A fair number of contributors here have supported a so-called ‘local flood’. I have some questions:
Where did it happen?
Did it kill all of humanity, or just a portion?
When did it happen?
If the answer to 2 is “all”, then how did it achieve this? Wouldn’t at least a few people have been able to survive a local flood? I struggle to think of any example of a natural local flood having absolutely no survivors.
on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.
Why did the ark come to rest on the highest peak known in that part of the world, and why the reference to the tops of mountains, or even hills, becoming visible? That does not sound like a flood which can be contained in local terms.
I do not agree with Paul on much, but I also find local interpretations of a literal flood to be strained.
The Noah’s Ark story as told in Genesis is not literal and does not portray actual events which happened 4500 years ago. This has been conclusively demonstrated by the empirical scientific evidence from geology, genetics, paleontology, and dozens of other scientific disciplines. But you know that already.
For this I rely on the principle of Righteous Agnosticism: I don’t know what God is thinking, and either does anyone else. In this case, not only do I not know the character of God, but those qualities must be beyond the limit of human comprehension. Therefore, anyone claiming otherwise is trying to sell you something.
The scientific evidence does not support a global Flood.
The Bible appears to describe one, but ‘covered the whole Earth’ may well be a reference to ‘the known world’ in the Ancient Near East rather than the entire globe.
Without planes or long distance communication media, how would someone in a Bronze Age world even know how extensive a very, very large local flood that killed every living thing over the entire visible area was?
(OK, I’m leaving aside direct Divine reporting/verbal inspiration, that sort of thing)
An author reporting what he saw would see a flood that covered the whole (perceptible) Earth.
The notion that God told Noah to build a boat that saved as many humans as chose it, and enough of each of the local animals - 7 of the clean, a mating pair of the unclean - is not inconsistent with this view… and does help to solve some of the questions about how the kangaroos and anacondas and polar bears and all the animals from the whole globe travelled to and from the Ark and fitted into it. The local animals is a more manageable task.
The idea is proposed at all as a way of reconciling the Biblical account with the scientific evidence. There are problems in both science and hermeneutics in some of the possibilities I’ve described here, but there is not (as far as I know) a perfectly neat and clean synthesis, and these are at least plausible.
We can only apply human standards for that judgement. At best [we] can hope and pray that God is not arbitrary and capricious.
There is a good case for Noah’s Flood being arbitrary and Capricious. He could send a plague to kill off all the evil people mercifully in their sleep; no need for drowning innocents or an Ark full of animals. No mucking about with the laws of physics needed!.
BUT there is an alternative – The literal interpretation of Genesis could be arbitrary and capricious. That puts the blame for any confusion about the story of The Flood squarely back on Man, and lets God be as consistent as you like.
Fascinating, but that’s not the issue. It’s not whether the ancients knew of or could comprehend a globe.
The issue is how they could get news, within the period of the Flood, from far away.
When we talk ‘local’ flood, events such as the ‘dam-bursting’ of glacial lakes early in the interglacial inundated vast areas with great volumes of water. ‘Local’ needn’t mean ‘the size of a small rural town’. It can mean ‘the area of multiple small nations’.
@PDPrice I happened to teach on this today (in an upper-level undergrad class on Genesis). I find it helpful to put all the options on the table…and that number is more than two (i.e., global vs. local). I know of at least 6 different views:
Cosmic - Flood goes beyond the Earth (b/c of similar geological evidence on other planets and the moon) - [though not usually considered, it’s out there as a view that’s been postulated]
Global - Flood covered whole Earth and killed all land life (but the 8) [most YECs]
Universal but Regional - massive regional flood that killed all (other) existing creatures [many OECs’ e.g., Hugh Ross; tend to date flood early, c.a. 70kya]
Massive flood of the known world to the biblical authors/audience (e.g., based on Table of Nations) [not necessarily every creature killed]
Massive flood of the “world” utilizing intentional hyperbole
Series of local floods (at best) – flood narrative is largely mythological or symbolic
So, your series of questions, while understandable, are not as pertinent to each of the views. We must distinguish between the story of the flood and the historical event behind the story. Obviously, some of the views see these as nearly the same; but others do not.
A big issue here is genre (of Gen 1-11 broadly and Gen 6-9 particularly). Honestly, this is where I struggle: because I’m not sure of the genre (and, thus, must be open to several possibilities), it is difficult to know about what exactly to be certain in details, authorial intentionality, etc. This is a struggle even when the science is ignored.
But when the science is considered, a whole new level of complexity arises. It’s not that science supersedes the Scriptures. But science is part of God’s general revelation, and therefore becomes a theological question and part of the hermeneutical task. I realize Christians will disagree with how to do this, but to ignore it is, IMO, sub-Christian.
I probably lean toward view #5 (I used to be more #4), but am willing to be corrected. I told my students to go with what you think the Bible is teaching (and I find #2 a viable option), but be aware why others land (faithfully) elsewhere. I do think there are details in the text that give pause to the supposedly straightforward reading offered by YECs, but I still understand why YECs land where they do. I appreciate the YECs who honestly acknowledge the difficulties with the scientific evidence (e.g., Todd Wood), but do their work with hope of finding resolutions in the future. Honestly, I struggle with YECs who act like there are no scientific challenges. (I’d say the same about OECs or ECs who act like there are no exegetical or theological challenges with their own position.)
For the record, those are the handful of PhD scientists who signed a statement that no scientific evidence could ever contradict a literal Genesis interpretation of the Bible. The other 99.9% of PhD scientists with no such religiously motivated shackles on their thinking accept the overwhelming evidence for no global Noah’s Flood.
The Noah story makes a lot more sense as the appropriation of flood myths from the surrounding culture. More specifically, the flood myth found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. One could say that the Noah myth is almost directly plagiarized from the Epic.
The Epic of Gilgamesh dates to 2,000-1,500 BC, and most scholars have the Epic predating Genesis. Given the interactions between the Hebrew and Babylonian people it wouldn’t be surprising if the used a retelling of Babylonian myths in their own scriptures.
The internal features of the biblical account validates the fact that this was beyond question a global event. You have named two good ones out of a long list. Just look at this beautiful text:
“And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered”
How does a local flood “prevail” and not drain off into the gulf or low lying seas? But the waters kept rising! Above the mountains. And then it PREVAILED for 150 days. It’s like God was making double-sure that everything on the ground was twice-dead, then thrice-dead. Even if birds had found high ground, they could not survive for that length time. I mean how many times is the word “prevailed” used?
“The water prevailed upon the earth for 150 days.”
Then there is the double-emphasis of the original that repeats internal episodes. Start at verse 21 and look how it says “everything was killed”, then says it again, “really, everything”, then again, “no really, EVERYTHING was killed!”
Look at the double emphasis in verse 19 about the prevailing waters: “all the high mountains”, “everywhere under the heavens”. What other biblical account reads like that? This may be the only account in the Scripture where such emphasis is used so many times over.