Jeanson's Method of Inferring Past Population Sizes

I wasn’t being clear enough with my point. Jesus did those miracles IN ORDER to show he was the Creator God. What he did and they way he did it fulfilled their expectations of who they believed the creator to be.

@swamidass has made this same point in interviews. I have been planning on offering some reasons why that may not be so clearly the case. You may be interested in looking for that post. Hopefully I can do that in the next few days. I wanted to research one point more. But your reply is urging me on, so I had better do so soon!


That’s great, because you seem to be realizing that it’s at least debatable. If you can’t tell from scripture, we can look to what nature says to guide us. If there was a global flood, secular scientists would have found evidence for it by now but they haven’t.


Of course there’s no evidence of a local flood either, at least one of sufficient size to fit the story. Remember that it has to cover the tallest mountains. But no flood has ever covered any mountains. I suppose you could try to translate that as “some small hills”.

Tallest mountains is a phenomenological statement, and there is plenty of evidence that every mountain insight could have been obscured from view :slight_smile:

Yes, I think it’s debatable. It was beginning to be my pet peeve as I watched your interviews that no one questioned you on why you think so. So I will bring my arguments to show I do think it’s very debatable. :laughing: One involves my kids, so it will be fun. :heart_eyes:

Well if it’s debatable, why choose an interpretation that puts you in irreconcilable conflict with what we are seeing in nature?

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(1) The word in Hebrew can be applied to both mountains and hills. In other words, because of the differences in the semantic ranges, the translator is basically forced to make a distinction in English which is not made in the Hebrew text. I suppose an English translation could say “elevations” but that would be a strange wording. (It just doesn’t sound natural to English speakers, even though it would accurately translate the Hebrew original.)

(2) The late Glenn Morton even addressed this in the book which his son posted to Amazon just before his passing. Morton argued that both the Edenic pericope and the Noahic Flood pericope would fit the not-yet-flooded Mediterranean Basin geography, topology, and geology quite well. He asserted that oil exploration maps indicate plenty of very tall mountains on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea, such that it would not be a problem for the rapidly rising waters from a collapsed Gibralter straits “dam breech” cascading to exceed them.

(3) The one passage in Genesis (Gen.7:20) which describes the magnitude of the flood (a description of height rather than depth, technically speaking) contains difficult grammar. So if one compares various translations—not just the popular Bible translations familiar to the public but also those found in scholarly commentaries—it is not entirely clear whether the flood waters were 15 cubits high in total or 15 cubits above the hilltops/mountaintops.

For example, the New American Standard Bible says:

The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered.

Similarly, the KJV Bible says:

Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

Even the average English-Bible reader can appreciate the the simple insertion of a single punctuation mark would change the sense. For example, the International Standard Version says:

The flood waters rose 15 cubits above the mountains.

Yet, if the Hebrew text (which did not include the kinds of punctuations we expect today) were read with an appositive phrase in mind, one would get:

The flood waters rose 15 cubits—above the mountains.

In any case, it is certainly possible for a hill/mountain (Hebrew HEHARIM) to be surpassed by flood waters which are 15 cubits high (probably around 23 feet.)

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“Hills” would be too vague. Does the Hebrew term include features only a few meters tall? It would certainly be a less impressive flood that only went as high as the roof of my house. Is that really a credible reading?

Yes, I know. For a great many reasons, his story is at great variance with the Flood story. And you should know that the waters wouldn’t have risen all that rapidly except right at the entrance. You could have walked out from the Eastern Med…

15 cubits would however be a truly pathetic flood; that’s a two-story house with an attic. Surely you can resolve the translation better than that.

Why? And what are your criteria for determining if the original words (and resulting translation) is too “vague”?

That type of question is similar to asking, “How big of a dirt pile is required before one calls it [in English, let alone in an ancient language in which extreme semantic precision is not always discernable because all of the native speakers are dead] a hill instead?” At how many feet high does a hill become a mountain —and does the presence of greenery versus bare rock impact that classification?

As to your question, if one lives in a relatively flat plain, for example, an elevation of just six feet is often called a hill. (I’ve personally observed that semantic phenomenon in areas of Texas and the Midwest. Also, some visitors from the Rocky Mountain states travel through the Appalachians and comment, “Heck. Those ain’t mountains. Those are just itty bitty hills!”)

Would “the high ground” qualify as a reasonable translation (instead of hill/mountain) of the ancient Hebrew text? I don’t know. With ancient languages sufficient corpus volume to reap sufficient concordance examples of word usage is not always available. After all, word meanings must typically be determined from comparing many contexts (plus contemporary and later translations, if available.)

How so?

I’m not familiar enough with his research and his geologic data (and meteorological data) to double-check his calculations. I only read the portion of the book available for free preview at Amazon, as well as some shorter articles he wrote on this topic in recent years. I’m not even a defender per se of his position. I’m simply citing it as one example of various hypotheses which are not in conflict with the Hebrew text of Genesis—and Morton’s may be one is known to some Peaceful Science readers.

I’ve observed floods of such a height. They struck me as extremely impressive floods. Moreover, they can certainly be catastrophically lethal. (Indeed, some of us remember the Bangledesh floods of 1966.) Moreover, the Noahic Flood was described as devastating not just in height/depth but duration. Over a year of such flood conditions is impressive indeed.

I vaguely recall him addressing that issue in the past but I have not read the relevant chapters of his recently published book. In any case, even under conditions of just a few days of devastating rains, leaving a water-logged area on foot can be virtually impossible. That happens even in some lowland floods in modern times—and I think Bangladesh has provided multiple examples.

It is not necessarily the role of the translator to “resolve” anything. (I may not understand your meaning here.) The goal is translation accuracy, clarity, and a sense of natural flow in the target language.

A flood of twenty-three feet reaching to the horizon in all directions is certainly tragic. I see nothing “pathetic” about it.

(@thoughtful Valerie may find this further-extended flood tangent of interest.)

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Check out the thread. It was discussed at length.

  1. It is in conflict with the Hebrew text.
  2. What other hypotheses are not in conflict?

Impressive enough to be the Flood of Noah? And seriously? 15 cubits?

How does a flood last for a year, and how does Noah manage to float around for that year without sighting land, and how does the ark come to rest on top of a mountain?

And this kills off all the humans? You’re making excuses, and hope you’re at least slightly embarrassed.

Let’s go with clarity. Is a hill 23 feet tall a reasonable translation of the Hebrew usually translated as “high mountains”?

I see that as a serious failure of imagination.

I did not find it convincing.

Not that I can find. But I’m glad to hear that you are digging into the details of the Hebrew text with such enthusiasm.

Many good Genesis commentaries and plenty of peer-reviewed papers will give you surveys of the most popular positions. These includes flood views involving various bodies of water of the Middle East and Mesoptamia. (It is 10:45pm and I’m gradually fading from lecture mode, so I leave the research and exposition as an exercise for the reader.)


The Great Lakes have been flooded for many thousands of years. The Mediteranean Sea as well. The Dead Sea has been flooded for even longer.

Depending on the water currents, very easily. (After all, no propulsion is described in the text. Not even a sail. Are you suggesting that all floating objects on large bodies of water reach dry land in less than a year?)

Nothing in the Biblical text says anything about the ark coming to rest on top of a mountain. (Perhaps the Far Side cartoon misled you. Please, don’t be embarrassed. It happens sometimes. Your Hebrew literacy skills failed you.)

Absolutely mortified. (Though probably for different reasons than you imagine.)

Considering that the Hebrew word can be translated hill, hill country, or mountain, yes, it is reasonable. But once again, you are demanding a distinction between hill and mountain which may be important to English speakers but not necessarily to the Hebrew text. (That’s one of the perils of translation: mapping between semantic domains of differing ranges and making distinctions which are not necessarily found in the original language text.)

Sorry to disappoint. My imagination has failed me many times, especially as I get older. That’s why I’m a has-been linguist who is long retired.

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You do realize, I hope, that my view must put me in conflict with what we are seeing in nature as it is described by scientists because the world that existed before the flood is different than the world we inhabit now? (As 2 Peter describes) So the same evidence explained by scientists as a continuation of this world, is the same evidence that shows a different world existed before the flood.

A reasonably good movie dealt with this exact question.

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I did read the post. What I find most interesting actually is that a man who would have us disbelieve in a global flood, would also like us to believe it was a very great judgment indeed. :joy: The devil would also make such an argument. :crazy_face:

I hadn’t thought of it as particularly “interesting” but I certainly find it important to encourage my students to believe and affirm what the Biblical text actually states and which can be discerned by careful exegesis rather than what man-made traditions would impose upon the text. (I’m not a big fan of believing something that is based on tradition more than text.)

The text is very clear on it being a “very great judgment”—a judgment of all Imago Dei humans descended from Adam. I would “like us to believe” what the text actually states and not assert [you call that “disbelieve”] what is not found in the Biblical text.

You lost me on that one. However, if you are implying that the devil would prefer that Bible readers believe anachronistic traditions over what the Bible actually states, I agree.

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I’m not following. What man are you referring to?

I will confess that you have quite reversed my previous impression of you, and eliminated a fair deal of respect.

Perhaps it could be discussed at some point.

None of these bodies of water would work, as the flood dried up within the year. Are you claiming that the water dried up, Noah exited, and the water filled up again?

None of those are relevant, since the story is about a flood that receded. (Incidentally, that’s one way in which the Mediterranean scenario conflicts with Genesis.)

How would you translate what’s commonly rendered as “the mountains of Ararat”? Would that be “a small hill in my back yard”?

Does any other Hebrew scholar consider a 23-foot hill as a credible translation? How about “the mountains of Ararat”? Also 23 feet?

I don’t believe I am. I’m merely asking if a mound 23 feet high is within the range that the writers of Genesis would have meant by the word. As you have said, it doesn’t precisely match the English word “hill”. Do you in fact have any notion of the range covered?

I have never found the local flood interpretations to be a very compelling reading of the Noah narrative - I cannot really envision a flood and ark working that way. However, any Hebrew word for mountain would have to reference what passes for mountains in Israel, and the best of those would all be considered unimpressive foothills here in western Canada. The word used is translated as either mountain or hill throughout English translations of the old testament, anywhere with a view seems to qualify. I think Allen’s range for the use of the word is lexically sound, so far as that aspect of things goes.

har: mountain, hill, hill country

Not just secular scientists, of course. There are loads of Christian scientists who looked at the evidence and rejected a global flood. Muslim scientists too, and Buddhist ones, etc. etc.


(it would have allowed the ark to have a moon pool, as suggested by some apologists, albeit a completely useless one)