"And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. "But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark--you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you." Genesis 6:17-18
The "Global" Flood?
Genesis chapters 6-9, is crucial for the young-earth creationists' doctrine to be tenable. The traditional view, that the entire globe was covered with water, is fundamental to their solution of the findings of geology today. Without this deluge, the fossils, the strata and the great carved out features of our planet, such as the Grand Canyon, are without explanation. Even the ice age, must be resolved by these great waters. Flood geology, as presented by the modern creationist movement, is essential, upon it, their theory will either "sink or swim." Are the findings of geology consistent with this view?
Being a "young-earther" myself, I believed with all my heart, that the Genesis flood, a global deluge, was a demonstrable fact. I was persuaded to conclude that only fringe liberals believed otherwise. As I began to confront the discussion of origins objectively, this facet was the first to collapse. It was a devastating blow; my faith was numbed like repeatedly being hit with a hammer. But I discovered that a foundation that is damaged and then built up again can be even more solid. The evidence made it easy to change my position. The scientific data is relentless against a global flood and to interpret the original Hebrew, so that the text and the findings of geology harmonize, is not very difficult. So let's see what we can discover. We'll examine the scientific evidence opposing a global flood and then, see if we can use sound exegesis of the text to support the notion that the flood of Noah was in fact a local event.
Professionals who study the earth sciences do not hold to the view that the earth was destroyed by a flood in recent history. They have reached their conclusion purely by the evidence and this has been the situation for generations. My attempt is not to be exhaustive here. The following are some of the details that convinced me. There are literally scores of other examples.
1. How do we explain the coral reefs? Coral is extremely fragile and could never survive this deluge. We can measure the rate in which coral deposits calcium, and by empirical evidence, know they are millions of years old. Scientists also have discovered fossils buried beneath them.
2. How about viruses, bacteria and parasites, did they survive the flood or were the animals aboard the ark hosts to all of them? Most pathogenic bacteria need very specific environmental needs to persist. And what about bees, termites and ants? What purpose would it serve to have a male and a female? They need the entire colony to survive.
3. How do we explain extremely slow creatures such as turtles and land snails? The three-toed sloth is a South American animal that only travels, top speed, about 0.068 m.p.h. How did this pair of animals get from Ararat to their home in such a short time and how did they ever survive? The fossil record tells us that these animals have always been indigenous to South America.
4. What about short lived creatures (such as the mayfly) which are born, reproduce and die in less than a year? Also, many varieties of short-lived insects need extremely specific environments to breed, how did these species ever survive on the ark for a year?
5. What about varves? Annual layers of sediment that form very distinct layers of seasonal deposits in lake beds. The number of years can be figured accurately. The chemical composition of the layers is different in the summer than it is the rest of the year and leaves an unmistakable record. The Green River formation consists of more than 20,000,000 annual layers. The distinction in seasonal layers makes it impossible for this to have happened in one event. Also, there are fossils neatly set between layers, not crossing layers as would be expected if this formation was assembled by a single flood.
6. How do we explain all the varieties of plant life today? Few would ever survive in water for very long, which includes seeds! Many need proper soil conditions that would certainly have been ravished in this event. And how did the grazing animals have sustenance after this devastation?
7. Where did all the water go? Gen.8:1 says, "God made a wind to pass over the earth and the waters receded." Wind passing over a body of water will cause evaporation and then clouds form which can then dump the water elsewhere. If the whole earth was overlaid with water, how can a wind cause the water to recede? Gen.8:3 says, "and the waters returned off the earth continually." Where did the water drain too? We can picture a regional flood, the waters draining to the sea or some lower plane, but not if all the earth is covered! Creationists try to explain this by claiming that the mountains suddenly arose and the ocean beds sank. Geologists insist that this not the case at all. Psalm 104 does not support this assertion. This chapter is a poetic account of the creation epic.
I won't take the time here to dwell on well traveled ground but to just mention: How do we explain fitting all those animals in the ark, how did Noah feed them all, how did they all get to the ark, how did Noah and family keep the ark clean, what did he do with the creatures that needed to be in water and what about predatory animals? Please, take the time and check this out, there is a myriad of questions that need to be answered!
It is alarming whenever our beliefs that we hold dear are threatened. I know, I've been there and I can sincerely empathize with you. However, if truth is on our side, then we need to accept these challenges with honesty, courage and integrity. As we have seen, a world wide flood suffers much under examination. Since the birth of geology (which was predominately Christian), questions that a global flood was in fact true, began to emerge. Let's now see if the Bible in fact demands this view.
First we need to remember context; the historical context of the Old Testament is to the Jew first not to those living in L.A. or New York. We need to remember as we read the narrative, to narrow our focus. "The whole world . . . " in Genesis 6-9, is Noah''s world and "all the high hills that are covered . . . " are what is visible to him.
Second, we need to allow the writer the freedom to use figures of speech. We still say "I got up before sunrise," though we know that's not scientifically accurate. Many sayings in the Bible are colloquialisms and must be interpreted so. It is a fact that the writers of scripture often used a form of speech known as synecdoche, where a whole is used for a part. Luke 2:1 tells us that "ALL the world was taxed," and Acts 2:5 says "men out of EVERY nation," Obviously these verses are not pertaining to people in China or America. ALL the people and ALL the animals that died in the flood were local to the land of Noah.
Third, we need to pay attention to the original language. Hebrew has many generic words that carry several PROPER meanings. The word "erets," which is translated as "earth" throughout the flood account, also means land, country, a region etc. In Jeremiah 47:2, he talks about a great flood that will cover the LAND, "erets." He is speaking figuratively of an invading army but notice the comparison to the flood story if "erets" is translated as earth: "Thus saith the LORD; Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the EARTH, and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein . . . " Sounds familiar doesn't it? There are no grammatical reasons to prevent "erets" from being translated as land throughout the flood account. Gen. 7:19 speaks of all the high hills under heaven being covered. The word "har" again is a generic term and can mean any elevation from a mole hill to Mt. Everest and "under all heaven" is a figure of speech common to the Bible, e.g., Deut. 2:25, Isaiah 13:5,7.
Other arguments can be raised to support the universal flood interpretation but writers have dealt with them and I personally am satisfied. The tough question is why the flood. Most agree it was to wipe out evil but did it work? It doesn't matter which position you hold, there appears to be more to it than that. I suppose the context of Genesis 6 points to "the Nephelim" being the reason for the judgment. I don't know, but this is one of the great mystery passages in the Bible. I believe that the acceptance of science and good exegesis conclude that the flood of Genesis was local to the Mesopotamian region, that its primary target was the "Adamites" and the animals that Noah was commanded to take on board were essential to the local ecology and of course, the domesticated animals as well. It seems the Babylonian epic (that has so many parallels) and the Genesis account is the same event which would nicely match the dates (about 4,500 y.a.g.) as well.