Genesis Flood 2

Dick Fischer (
Thu, 25 Apr 1996 22:40:06 -0500

A Local, Recent (and Historical) Flood

(Excerpts taken from The Origins Solution)

A few years ago, a couple of limbs blew down from an enormous=20
pecan tree that grew in my yard. I bought a chain saw and cut the=20
limbs into firewood-sized pieces. As I labored for three days, it=20
gave me only a tiny glimpse of what it must have been like to=20
build an enormous ark.=20
Noah had no chain saw. Unlike my logs, which needed to fit a=20
fireplace, the beams for the ark had to be cut with enough precision=20
that it could carry an immense load and withstand the pressures of a=20
lengthy flood. Coating with tar would have done little good if the =20
timber had not been hewn with care. We can assume Noah had =20
assistance, but regardless of the amount of help, constructing a huge =20
water-tight vessel would have been virtually impossible without =20
metal saws, axes, hammers, and such.=20
The necessity of semi-modern tools to accomplish such a feat of=20
construction places a limit as to how far back into history the flood =20
could have taken place. The deluge had to have happened in relatively =20
recent times when copper or bronze was in use.=20
It matters little whether the flood was of short duration, or whether it=20
was a protracted year long odyssey. The task for which the boat was=20
constructed requires an ability to produce it, which puts the flood event=20
somewhere into fairly recent history, if we can call around 5,000 years=20
ago "recent." Since modern man was already racially divided and had=20
covered the globe sparsely by this late date, the flood must have been=20
narrowly confined.=20
James Strickling tackled the problem of Noah's flood, and compiled=20
sixty-one legends of flooding catastrophes from all over the world, =20
and found interesting similarities as well as striking differences. A =20
favored family saved in a boat has a basis in mythology from various =20
parts of the world. A remnant population of an unspecified number, =20
using other means of survival, also has a basis in mythology. Through =20
statistical techniques, he concluded:=20
"Either catastrophic flooding of global or near-global dimensions=20
occurred more than once, or there were more survivors of the=20
Great Deluge than one crew, or both." 1=20
Strickling reasoned that a one-time universal event with a family of =20
eight as sole survivors was not feasible. If Noah's flood was a universal=
event, there were numerous survivors in many locales; or perhaps,=20
flooding occurred many times during man's history, and survivors used=20
various means of escape, or both.=20
What about the flood stories that permeate the mythology of remote=20
populations? Interestingly, the differences more than offset the=20
similarities. Nelson's schematic of 41 flood myths shows that just =20
nine of them mention saving animals. However tempting it might be =20
to attribute all those ancient stories to a one-time global catastrophe =20
to conform with the traditional interpretation of the Genesis flood, a =20
literal reading of Genesis does not require it, and the unyielding =20
revelations of nature and history disavow it.=20
It should not surprise us that floods punctuate the distant past of many=20
present-day civilizations. A look at a map of the United States, paying=20
particular attention to its cities, shows that early European settlers=20
located their population centers usually on rivers or at river junctions. =
Concerns for drinking water, bathing, washing clothes, irrigation, and=20
transportation overpowered concerns about flooding.=20
Why should primitive men think differently? It would have been only=20
natural for early tribes to camp along rivers, and to be swept away =20
upon occasion. Indeed, besides tribal warfare, what other kinds of=20
catastrophes could there have been in ancient days? It is to be =20
expected that survivors would be most vocal in recounting a =20
devastating flood to following generations. The _Interpreter's =20
Dictionary of the Bible_ deflates the idea that flood stories from =20
different parts of the world might be related to the biblical account:=20
"At one time this widespread distribution of a flood tradition was=20
considered proof of the historicity of the biblical account, which=20
with some expected modification had spread throughout the=20
world as people migrated from their original homeland in the=20
Near East. This notion has necessarily been given up. We=20
know, e.g., that numerous peoples have no flood legends in their=20
literature. Flood stories are almost entirely lacking in Africa,=20
occur only occasionally in Europe, and are absent in many parts=20
of Asia. They are widespread in America, Australia, and the=20
islands of the Pacific. In addition, many of the known flood=20
legends differ radically from the biblical story and stand=20
independently of it and of one another. Many do not know a=20
world-wide flood at all, but only a local inundation.... Often =20
the heroes save themselves in boats or by scaling mountains, =20
without intervention by the gods. Further, only a few of the flood =20
stories give the wickedness of man as the cause for the Flood....=20
The duration of the Flood, if given, varies from a few days to =20
many years. Facts of this kind disprove the claim that the =20
biblical account is the parent of all flood stories." 2=20
Also, we need to consider the impact early missionaries had on the=20
mythology of primitive peoples. The biblical account of the great flood,=20
related by missionaries, may have become interwoven with ancient tribal=20
stories to produce hybrid myths that would parallel the Genesis narrative=20
more closely. According to Gaster no flood story can be traced in=20
Sanskrit until after elements of the Aryan civilization began to arrive in=
India. The Nestorian Christian missionary attempts in China stand out=20
as the source of the flood story among the Lolos people. 3 Gleason=20
Archer admits:=20
"The list of descendants in the respective lines of Ham, Shem,=20
and Japheth as recorded in Genesis 10 does not permit any easy=20
identification with the remoter races who lived in the lower=20
reaches of Africa, Far East Asia, Australia, and the Americas. =20
Particularly in the case of Australia, with its peculiar fauna=20
indicating a long period of separation from the Eurasian=20
continent, the difficulty of assigning either the humans or the=20
subhuman population with the passengers in the ark has been =20
felt to be acute." 4=20
In other words, the Bible is silent on any possible relationship between=20
the descendants of Noah and the Black Africans, or the Mongoloid race,=20
or the native Americans who descended from the Asiatics, or the=20
Aborigines who populated Australia, or even the blond-haired=20
Scandinavians, not to exclude any racial group. 5 That squares exactly=20
with what we know about the antiquity of those races of peoples who=20
were far distant from the Mesopotamian valley by 5,000 years ago. From C.
S. Coon:=20
"Since the beginning of agriculture no new subspecies (of man)=20
have arisen; the principal changes that have taken place have=20
been vast increases in the numbers of some populations and=20
decreases to the threshold of extinction in others. All this points=20
to one conclusion: the living subspecies of man are ancient. The=20
origins of races of subspecific rank go back into geological=20
antiquity, and at least one of them is as old by definition, as our=20
species." 6=20
How does the notion of "something less" than a global flood square =20
with the Genesis account? Halley addressed that issue:=20
"All the high mountains that were under the whole heavens, were=20
covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth" (Gen=20
7:19, 21). This, doubtless, is the very language in which Shem=20
related, or wrote, the story of the Flood to his children and=20
grandchildren. He told it as he saw it. Are we to interpret his=20
language according to his own geography, or present day=20
geography? The whole race, except Noah and his family, were=20
destroyed. To destroy the race it was necessary for the Flood to=20
cover only so much of the earth as was inhabited. Accepting the=20
Bible account as it is, there had been only TEN generations from=20
Adam, the first man. How could ONE family, in TEN=20
generations, with primitive modes of travel, populate the whole=20
earth? Most likely the race had not spread far outside the=20
Euphrates basin." 7=20
Halley does not seem to be aware of extra-Noahic populations, but he=20
does opt for a non-global flood. The following comes from Archer:=20
"In explanation of this assertion (that the flood was not=20
necessarily universal) it needs to be pointed out that the Hebrew=20
'eres, translated consistently as earth' in our English Bibles, is=20
also the word for `land' (e.g. the land of Israel, the land of=20
Egypt). There is another term, tebel, which means the whole=20
expanse of the earth, or the earth as a whole. Nowhere does=20
tebel occur in this account, but only 'eres, in all the statements=20
which sound quite universal in the English Bible (e.g., Gen. 7:4,=20
10, 17, 18, 19). Thus, Genesis 6:17c can be rendered:=20
`Everything that is in the land shall die' - that is, in whatever=20
geographical region is involved in the context and situation." 8=20
An unenlightened Bible translation has made victims of us all. The =20
word "earth," synonymous with "globe" or "planet," is a permissible=20
translation of the Hebrew word "`erets," from Genesis 1:1 to 2:4, even=20
though this last verse is transitional, and shifts focus to the immediate=20
area where Adam was created, where the flood took place, and where=20
the tower of Babel was built.=20
>From Genesis 2:5 to 12, words such as "land," "region" or "territory"=20
fit the context better than the word "earth," with the possible exception=20
of Genesis 8:22 and 9:13. Cain was not driven off "the face of the=20
earth" (Gen. 4:14), just out of the vicinity of Eden. Clouds never cover=20
the globe completely (Gen. 9:14), only a segment of land. The planet=20
was not divided in Peleg's days (Gen. 10:25), simply the immediate=20
Undoubtedly, the Old Testament writers had no concept of the earth as =20
a round globe with a circumference of 25,000 miles. What we can=20
visualize as the earth today is entirely different from what they could=20
have pictured as a definition of the word. Could the Hebrews or=20
Egyptians or any other Near Eastern cultures have envisioned the world=20
then as we know it exists today, with polar ice caps and oceans covering=20
three-fourths of the surface, massive land continents, and numerous=20
oceanic islands burgeoning with unique faunal populations?=20
The notion of a global flood, based solely on the Genesis narrative, fails=
on two counts: (1) the word translated "earth" in Genesis can mean=20
"land," and (2) any word which might have defined "earth" would not=20
mean then what it means today.=20
In the next capsule we will discuss why, in addition to the Genesis flood=20
being a localized deluge, it was also a recent, historical event, and not=20
an ancient, unrecorded event. Comments, corrections, and criticisms on=20
all postings are always welcome.=20
Dick Fischer=20
An Answer in the Creation -Evolution Debate=20
See web page:
1. James E. Strickling Jr., Origins - Today's Science, Tomorrow's Myth=20
(New York: Vantage Press, 1986), 33-39.=20
2. Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. II (New York: Abingdon=20
Press, 1962), 280.=20
3. Theodore H. Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament=20
(New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 96, 355, sec. 38, n. 6.=20
4. Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago:=20
Moody Press, 1974), 213.=20
5. Jacquetta Hawkes, The Atlas of Early Man (New York: St. Martin's=20
Press, 1976), 54-55.=20
6. C. S. Coon, The Origin of Races (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.,=20
1962), 20.=20
7. Henry H. Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids:=20
Zondervan Publishing House, 1965), 74.=20
8. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 210.=15=BE=0F=A0

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