Genesis Flood- Universal?

Hi all! I’m new to this, so I have a few questions. I’m currently struggling a great deal with reconciling certain things related to the Bible and science. Some here say that the flood wasn’t universal, but I don’t think this is a tenable option. It says within the text that God said that he blotted man , not just humans in one area , from the earth. The problem is , historical context after the flood points to it being 3,000 years ago give or take. But there’s absolutely no way one can get the current population from 4 people 3,000 years ago. If God knew there were other humans on the earth that survived, why did he say he blotted man from the earth instead of all the people in one area? This is very difficult for me to work through, and I’m sorry if I offend anyone with my weak faith. I truly do want to have a relationship with Christ but this makes it very difficult. I don’t want to keep feeling lost. Thank you :slight_smile:

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Hi, Andrew, and welcome to the forum! You are definitely not offending by your questions – this is part of why we are here, because many others here have had similar questions and topics to wrestle through, and many are still wrestling.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is one BioLogos take on the flood story:

It’s good to keep in mind that the word that’s often used for “earth” in the flood story can also be translated as “land,” which makes the story look a lot more regional than global. While Genesis is the story of God creating the actual globe and all people, it is also specifically the history of the Jewish people, and so I don’t think it’s too surprising that in some of the stories there would be people elsewhere that are simply not the focus because they are not primarily who the story is about.

So I do believe that humans were wiped from the face of the land, but as the original writers would not have seen the world as a globe, I’m not sure it makes sense to assume that that’s what they meant by “earth.”

I hope that makes sense, but feel free to ask more questions, and I wish you the best as you work to see harmony with the Bible and science. God is bigger than any of our questions, and ultimately it is Jesus that the Christian faith rests upon, not how big the flood was.


Welcome to our little part of the internet.

I think you nail the problem on the head. If science says that there was no global flood that destroyed all life a few thousands years ago (and there is no evidence there was) and you believe the Bible is an authoritative source of truth, then you either have to say science is just wrong, or you have to refine your understanding of the biblical narrative. I think adjusting an interpretation of the biblical narrative is far more scientifically and theologically acceptable than just insisting science is basically wrong about everything or that God put very deceptive evidence into the earth to test our faith or something, Lots of people have put time into studying this issue and there is lots of information out there. Happy researching!

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Your not alone in the issue @xiiiandreww. Many of us have struggled with this issue and many of us have come to different avenues of dealing with it but I feel we all make the same connection: Humanity sinned and offended God, the Lord Yahweh judged wicked humanity with a flood (whether literal or literary is up to debate. I take it as a historical but local-regional flood) and Noah and his family were righteous in God’s sight and were saved. It gives us an allusion for what is the come in the last days when Christ returns as Jesus states in Matt.24:37-39

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving into marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will be the coming of the Son of Man be.

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Hi Laura! I totally agree that he needed to have the Jewish people understand the narrative before anyone else since it was to them specifically which makes sense. I can understand why the usage of the word earth may cause some to feel tripped up a bit, as we usually assume it means the entire earth but it can be used to indicate land as well. Thanks a lot for your help!

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Hi Christy, I totally agree with you that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for a global flood around 4,000 years ago, and that the universe is 13 billion years old. I think that is totally compatible with Genesis. My only confusion stems from the chronology. I’m not sure how God spoke to Moses when writing Genesis, but the fact that he says he wiped out man ( meaning mankind in its entirety ) with the flood while there is also historical context of merely 2,000-3,000 years ago makes me a bit uneasy. Much work has been done here on biologos to address these issues and I applaud the theologians and scientists here for their commitment and hard work. I have faith that these issues will be resolved in the future. Thanks again!

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Then you need to think about why you are dating the flood to that time period. You can’t use the genealogies for this purpose as they meant something else to the people for which Genesis was written. Don’t assume your experiences with genealogy is the same as theirs.

So the question is… what defines humanity? Is it merely a biological species? If so then I don’t see a significant difference from any of the other animals, primates in particular.

The one difference between man and animals which has survived scientific investigation is language – a fully abstract capable information conveyance to rival and even surpass that of DNA. All the other differences have been disproved, such as communication, tool use, morality (i.e. conscience), for other animals have been shown to have these things. We had some hope for a while that some of the cetaceans had language but this hasn’t panned out. What they have is pretty amazing - a means to send sonar information to others, and other basics of communication to be sure. But the evidence just isn’t supporting the idea that they actually have language or even intelligence to rival humans as was once thought.

But if language is the essential difference then it also raises the possibility that it is not genes which makes us humans but memes. And if so, that means the spread of humanity wouldn’t be found in a genetic ancestry but in the sharing of important ideas. This also agrees with some other uses of the qualifier “human” when we suggest that certain people by what they have done show that they are not human at all.

This has a significant impact on Biblical understanding also. It means there could be a first man and first woman even though homo sapiens are everywhere as incidentally indicated by Genesis 4:14. It also means that a flood could wipe out the first human civilization to a single family without reducing the genetic pool of the species to a number which science refutes quite conclusively.

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Nobody assumed their genealogy experience was the same as theirs. All I was saying was that a flood 3,000 years ago or so ( I base this off of the fact that the narrative involving Noah’s sons includes the building of a city called Nineveh , which dates back to a few thousand years ago instead of fifty thousand ) could not wipe out all of humanity.

You raise some very good points about what was meant when God said man, I definitely should have considered that. Thank you!

Nineveh was settled as early as 8000 years ago. It was abandoned around 600 BC, which was 2600 years ago. It was a flourishing city for 7000 years. A longer time span than we are removed from the beginning of known history. Considering that known history runs from about 2000 BC to 2000 AD which is only 4000 years. There may have been local floods 4000 years ago, but not the Flood of Noah. Putting human DNA back several hundred million years is the issue. Thousands of human civilizations would have come and gone, unless human life spans were totally different and humans lived for tens of thousands of years before they got tired of living.

The earliest settlement in Nineveh dates back to 6,000 BC. To date the flood you are assuming the genealogy of Genesis 10 is the same as a modern day genealogy. ANE genealogy is not the same and shouldn’t be used to date things in the Bible.

I’m currently reading Walton’s The Lost World of The Flood which speaks directly to these issues. It’s quite interesting.


1 Kings 10:24 says that the whole earth came to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Does that mean they sought him from China, Australasia, ancient South America?

Daniel 2:37-38 says that God had given people and animals “wherever they dwell” into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar to rule over. Same questions as above.

In the NT, Colossians 1:23 says that in the first century the gospel had already been proclaimed in “all creation under heaven.” Had the gospel already been preached to Greenland Eskimos? Aztecs? Navajos?

In all these cases, a certain area of human activity is designated as the entirety of the world for a spiritual purpose.

I think the deluge story of Genesis takes the experience of a Mesopotamian family in surviving a particularly devestating flood and uses it to comment on God’s justice and mercy, on the cosmic alienation that hits home for us with every natural cataclysm, and on the seriousness of our moral situation in light of our mortality and the transient nature of the present world. It also makes a point about the common heritage of the human family–which forms the backdrop for the strange working of God in revealing himself in a personal way to a specific historical people.