Re: Something must change

Glenn R. Morton (
Thu, 20 Aug 1998 21:44:45 -0500

At 02:43 PM 8/20/98 -0500, Tom Pearson wrote:
>At 08:23 PM 8/19/98 -0500, Glenn R. Morton wrote:
>>I would be willing to bet that you can't really find evidence for the above
>>assertions. Can you cite an ancient Talmudic source that claims that the
>>Flood didn't happen and was merely a parable? I would contend that they all
>>thought the flood was a reality, not a parable. I actually think you are
>>attributing to them a view of their history that they didn't have. And if
>>you can't cite evidence, from ancient Talmudic writings, then your view
>>above becomes an unsupported opinion.
> Well, let's see.
> I'm seems to me that dividing things up into "history" vs.
>"parable" is something of a false alternative, especially for pre-modern
>people -- or even for modern ones. When I say to my fourteen-year-old son,
>"You were such a sweet and wonderful baby; what happened?" I'm not reporting
>historical fact (he wasn't sweet and wonderful all the time). So is my
>observation a parable? I think not. I've condensed a wide swath of my
>son's history down to a summary, a simple formulation for the purpose of
>making a point. I'm not falsifying his history, but I'm not reporting
>verifiable facts either.

But the flood account DOES report facts which can be both verified and

> This appears to be what the Hebrews, among many others, have done.
>Jacob Neusner, perhaps the world's leading Jewish historian, has this to say
>about two Talmudic stories he analyzes in "Beyond Historicism, After
>Structuralism: Story as History in Ancient Judaism" (*Method and Meaning
>in Ancient Judaism,* third series; Brown Judaic Studies, 1981):
[quote snipped]

This is not an ancient source.

> Since you asked, here's an example from the Talmud.
> This is from *The Living Talmud,* edited by Judah Goldin (Yale
>University Press, 1955), p. 44.
> "The Creator, exalted be He, revealed Himself on Mount Sinai rather
>than on any of the other mountains which He created, because it is the
>smallest mountain of all. For when He resolved to give the Torah to Israel,
>all the mountains assembled and began boasting, one saying to the other, 'I
>am taller than you, and it is on me that the Lord will give the Torah.'
>When the Creator, exalted be He, saw how they were boasting. . .He said to
>them 'Why look ye askance, ye mountains of peaks, at the mountain which God
>hath desired for His abode' (Psalm 68:17) -- that is, He said to Mount
>Tabor, Hermon and Carmel, 'Why are you provoking each other? I shall give
>the Torah only from Mount Sinai, because it is the smallest of the mountains
>and I love only him who is humble.' "

Wait a minute. I asked "Can you cite an ancient Talmudic source that
claims that the Flood didn't happen and was merely a parable?"

The above does not fulfill that request. It is a case where the Talmud
presented something that wasn't historical. It doesn't say that the Flood
was a fable.

> By the way, I could not find any reference to Noah in the Talmud.
>In fact, aside from many references to creation, the first Biblical event
>that is discussed there appears to be the call of Abraham.

I appreciate your looking into that for me. I didn't know the answer to
the question I asked, but I was willing to take the risk. Until modern
geology came up, almost no one I had ever heard of looked at the flood as
anything other than a real, historical event.

>>Why shouldn't we fire away [at the Book of Mormon] anyhow? We fire at
>scientific and >historical theories when they don't fit the facts.
> As far as I'm concerned, Glenn, you've raised deep and troubling
>questions, and I certainly don't mean to make light of them. When I have
>the strength, I struggle with these issues of how to get at the truth of
>things, and how to know it when I see it. It isn't easy.

Sadly, I know these are deeply troubling questions. They come from my
brush with becoming an atheist. I came within about an eighth of an inch
of rejecting Christianity because the flood account, which appears as
historical as the Abrahamic accounts had no support from geology. I would
rather be an atheist than believe that which is false. And if we
Christians are afraid of dealing with the facts of science and the
statments of Scripture as they are rather than as we wish them to be, we
are not really trusting God, that He is capable of providing explanations
for these events. I certainly know that as a YEC, I didn't trust God to be
able to explain the scientific data, and I don't really think my Liberal
Christian brothers are any different.

> But I have a suspicion that you're inclined to treat the Bible
>(perhaps the Talmud, too) as a kind of natural object, one that can be
>inspected and analyzed and situated with regard to the "facts" which it
>generates, like any other natural object. Just as with a new astronomical
>event, or a geological discovery, the assessment of the meaning and
>relevance -- of the "truth" of the thing -- of a written text ought to
>adhere to a firm scientific methodology that is based on such "facts." Is
>this a fair presentation of your view?

Not quite, or at least not without some clarification. If the Bible
indicates that something occurred, then there are consequences which in
principle, can be examined to see if the consequences occurred. If
observational data for the consequences can't be found, then one is free to
question the reality of the event. Given my definition of truth as being
THAT WHICH ACTUALLY EXISTS OR OCCURRED, then if there is no evidence for
some of events given in the Bible, like the Flood (which involves my
professional area--geoscience), then I would be free to conclude that the
Flood is a fiction. And rather than doing as my liberal brothers do, and
assuming that it still is the Word of God, I would have to question why the
Writer went to such an extreme to make it apear as if the account is
historical when it isn't. And if the inspiration of the Bible, (whatever
form that took) is unable to preserve truth in the account, then either God
is unwilling or unable to convey the true history to the writer. This gets
to the argument that nearly drove me to atheism and is why I fight so hard
for historicity!!!!!!!!!! This is crucial and if anyone can offer an out to
this, I would be very appreciative. This is my variation on an argument
advanced by Lactantius who attributed the argument to Epicurus (ca. 300 B.C.)

It starts with the question, Why would God NOT give us a true history of
the Flood? There are only 4 possibilities:

1. He is willing and able. Thus it is a true/historical message.
2. He is unwilling and able. Thus He is telling us something not true and
He knows it is untrue. Very unGodlike; very scary.
3. He is willing and unable. Very unGodlike.
4. He is unwilling and unable. -really bad option.

I personally find the logic very tight!

> So I want to issue an invitation. It seems to me that the burden of
>proof has shifted to those who would insist that ancient cultures understood
>"history" and "truth" in approximately the same way we do, and reported it
>that way, a position I would regard as being against the evidence. Is there
>other, contrary evidence that will support this position?

I would disagree here. I think the burden of proof is in those who think
that God would inspire falsehood.

Adam, Apes and Anthropology
Foundation, Fall and Flood
& lots of creation/evolution information