Geo-hydraulic event as referent?

Howard J. Van Till (
Tue, 18 Aug 1998 11:55:00 -0400


Faithfully and patiently you have served this list with your well-informed
reflections on how to craft a harmonization of the Genesis 6-9 flood
narrative and modern geological knowledge about Earth's history. Your
working assumption appears to be that the referent of this portion of
biblical text is some particular "geo-hydraulic event," whether it be local
or global or anthropologically universal in character.

Having watched these and many other similar efforts for decades, and seeing
the multitude of serious problems that plagues each proposed solution, I am
personally convinced that the working assumption is faulty. As I see it,
the story is not about a particular geo-hydraulic event at all. Rather the
biblical text employs a form of narrative common in the religious
literature of the Ancient Near Eastern world and employs that familiar
genre to speak in a radically new way about both divine judgment and divine
grace. (That genre was familiar to the first readers and hearers, that is.
We, on the other hand, are all too likely to miss that feature of the

Because I am convinced of this, I choose not to attempt any concordistic
harmonization of the textual details of the flood narrative with our modern
understanding of the character and chronology of terrestrial history. The
"truth" about divine judgment and grace is in no way dependent of the
"facticity" of some historical geo-hydraulic event. To accept the idea that
one has to make a choice between only two options, 1) the flood narrative
in Genesis 6-9 refers to a particular geo-hydraulic event that conforms to
all of the textual details, or 2) "God is lying in the book He wrote," is,
I believe, a choice that no Christian need ever to accept.

Furthermore, I fear that all of our bickering over which concordistic
harmonization is best serves only to distract us from the theological
message of the text.

Howard Van Till