the private agreement between Dick Fischer and I, for the rest of this
post I will not discuss why other views can't fit this list of facts. I
will discuss why the Mediterranean Flood fits the facts of the Bible. If
the explanation offered below can fit the above facts into a coherent
picture then there is a possibility that the account is true. The view
makes predictions which can be tested against reality.
THE MEDITERRANEAN FLOOD
I am not going to go over all the evidence for the desciccation of
the Mediterranean. I will refer you to Hsu, (1983). But suffice it to say
here that it is considered a fact among the vast majority of geologists
that the Mediterranean was empty and was a desert 5.5 Myr ago. There are
algae deposits requiring photosynthesis and less than 30 feet of water
found in the abyssal Mediterranean (see Hsu 1983, p. 14-17). Anhydrite
which can only form at temperatures above 95 deg. F is also found on the
bottom of the Mediterranean. Under thousands of feet of water, the
temperature there today is close to freezing. The desert deposits at the
base of the Mediterranean are immediately overlain by deep oceanic
deposits containing animals which can only live in waters deeper than
3,000 feet (Hsu, Ryan and Cita, 1973, p. 240). The sharpness of the
geologic contact proves that the re-flooding of the Mediterranean was
This model proposes that God created man and placed him in this deep
basin location. There are several reasons for this.
The land where Adam and Eve were placed was a strange land
hydrologically speaking. It didn't rain, water oozed out of the ground
water the entire surface of the land, and rivers split into 4 rivers
(Genesis 2:5-6,10). These three facts do not appear together anywhere on
earth today. Is this situation even possible? Yes.
If the location described by those verses was at the bottom of a
large basin, then all three of the strange hydrologic events can be
In a deep basin surrounded by highlands rain is not likely. The
reason for this is because in order for rain to occur moist air must rise,
cool and form clouds. Sinking air does not form clouds. This is why
Northwestern California is wet and Nevada is dry. The moist Pacific air
is forced up along the coastal mountains which causes lots of rain. Then
the air descends into Nevada and is now hotter and drier. This is called a
rain shadow. A deep basin like the desert Mediterranean would be in the
rainshadow in all directions.
Secondly the water oozing out of all the ground can only occur on a
slope along the edge of a highland as illustrated below
\water oozing out
The third bizarre hydrological situation is the splitting of
the 4 rivers out of Eden. Rivers don't split into 4 except at two
places - a delta, and where a river flows from a steep gradient out
onto a broad plain at a lower level. At the place where the
gradient lessens, the flow is more easily split into numerous
channels. Once again this implies a topographically low area.
stream splits at change of slope
Finally, some might object that this view places mankind in a desert,
not a garden. That is only partly true. To say that this overlooks the
fact that the Nile river today defines a green fertile finger cutting
across the Sahara Desert. And it was the site of one of mankind's
earliest civiliztions. The Nile valley is a garden spot and recognized
as one by the starkness of the surrounding barrenness.
HOW THE BIBLICAL FACTS FIT
Fact 1. The first three facts listed above (Noah's son's, his
building an ark and the taking of the animals) are hard to verify.
Barring the discovery of hospital records we can't prove that Noah had
three sons. But we can see the name Japheth in several cultures from the
Hebrews to the Greeks to the subcontinent of India. For the Iapetus was
"the originator of mankind" (Spencer and Knox, 1950, p. 82). Custance
(1964, p. 22) cites an story from India with the eldest son of Satyaurata,
their "Noah" as having the name Iyapeti. Custance (p. 23) also reports the
sanskrit title "Djapatischta" meaning "Chief of the Race". These
occurrences would seem to imply that the name Japheth referred to a person
who existed prior to the time of separation of the Indians, the Greeks
and the Hebrews. This would place it far back into human history--long
before the traditional date of the Flood.
Fact 2. We can not verify that he build a boat. I live in an age of
boat building and have never built a boat or taken animals on board. But I
can say that given an intelligent being, it is not out of the question.
The building of a boat had to have occurred much longer ago than most
apologists are aware of.
The oldest boat is from 6400 B.C. and a paddle from around 7500
B.C.(Clark and Piggott, 1965, p. 106). But Australia MUST have been
colonized by ocean voyage which means boats. Australia was colonized
60,000 years ago (Frayer, et al, 1993, p. 23;Stringer and Gamble, 1993, p.
199). The exact date of the building of the first boat is lost in
antiquity. But we do know that wood working, a pre-requisite for boat
building, has been carried out for more than 1.5 million years. (Schick
and Toth, 1993, p. 160)
Fact 3. I can find nothing with which to support the concept that the
animals were carried on the ark. This is simply unverifiable.
PHYSICAL EVENTS OF THE FLOOD
Fact 4. The great deep (Genesis 7:11) has no viable explanation in
other flood models. During the latest Miocene, the Gibraltar region was
uplifted due to the collision of Africa and Europe. This created a dam
separating the Atlantic from the Mediterranean. Since there is not enough
water delivered to the Mediteranean via rivers to replace the evaporative
loss, within 1000-4000 years the Mediterranean would have evaporated. As
time went by, the Gibraltar region subsided or the sea level rose and
water began to spill over into the basin. A flow 10 times that of
Victoria Falls would not replace the evaporative loss in the basin and so
would not refill the basin. But it would erode a canyon between the
Mediterranean and the Atlantic like Niagara Falls is eroding between Lake
Erie and Ontario. When the canyon finally cut through to the Atlantic,
the dam was ripe for a collapse. The collapse of the Gibraltar Dam is the
great deep bursting forth.
Fact 5.The rain falling for 40 days and nights. This is not totally
unknown in today's world. Some places in the world have almost daily
rainfall. According to Guiness Book of World Records says that Mt. Wai-
'ale-'ale has rain on 350 days per year. Thus the rainfall on continuous
days is probably not the significant feature of this rainfall. I would
suggest that it is an absolutely continuous, never ceasing rainfall for
40 days. How could this occur?
In order for rainfall to occur, moisture laden air must rise. But
getting air to rise continuously in the same place picking up new moisture
is rather difficult. The filling of the Mediterranean would provide just
such an situation. Over the 970,000 square mile area of the
Mediterranean, the Atlantic waters filling the Mediterranean would moisten
the air, displace the air and cause it to rise. The now moisture laden
air would cool, condense to form clouds and cause torrential rainfall.
This view only assumes that the water is rising fast enough.
Facts 6. The ark would most certainly float above tall mountains
under this scenario. Being at the bottom of a 15,000 foot basin with
hills an mountains all around up to 15,000 feet or more tall would
certainly allow the ark to float above high mountains.
Facts 7,8. The rising of the water lasted about 6 months and Noah
was on the ark for a year. These must be taken together in order to be
explained, but several other facts are required. The Mediterranean desert
deposits were covered by deep water sediments containing ostracods which
could only live in waters greater than 3200 feet. Using this, as the
depth of the collapse of the Gibraltar Dam allowing 15 miles as the width
of the collapsed zone and 20 miles per hour as the speed of the water
flowing through, the flood would fill the Mediterranean in about 6 months.
The lands around the basin would also have been devastated due to
rainfall caused by the spreading out of the air formerly in the basin.
Another few months of floating and the ark could have landed.
These 8 facts of the account can be put into the context of a single
event which meshes with what we know of the geological and anthropological
record. The Mediterranean was filled 5.5 million years ago (Chamberlain,
1991, p. 140). This is precisely the time that the first bipedal hominids
are found in the fossil record.
As pointed out above, for a story to be true, its parts must be
joined spatially and temporally into a single coherent set of events which
match the facts of the account. We are not free to choose which facts must
be correlated nor are we free to choose new facts to be correlated with
the explanation. To use another set of facts is to explain a different
story; not the one in Genesis. If the story is not miraculous in nature
then the consequences derived from the story must also fit the laws of
nature as one has observed them. The Mediterranean Flood fits these
One final thing which I just learned of today. For those who might
think that this view is beyond the pale of traditional Judeo-Christian
interpretation for the Flood, I would point you to Davis Young's new book,
_The Biblical Flood_. He points out "Whatever impressions the biblical
deluge narrative made on the Old Testament authors, they generally did not
impart those impressions in writing." (Young, 1995, p. 4-5). But Young
goes on to point out that the earliest Jewish commentator on the Deluge
was Philo of Alexandria. Young writes:
"Philo also made the intriguing suggestion that the flood was not 'a
trifling outpouring of water but a limitless and immense one, which almost
flowed out beyond the Pillars of Heracles (the Straits of Gibraltar) and
the Great Sea. Therefore the whole earth and the mountainous regions were
flooded.' It is difficult to know what to make of this. In one breath he
characterizes the cataclysm as 'limitless and immense' and also appears to
limit its extent to the Mediterranean Basin." (Young 1995, p. 11)
Thus the earliest extant Jewish version of the flood, is a Mediterranean
Chamberlain, A.T. 1991. "A Chronological Framework for Human Origins,"
_World Archaeology_ 23:2.
Clark, Grahame, and Stuart Piggott, 1965. _Prehistoric Societies, (New
York: Alfred A. Knopf)
Custance, Arthur, C. 1964. _A Study of the Names in Genesis 10, Part 1,_
The Doorway Papers, (Ottawa: Privately Published)
Frayer, David W., et al, 1993. "Theories of Modern Human Origins: The
Paleontological Test", American Anthropologist, 95(1), p 23
Hsu, Kenneth J., 1983, _The Mediterranean Was a Desert_, (Princeton:
Princeton University Press)
Hsu, Kenneth J., W.B.F. Ryan and M. B. Cita, 1973. "Late Miocene
Desiccation of the Mediterranean," _Nature_, 242, March 23,
Robinson, Herbert Spencer and Knox Wilson, 1950. _Myths and Legends of All
Nations_ (New York: Bantam)
Schick, Kathy D. and Nicholas Toth, 1993. _Making Silent Stones Speak_
(New York: Simon and Schuster).
Stringer, Chris, and Clive Gamble, 1993. _In Search of the Neanderthals_,
Thames and Hudson.
Young, Davis A. 1995. _The Biblical Flood_ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans)
Foundation,Fall and Flood