Is Genesis real history? (new Common Questions page)

(Antoine Suarez) #21

I agree. But Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:29, 37–39; Luke 17:26–29) and the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 2:5-6, 3:6) compare the theological points Genesis makes about the Flood to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and sulfur rained down from heaven, and to the events at the End Times like the darkening of the Sun and falling of stars.

This makes clear that they are interpreting the Flood as an extraordinary miraculous event.

And me too:

If I understand well you are stating this:

Jesus Christ accepts the tradition of the Hebrews and teaches that “what really happened” is “what Genesis says”.

In my view one should more accurately say:

Jesus Christ teaches that “what really happened” is what He states Genesis says.

So for instance Jesus doesn’t quote anything about the Tower of Babel, and hence we cannot pretend He teaches this episode “really happened”. The same holds regarding the “6 days of Genesis”.

By contrast in Matthew 19:4-6, and Mark 10:6-9 Jesus quotes Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to teach “what really happened” in the beginning, and thereby corrects “Moses interpretation” and “the literary tradition of the Hebrews”.

From this we should conclude that what Jesus Christ (God’s Word) quotes about Noah and the Flood is “what really happened”.

And by equating Noah’s Flood to what will happen in the End Times Jesus Christ shows He considers the Flood a similar extraordinary miraculous event.

I would be thankful to know your reasons for excluding “miracle” as an explanation of Noah’s Flood, if you endorse such exclusion.

I fully agree to all what you say here and dare to notice that I don’t see therein any argument which invalidates my explanation of the Flood as a miracle.

What is more, John Walton himself in the YouTube IP video where he explains the main message of his book states that in Genesis:

  • “the Flood narrative works as a Re-creation narrative, you have the same patterns as in the Creation narrative” (at time 3:38);

  • “from a literary standpoint of view they [the Flood verses] are reiterating Creation” (at time 4:00);

  • the basic element of creation is “establishing order”: “In the Flood narrative we have the idea that order has been disrupted by all the violence, and so God brings Non-Order as waters cover the land, and then order reemerges in the sense of a Re-creation act” (at time: 4:30-4:41).

All these quotations plainly reinforce Jesus Christ’s linkage of the historic Flood in the Ancient Times to His prophecy for the End Times cataclysm wherefrom the new Heaven and the new Earth will emerge. John Walton interpretation clearly strengthens the universal character of the event: From the Flood universal order reemerges.

Now on the basis of the data we have we can derive that there was no geographically worldwide cataclysm in the ordinary world we live in. Therefore, if Genesis 6-9 is a Recreation narrative this means that the event was miraculously worldwide and affected all living Image Bearers.

This is the argument of John Walton in the IP video-interview at time 20:48.

My point is that what is inspired is primarily Jesus Christ’s interpretation of the event.

And since according to this interpretation the event is a miracle, then the event itself is inspired as well.

By the way, you have the burden of giving geological evidence for a “catastrophic flood event in the Ancient Near East” that could be considered the “historical event” referred to by Genesis 6-9.

In the IP video-interview with John Walton it is claimed at time 21:14:

“a flood event happened several thousand years ago is probably the most likely historical event behind the Flood”.

I asked IP which specific event was here referred to and got this answer:

“It was an event around 5500 BC around the black sea. Check out the book, Noah’s Ark: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event that Changed History.”

The problems this explanation raises have already been discussed in other threads in this Forum. Here I would like only add:

The trouble with the “Black Sea Flood” is that it is an ORDINARY natural phenomenon. If you claim that the Genesis narrative is simply “Hyperbole” of a local “Black Sea” event, then you should also claim that Jesus prophecy for the End Times is “Hyperbole” and conclude that there will be neither such a worldwide End nor a general Judgement.

YECs try to explain Genesis 1-11 by “upgrading” ordinary natural events to extraordinary miraculous ones.

You try to explain Genesis 1-11 by “downgrading” extraordinary miraculous events to ordinary natural ones.

I think the explanation of the Flood as a miracle is worthy of being discussed more in depth, that is, acknowledging both ordinary natural phenomena and extraordinary miraculous ones as equal real events.

To my best knowledge this has not yet been done, and in particular is not mentioned in all the stuff you have collected for this thread. Nonetheless I will be happy if one proves me wrong with precise quotations.

Before finishing let me stress once again: If the event is a miracle it fits perfectly well within today’s quantum physics. Accordingly we don’t have to bother about any conflict with science.

(George Brooks) #22

@AntoineSuarez, Hey, that’s pretty good reasoning !!!

(George Brooks) #23


Again… nicely thought out!

And I thought the only thing you ever wrote was Patristic Apologia!!! Thanks for changing my mind!


When Jesus said the Queen of Sheba came “from the ends of the earth” is He teaching that there is an actual end of the earth?

Jesus and Peter were using the generally accepted stories of the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to make a point. In Matthew 24 Jesus was impressing on the Apostles the sudden and unexpected day of His return. Will stars actually fall to the earth? Who knows, the original readers certainly thought that it was possible and not result in the destruction of the planet.

(Jon Garvey) #25

I think the original readers would be more likely to see “stars falling from heaven” as an apocalyptic convention. The same metaphor, after all, occurs in the prohets about the Fall of Jerusalem. N T Wright is good on explaining this, specifically in relation to the glorification of Chrost.

(Antoine Suarez) #26

In the light of 2 Peter 2:4-22 and 3:1-13, I think that those who were listening to Jesus during the meetings reported in Matthew 24 and 25 got the impression He was referring to events in the End Times consisting in something more as stars falling to the earth like coconuts.

I apologize for repeating:

YECs try to explain Genesis 1-11 by “upgrading” ordinary natural phenomena to miracles, to the risk of mocking scientific knowledge based on observation.

You try to explain Genesis 1-11 and the NT by “downgrading” extraordinary miraculous events to “Hyperbole” of ordinary natural phenomena, to the risk of emptying Scripture and Christian faith of any extraordinary intervention of God.

My proposal is to keep to both: ordinary evolutionary phenomena and extraordinary miraculous ones.

And therefore I think it is worth exploring the option of Noah’s Flood as a “miracle”. This has been suggested by Jim Stump in this Essay, but has not been further developed afterward to my best knowledge.

The article at the origin of this thread had been a good opportunity to do it:

So I would like to suggest to @Kathryn_Applegate to complete the valuable work taking account of the “miracle” perspective.


We consider it a metaphor because we know it can’t happen. The original readers “knew” that it could happen but doesn’t in the normal course of events. The point being made is that extraordinary events will happen. Exactly what they are doesn’t matter. What matters is that when they happen, whatever they are, we will know this is time which God is speaking about. As an example the moon could be rotated 180 degrees so the dark side is facing us. That would be an extraordinary event, up to the time when we obtain the ability to do it ourselves. :grinning:

The listeners would consider many or all stars falling as an extraordinary event. A single “star” or a shower of stars (think meteor) would be considered normal. All that matters is that extraordinary events will happen.

(George Brooks) #28


Since the Ancients were familiar with the physics of asteroids much more than they were with the physics of stars, it is most likely that they thought a “falling star” would be something smaller than a house.

(Antoine Suarez) #29

Bill, you make here an interesting point:

Jesus Prophecy about the End Times sounds like if after the “extraordinary events” the earth will become unfit for the habitation of mankind, Humanity will reach the end of temporal existence and enter eternal life.

In physical terms such an event would probably be a bit more than a 180 degree rotation of the moon… wouldn’t it?


Can you imagine the world wide panic if people looked up at the moon and watched as it was rotated? I do believe it would get 24/7 news coverage.

There will be “signs” of the end times that would let a person know that they have arrived. We don’t know exactly what those signs will be. To the original readers stars falling from the sky would be such a sign but that doesn’t have meaning for us because we know it can’t happen.

True, but exactly how the earth becomes unfit isn’t specified. It might be world wide thermonuclear war. It could be a gigantic meteor, the sun explodes, a black hole hits the earth, etc., etc. Who knows. All we know for sure is it will happen.

(Antoine Suarez) #31

I fully agree.

By stating this you acknowledge that:

  • With his prophecy about the End Times and General Judgement Jesus speaks not only to those who were listening 2 kiloyears ago, but also to us today.

  • The End of Humanity will be an extraordinary event and the beginning of “a new heaven and a new earth”.

Now Jesus refers to Noah’s Flood to explaining His prophecy about the cataclysm in the end Times.

Therefore it is clear that we today are taught by Jesus that:

  • Noah’s Flood happened as really as the End Times will happen.

  • It was as extraordinary an event as the End of Humanity will be.

  • At the end of Noah’s Flood Re-Creation happens and new Order emerges.

For all this reasons I claim it is worth to rethink Noah’s Flood as a miraculous universal event by studying it in the light of the End Times events.


You are letting the proof flow in the wrong direction. The End Times will be a period of extraordinary events. As an example of this Jesus used the accepted story of flood. To me this doesn’t mean the flood has to be taken as reality but only as an easily understood example of extraordinary events, like the mustard seed being the smallest of all seeds (which we know isn’t true but was accepted as true at the time).


We already are doing a good job making the earth unfit for habitation.

(Antoine Suarez) #34

Jesus uses the mustard see as a parable among many other parables to explain the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13).

The crucial feature in this parable is the growth of the mustard seed from an almost imperceptible size to a large plant. And this growth has to be taken as reality: Jesus teaches the growth of the Kingdom of God will be as real as the growth of the mustard see.

If we apply this to Jesus explanation of the End Times we are led to this conclusion:

The End Times have to be taken as an extraordinary event which is as real as Noah’s Flood.

If you assume that the Flood is “hyperbole” you can as well assume that the End Times and General Judgement are “hyperbole”.

On the other hand, till now neither you nor anyone in this thread has proposed an argument proving my interpretation of Genesis Flood as miracle wrong.

To reject this option without giving arguments amounts to deny the possibility of miracles by “downgrading” extraordinary events to ordinary ones. In my view this is as great a prejudice as YECs trying to “upgrade” ordinary events to miracles.


That is not my point. Jesus started with the accepted truth that the mustard seed was the smallest seed.

It is wrong for the simple reason that there is no evidence that it ever happened in this world. I am not saying the God couldn’t have flooded the entire planet and then removed all traces that he did. It is just the Bible gives no indication that this is what happened. The same could be said for the six days of creation so why don’t you argue that it is also a miracle?

(Antoine Suarez) #36

The parable of the mustard see appears in Matthew 13 together with the parables of the sower, the weeds, and the yeast. Jesus uses all of them to explain the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven by comparison with processes where very little things (seeds, yeast) give rise to big transformations. In this context the point of the comparison is that the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven although imperceptible is as real and huge a transformation as that seeds undergo or yeast produces.

By introducing the Flood into his End Times prophecy Jesus is teaching to us (and not only to those who were listening him on the spot) two things:

  • The End Times and the Flood are both extraordinary miraculous events.

  • The End Times will really happen, as really as the Flood happened.

This is “a clear indication in the Bible”, since, as Brad very well claims:

As already said, according to @JohnWalton (see this YouTube IP video) “the Flood narrative works as a Recreation narrative”, and this means that from the Flood universal order emerges.

None knows what is inspired in the Bible better than the Incarnate Word of God: Can you indicate Bible verses where Jesus speaks about “the six days of creation”?

If not, then we have not to worry for an interpretation beyond ordinary natural phenomena.

Apparently YECs do not realize that for Christians the authority to ascertain what is inspired in the Bible is Jesus Christ. But you would fall into the same error if you deny that Jesus Christ is teaching to us that the End Times will be as real an event as the Flood was.

So we are compelled to search for a coherent explanation integrating the fact that Noah’s Flood was an extraordinary miraculous event, and the fact that no geological trace of such a catastrophe can be found in our ordinary world.

And lo and behold quantum physics today is telling us that parallel worlds are possible: What more can you ask for?

In one world Noah and all Image Bearers around him perceived the Flood as it is narrated in Genesis. In the parallel world (our world) nothing extraordinary happened, and thus there is no need for God to remove any trace: Just like in the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima on October 13th, 1917.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #37

You raise an interesting point in noting the tie between Jesus’ end-times teaching and events like Sodom, Gomorrah, and the flood. Between your insistence that Jesus’ teaching makes both the interpretation and the event inspired, and Walton’s thinking that it is the interpretation (not the event) that carries the significance, I still don’t see where you have made your case. [I may have missed something significant above – I’ve been skimming things rather hastily these days.]

It seems to me that you may be confusing premises with desired conclusions, and thinking that the inspired teacher is aiming for the premises rather than using them to usher the reader/listener to the conclusion, which is in the center of focus. We may think that a speaker’s reliance on premises makes his observation or argument vulnerable if a premise turns out to not be true, and in many cases that would be true … but not always!

If I say that my niece can climb a tree like Jack climbed the beanstalk, my statement conveys a truth that is not in the least falsified or even imperiled by the fact that Jack’s beanstalk is a fiction. My statement is not about Jack’s historicity, but is using a common cultural referent to usher the reader to my real point: that my niece is quite a good climber.

To make my statement be about Jack rather than about my niece would be like Jesus’s listeners nitpicking with him about the condition of the inn found between Jerusalem and Jericho after he speaks of the Good Samaritan; or of them inquiring about inheritance practices after he speaks of the prodigal. Any who would do so only demonstrate that they have missed the entire point of his narrative. They aren’t about mustard seeds or whether chasms are fixed between heaven and hell, … they are about God’s kingdom, our faith (or lack of it) and so forth. It still seems to me that Walton is right to focus on the interpreter (Christ) and not on the cultural fodder that Christ, Peter, and Paul freely use to shed light on important subjects. In fact I might press further (if Walton didn’t already) and suggest that our present situation is not “Christ’s interpretations vs. the events so referenced” but rather “Christ’s interpretations vs. our interpretations of the events so referenced.” Not only are we trying to refocus Jesus’ points back onto their premises (the events themselves), but we are actually even elevating our own interpretations about what should be important about those cultural referents (vulgar historicity apparently!) above the original scriptural aim.

So it seems to me that when we are instructed that the final days and judgment are compared to the flood or to Sodom and Gomorrah, we are to understand and tremble (as they would have) at the terrible magnitude, scope that reaches all of us, and eternal finality of that cataclysmic event. If you have to impress upon hearers what an unprecedented event will be like (and I think the final judgment probably qualifies, no?) we will reach for the most dramatic cultural references we have available. Our doing so does not necessarily sanctify or venerate those cultural references. One might object that these are not merely 1st century cultural references, but scriptural references. But to divorce scriptural teachings from cultural may more be a reflection of our state of culture today than theirs back then. Scripture was effective precisely because God has embedded it culture (echoes of the incarnation?) not because it remains loftily above it.

[extensively edited for attempted clarity]


Narrative != history
Narrative == story

I knew you would be going to your parallel worlds idea. While QM may well indicate parallel worlds are possible. If the flood only happened in some other parallel world that makes the flood just a story in OUR world. It didn’t happen here, it isn’t in our history. And if it didn’t happen in our history how did the author know the story? So you are basically saying the same thing that I am, it is just a story.

(George Brooks) #39


That’s a nice rhetorical maneuver. But it is also a fallacious comparison.

There is nothing about the Flood that is, of necessity, the same quality of information as the End Times or a General resurrection.

(Antoine Suarez) #40

I fully agree.


But in Matthew 24, 25: 31-46, and Luke 17: 20-37 Jesus is clearly speaking to us as well, to convey the crucial teaching about the End Times and Final Judgment.

Now you seem to claim that for us “the most dramatic cultural references” Jesus is using in his teaching are not real facts but simply “hyperbole”.

But then how could we “tremble at the terrible magnitude, scope that reaches all of us, and eternal finality of that cataclysmic event”?

We will rather LOL about such a teaching and paraphrasing Richard Dawkins claim: “It is only Hyperbole. Don’t worry and enjoy your life”.