Re: [asa] Four views

From: <>
Date: Thu Dec 18 2008 - 22:24:55 EST


I'm not convinced that the truly ancient people (further back than Alexander the Great, for example) believed the flood was global.?

1. There is a LOOOOONG time (ca. 1400
years) between Moses and the beginnings of the Christian church, and
the Hebrew world was revolutionized more than once during that period.?
That's the same amount of time as from the Anglo Saxon invasion of Britain
until now.? Consider how many times Britain has been revolutionized
during that amount of time, how much their language changed, how much
their worldview changed.? For example, scholars didn't understand the
poem Beowulf and thought it was crude and inartistic until relatively
recent times when JRR Tolkien wrote an influential essay and showed how
it is in fact a wonderfully artistic piece of literature.? Now scholars
agree with Tolkien.? But it was hard for scholars to understand that at
first because English culture changed so much since Beowulf was written
and they couldn't get into the author's mind and comprehend what was
really important to him and how he was working literarily with those
themes.? The same must be true with Moses' handling of the flood. By the time of the
Christian church they would have lost touch with Moses'
original use of phrases and literary forms and even some ideas that were important to him and his original audience.? (How
much more so considering the flood was a redacted work that went even further
back than Moses.)? There's no reason to think that people as late a 30
AD had any insight into Moses' literary methods and that they were in a
better position than us to know what he was saying.

2.? If Moses was literally a Hebrew raised in the Egyptian courts, then he at least would have known better than to believe it was global.??Egypt had a continuous history and a continuous line of priests that went back much further than the Bible's flood, and their mythology did not include a flood so there was no belief of a flood in Egyptian culture.? The Egyptians would have looked upon the Mesopotamian flood stories as a local event in Mesopotamia.? As an illustration of the interaction of mythologies in the ancient world, In the middle of the 1st millenium BC it was a big deal to Herodotus when he visited Egypt and the Egyptian priests disabused him of literal belief in his Greek mythology by showing him how much further back their history goes.? The priests did this by taking Herodotus into their temple and showing him the rows of statues of their high priests, and explaining how the Greek mythology couldn't be correct because it didn't go back far enough to encompass
 this Egyptian history.? And Herodotus reported that his predecessor had the same experience when he visited Egypt.

3.? All the phrases in the
flood account that sound like it's global are used in the OT
to mean things that the writers knew were just regional.? Check it for
yourself.? It only took a couple hours when I skimmed through the whole OT to check this. You'll be surprised at how much you find and you'll end up convinced like me that these phrases were understood the be hyperbolic to give the sense of grandness.? They were not understood to be claiming universality.

4.?? Moses wrote (or redacted) things that show he didn't believe it was global:

Genesis 4:20-21 -- "Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute."

It would be pointless to write that Jabal and Jubal were the fathers of pastoral nomads and traveling minstrels if both they and their cultural influence were eradicated by a global flood.? But Moses attributed both these cultural advances, observable in his own day, to descendants of Cain.

I think it has to be an open question whether the Mesopotamians and early Hebrews believed the flood was global or regional.? I don't know how anybody can
disagree with this since there is nothing written that
survived from an early enough date to judge it by, other than the Bible itself.? It has to be an open question until we get more data from an earlier period.?


-----Original Message-----
From: gordon brown <Gordon.Brown@Colorado.EDU>
Sent: Thu, 18 Dec 2008 3:50 pm
Subject: RE: [asa] Four views

On Thu, 18 Dec 2008, Dehler, Bernie wrote:?

> If it wasn't for the science conflict, we'd all likely be YEC's... or at
> least highly sympathetic to YEC. For sure we'd all accept the worldwide
> flood story- didn't the vast majority of all theologians prior to modern
> science (John Calvin, Martin Luther, etc.) accept the worldwide flood??

> ...Bernie?


I think you are right about belief in the worldwide flood before the advent of
modern science. Obviously the people who translated the Bible into other
languages viewed it that way. However some writers recognized that there were
problems with this interpretation. In particular, they brought up the fact that
it was wind that caused the water to recede, but their solution was different
from that of more recent commentators. Ambrose thought that the wind was the
Holy Spirit. The Jewish writer Philo, somewhat similarly, said that it was the
Breath of God.?

Gordon Brown (ASA member)?

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Received on Thu Dec 18 22:25:55 2008

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