My theory about the Flood

My interpretation of Genesis relies on three principles:

  • The teaching of Jesus Christ as contained in the New Testament.
  • The established scientific observations and data.
  • Logical coherence.

Accordingly I am by no means “forcing Scripture to fit history”, and wonder how one could define the “truth of Scripture” otherwise.

In particular I rely on these principles to interpret the pericope of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2-4, and would be thankful to know what you mean by “truth of Scripture” in case of this episode.

But you are. Peter makes it clear Noah’s flood was global. Now either he got it right and history is wrong or he got it wrong and history got it right. Since you come down on the side of “let’s just make the flood regional” you are in effect forcing Scripture to fit history.

I don’t define truth in Scripture to mean it always contains literal history, in the sense that Westerners think of history. Genesis 1-11 are stories that contain truth, such as God created the universe, man was created to worship God, man has free will to chose NOT to worship God, God provides a plan for when we chose not to worship Him, etc. No where is history required to be true for these to be true.

As to Genesis 6:2-4, the Nephilim were just a detail in a story that isn’t history so it really doesn’t matter what we think it really means. I have heard/read several versions of what it means and while each version makes sense, none agree with the others. What do you think of the Job 38:22 and the armory of hail. Does this pericope mean that hail is actually stored somewhere and is not created in a storm?

According to Scripture, Adam and Eve’s family consisted of sons Cain, Abel and Seth, plus a minimum of two other sons and two daughters, giving a total of seven children.

How do you decide which stories contain truth and which don’t? I think an important ingredient is the teaching of Jesus Christ and the belief that He is God’s Son, isn’t it?

Peter (2 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 3:20) makes it clear that only eight people of the ancient world were saved from Noah’s flood.

Scientific history makes it clear that at about 3,000 BC:

  • The region of the so called five antediluvian cities in Sumer was flooded.

  • About 100,000 people lived in this region.

  • All over the world outside Mesopotamia lived a Homo sapiens population of about 14,000,000 individuals.

From this it doesn’t follow that "either Peter got it wrong or history is wrong”, as you seem to conclude. You interpret Peter using the concept “global” as “Westerners” use it today. Such a concept is not appropriate to understand the truth contained in Peter’s letters. By claiming “Peter makes it clear Noah’s flood was global” you convey the idea that according to Peter “all Homo sapiens living outside the Ark perished in the Flood”. I dare to say that by interpreting Peter this way it is rather you who is “forcing Scripture” to conclude that “it does not fit history”.

Since Peter’s Epistles are writings of the New Testament it is fitting to assume that Peter is speaking from the perspective of people who are endowed with free will and thus are aware of God’s law. Then it suffices to assume that the 14,000,000 Homo sapiens outside Mesopotamia were endowed by God with free will only at the end of the Flood (in accord with Genesis 9: 3-6) and the contradiction disappears. By the way, your assumption that “God created Adam and Eve at about 50,000 BC” implies also that God endowed with free will a large population of Homo sapiens at some point between this time and the Flood.

This does not mean “forcing Scripture to fit history” but simply taking seriously Peter’s Inspiration and the scientific data, and then using logic to avoid falling into contradictions. Thereby we discover a truth which is contained in Genesis but we can only “see” today in the light of the new scientific data. And this is precisely what means that Scripture is inspired by God: Revelation will always surprise us with new truth (just like science!).

I refer to Genesis 6:2-4 primarily because of the “sons of God” and not the “Nephilim”.

You are fully right: there are “several versions of what it means and while each version makes sense, none agree with the others.”

This confirms what I have previously said: Scripture contains truth that is waiting to be discovered in the light of what science is telling us today.

I think it is worth discussing more in depth what these “sons of God” mean. According to me this episode supports my interpretation that the transformation of Homo sapiens creatures into human persons endowed with free will and capable of sinning was still happening at the time of the Flood: It was a gradual process that started with the creation of “Adam and Eve” and was completed at the end of the Flood.

But what do you do with the mustard seed? Jesus as the Son of God surely knew the mustard seed wasn’t the smallest seed. He could have said “it is the smallest known seed” which would be true, but he didn’t did he.

What do you do with His lack of knowledge on the time of the Second Coming? As God he surely knew didn’t he?

Even using Jesus as the arbiter of truth is tricky.

And refresh my memory. When did Jesus refer directly to Adam the man?

Peter said “the ancient world” using the same kosmos as in John 3:16. So do you want to limit God’s love to only the ANE also? Or do you want to change the meaning to make it suit your theory?

And why would this group NOT be included in “the ancient world”? They are people also.

For 50,000 years before your flood humans were developing civilization, agriculture, cities, a belief in an afterlife and religion. They developed trading relationships between different groups (here comes that sense of law). You can only have trade if there are agreed upon rules (think laws).

Funny but some of the sermons I have heard on this said that the Nephilim were the off-spring of the sons of God. The text is not exactly clear, but again it is just a story detail.

@Bill_II
@AntoineSuarez

I’m going to go ahead and posit a third option, which is that the passage is not intended to present an exhaustive account of those who survived or those who perished. Starting from 2 Peter 2:4—“For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgement;”—Are we to understand that this refers to all of the angels? Why or why not?

2 Peter 2:5—“and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly;”—‘he did not spare’ is the same phrase as was applied to ‘the angels’ above. It is hardly indicative of universal destruction.

2 Peter 2:6—“and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly;”—were the cities entirely turned into ashes, no ruined buildings standing around? Were all the people of them made extinct? We know quite well that they were not, because ‘extinction’ would mean no survivors and that was not the case.

2 Peter 2:7—“and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard),”—leaving aside for the moment the righteousness of offering one’s daughters to appease a mob, we would think from this passage that Lot was the only survivor of the doomed cities, when we know that in fact his daughters also survived.

2 Peter 2:9—“then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment 10—especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority.” —Here we see that including Lot’s daughters may have been counterproductive to the point Peter was making, which was not, in fact, to exhaustively and accurately tally everyone involved in all three incidents and their fates, but to provide select examples of divine action: God has saved some and destroyed others.

1 Peter 3:20 is even easier to understand in this context: God saved eight people through water, which prefigured baptism. It says nothing about people who were not saved through water because their lands didn’t flood.

Actually that is my point exactly. That is the truth of the passage which does not require it to match history to be correct. I would just add it says nothing about other people not having a sense of law and therefore not being under the law.

I fear I may have been less than clear—by “it says nothing about,” I mean that it does not deny or affirm the existence of other people untouched by the flood, and we are therefore free to match it to history if we desire. But I agree it is not support for a specific position like people without a sense of law.

Notice the plethora of very precise chronology in the following passage:

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights … and the waters prevailed upon the earth for a hundred and fifty days … At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated , and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark come to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen … In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month … Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold the face of the ground was dry. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.” - Genesis 7:11- 8:5.

Seriously, does the above sound in any way “figurative” or like an “interpretation”? It certainly doesn’t to me! It’s seems that author has gone out of his way to make sure this account comes across as real history to the reader.

After spending an entire year under water how many trees do you know that will start to grow?

This also happened before written history. How did these details get passed down orally for thousands of years?

Or did the writer just write up the story as if it was real history?

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@Dredge,

Hebrew scholars, and archaeologists who dug up Kings Lists from Sumer and Akkadia or even Egypt, can tell you that genealogies are frequently highly abused from an historical viewpoint. Generations are excluded

And then they are added back to suit the specific and temporary circumstances of the current administration.

The one thing you should never do, @Dredge, is try to use Biblical genealogies as the proof of anything … because that is the weakest link in all of Biblical literature.

Just note this very simple problem:

The Tribe of Simeon was founded by Simeon, one of the 12 sons of Israel, right? It is recorded that this tribe settled to the south of Judah (some experts even suggest within the protective skirts of Judah itself).

That’s fine. But then when the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom split, how does the 10th tribe, Simeon, maintain its allegiance to the Northern throne? It’s south of Judah!!! And that kingdom already has “dibs” on the tribes of Benjamin and Judah!

So … really … when you draw attention to such matters, now you have to explain how the “Ten Tribes of Israel” were actually Nine Tribes of Israel. Have a wonderful afternoon pondering that one.

If the writer wrote is up as if it was real history, then it’s a fabricated lie. Why take any of the Bible seriously if it contains dishonest entries? What sort of fool would base his life on a so-called Holy Book that contains fabricated lies?
Do you believe that “All Scripture is inspired by God” ( 2Tim 3:16)?

I don’t know why you’re talking about genealogies, George - I wasn’t.

@Dredge

You are absolutely right… I saw the introduction discussing Noah’s six hundredth year … and I just immediately assumed it was some rendition of Noah’s descendants… My apologies…

I’ll have to save that post on genealogies for a more propitious moment!

Again, apologies for the inconvenience.

No He is not, but you are the one saying this is history so where is the record of the many, many miracles that would have been required by a global flood. But if you want to make it a regional flood then you can. It does require some modifications to the story but that is alright isn’t it? But then again you are the one who said

Can you point out in 2 Timothy 3:16 that part that says you can take all of the history as literally true?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness

Oh wait, the people that quote verse 16 always leave off verse 15

From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

So the Scriptures were written for your salvation and training in righteousness, not as a history lesson. Now Ken Ham does require belief in the Flood as a prerequisite for salvation (at least it appears that way to me), but not many other folks and hopefully not you.

No worries, mate!

You make an excellent point, Bill. I will take that on board.

However, I’m still puzzled by the aforementioned precise chronology detailed in the Flood account.

Sure, but so does Tolkien in Lord of the Rings. They key question is did the original audience think it was an objective recording of historical facts, or a narrative framed as history for some other purpose. No contemporary of Tolkien is going to be confused about the historicity of Bilbo and Frodo, but if that account was taken out of its cultural context and interpreted by a people group thousands of years in the future, they might have some difficulties figuring out what it was intended to be and how people back in our day read it. I’m not equating inspired Scripture with the Lord of the Rings, just pointing out that pointing to historical sounding narration does not prove fact or fiction. It just makes an observation about the genre. Narratives of events fall on a continuum when it comes to correspondence with actual history, and the language used to tell the story isn’t always going to clue you in on where on the continuum it falls.

That is a false dichotomy that you just imposed on Scripture. Who says truth cannot be conveyed in stories? Jesus sure liked using them to teach truth about God and people. All cultures tell stories, it is a very human thing and a very powerful way to convey truth.

You can’t say, “Because I was initially deceived about the author’s communicative intention, therefore the author is a liar and a deceiver.” There is such a thing as not understanding a context and misinterpreting. Why do people always assume that God _has _ to communicate in the way that seems to make the most sense and be the most logical to them personally? Isn’t that putting God in a pretty small box? And why of all times and cultures, should their particular framework be humored by God? Isn’t it a little ethnocentric to demand such a privileged place in the history of biblical interpretation?

We do know that numbers meant different things in the ANE culture than they mean for us. Not coming from a culture with any special numerology, this can trip us up.

Here is an article I like that looks at the life spans in Genesis as an example of ANE numerology.

And another example that just came up today in my children’s Bible lesson: On three occasions, Matthew reports two individuals in a story when the corresponding Synoptic accounts list only one. (Two demoniacs in the tombs, two blind men given their sight, two donkeys before the triumphal entry.)

Now reading with modern Western lenses and being committed to truthful Scripture, we might feel compelled to argue that there had to be two individuals in all those case and the other authors just left one out of their accounts. Or we could take into consideration that it was a Jewish literary technique to double important things for emphasis. If we acknowledge that and assume that is what Matthew was doing, does that make him a liar? Is his account of Jesus’ healings and triumphal entry false because of this stylistic choice that his contemporaries would have recognized and understood? Should Matthew be relegated to “fiction” because he used literary techniques that could mislead modern readers?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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