Mathematically speaking… this seems to be the only option left to you… if your position is, a priori, the only one worth having.
No humans were harmed in the telling of the story of the global flood.
The flood is a story. Nobody actually died. In a story anything can happen.
You appear to be making a distinction without a difference. What you appear to be saying is:
Before the flood God demanded an accounting and after the flood God demanded an accounting.
So what is the difference exactly?
It is pretty clear to me that God expected accountability starting with Adam. After all was Adam accountable for the sin he committed? BTW accountability would apply to more than just murder.
The difference is that before the flood only a part of creatures with human body were accountable for their deeds, and after the flood all creatures with human body were accountable for their deeds.
Except the “only a part” is the assumption you are making to get your theory to work out. There is nothing in Scripture that says this.
Basically right George!
After the first transgression in history humans are bounded in Need of Redemption or “state of Original Sin” not only because of their own personal transgressions but also because “Adam’s sin became our sin” (@Kathryn_Applegate, article).
Additionally, all these three models fit with the available scientific data.
In my view this is an important result of this Blog and it may be worth comparing more in detail the three models in coming posts to ascertain where they deviate from each other, and whether or not such differences are relevant for the faith in Redemption by Jesus Christ.
In Genesis 4:15 we read:
Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me. But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
In Genesis 9:5-6 we read:
And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.
The crucial statement “And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being” appears after the Flood for the first time.
This means that:
The genetic descendants of the first Image Bearers (“Adam and Eve”) were always accountable for killing other humans, as the episode of Cain and Abel clearly shows.
By contrast, before the Flood creatures with human body existed (“outside the Garden”) that were neither genealogical descendants from “Adam and Eve” nor accountable for killing each other. These creatures were not yet aware of the commandment “you shall not shed human blood”, so that in order to protect Cain God used “a mark” as “scarer”.
This interpretation is further clearly supported by Scripture and Science together:
On the one hand Scripture (1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 2:5) clearly says that God brought the Flood on the sinners and protected Noah and seven others.
On the other hand the human population at this time can be estimated in several millions.
This implies that at the beginning of the Flood millions of human beings existed on earth that were neither sinners nor righteous, and this can only mean that they were not accountable for their deeds.
So interpreting Scripture with Scripture and taking into account the available scientific data, one has to conclude that at the time of the Flood only a part of creatures with human body was accountable.
To escape this conclusion one could be tempted to object:
But to such an objection I would dare to reply with your own words:
So this makes it ok for God to destroy millions of humans? People that were not accountable.
Actually the record of the flood in the Bible tells you it is just a story meant to convey a meaning.
The statement that “humans are created in the Image of God” is one of the most profound teachings of the Bible and like a summary of all the Christian Theology. Its meaning is unfathomable.
One meaning (among many other) is certainly that “our physical body is the Image of God”. Thereby Genesis 1:27 founds what one could call a “Theology of the body”.
The reason is that Jesus Christ who is the genuine Image of the visible God shares a body, and so Jesus Christ’s body is God’s body. Genesis 1:27 proclaims that the human body is the body God prepares for His Son (Hebrews 10:5, Psalm 40:6).
An important consequence of Genesis 1:27 is that after this proclamation any creature sharing a human body bears God’s image. This is crucial for assigning rights: The basic observable piece proving your personal identity and allowing you to claim for your rights is your human body.
Image Bearing is certainly “a physical condition”, although it is more than this.
I fully agree.
Image Bearing is also a vocation to relationship with God. God’s call happens at the moment He bestows a human being with capability of freely loving God, which includes the risk of rejecting Him and accountability for this.
The first humans received this vocation at the moment God created them in His Image: “Adam and Eve” were created in state of Original Grace and aware of their accountability for transgressing God’s law. This is the meaning of Genesis 2:16-17 and 3.
After their sin they lost Original Grace and became in Need of Redemption. Their genealogical offspring was created also accountable for their deeds but in state of Need of Redemption (“Adam’s sin became our sin” @Kathryn_Applegate). These people (with exception of Noah and his family) became the sinners who lived in Noah’s region and perished in the Flood because of their own personal transgressions.
Before the Flood millions of creatures with human body existed in other regions (“outside the garden”), spread all over the earth, which were neither genealogical descendants of “Adam and Eve” nor accountable for their deeds. Since they could not be guilty of sin, they remained unaffected by the Flood. At the end of this event God made these creatures “able to freely choose Him” and accountable for transgressing His law, especially “for the life of another human being” (Genesis 9:5-6).
However in my view “rationality” and “spirituality” are features that are not exclusive of humans but can be considered present in many natural phenomena. What is specific of humans is the call to freely love God and the accountability for rejecting Him.
I fully agree.
What is more, as I have said in another post, both Karl Barth and Pope John Paul II have interpreted Genesis 1: 27 and 2:24 in the sense that marriage as a communion of persons is an Image of God’s Trinitarian life. And the teaching of Jesus Christ himself about the Sanctity of Marriage (Matthew 19:3-6 and Mark 10:2-9) supports this interpretation.
These “millions of humans” were not accountable, as you very well state.
Therefore (with @Jonathan_Burke‘s words) they were “not responsible to judgment”.
And consequently God didn’t destroy them in the Flood.
The Flood destroyed some hundreds of thousands sinners who despised the opportunity God gave them to atone. These were people living in Noah’s region (the antediluvian Sumer’s cities, as I conjecture), who had corrupted their ways and perpetrate plenty of violence (Genesis 6: 11-12).
For the sake of Redemption and as a warning for future sinners God couldn’t help making it clear that He lets the sinners on earth to give them time to atone. This is the meaning of the Flood.
But to avoid destroying millions of humans God wisely and mercifully waited till the End of the Flood to make all creatures with human body living in the rest of the world responsible for their deeds. God’s mercy is the very reason why He created Humanity in two steps: the first referred to in Genesis 1:27 and the second in Genesis 9:6.
Noah and his Flood is not less real History than Adam and his Sin.
Undoubtedly the record of the flood in the Bible is meant to convey a meaning. It is the meaning Jesus Christ and his Apostle Peter stress in the context of their teaching about the End Times: We sinners are on earth because God wants us to reach His Glory and so gives us time to atone. We should remind this “meaning” every time we see the Rainbow in the raining clouds.
Including children and even unborn babies? Or do the sins of the father get visited on their children?
That may well be the meaning of the story but did anyone have to actually die to create that meaning? It is just a story after all.
There is no evidence that the story of Adam might not be real. There is abundant evidence that the story, as recorded, of the Flood is NOT real. So you have to come up with rescue devices to try to get around this and keep the idea that the Flood was real. Not so with Adam so the comparison fails.
To answer fittingly I would be thankful if you could refer to some of this “abundant evidence”.
As recorded it was a global flood. Animals were kept alive in an enclosed boat for a year. A boat that wouldn’t survive in the water for a year if at all. Despite the fact that large numbers of animals and plants were not put on board everything came back in an extremely rapid manner. What did the animals and people eat while waiting for plants to grow. Wheat doesn’t mature in a few days. Etc. etc. Any time you have to come up with multiple rescuing devices that tells me it is just a story.
“Image” means something visible to humans. Therefore the genuine Image of God is Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15), who is the Incarnate Son of God and shares a visibly specific physical body. Thus it is fitting to say that Jesus Christ’s body defines Humanity as community of Image Bearers.
It is the same to say that “God makes humankind in His Image” as to say that God defines the kind of body He prepares for his Son. For the sake of assigning rights, since the very moment M God makes humankind in his Image (Genesis 1:27; 5:1-2) any creature sharing a specific human body has to be considered bearing Image.
I dare to insist once again that it is impossible to define the beginning of Humanity as the beginning of the biological species Homo sapiens because it is biologically impossible to establish when the species Homo sapiens or any other species begins with anything other than arbitrary criteria.
You address here a subtle question. My view is as follows:
Any creature who is accountable is an Image Bearer.
There is a time T in History (the End of the Flood, as referred to in Genesis 9:6) such that after T any creature with human body is both Image Bearer and accountable.
After moment M and before time T there have been creatures with human body (and in this sense bearing Image) but without accountability. This is the case of millions living outside Noah’s region at the time of the Flood.
The “delay in linking ‘image bearing’ and ‘accountability’” in the preceding Point 3 can be justified as follows:
To “fill the places in the banquet of the Kingdom of Heaven” (the aim of Creation and Redemption) God could very well have decided removing sinners from earth and let here only righteous people. However He decided otherwise: In His mercy God lets sinners on earth in order they have time to atone and reach Salvation. Apparently the “antediluvian” sinners preferred to live ignoring this and behaved as if God were obliged to accept their corrupted ways. In his omniscience God foresaw this possibility, and couldn’t help correcting this wicked mentality for the sake of Redemption by means of the Flood: This is what Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter stress in the context of their teaching about the End Times. And to avoid destroying millions of human beings God did not establish at moment M that all creatures bearing a human body are accountable for their deeds, but delayed this decision till time T.
This objection is not specific for the Flood but refers to the “theodicy problem”. You could raise it with even more “reason” referring to many natural catastrophes like for instance the Lisbon Earthquake of 1 November 1755. The quake with subsequent Tsunami killed thousands of people gathered in churches for attending Mass the holy day of All Saints’ Day. If you wish we can discuss this question in separate posts.
According to my explanation the sins of the father do NOT “get visited” on their children.
Only the first sin in human history produces a state of Need of Redemption that is transmitted to other human beings in the way I have described in previous posts.
Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter in their teaching about the End Times stress unambiguously that all sinners living on earth at Noah’s time did actually die in the Flood.
This supports the claim that the Flood was a “real event in history” and not “just a story after all”.
The “story of Adam” and his sin contains many allegoric elements: God forming Adam “from the dust of the ground” and “breathing into his nostrils the breath of life”; the creation of Eve from Adam’s ribs, the tree of knowledge and his fruits, the serpent, etc. But these do not speak against considering Adam “a real historic person” and his Sin a “real historic transgression”, as you rightly suggest.
In doing so we keep to the crucial Principle of Christian faith that one has to explain the origins of humanity on the basis of Incarnation and Redemption, and not Incarnation and Redemption on the basis of “Adam and Eve”.
Similarly, you can consider the ark, the animals in the ark, “the large numbers of animals and plants that were not put on board…” etc. as an allegoric way for referring to creatures and plants existing in spaces that were not affected by the Flood, that is, almost the whole planet surface outside Noah’s region (Sumer, as I speculate). But this is compatible with considering Noah and his family real historic persons and the Flood a real historic, miraculous event that actually destroyed and “dissolved” hundreds of thousands of sinners, i.e.: all sinners living on earth at this time, as Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter stress.
First problem with the story is the flood wasn’t truly global.
OK, let’s make it a regional flood.
Now there is no need for an ark and the animals so that part of the story can go.
What you are left with is Noah and his family survive a regional flood. How we aren’t told. Perhaps they were told to seek higher ground.
Now once you get to the core of the story, when Jesus says “all sinners” in reference to the story he is just referring to the sinners in that region, not the entire world. The death of the innocents is just another example of natural evil which can be addressed in the usual fashion.
I should have said “an overly embellished story of a possibly real event.” Once you start peeling off the layers of embellishment it gets hard to determine when you have actually reached the historic truth in the story, if it in fact actually has one. I don’t think the ANE writers were actually concerned with recording what we would call historic truth (facts, figures, names, places, dates, etc). They would be quite comfortable with a totally fabricated story, or myth if you will, as long as it expressed the meaning that they saw in history.
When Jesus says “all sinners” in reference to the Flood event, he is just referring to both, “the sinners in that region” and “in the entire world”.
The reason is that (according to my explanation) at the beginning of the Flood outside Noah’s region all creatures with human body (an in this sense image bearing) were not yet accountable for their deeds, and therefore no sinners. They became endowed with sense of law and accountability at the End of the Flood, at the time T referred to in Genesis 9:6.
This would be a possibility if there was such a real regional flood capable of destroying hundreds of thousands of people. Nonetheless, the evidence available to date for flooding in ANE does not support such a hypothesis.
Thus, for the time being, the best explanation seems to be that Noah, his family, and the destroyed sinners experienced a real miraculous Flood that left no trace in the ordinary world other than the lack of several hundred thousand people.
According to this explanation the account of Noah and his family ant the end of the Flood about their miraculous experience would be the origin for both: The monotheistic tradition kept by Abraham and Israel till the Genesis version written in Babylonian Exile, and the polytheistic Mesopotamian flood myths.
As Jay very well comments in another thread:
The strong faithfulness to the “covenant” prevailing in Israel all over History could not be explained if God’s covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:1-17) were not a real historic fact.
I think we can agree in that two explanations are possible:
Your explanation as “an overly embellished story of a possibly real event”, as far as such a real event could be coherently documented.
My explanation as a miraculous event, which dissolved all sinners on earth (what means the same as all sinners in Noah’s region) and didn’t leave other traces in the ordinary world.
Explanation 2 would obviously be preferred if one thinks that Jesus’ and Peter’s teaching refer to a real historic Flood, the same way as one interprets that “Adam was a real Person in History” (as @Kathryn_Applegate and myself do).
This is a very good point.
According to my explanation Adam (around 3500 BC) and all his genetic descendants till Noah (3200 BC give or take) are themselves representatives of ANE with writing capability.
Here I would like to quote your comment in another thread:
If the Flood was a miracle then one should not expect “any archaeological evidence” for “population replacement” in Sumer. The episodes of the sons of God (Genesis 6:2-4) proves that creatures with human body outside Sumer adapted well and immediately to the population in Sumer, as soon as they became accountable.
By contrast if one accepts that at the end of the Flood millions of creatures with human body all over the world became endowed by God with sense of law and awareness of accountability (as referred to in Genesis 9:5-6) one should expect emergence of writing and sudden explosion of civilization in the whole planet after this time. Magnificent evidence of this is the British Museum in London. By the way, it is also in this museum where we have to search for “Adam and Eve”, and not in the Natural History museums!
How about a real regional flood that only destroyed a thousand or hundreds of people? Once you back off of “the whole world” how low do you go? It could well be a regional flood that was so small it didn’t leave a trace.
You say this.
And then you say this.
So which is it? The flood isn’t real (no evidence for it) or it is simply miraculous (God erased all traces)? And if you are going to invoke the miraculous why stop at a small regional flood? If you can’t tell I have a real problem with the God erasing the evidence explanation.
Edit to add an additional thought. Your theory requires all of the image bearers to be in Sumer right? But given the amount of time, if the Bible is correct on that, between Adam and Noah the population would have spread far and wide so you are back to a global flood unless you want to add “God built a wall that kept everyone in that area”.
My theory requires all of the accountable image bearers to be in Sumer.
Outside Sumer lived millions of creatures with human body (and in this sense image bearers) that were not accountable for their deeds.
According to Genesis 5 there are 10 generations between Adam and Noah. Therefore the population would not have spread that far and wide. Additionally the episode of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2-4 rather supports population flow into the opposite direction: Creatures coming from outside immigrated into Noah’s region (Sumer), became accountable image bearers, sinned against the sanctity of marriage, and their descendants perpetrated all kind of violence.
It is only after the Flood (Genesis 9:19; 10:32) and the episode of the Babel Tower (Genesis 11:8-9) that God scattered Noah’s descendants far and wide over the whole earth.
If one sets the Flood between 3200-3000 BC one can estimate that the Sumer population was some hundred thousand people. These were all of the accountable image bearers living on earth at this time. And from these only eight were saved in the flood, according to Jesus and Peter’s teaching.
If I understand well you object to my explanation:
Since I invoke a miracle with God erasing all traces, I could as well assume that the “miraculous flood” killed 14 million human creatures in the whole earth instead of only some hundred thousand people in Sumer.
My answer: As previously said outside Sumer there were neither sinners nor righteous but only creatures that were not accountable for their deeds. Accordingly they were not affected by the Flood.
If you believe the record is accurate and didn’t miss a few generations here and there. And according to your theory there were millions of people outside the region which would only serve to increase the diffusion of the population to areas outside of Sumer. How many of those generations might have decided to travel to Egypt for instance. I think you need to add a miraculous wall around Sumer.
Edit to add: You also have the problem of those from outside populations moving into Sumer and not marrying so they are not accountable and shouldn’t have died in the regional flood.
But all of those stories are told as if there is no one else in the whole planet. That is what you get from a plain reading of the text.
Aren’t you the one that said there was no evidence for a flood in that time frame?
In this case you can say anything you want and it is covered. But if you really want to go with a flood with no traces then you have to explain why God would act in such a deceitful manner.