The Genesis Flood Through Ancient Eyes: An Interview with John Walton and Tremper Longman

Exactly right. By teaching their children that Genesis is either literal truth or else a lie, YEC believers set their children up for failure. The full damage they have done will not be seen for another generation, but make no mistake about it – YEC has pushed far more people away from the faith that it has attracted, and one day there will be an accounting.

And I, for one, have benefited from your efforts. Keep thinking, keep writing, keep speaking. The body of Christ needs more like you …

It is absolutely driven by fear. They have forgotten the word to Isaiah:

A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”


I’d just like to say that it’s good to see you contributing to this thread. One of my big frustrations when I read articles by YEC leaders is that I keep feeling like they’re trying to spoon-feed us. YEC sites usually either don’t have a comments section at all, or else the comments are very heavily moderated to make everyone look like either a yes-man or a blatant mouth-breathing troll. To see you actively participating on the BioLogos forum here as a member of the YEC leadership, is encouraging as it breaks that mould.

However, I’d like to reiterate – and expand on – this point that @gbrooks9 has made here:

This is a mistake that I see YEC apologists making over and over again – not providing a link but merely saying “You can search Google/ for more information.” Telling someone to search the web may be an appropriate response if they are coming to you with unsolicited requests for technical support, but it is not an appropriate response if you are trying to back up your own claims. This is especially important for YECs – if you are serious about refuting the frequently-raised charges of quote mining, you need to be going the extra mile in trying to make your citations as clear, transparent and accessible as possible.


Not only this, but I have seen those who are in the sciences that recognize invalid arguments and false or fantastic ideas particularly about the age of the earth, and who then reject the either the gospel message altogether or else drop out of fellowship due to the embracing of the local church with that sort of thing. I like to think that those of us who have a bit more spiritual maturity can look past those issues but some people cannot.


Actually, Tas, paleontologists do make predictions about as yet unknown fossils.

Famously, Lyell (who believed in a paleontological steady state, such that all major kinds of animals were present in all geological periods, except for the recent creation of humans) predicted that we would eventually discover many of the “missing pages” in the paleontological “book” (his metaphor), and then we would see that fish, reptiles, birds, mammals, and amphibians have always been present–despite many individual types becoming extinct. Just as famously, Darwin used the same metaphor to argue that those missing pages would eventually show the existence of many transitional forms.

Lyell was plainly mistaken–no one doubts this today–but Darwin was right (IMO). Indeed now we do have many obvious examples of transitional forms, starting with archaeopteryx back in Darwin’s own day. Whales, as you know, have recently caused much interest, owing to spectacular discoveries in Egypt and elsewhere.

See especially, this personal story by someone who specializes in whale fossils: (" Transitional fossils are becoming increasingly abundant. They have the intermediate anatomical characteristics we would predict, and we find them when and where we would expect to.")

For some reason many ID people don’t accept these conclusions–I should think that, unless ID is in principle opposed to common ancestry (most ID people say it’s not), they’d be open to seeing these new fossils as transitional forms. I leave further analysis of that confused and confusing stance for another day. OECs and YECs often insist that such discoveries of transitional forms don’t really fill “gaps” in evolutionary history; rather (they say), such discoveries simply create more gaps–those between the new species and previously known species. I think it was John Morris (son of Henry Morris and a former president of ICR) who said that it would take 100,000 transitional forms to persuade him of common ancestry. When is enough, enough? That’s a wholly unreasonable stance, IMO.


Mr. Tas Many have done this. When i was YEC i read a lot. I read AIG.
But being the paranoid kid i am. (Yes i am a kid, 15, 16 in june) I investigate everything i read, Everything i believe. I did that very thing with your site and found many errors. So of course i began searching and searching your site for answers, And all i got were fractions of answers. Ignoring huge problems. When i asked for some clarification your respondents gave me the same old links i had read 30 times over and over. And in a mail about flood geology, You gave me an ultimatum.
Either you believe in the Bible, Gods infallible innerant word. Or the insignificant ramblings of sinful humans who ignore God with all their being. So in short: You either stay YEC or you can’t be a Christian. When you say so many geologists see so much evidence when they are pointed to it is just a lousy appeal to authority. If you can indeed get so many geologists to see the evidence for a flood. Why can’t you make a 15 year old kid see it? But instead tell him to blindly follow whatever he is told. I have spent alot of evenings looking into it all. But i know that not every kid will do this. And they will give up their belief. If only i could show them how different it actually is.


Yes, mature Christians can overlook disagreement about the interpretation of Genesis, but you can’t expect unbelievers to choose “God’s word over man’s word,” as the YEC mantra puts it, when they don’t know Christ. The situation reminds me a bit of Paul’s discussion of tongues in 1 Cor. 14:23,

“So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”

Except nowadays, the YEC church comes together and everyone asserts that the universe was created in six 24-hr days, the Earth is 6000 years old, Noah preserved the animals from a worldwide flood, etc., and inquirers and unbelievers come in and do exactly what Paul said – decide that you are out of your minds.

I hope I don’t ruin it for you guys, but I was quite surprised to read this …

… followed by this …

A prominent person in YEC leadership issues an ultimatum to a 15-yr-old. Really? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, because this is the approach of their entire movement, and it is driving an entire generation of young people away from Christ.

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!



Apparently you haven’t read one of my key requirements above.

I have no plan on doing your googling for you. If you don’t have time to provide the link yourself, I certainly don’t have the time to give a hoot what you are talking about.

I am quite energetic, even zealous, about providing links to articles, and specific references to book pages, and the like. If you can’t return the favor, you are certainly wasting my time - - and probably dozens of other readers as well.

Good luck to ya.

1 Like

All of Genesis 2-11, flood included, can be understood as Semitic history. Where Walton got the idea that a local flood in Mesopotamia was recounted in worldwide terms in Genesis is beyond me, but it falls into his perspective, Adam as “archetype.” He can’t admit to Adam and Noah being actual historical personalities because he signed a statement of faith saying he believed all of humanity sprang from Adam. An actual Adam at around 7,000 years ago assures us he was not the progenitor of our species with 200,000 years on earth and precursors going back millions of years. So what Walton really believes is known only to him, but he is hemmed in by the university that employs him - Wheaton. The flood also can not be a true local event as judgment upon the descendants of Adam in Waltonese for the same reason, Noah becomes a restriction point through which the entire human race must pass if all of humanity sprang from Adam and the biblical account is taken as human history. The problem is Waltons and he inflicts it on the rest of us.

1 Like

I don’t understand the insistence on the flood being worldwide. The phrase traditionally translated ‘whole world’ kol eretz could just as easily be translated ‘whole land’ and the description refer to a local flood. Even the phrase ‘under the whole heaven’ is used elsewhere to describe local events like the inhabitants of Canaan trembling in fear at the approaching Israelites Deut 2:25. I suspect to the original writers the phrase ‘under the whole heaven’ would simply have meant from horizon to horizon, that the water for the flood stretched as far as the eye could see.


Well, it’s easy to offer explanations once you are satisfied that there are some “liberties” that the scribes took in their production of the Bible.

@Jonathan_Burke takes the position that it was originally a regional story, that started to accumulate features of a global flood.

I believe a regional flood inspired the story of a global flood… but that this happened before the Flood was ever included in Genesis. I think once the Sumerians and Akkadians started to update this story, the Scribes in Babylon could not resist taking a pagan story and giving it a more sacred and Yahwist “spin”.

What makes the story definitively “global” instead of “regional” (as received text) are the following features:

  1. If God tells you a regional flood is coming, you move out of the valley. You don’t spend a year on a boat and stay in the valley.
  2. If it was a regional flood, you wouldn’t be floating around for a year.
  3. If it was a regional flood, the first bird you released would have found land.
  4. If it was a regional flood, when you touch down on land again, there will be a crowd of people clapping and applauding as you step down onto dry land.

It is my view that Genesis was a fairly mature draft when it was suddenly decided to insert the Flood story. If it had always been a part of the plot structure, all the references to the founders of tent making and animal husbandry and metal working would have been arranged after Noah’s family settled in.

Putting all these progenitors before Noah creates real problems.

The bible is full of stories of God saving people in funny ways, did Jesus really need to make a paste of muddy spit to heal a blind man,. A boat is mild in comparison, and is packed with symbolism. The numbers, days and cubits are probably symbolic, and would have been understood as symbolic, much like the lifespans.
I don’t think walking out is a great option if you want to save the region’s animal species, cattle and sheep would be easy to herd, but not if you are bringing snakes, wolves and mountain lions too. As for herding domestic cats or spiders and scorpions…
A regional flood in an area as wide as Mesopotamia would leave birds an awfully long way to fly. As for the cheering crowd, wouldn’t that depend on whether they sailed out of the flood zone, or ran aground as the waters receded?


I was using a little more flourish than the specifics of the account would justify… please pardon my enthusiasm. My cup runneth over.

I’m a Unitarian… so all your ideas sound fine. But still a little more religious than I would hear from my fellow Unitarians. So you are probably in a healthy middle ground!

I do stand by my thought that the scribe of Genesis never saw the flood that inspired the story … because that flood was the inspiration for the Sumerian version. Then maybe a later flood inspired an Akkadian to write a modified version.

And in the same way the Jewish scribes “just had to” write Esther, as a Jewish/Yahweh-fied version of Herodotus’s account of the Magophonia (“The Slaughter of the Magi”) … someone decided they reaally needed to do something cool with the epic flood story.

Beyond that … we can take turns speculating ! :smiley:

1 Like

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

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.