Problems with a Local Flood Interpretation

Not a fan of localized flood interpretations (or any concordant reading of Genesis really!). First post is the cliff note version of what I came up with in my research that will follow it.

Problems With A Localized Flood Cliff Notes: Bill Arnold, Baker Exegetical Commentary on Genesis , writes: “The cosmic phenomena described in 7:11–24 are not some banal punishment for the sin of that ancient generation, but they represent a reversal of creation, or “uncreation” as it has been called. The priestly creation account of Gen 1 portrayed creation as a series of separations and distinctions, whereas Gen 6:9–7:24 portrays the annihilation of those distinctions.231 As the sky dome was created to keep the heavenly waters from falling to earth (1:6–7), here the opened “windows of the heavens” reverse that created function (7:11). When the “fountains of the great deep [t ̆ehoˆm]” burst forth (7:11), the cosmic order that had been fashioned from watery chaos returns to watery chaos (1:2, 9). Strikingly the sequence of annihilation, “birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings” (7:21), follows closely that of creation itself in Gen 1:1–2:3.232

G. V. Smith (Structure and Purpose in Genesis 1–11,” JETS 20 [1977]: 310–11) came up with the following points of contact between creation and the flood (chapters 1-2 with 8-9):

(a) Since man could not live on the earth when it was covered with water in chaps. 1 and 8, a subsiding of the water and separation of the land from the water took place, allowing the dry land to appear (1:9–10; 8:1–13); (b) “birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” are brought forth to “swarm upon the earth” in 1:20–21, 24–25 and 8:17–19; (c) God establishes the days and seasons in 1:14–18 and 8:22; (d) God’s blessing rests upon the animals as he commands them to “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” in both 1:22 and 8:17; (e) man is brought forth and he receives the blessing of God: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” in 1:28 and 9:1, 7; (f) Man is given dominion over the animal kingdom in 1:28 and 9:2; (g) God provides food for man in 1:29–30 and 9:3 (this latter regulation makes a direct reference back to the previous passage when it includes the statement, “As I have given the green plant”); (h) in 9:6 the writer quotes from 1:26–27 concerning the image of God in man. The author repeatedly emphasizes the fact that the world is beginning again with a fresh start. But Noah does not return to the paradise of Adam, for the significant difference is that “the intent of man’s heart is evil” (Gen. 8:21)”

The Genesis flood is described as universal. The order God established in Genesis 1 is reversed and creation is being undone by the flood. After the flood ends the relationship between man and wild animals is changed. The flood is presented as changing the entire created order as God wipes the slate clean. There are indications the soil might have changed as well and though disputed by some, man may have left a pre-flood vegetarian state behind. God promises not to cut off all life with a flood again but a localized event would make him a liar as a significant portion of life was not destroyed by any known flood in the region. Major flooding has occurred since then, will continue to occur and some events (e.g. Chinese River floods of 1931) led to the deaths of over a million people-- far more people than any Mesopotamian flood did sometime during the Holocene. A localized version of the flood is necessitated for some by concordist hermeneutics but the text does not lend itself to such interpretations. The best way to handle the flood is to compare the Genesis version to surrounding Mesopotamian versions (e.g. Atrahasis and the Gilgamesh epic) and note its differences. See how it rearranges the furniture in the room and depicts God and the flood in comparison to other deities and versions.

Problems With A Localized Flood (full version)

Christians interpret the flood story as either a global flood, a localized flood or as a legendary narrative conveying theological truth. All three views purport take the account seriously as a part of sacred scripture but the first two are what are known as concordant interpretations. This means that whatever the Bible says happened must have happened and science should agree with it. The flood account should be interpreted literally. Of course, the problems with a global flood in Genesis are very well known and were outlined in a different section of this website. So problematic are they that a localized flood interpretation has developed in response. The idea is that the “whole world” as the author knew it was flooded, not the entire earth. Is this a credible interpretation of Scripture? It is sometimes pointed out that textual clues point to a more limited flood. As Iain Provan wrote in Discovering Genesis: Content, Interpretation, Reception : “the survival of ‘the Nephilim’ who are said to live both before the flood and after it (Gen. 6.4), and of the descendants of Cain who carry on various lines of work initiated by their forebears (Gen. 4.17–24)” would be two such examples. In addition, Genesis 2 describes rivers such as the Tigris and Euphrates using post flood geography. Assuming a global flood, it is hardly conceivable to imagine such river systems remaining the same before and after. Adam and Eve’s children could hardly populate the entire world in so little a time period and there simply isn’t enough water available to cover the world’s highest mountains. That God created more water and just as spontaneously made it disappear afterwards is rejected by many commentators as they feel the text implies God used pre-existing waters. These textual clues for a localized flood are based on concordant readings of the primeval history in Genesis. The flood was global or universal in the sense that it would have inundated humanity’s ancestral homeland or destroyed a very significant portion of humanity. It must be noted that genetics rules out all modern human ancestors descending from eight individuals aboard an ark. In the Holocene (roughly the last 12,000 years) humanity was pretty widely spread throughout the globe as well and a localized flood in the Mesopotamian region would not do justice to what Genesis actually depicts. Thus, for some the localized flood is pushed back many thousands of years (e.g. 50,000 years ago) when it would be more plausible to find a bottleneck for humanity. I find it difficult to believe Genesis preserves any history from pre-written cultures a few thousand years prior, let alone 50,000 years past. At any rate, this article will take a look at whether or not the text of Genesis is consistent with a localized flood and take a peek at two potential floods in the Mesopotamian region during the traditional time frame for Noah’s flood.

Meredith Kline writes in, Genesis A New Commentary , “A worldwide flood seems to be indicated by the comprehensive terms used here for its purpose (cf. 7:4) and afterward for its actual effects (7:19–23; cf. 8:21; 9:11, 15). But dogmatism must be restrained, for sometimes Scripture uses universal-sounding terms for more limited situations (cf. Dan 2:38; 4:22; 5:19), and a local perspective is evident at the critical descriptive point in the flood narrative (see note on 7:17–20).Still, the Gen 10 account of the repopulating of the world shows a vast area had been devastated, and Peter’s cosmic language suggests at least the severing of the central trunk of human history (2 Pet 3:5–7).”

Derek Kidner, in Genesis An Introduction and Commentary , writes of verses 7:19-24,” In themselves, these verses are not decisive for or against a localized flood: even the whole heaven (19) is likely, on the analogy of these chapters, to be the language of appearance (Paul uses similar speech hyperbolically in Col. 1:23). . . . The emphasis in Genesis is upon that group of cultures from which Abraham eventually came.’ If this is so, the language of this story is in fact the everyday language normally used in Scripture, describing matters from the narrator’s own vantage-point and within the customary frame of reference of his readers.”

Bernard Ramm relays similar thoughts in The Christian View of Science and Scriptures . He says, “Fifteen minutes with a Bible concordance will reveal many instance in which universality of language is used but only a partial quantity is meant. All does not mean every last one in all of its usages.” As an example he goes on to point out that all does not mean every person in the region was baptized by John in Matthew 3:5.

This is a hermeneutic I must agree with but heavily qualify. Yes, scriptural authors, like any other, can and do use hyperbole and universal language for limited situations but this does not necessitate or suggest we can apply them anywhere we want. There are Hebrew experts with linguistic and interpretive rules and then there is an army of poorly trained apologists and pious theologians who have been misusing concordances for a long time. There is a tendency of some to uncritically interpret scripture in light of scripture. While I respect the canonical dimension of the Bible, we must be careful not to dismiss the individuality of each work. God left us an anthology after all, not a singularly written book. Because Paul can use hyperbole does not necessarily mean Genesis can or is in this case. Paul’s Epistles and the flood stories in Genesis are two very different works written in two very different times with two very different audiences in mind. We would be better off looking at extrabiblical flood parallels for interpretative help with Genesis rather than seeking out hyperbole in Christian authors hundreds to a thousand years later. The context of the flood story determines its meaning, regardless of whether or not other Biblical works written much later use hyperbole. I take it as tautological that any Biblical author can make use of hyperbole or reflect a knowledge of things from their own perspective. There no need to dubiously appeal to other parts of scripture as if this somehow bolsters a localized interpretation of the Genesis flood. It does not. The localized interpretation of Genesis must stand or fall based on its own details, historical context and linguistic features in the text.

The Genesis Flood in Context:

So what are we to make of the Genesis flood in its own context? The three excerpts below show, in my mind how the Genesis flood is very much intended to be universal in scope. I use that word on purpose. The flood is not meant to be local or global. The author had no such distinction nor did he understand the world from a global perspective as we do today. The flood is described as universal. What we see is that creation itself is being undone by the flood. The order God established in Genesis one–the taming of the waters-- is reversed. Creation echoes are all over the flood account. Since I view creation in a universal sense I am inclined to understand its uncreation in a similar vein.

[1] Bill Arnold, Baker Exegetical Commentary on Genesis , writes: “The cosmic phenomena described in 7:11–24 are not some banal punishment for the sin of that ancient generation, but they represent a reversal of creation, or “uncreation” as it has been called. The priestly creation account of Gen 1 portrayed creation as a series of separations and distinctions, whereas Gen 6:9–7:24 portrays the annihilation of those distinctions.231 As the sky dome was created to keep the heavenly waters from falling to earth (1:6–7), here the opened “windows of the heavens” reverse that created function (7:11). When the “fountains of the great deep [t ̆ehoˆm]” burst forth (7:11), the cosmic order that had been fashioned from watery chaos returns to watery chaos (1:2, 9). Strikingly the sequence of annihilation, “birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings” (7:21), follows closely that of creation itself in Gen 1:1–2:3.232

[2] Robert Alter, Genesis Translation and Commentary (pg 33), writes “The surge of waters from the great deep below and from the heavens above is, of course, a striking reversal of the second day of creation, when a vault was erected to divide the waters above from the waters below. The biblical imagination, having conceived creation as an orderly series of divisions imposed on primordial chaos, frequently conjures with the possibility of a reversal of this process (see, for example, Jeremiah 4:23-26): biblical cosmogony and apocalypse are reverse sides of the same coin. The Flood story as a whole abounds in verbal echoes of the Creation story (the crawling things, the cattle and beasts of each kind, and so forth) as what was made on the six days is wiped out in these forty.”

[3] G. V. Smith (Structure and Purpose in Genesis 1–11,” JETS 20 [1977]: 310–11) came up with the following points of contact between creation and the flood (chapters 1-2 with 8-9). I have put the relationship from Smith in list format:

“(a) Since man could not live on the earth when it was covered with water in chaps. 1 and 8, a subsiding of the water and separation of the land from the water took place, allowing the dry land to appear (1:9–10; 8:1–13);

(b) “birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” are brought forth to “swarm upon the earth” in 1:20–21, 24–25 and 8:17–19;

(c) God establishes the days and seasons in 1:14–18 and 8:22;

(d) God’s blessing rests upon the animals as he commands them to “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” in both 1:22 and 8:17;

(e) man is brought forth and he receives the blessing of God: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” in 1:28 and 9:1, 7;

(f) Man is given dominion over the animal kingdom in 1:28 and 9:2;

(g) God provides food for man in 1:29–30 and 9:3 (this latter regulation makes a direct reference back to the previous passage when it includes the statement, “As I have given the green plant”);

(h) in 9:6 the writer quotes from 1:26–27 concerning the image of God in man. The author repeatedly emphasizes the fact that the world is beginning again with a fresh start. But Noah does not return to the paradise of Adam, for the significant difference is that “the intent of man’s heart is evil” (Gen. 8:21)”

After its destruction the flood narrative presents a new creation account (recreation!). Derek Kidner, Genesis An Introduction and Commentary , writes: “. . . we should be careful to read the account whole-heartedly in its own terms, which depict a total judgment on the ungodly world already set before us in Genesis – not an event of debatable dimensions in a world we may try to reconstruct. The whole living scene is blotted out, and the New Testament makes us learn from it the greater judgment that awaits not only our entire globe but the universe itself (2 Pet. 3:5– 7). “

The flood undoes the order God has established during his creative week. God is wiping the slate clean and starting anew. Creation terminology and parallels are littered over many aspects of the Genesis flood which is narrated as universal , regardless of the limited context of its author, which I take for granted. That the author had a limited understanding of the size of the earth does not preclude the author from actually believing and narrating that the entirety of the earth was flooded and all of humanity was destroyed. This localized flood view is based on a priori assumptions. It approaches scripture with a non-negotiable set of demands forcing specific interpretations to maintain concordant readings. That the author does not know the earth is spherical and people lived across vast oceans is no reason to force upon it a localized interpretation. This apologetic misunderstands the literary genre of the flood story and is motivated by the goal of salvaging the accuracy of the Biblical account which unfortunately is being held hostage for some by a literal, singular flood of epic but not global proportions.

The Created Order Appears Changed Post Flood:

As a further evidence of the universality of the flood, Genesis 9:2-3 reads: “The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Robert Alter (ibid pg 38) writes, “Vegetarian man of the Garden is now allowed a carnivore’s diet (this might conceivably be intended as an outlet for his violent impulses), and in consonance with that change, man does not merely rule over the animal kingdom but inspires it with fear.”

Arnold Writes, “However, the new order is not altogether the same as the old, since it also involves an alteration of the food chain (9:3). Many readers assume this text implies something inherently virtuous in vegetarianism, since it was the original cosmic order (“plan A”), or inversely, something innately blameworthy in meat-eating. Others have assumed the change in human diet is a concession to humanity’s weakness. But in reality, the only implication of the text is that the new order is also accompanied by a change in the animals’ relationship to humans (9:2). The fear of humans is new, since pre-flood animals enjoyed a primitive fellowship with humans, now lost in the new natural order of things. Rather than placing value on either vegetarianism or meat-eating, this supplement of Noah’s deity with meat is part of a biblical progression toward holiness for humanity. “

Gerhard Von Rad writes, Genesis A Commentary , “The relationship of man to the animals no longer resembles that which was decreed in ch. I. The animal world lives in fear and terror of man. Previously ch. 9.1 assumes that until then the condition of paradisiacal peace had ruled among the creatures. Now man begins to eat flesh (cf. ch. 1.29). “The sighing of the creatures begins.” (Pr.) Answer: Just as God renewed for Noachic man the command to procreate, so he also renewed man’s sovereign right over the animals. What is new, however, is that God will also allow man deadly intervention; he may eat flesh as long as he does not touch the blood, which the ancients considered to be the special seat of life.”

Why on earth would a localized flood change the relationship between of animals and humans and the human diet the world over? Some scholars do dispute that Genesis 1-9 teaches pre-flood vegetarianism but even if that is rejected, we still have the relationship of man to the wild animals changing. This story is set in the context of global changes that affect the entire created order.

The soil also might have changed after the flood. We know that Adam’s action resulted in a cursed ground (Genesis 3:17-18) and toiling (“thorns and thistles shall it bring forth”). Cain also had to deal with cursed soil after murdering his brother. Genesis 4:12 reads: “When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength. . .”Genesis 5:28-29 reads: 28 When Lamech had lived one hundred eighty-two years, he became the father of a son; 29 he named him Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.” In Genesis 8:21 God vows to never curse the ground again. Alexander Thomas Demond writes in, From Paradise to the Promised land an Introduction :

“So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth’” (6:11–13). Once again we see how the continual violence of humanity has a direct bearing on the earth. Through the shedding of innocent blood, the ground is polluted, reducing its fertility. Consequently the task of tilling the ground had become almost unbearable by the time of Noah. . . . The episode following the account of the flood begins by describing Noah as a “man of the soil [ground]” (9:20) and focuses briefly on his ability to cultivate a vineyard that produces an abundant crop. This part of the story is clearly intended to highlight the dramatic change that has occurred as a result of the flood. Though the ground’s fertility was severely limited before the flood, now it produces abundantly. In this we see the fulfillment of Lamech’s comments regarding Noah in 5:29. “

Victor P Hamilton writes in The Handbook of the Pentateuch , “First of all there is a retraction by God of the curse placed on the ground (8:21; cf. 3:17), evidenced by the story of Noah’s vineyard, in itself a verification of the abrogation of the curse (9:20–29). Connecting 8:21 with 6:5, Gerhard von Rad (1972: 123) observes, “v. 21 is one of the most remarkable theological statements in the Old Testament: it shows the pointed and concentrated way in which the Yahwist can express himself at decisive points. The same condition which in the prologue [6:5] is the basis for God’s judgment in the epilogue reveals God’s grace and providence. The contrast between God’s punishing anger and his supporting grace . . . is here presented . . . as an adjustment by God towards man’s sinfulness.”

After the flood, Noah is called a man of the soil and he successfully plants a vineyard and drinks its wine (Genesis 9:20). The flood apparently has cleansed the earth of its wickedness and allows the soil to give its strength once again.

God Promises Not to Destroy the “Earth” with Future Localized Floods?

Genesis 9:11 has God saying, “And I will establish My covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the Flood, and never again shall there be a Flood to destroy the earth." Is God a liar when he said there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth? We know great floods are still very much common and prevalent in nature. The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 resulted in the death of almost a quarter of a million of people. What about the 1887 Yellow River flood in China? Or the Chinese river floods of 1931 which caused an estimated 150,000 people to drown in the first month and possibly a million more to die of disease and starvation after? Do they not qualify as great localized floods? The great Mississippi flood of 1927? Hurricane Katrina breaching the levees and flooding the majority of New Orleans? How about global climate change causing sea levels to rise slowly inundating coastlines? If we look at a table from Jim E. O’Connor and John E. Costa’s The World’s Largest Floods, Past and Present: Their Causes and Magnitudes from the USGS , we see there are many massive floods on the list that put the one in Genesis to shame. That image is found on the next page.

A concordist interpretation of the flood account seems to makes God out to be a liar. Floods still happen and there have been really significant ones before and after the putative one narrated in Genesis 6-9. It might be claimed that God was only speaking to Noah and his descendants but this is eisegesis as the covenant is meant for all people. We can’t even claim the Genesis flood wiped out a significant portion of humanity. As M. E. L. Mallowan wrote back in 1964 in Noah’s Flood Reconsidered : “. . . no flood was ever of sufficient magnitude to interrupt the continuity of Mesopotamian civilization, although as a direct consequence of the historic Flood we can observe evidence of a powerful impetus on the arts and crafts which underwent significant changes and developments after the Jamdat Nasr period.”

Was the Genesis Food Based on a historical flood? It could have been but this is by no means certain. Some exegetes think the overflow of the black sea could have been the historical impetus (Black sea deluge hypothesis) but to many this event was not rapid or significant enough to justify the necessity of an ark or many of the details in the Biblical flood story. Part of the extract of the article Was the Black Sea Catastrophically Flooded during the Holocene? – geological evidence and archaeological impacts by Valentina Yanko-Hombach, Peta Mudie and Allan S. Gilbert reads

“These hypotheses claim that massive inundations of the Black Sea basin, and ensuing large-scale environmental changes, drastically impacted early societies in coastal areas, forming the basis for Great Flood legends and other folklore, and accelerating the spread of agriculture into Europe. We summarize the geological, palaeontological, palynological, and archaeological evidence for prehistoric lake conditions, vegetation, climate, water salinity, and sea-level change, as well as submerged prehistoric settlements, agricultural development, coastline migration, and hydrological regimes. Comprehensive analysis shows that the Late Glacial inundation in the Black Sea basin was more prolonged and intense than the Holocene one, but there is no underwater archaeological evidence to support any catastrophic submergence of prehistoric Black Sea settlements during the Late Pleistocene or Early Holocene intervals.”

The article is well worth the read. For other scholars, events ca. 3000 BC could have been the impetus given rise to these Mesopotamian legends. Arnold writes: “The story itself likely arose from a specific historical flood that took place in parts of southern Mesopotamia around 2900 bce.” This is the flooding evident at Kish and Shuruppak. David Macdonald in T he Flood: Mesopotamian Archaeological Evidence , writes, “Within a few years, excavations of a third Mesopotamian site, Shuruppak, also uncovered a flood stratum (Schmidt, 1931). It is of particular interest because, according to the Mesopotamian legend, Shuruppak was the home of Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah.”

Many scholars think the Genesis flood story rearranged some of the furniture of older Mesopotamian flood legends (e.g. the Gilgamesh epic and Atrahasis). Macdonald goes on to write that “many scholars specializing in the ancient Near East have concluded that the Flood stories of cuneiform literature and the Bible find their ultimate origin in the event attested to by the remains at Kish and Shuruppak (Mallowan, 1964, pp. 62-82; Kramer, 1967, pp. 12-18; Woolley, 1955, pp. 16-17” but also that there are problems here and evidentiary issues with a singular flood.

The Genesis flood description is nothing like these historical floods. MacDonald writes, “The Mesopotamian strata, whether at Ur or at Kish and Suruppak, testify only to a local flood which clearly left behind survivors and significant cultural continuity. The Ur flood apparently did not even cover the entire mound of Ur. . . . In the degree to which those descriptions are “rationalized,” any criteria for distinguishing between the biblical Flood and virtually any other flood disappear. “ If we allow such small-scale localized floods to serve as the impetus for the Biblical flood then we must admit we have lost any chance of falsification or corroboration. It is true that if we strip the Genesis flood narrative of most of its details then almost any flood could qualify as a historical kernel. But do we even need an actual singular flood? Given human populations tended to settle near water for obvious reasons, it is not surprising that so many flood stories are found throughout the world. Ancient people also found fish fossils and sea shells well inland and on mountains. These observations were documented by many cultures and could easily lead to stories and thoughts of massive global floods in the past.

David Montgomery in Rocks Don’t Lie , while narrating that Everest, earth’s highest cap, was once on the sea floor, writes: “But if you didn’t know about plate tectonics, how could you explain finding an old ocean floor on top of the planet’s highest peak? People around the world faced a similar question when they saw marine fossils entombed in high mountains. One way to resolve such puzzles is to assume that mountains don’t rise and that an incredibly deep sea once covered the peak, and thus the whole world. Another way is to assume that the rocks now exposed in the mountain somehow rose miles up out of the sea. Imagining that Noah’s Flood submerged the Himalaya is no less intuitive than the modern scientific idea that India is slamming into Asia and bulldozing up the world’s highest mountains in a process so slow one could not observe its progress over many lifetimes.” He goes on to later note that compelling evidence of a global flood for St. Augustine “was the widespread occurrence of plant and animal remains in rocks. Fossils seemed to tell the story as plainly as the Bible.”

The author of Genesis is hardly shown to be a source of factual information about meteorological or geological events that may have happened thousands of years prior. But yes, floods happened in the region. It is easy to assert a specific flood in the past led to these later fictitious legends but assumptions are not evidence. The problem here is many people think that a great flood would somehow give credence to the Biblical story but this misunderstands the literary genre of the flood and is a viewpoint imprisoned by concordist hermeneutics. Saying a flood in the past happened is not the same as saying “the genesis flood is true or happened.” The movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not true or validated due to the mere fact that Lincoln was a real person and the movie gets at least that much right. The majority of the details in the Genesis narrative are all but impossible and do not line up with reality I do not see how a historical kernel helps in any way here for concordist interpretations. As Macdonald concluded: “ Ultimately, the search for a local Mesopotamian flood upon which a rationalization of the Bible story can be based may prove as illusionary as the search for Noah’s ark.” Instead we should focus on the flood as literary and interpret it in light of its ancient context. How does it differ from its older Mesopotamian counterparts? Redaction criticism will be most helpful here as I believe noting the differences and changes made to Mesopotamian legends is the key to unlocking what it intends to teach us about God. We should also seek to understand how it fits into patterns in the Hebrew scriptures of humanity failing and God saving them via his grace.

The word “universal” is not in the text. Nor are the words “planet” or “global.”

The story talks of a flood which covers the earth in a text which describes the earth as a shaped like a table. Thus the earth referred to in the Bible is NOT a planet or a globe but a table shaped section of the planet or globe. Since this also happens to be the only understanding of the flood which is scientifically coherent the most obvious reason for interpreting the story in this way is to fabricate a contradiction between the Bible and science, and thus to either use the Bible to dismiss science or to use science in order to dismiss the Biblical account.

Frankly I take the above to be in the same category of atheists who prefer irrational fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible because it best agrees with their agenda to ridicule Christianity. In this case, it is choosing the most unreasonable understanding of the text in order to dismiss the possibility that this is a story of real events.

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Did you read what I wrote? Or just the cliff note version? I presented exegetical grounds for interpreting the flood as undoing creation. That means it is meant to be be as “universal” as creation is. The points of contact between creation and the flood are extensive and the majority of all commentators on Genesis see them. Do you have any counterpoints to make against the central point of what I wrote? That the Flood story is written about all of creation being undone and it makes sweeping changes to the created order afterwards?

Maybe that is why I wrote: “in the Genesis flood is very much intended to be universal in scope. I use that word on purpose. The flood is not meant to be local or global. The author had no such distinction nor did he understand the world from a global perspective as we do today. The flood is described as universal. What we see is that creation itself is being undone by the flood.” My intended meaning for universal is clear and inferable from the text. You are nitpicking. Hebrew doesn’t have a lot of words we have in English. So what?

Yes, the authors behind Genesis had incorrect cosmogonies. We all know this. That doesn’t mean it can’t describe a universal flood from within that mistaken cosmogony. It can and certainly does speak of creation itself becoming unraveled and redone in the flood. Feel free to offer alternative commentary on the extensive parallels between the flood and creation accounts. Do you have any exegesis to offer or any counter points to make?

I am not fabricating anything.The Bible has incorrect cosmogony and its flood account should not be interpreted concordantly. The problems only exist because people bring non-negotiable demands to text and assume the Bible is literally true. The Bible is at odds with science in many places if read with even a slight bit of concordism. This is a brute fact whether you or anyone likes it or not.

Is that what Calvin and Luther did? Augustine? Or the majority of the church throughout history who saw the flood as universal–or at least as far greater in scope than it ever could be? This is not an atheistic position. Millions of Christians still believe this to be true today and historically, it has been the predominant position in the church for thousands of years. Why? Because the exegesis of scripture is clear on the universal themes. Just as YECs are forced to reject science because of their beliefs about the Bible and how it is meant to be read, a localized flood interpretation is just more of the same force-fitting.

You have not offered any understanding that is reasonable. Assuming the flood was local is not an argument or evidence of anything. Assuming it is local because that is the most reasonable position in your eyes is still an assumption that defies what the text says. Do some exegesis. I thoroughly reject your driftwood hermeneutic whereby we look at accounts which largely consist of fiction but you somehow magically assert there must be some historical core there.You do this with Adam and Eve and now the Flood. I need to see some hermeneutical rules or justification for how you cherry pick things out of scripture? That there was a Saint Nick behind the Santa legends does’t necessitate there was a flood behind the Genesis account or there is an actual historical being behind every made up legendary figure and story. Likewise, what is your criteria for picking out the historical and the legendary? What do you base it on? That the flood story MUST have a historical core is fiction. What happens is that many Christians just can’t fully let go of their concordism. There is no valid historical reason to think Noah was ever a real person but I would guarantee a whole swathe of people who subscribe to accommodation would be eager to share their view that they think there probably was a historical Noah behind the legends and that God made a covenant with him. That is just residual concordism. Proper exegesis of the flood rules out local interpretations and there is no reason to take Noah any more historical than the multiple other “Noahs” in antiquity.

Any questions about the extent of the flood are probably the wrong questions to ask. As I quoted Kidner above: “we should be careful to read the account whole-heartedly in its own terms, which depict a total judgment on the ungodly world already set before us in Genesis – not an event of debatable dimensions in a world we may try to reconstruct. The whole living scene is blotted out. . .”. Local vs global. Its a false dichotomy. A bad question. Has nothing to do with the Genesis flood today. The flood is not local or global, its literary and universal in the sense that the author understands it as undoing the created order and then re-establishing it afterwards with significant changes.

Vinnie

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Not much no. I was just stating my opinion on the issue. But since you are interested, I will respond to more of what you say.

Not a fan of anti-scientific interpretations of the Bible. They are a fairly new part of the Christian spectrum and a lot of it is in reaction to the kind of gaseous metaphoricalism which seeks to categorize the Bible as pure fiction. As misguided as it may be, this reaction against science is in defense of Christianity against precisely this kind of dismissal of its scripture.

Yes it is universal in the sense of wiping out the first human civilization. What quickly follows is God’s opposition to a unified human culture.

The first human civilization may have been vegetarian. This was clearly not the case of the species globally for millions of years. I see no evidence for universality beyond the destruction of the first human civilization.

This is only the case if you insist on identifying humanity with the biological species and thus insert “global” into the text, which simply isn’t there. There is no reference to any globe, quite the contrary. The earth in the text is a table not a globe.

Possible. The middle east may experienced soil erosion due to deforestation.

It wasn’t a promise so much as a threat. Never again, God warns will He destroy the earth for the sake of humanity. It was always about humanity and the earth spoken of in Genesis 6 is a table shaped place inhabited by humanity. Afterwards, mankind (no not talking about the homo sapiens species) is scattered over the earth in many cultures in order to keep the necessity from arising again.

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Why preserve 2 (or 7) of every species if it wasn’t a global flood?

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God threatens to not destroy the earth again?

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Sometimes I overlook the obvious. Will add that in. Good point. Also, I’m sure it can be claimed to serve as a warning or something and a chance to repent, but why an ark in the first place? Serves no point if it’s not the only means of escape. Could just move :man_shrugging:

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Few species are global. Many have been wiped by local disasters.

But frankly, I think this was more about preserving domesticated animals.

Yep. Because the purpose of flood was to rescue us from ourselves. And God wasn’t very happy with the price paid by the rest of nature for this.

Could be easier than wrangling kangaroos

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But unclean animals were supposed to be saved also.

The penguins made that long trip for nothing!

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So that’s what March of the Penguins was all about.

Sure, if you ignore everything the text actually says and then just make up a random meaning not found in there.

Genesis 6:19-20: 19 And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive.

Genesis 7:2-3. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth.

Genesis 7:8-9: “Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.”

When does the Mitchell International Version of the Bible hit bookstores?

Vinnie

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I am inclined to believe the theological insights provided by the account of Noah and the flood, while also understanding the context in terms of the limited understanding of scientific aspects available to writers of Genesis.

The first (and important) point is that Noah is part of the genealogy and shown to end with Abraham, thus leading to Israel. The biblical writers mention others in passing, or simply ignore other nations and civilisations. I think it is a mistake to turn to fragments of other tribes, nations, and civilisations, for an understanding of Genesis. It is reasonable to accept that the writers would regard Noah and the people around him as their world. On animals, I think clean and unclean are defined much later in the Bible, so it could be that these terms in Noah’s account refer to domesticated animals and non-domesticated ones.

The story of Noah has been told so often (I remember children stories) as applying to the globe, that few people bother to see instead the theological significance, even to us today.

I would make this point regarding the scientific accuracies in theological works (or lack thereof), by drawing from a prominent theologian, Gregory of Nissa whose writings include “On the Making of Man”. When we read this, we can see from the introduction that St. Gregory had theological notions in mind, but he went to lengths to include the latest understanding available on what constitutes man, the organs, their function, the working of the human frame, and so on – in other words the latest scientific/philosophical ideas available in his civilisation, be it pagan, atheistic, or theistic. Yet when I read this, I could see that nowadays nothing of this science was accurate, and some aspects are simply laughable.

Does this negate his theological insights? If he based any ideas on his understanding of human anatomy, we would say yes, any such insights would be wrong. However, I contend that such errors are few and rarely so clear-cut.

The same may be said of Genesis, be it Adam and Eve, or Noah and the flood.

I am not invested either way in the flood being a localized flood or a literary device.

But I think that those that want it to just be a purely fictional thing can’t demand that those who think it’s localized must take it all literal. I can still think a localized flood happened to some family where God saved them somehow and that the very small story was retold again and again and hyperbolic speech was added and it was turned into a myth.

Sort of like a man who was on a boat fishing and caught fish and someone decades later it turned into a man in a kayak who lost his dog to some river monster that he battled for hours until he broke off a shoreline stick and stabbed it through the fishes eye killing it and it turned out to Wright 700lbs. I could believe that the fish story was based in an actual event and that it’s been heavily edited into a grand myth. I don’t have to necessarily jump to it’s just pure fiction. I can also say that over thousands of years this myth has been edited into a very well written theological layer setting up biblical patterns and ect…

Of course you can think that or you can even not think that. There is no evidence for that scenario either way. Affirming it is simply residual concordism. Otherwise we would simply say it is possible and abstain from judgment given the absence of any real evidence for or against it. In the end, the kernel doesn’t matter. Two flood stories were woven together ingeniously and that is what we find in scripture.

Vinnie

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I am reading a book tonight that has some interesting thoughts. Creation Untamed: The Bible, God and natural Disasters by Terence Fretheim.

“It is God who has changed between the beginning and end of the flood, not human beings (although there are fewer of them around!).”

“Inasmuch as human beings are said to be just as sinful after the flood as before it (cf. Gen. 6:5 with 8:21), pain will be an ongoing reality for God. Thus the flood did not end the reason for the divine suffering. Although not simply resigned to sin and evil, God decides to continue to live with such resisting creatures (not the response of your typical CEO!). This divine decision to go with a wicked world, come what may, means for God a continuing grieving of the heart. Indeed, the everlasting, unconditional promise to Noah and all flesh necessitates divine suffering; a pain-free future is not possible for God. In other terms, the future of the creation that now becomes possible is rooted in this divine willingness to bear ongoing pain and sorrow. God determines to take suffering of all creatures into God’s own self and bear it there for the sake of the future of the world. In some sense, the world’s future becomes dependent on this divine suffering. God’s suffering, climaxing in the cross, over time proves to be very powerful; indeed, one might say that suffering is God’s chief way of being powerful in the world.”

He also goes on to say God is seen placing a limit on what He will allow himself to do about human violence and sin.

It is an interesting read this far.

Vinnie

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But to demand that we either take it real or not real isn’t that what fundamentalism is? Nothing there compromises theology, history or science. It’s what is even thought about many things. Plenty of places in the Bible is believed to be mythicized history. I don’t think you can really classify that as concordism.

Yes… in the sense that there is a change of strategy. God goes from simply hoping people will learn from the consequences of their own choices and seeing the advantages of cooperation, to the method He used in evolution – that of competition. It meant the beginning of one of the greatest evils of human history – that of war. But mankind united together in a culture of evil and abuse is actually worse than war. For in the war there is at least hope for change, and the competition between nations placed limits on how self-destructive they could be and yet survive the conflicts with other nations.

“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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