FACTS & FICTIONS REGARDING NOAH'S FLOOD
An analysis of the facts and arguments surrounding the Flood of Genesis showing its true nature and meaning by Charles A Weisman (U.SA)
Many in Christendom may find this material to be shocking and upsetting since the subject of Noah's Flood has for so long been misconstrued within church doctrine and religious dogma. This article will reveal how much of the prevailing teachings regarding this Biblical story is fact and how much is fiction.
The Biblical story of Noah, the Ark and the Flood is perhaps the oldest and best known story that exists today. The great Deluge, commonly called "Noah's Flood," as recorded in Genesis 6, 7 & 8, has been a subject of intense controversy and debate. Much of this debate surrounds the scope and reality of the Biblical account. Some say it was a literal worldwide flood, others say it is merely an allegorical story. Certainly if the truth of this one subject were made evident many of the debates surrounding the Bible would no longer exist.
During the nineteenth century, two doctrines gained strength and popularity among Christians regarding what the Bible says (1) That the earth and all that is on it is very young in age, and (2) that there was a worldwide flood that destroyed all life upon the earth except that which was in Noah's Ark.
In support of these concepts there has developed a religious sect known as creationism, led by those known as creationists. Creationism is based on Christian "fundamentalism" or "Judeo-Christian" theology, which many are now discovering to be a distorted Christianity (a mixture of the Bible and human precepts).
Without either of these two concepts, the doctrine of creationism cannot stand and will quickly vanish from the minds of any rational person. Itis the intent of this material to show that the idea of a worldwide flood is neither biblical, historical nor scientific. In this endeavour, we will need to examine exactly what is and is not being said today on this matter, and compare it to evidence derived from the Bible, science and history.
2. THE FACE OF THE EARTH
Here we will examine the Bible itself and see if the Bible really says what the literalists, fundamentalists, and creationists claim it says about a worldwide flood.
From the reading of the Genesis account of the Flood in the English translation it would seem that it was worldwide in scope if we take the passages involved strictly literally. Various passages tell us that life was to be destroyed from the face of the "earth" (Genesis 7:12), the waters were on the face of the whole "earth" (Genesis 8:9), etc.
When these passages were written it would be hard to believe they were made with the understanding of a global planet. We have to recall that it was not much more than 500 years ago that people believed the "earth" was flat. The word "earth" used in these passages of Genesis is the Hebrew word "erets" (Strong's O.T.#776). Erets does not actually carry any connotation of a global, spherical planet in its translation. While it has been translated as "earth" many times, it is also translated "country" 140 times, "land" 1,476 times, and "ground" 96 times in the Old Testament. In the various references to erets it can be shown it is most often used to infer a limited land area rather than the entire planet.
The people living at the time of Moses had no concept of our global planet as we do today. The earth or erets to them would have been the extent of the geographical land area that they knew existed. It thus would not mean the planet, and to apply this literal meaning throughout the Bible causes some real and obvious problems.
For example, when Cain was cursed by God, he was driven "from the face of the earth" (Genesis 4:14). Yet it is clear that he remained "in the earth" as a fugitive. Cain was driven out of a limited land area, not from the planet.
After God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah one of Lot's daughters stated,
She could not have meant that there were no men anywhere on planet earth for we know that there obviously were. Rather, she was saying that "there is not a man in erets" or in the land area they were in (the area of Sodom) for they were all destroyed there.
A woodcut of Noah and his Ark dating from 1493
When God had told Abraham,
"Get thee out of thy country (erets) ... unto a land (erets) that I will show thee" - (Genesis 12:1),
He did not mean for Abraham to leave the earth and go to another earth or planet. The word erets was referring to a limited land area just as it was in Genesis 7:10 - "the waters of the flood were upon the erets" or upon the land.
Creationists have arrogantly quoted Genesis 8:9 ("for the waters were on the face of the whole earth") and stated that it obviously means a global flood. As the creationist Dr. Morris states:
It almost seems frivolous to try to show that the Bible teaches a worldwide Flood. This fact is obvious in the mere reading of Genesis 6:9 and one who does not see it there will hardly be influenced by other reasoning. - (Henry M. Morris, Scientific Creationism, (1974) p.252)
Perhaps the most common error made in understanding the Scriptures is allowing inconsistencies to exist in the underlying principles it teaches. Creationists are no exception to this problem and such statements as that above clearly reveal their lack of Biblical study and understanding. Their aim is to support tradition over Scripture. In doing so, they allow a misinterpretation of a verse to contradict other verses.
In the Bible the word erets rarely means the planet earth. For instance, during the plagues upon Egypt we read that "the rain was not poured upon the earth [erets]" - (Exodus9:33). Everyone understands erets here to mean only a local land area-the land of Egypt.Why, then, in reading in Genesis that "the waters of the flood were upon the earth [erets]"or that "the rain was upon the earth [erets]" - (Genesis 7:10,12) should we assume the whole planet is meant? The rain that fell on the earth at the time of the Flood was also confined to a local land area.
In Exodus 10, verses 5 through 15, we read of a plague of locusts in Egypt:
5 "And they' shall cover the face of the earth [erets], that one cannot be able to see the earth [erets]".
15 "For they covered the face of the whole earth [erets] ... through all the land [erets] of Egypt".
Again it should be evident that this locust plague covered only the limited land of Egypt, as shown in verse 15, and also in verse 14 which states "the locusts went up over all the land (erets) of Egypt." Why, then, should any insist that when it says the flood waters "were on the face of the whole earth (erets)" in Genesis 8:9, it must mean the waters were of a worldwide scale? It is the same wording used in both cases and interpreting erets to mean a limited land area maintains consistency in such verses.
Atthe time when Joseph was in Egypt there existed a "famine over all the face of the earth [erets]" - (Genesis 41:56).Was there a famine in Greenland, in the tropics of Africa and South America, in Antarctica, in the Hawaiian Islands? There is no evidence of a global famine at this period of time. However, there was a famine in all the lands that had contact with Egypt at that time. Because of the famine the Bible states "all countries [erets] came to Egypt to buy corn" - (Genesis 41:57). Certainly the Eskimos and Polynesians never came to Egypt.
Erets is often used in the plural in many instances (Genesis 10:5, Leviticus 26:36, Ezra 9:7, 2 Kings 19:11). If erets meant the planet earth, then all planets suffered from the famine and came to Egypt to buy corn! To have erets mean the planet earth makes the entire context an absurdity! The plurality has a limited rather than universal meaning.
Likewise, when we read about "all the hills" being covered or "all flesh" destroyed, it is referring to "all" that existed in the "whole" land or erets where the Flood was, not all that were on the planet earth. When God spoke of destroying "all flesh," He said he "will destroy them with the earth" - (Genesis 6:13). The planet earth was not destroyed nor were all flesh on the planet, only that flesh and land (erets) where Noah lived was destroyed. The words "all," "whole" and "every" are - not to be taken in a universal context. If they are then it can be said that all the hills on all the other planets were flooded.
After the Israelites had been delivered from Egypt and settled in Canaan, they were described in Scripture as "a people ... which covereth the face of the earth (erets]" - (Numbers 22:5, 11). Not even creationists could say that Israelites covered every square foot of the earth's surface both land and sea. Yet the Bible says so! Does it not? The Israelites did not cover the planet only the expanse of land, or erets, where they were then dwelling.
When such events were originally written, whether it be of the Flood or the locust plague in Egypt, the land area they transpired in was the centre of attention and encompassed the total scope of intent and field of understanding. In this context a local affair or event can appear to have a universal meaning. Once this is understood, the entire account of the Genesis Flood, as well as these other events mentioned, make sense and become very credible and in line with history and science.
Jeremiah once spoke of a flood overflowing the erets, and though he used "flood" to figuratively describe an invading army, it provides an interesting comparison:
"Thus says the LORD; Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land (erets], and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein; then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land (erets) shall howl" - (Jeremiah 47:1-2).
If the word "erets" in this passage were translated "earth" as it was in Genesis 7, it would sound like a universal flood. It thus could read - "an overflowing flood shall overflow the earth ... and all the inhabitants of the earth."
This sounds worldwide in scope but we know it was a flood covering only the land (erets) of the Philistines!
We find many instances in the Bible where it speaks of "the earth," or "the face of the earth" in which it clearly refers to a limited land area or country. When we thus read the Genesis account of the Flood, the erets should be read as "land" as a more meaningful and correct expression- "And the flood was forty days upon the land" - (Genesis 7:17), "And the water prevailed exceedingly upon the land" - (Genesis 7:19), etc. The waters of the Flood prevailed upon the "land" in which Noah lived and not the entire planet.
3. INFALLIBLE vs LITERAL
As with all cases involving an error in thinking or erroneous conclusion, there is a basic flaw in the premise of those who believe the Bible tells of a flood that covered the entire planet. That faulty premise was revealed in one of the first in-depth books written in support of the worldwide flood concept. The book was called "The Genesis Flood, " written by John C. Whitecomb and Henry M.Morris in 1961.(Published by The Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co.) In the first sentence of the first chapter the writers state the following:
In harmony with our conviction that the Bible is the infallibleWord of God,verbally inspired in the original autographs, we begin our investigation of the geographical extent of the Flood with seven arguments in favourof its universality.
Since the Bible is regarded as "infallible" creationists believe it must be read in a literal context, or "taken at face value," as some say.(Charles Taylor, The Oldest Science Book in the World, 1984, p.103) This is done out of a misguided reverence for the Bible. The fact that the Word of God, is "infallible" does not mean that every line and every word is to be read literally or at "face value." In fact, it is clear from the Bible itself that this manner of interpretation was never intended in all cases. The sayings and parables of Christ should be sufficient evidence that all Divine words are not to be literally construed. The words Christ used in these parables, such as sower, fowls, field, thoms, fruit, seed, tares, wheat, harvest, leaven, woman, treasure, furnace, earth, fig trees, fire, water and other words were never intended to be taken literally. To take these words literally, in their common usage, or at face value, would lead to a very confusing and inaccurate interpretation of what was meant. The same can be said about the many symbolic words found in Genesis, Daniel, Revelations, and in many prophecies. Yet are these not part of the "infallible" Word of God?"
Those who lean on the "infallible" aspect of the Word of God as justification for their "literal" or "face value" interpretation, also fail to take into account the human element of the book called the "Bible." The Bible has undergone dozens of copies from one original to another, not to mention several translation changes from one language to another. Was the revelation of God's truth preserved exactly as originally given in today's Bible? Only those whose minds are possessed with a radical and phoney piety would believe so. One error for example is in 2 Samuel 8:13-14, "where aram (Syrian) is doubtless the error of a copyist who misread daleth (d) as resh (r)." (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, Edited by Henry S. Gehman, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1970, pp.240-41. ) 'Syrian' in verse 13 should be read as 'Edom' as it is in verse 14. There are dozens of other such errors in the Bible, but how can this possibly be if it is the "infallible word of God?"
What we have are copies, versions, and translations of the original words from God.Translations and copies of the Bible by men are not infallible. The Bible does contain poor or even wrong translations, some were by accident while some were intentional. Can these mistranslations be read at "face value" or be taken "literally?" Todo so may render an understanding which may be in conflict with science, history, or the Bible itself.
The infallibility of the Bible rests on God assuring His word will be fulfilled rather than on human belief or works. Anything that depends upon man, including translations and interpretations of God's word, are not going to be infallible.The Bible thus is not actually "the word of God," rather it is a translation or version or copy of the word of God given to various messengers throughout many centuries. The super pious, who mindlessly read the Bible literally, act as though God Himself actually wrote and printed the Bible they hold. This is a pitfall that so many have blindly fallen into.
To support their perspective of what the Bible is, the creationist and fundamentalist will fabricate and distort history and science so it will conform with their personal belief or "conviction" of what the Bible says. Everything must give way to the literal meaning or face value context of the words they read in the Bible. This is the foundation of the false notion that the Flood is universal as well as many other false biblical doctrines of the literalists. Science, history and the Bible have been distorted to support a misinterpretation of certain verses in the Bible.
That the universal flood concept is a misinterpretation and distortion of Scripture, let us further analyze the position of the creationists regarding physical evidence
4 THE CREATIONIST'S STORY
Creationists have established a theory of catastrophism, which attempts to explain the geological features and events by way of a worldwide, cataclysmic flood. Under this concept, earth history is dominated by catastrophism. The Flood, which covered the entire globe with water, had extinguished all life forms that were not saved within the Ark.Consequently, the fossils that exist are the remains of organisms that perished in the Flood. Their arrangement in the geological column has nothing to do with time since they were deposited at essentially the same period. Rather their arrangement is due to the altitude they were living at prior to their death when trapped by the flood waters, and also to mechanical sorting; as one creationist states:
The creation model, on the other hand, can interpret the [geological] column in terms of essentially continuous deposition [of fossils], all accomplished in a relatively short time - not instantaneously, of course, but over a period of months or years, rather than millions of years (Morris, Scientific Creationism, (1 974) p. 111, 112).
Creationists accordingly have developed their own scientific version of earth history, basing it on what they call "flood geology." By this premise, most if not all of the geological events and surface features of the earth were a result of the aftermath of Noah's Flood.
All of these phenomena of what we have called residual catastrophism - mountain-building, glaciation, pluviation, volcanism, and possibly continental drift, along with others that might be discussed if necessary - represent the dying phases of the great Flood (Morris,op. cit.,p. 128.)
Thus, all of the curious or previously unexplainable features of the earth can be explained by this flood. These include: mid-oceanic ridge, frozen mammoths, salt domes, coal formations, extinction of dinosaurs, the Grand Canyon, strata, continental shelves, etc.(Brown, In The Beginning, (Centrefor Scientific Creation) p. 15).
Creationists have thus created their own version of the geological column in which to explain geological events from the perspective of a global, cataclysmic flood. In doing so they have compressed the hundreds of millions of years of the earth's history into only a few months or a year.
Creationists are opposed to the concept known as uniformitarianism, or the principle of the uniformity of nature, which is frequently summed up in the familiar statement that the present is the key to the past. Creationists believe that natural and geological processes and events that now occur, such as radioactive decay and sedimentary formation, did not act at the same rate or in the same way in the past but have undergone change. They thus are not uniform processes.
Creationists instead believe in catastrophism, whereby all of the events and processes of the earth had either been formed rapidly or had undergone a sudden change in a relatively short period of time. That time period being the duration of the Flood of Genesis.
This concept then is what believers in a universal flood call their "creation model." In comparing this "model" to geological and other physical evidence there are some obvious problems and conflicts. We will thus examine evidence from various areas which will show that only a localized flood existed, and that the worldwide flood idea is as inconsistent with the historical and scientific evidence available as it is with the Biblical evidence.
5 GEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE
A flood is certainly a geological event resulting in changes in the surface of the earth. But a universal flood of the magnitude claimed by the literalists compels even the uninformed to question its validity. Floods or flooding have occurred in just about every portion of the earth at one time or another, and they continue to do so. Thus evidence of flooding in various localities around the earth is no evidence of a worldwide flood. If one were to search the rock formations or dig deep enough in any given part of the earth, chances are we would find evidence of flooding that had occurred at some time. Much of the geological evidence, such as the dating of rocks and strata of the earth, is opposed by creationists for the reason that it annihilates their interpretation of Scripture. (For more information on the antiquity of the earth see: Christianity & The Age Of The Earth, by Davis A.Young) Geological evidence exists that glaciation has occurred for millions of years on the earth. The last Great Ice Age started one million years ago and ended.about 25,000 years ago.
The formation of mountains began about 1,200 to 2,000 million years ago primarily from great volcanic activity such as in southern Canada. The Appalachians were formed 275 million years ago and the Sierras, Rockies, and Himalayas about 28 million years ago. The last significant uplift of high mountains occurred 11 million years ago. The major earth-shaping forces responsible for the current topography of the earth have been going on for hundreds of millions of years. If this is to be denied, evidence to the contrary must be offered. The creationists offer a worldwide flood as an explanation, saying "the mountains were formed as the flood waters receded." (Walter T. Brown, In The Beginning, 4th ed., 1986, p. 59. Floods do not form mountains, but rather erode them away.) According to the Bible, the mountains clearly existed before the Flood, since the waters of the Flood are said to have covered them (Genesis 7:20).
The nature of the formation of sedimentary deposits should be sufficient evidence to show that the concept of catastrophism as devised by creationists is false. If we look at a core sample where sediments form, we see that the thickness of the layers are thinner at the bottom than they are at the top surface. This is because the muddy particles became more closely packed under the pressure of the layers accumulating above them. Each new deposit of mud, sediments, etc., will compress differently depending on the composition of the layer,. the amount of water it contains, the quantity of material deposited, and the duration of time before another layer is deposited upon it. This is atypical of deposits from a single flood.
Usually we see various types of rock and fossiliferous strata where each geological division has its own minerals, rock, or species not found below or above. This also is quite contrary to the hypothesis of the creationists, who argue that all fossils are remains of organisms that all lived at the same time. We also find other sedimentary layers that are not characteristic of flood-type deposits, such as volcanic lava and ash. Other strata were formed due to different kinds of environments and climates, such as deposits formed in desert, glacial, tropical, reef, lake, evaporate and other environments.( Davis A. Young, Christianity and the Age of the Earth, 1982, p. 91) Several different kinds of environments could not exist at a time when the whole world was covered by flood waters. The sedimentary deposits formed in such environments would have required considerable amounts of time for each to develop. Tens of thousands of years often separate such environments. If all sediments were deposited by a single worldwide flood, there would be but one thick sedimentary layer, not dozens or hundreds as we find throughout the earth. Any flood examined today may lay down a sedimentary deposit, even one containing different debris, but never multiple layers unless another flood occurs afterwards.
By evidence of depositing rates and dating of fossils at different depths, a sedimentary core sample two feet deep can represent 2,000 to 3,000 years of accumulation. How many years then are represented by the 6,000 feet of sedimentary rocks forming the Grand Canyon? Quite obviously millions of years.(The sedimentary strata of the Grand Canyon represents just a fraction of the total thickness of sedimentary rock.) But creationists assert this massive sedimentary formation was created nearly instantaneously, pointing to the Flood as the cause.
The numerous sedimentary deposits are not characteristic of one general flood. All scientific studies and researches on this matter verify this:
Flood theory then, as now, held that all sedimentary rocks had been violently deposited as sea mud and gravel ... Present topography plainly contradicts these quaint ideas, for most of the vast plains and plateaus of the world are built not of sea muds but of river deposits, and they are totally incompatible with the concept of the existence of a universal ocean a few thousand years ago. The creationists would have the entire sedimentary blanket of the earth's crust deposited in the forty days and forty nights of rain of Noah's Flood. It takes long periods of time for the weathering of rocks to produce enough soil to form thick layers of sediment, or for millionsof generations of marine animals and plants to live and die to produce accumulations of limestone tens or hundreds of meters thick. (Norman D. Newell, Creation and Evolution: Myth or Reality? Columbia Univ. Press, N.Y.-I982, pp. 39, 45.)
To avoid the restraints of science creationists disallow current observable evidence, measurements and data to be used in a decision regarding geological features. They reject it by saying all that we see today is the result of the Flood's cataclysmic effect rather than regular and natural processes. It is not only a cop out but a very unscientific theory - yet they call it "scientific creationism! "
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