In the Beginning and End of the World: Ken Ham and the Biblical Flood

In the Beginning and End of the World: Ken Ham and the Biblical Flood August 29, 2016


[1] My own (expansive) rendering of propagatione, non imitatione...

[2] Some progressive interpreters like Peter Enns suggest that it has at least some historical basis, while also minimizing the traditional Biblical/theological understanding of it. As he writes in a recent post,

The story of the flood seems to be rooted in history. Many biblical scholars relying on geological findings believe that a great deluge in southeastern Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (present-day Iraq) around 2900 BCE was the trigger for the many flood stories that circulated in the ancient world, some already two thousand years old by the time King David came on the scene around 1000 BCE.

These ancient stories were attempts to explain why this happened, and the cause was fixed in divine wrath/retribution.

For the rest of the post, when I use “Biblical flood” I’m referring at minimum to a flood that was caused directly by the Jewish god, and aimed at a population among whom Noah and his family were the sole survivors.

[3] Wayne Grudem, discussing a few relevant Jewish texts, notes that

The Sibylline Oracles, 1.171-172, say that the people who heard Noah’s exhortations to repentance from their wicked life mocked him: ‘When they heard him they sneered at him, each one, calling him demented, a man gone mad’ (this mocking occurs in the middle of Noah’s sermon about their sins, after the ark has been built: note lines 190-191, 205). Similarly, the Babylonian Talmud at b.Sanh. 1o8b says that those watching Noah ‘derided him’, saying, ‘Old man, what is this ark for?’ Genesis Rabbah 30.7 (on 6:9) says that Noah was mocked by those who watched him build the ark. They despised him and called him ‘contemptible old man’. Moreover, when Noah cut down trees to build the ark and told them a flood was coming they responded, ‘It will come only on your father’s house.’ In Ecclesiastes Rabbah on 9:14 (sec. 1), when Noah warns the people, ‘Tomorrow a flood will come, so repent’, they refuse to listen and mock him, ‘If punishments begin they will begin with your house’. (The First Epistle of Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, 216)

For other texts which mention Noah’s warning to his contemporaries and other things, cf. Sibylline Oracles 1:128-198; Jubilees 7:20-29; Josephus, Antiquities 1.70f. Cf. also Pseudo-Philo, L.A.B. 3.9; Vita Adae et Evae (The Life of Adam and Eve) 49-50. For patristic texts cf. the citations and discussion in Grypeou and Spurling, The Book of Genesis in Late Antiquity: Encounters between Jewish and Christian Exegesis, 180-81.

[4] For this idea, cf. 1 Enoch 38:5; 48:8-9. Puech, “Some Remarks on 4Q246 and 4Q521 and Qumran Messianism,” 549, commenting on 4Q246 ii 5-9, writes that “judgment in the hand of the people of God is not unique, compare 4QTestament of Qahat 1 ii 5; 1 Enoch 91:12 (=4QEnᵍ 1 IV 16); Daniel 7:22; Wisdom 3:8.” To this we might add 1QpHab V 4.

For its appearance in the New Testament itself, see 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Matthew 19:28 | Luke 22:30.

[5] “Make people naked” here seems to be a figurative way of referring to robbery, at least in how the Greek version takes it; though cf. Noah’s instructions “for his grandsons” in Jubilees 7 for an actual warning against nudity: “[Noah] testified to his sons that they should do what is right, cover the shame of their bodies, bless the one who had created them, honor father and mother, love one another, and keep themselves from fornication, uncleanness, and from all injustice. For it was on account of these three things that the flood was on the earth…”

[6] Despite their present status and conduct, “they will bring their spirits down to Sheol, and evils will come upon them; (their) suffering (will be) great. And in darkness and in a snare and in flames which burn, your spirits will enter into the great judgement” (103:7-8). All these translations by Stuckenbruck, 1 Enoch 91-108, only slightly modified.

In terms of the conjunction between the righteousness of Enoch and Noah and their judgment of the world, we might also look toward the words of Paul before the Areopagus, from the book of Acts (17:30-31):

30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man [Jesus] whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

[7] Stuckenbruck notes that

The flood associated with Noah served as a type for describing eschatological events; see Book of Watchers 10:1-23, the Exhortation 91:5-7 . . . and Matthew 24:37 (par. Lk. 17:26). (1 Enoch 91-108, 680)

Further, Stuckenbruck describes the section known as the Birth of Noah—constituting verses 106:1-107:3 of 1 Enoch, which shortly follows on the sections of the Epistle of Enoch quoted above—as “an early addition which creates an analogy between the ante-diluvian events leading up to the Great Flood and events that are eschatological from the perspective of the author or redactor and the audience” (680).

In their commentary on 4Q370, Feldman and Goldman note that “[t]he analogous character of the flood and the final judgment is also highlighted in the rabbinic and patristic sources,” with plenty of citations (Scripture and Interpretation: Qumran Texts that Rework the Bible, 64).

[8] Though cf. Adams, “‘Where is the Promise of his Coming?’ The Complaint of the Scoffers in 2 Peter 3:4.”

[9] As for Porphyry, I’ve quoted and discussed this text more here. Celsus is quoted from Contra Celsum, 5.14; translation by Chadwick, 274.

In terms of other mockery relating to eschatological things from elsewhere in the New Testament itself, we might also think of the trial of Jesus in the gospel of Mark, where Jesus is condemned for delivering the prophetic and eschatologically loaded words that “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” [14:62], and then only verses latter is abused and mocked, and challenged to “prophesy!”. Further, just prior to this, “false testimony” was given against Jesus, that he said he would destroy the Temple and rebuild it. Although in all this there was clearly understood to be an element of blasphemous self-deification, it could very well be the case that these reactions were also in part due to Jesus’ unusual and/or unpopular eschatological predictions.

For more on the idea that eschatological judgment/punishment could have particularly been in mind in these verses, cf. Thomas Hatina, “Who Will See the ‘Kingdom of God Coming with Power’ in Mark 9:1—Protagonists or Antagonists?”; though cf. also Collins, “The Charge of Blasphemy in Mark 14.64.”

[10] Jewish Antiquities 1.70 (?); translation from Feldman, Flavius Josephus, Judean Antiquities 1-4. Translation and Commentary, 24-26, only slightly modified.

We find a “primary” account of this in Life and Adam and Eve 49, where

six days after Adam died, Eve, aware that she would die, gathered all her sons and daughters, Seth with thirty brothers and thirty sisters, and [said] . . . and the archangel Michael said to us, ‘Because of your collusion, our LORD will bring over your race the wrath of his judgment, first by water and then by fire; by these two the LORD will judge the whole human race.’

Following this, Eve tells them to make “tablets of stone and other tablets of clay,” etc. In 2 Enoch 33, Enoch is told that angels are appointed “to preserve the handwritings of your fathers so that they might not perish in the impending flood which I will create in your generation.”

Adams, in his “Historical Crisis and Cosmic Crisis in Mark 13 and Lucan’s Civil War,” notes that in Lucan’s Civil War

The astrologer Nigidius Figulus attempts to interpret the omens in the sky. The message is clear: ‘imminent destruction is planned for Rome and humankind’ (2:644-45). Figulus speculates on what kind of disaster is planned. Is it to be destruction by water, a cataclysm to rival Deucalion’s flood (651-54)? Is it to be a setting ablaze of the world in cosmic conflagration (655-59)? (339)

I’m too lazy to cite all the texts that mention this flood of fire; though cf. 1 Enoch 66-67 for an interesting iteration. Feldman and Goldman, Scripture and Interpretation, 64 n. 67 and 68 have citations. (See also 1 Enoch 102:1.)

[11] In truth I don’t really have a specific piece of writing that I’m happy with that covers this comprehensively. You might start out here or here or here, though. (The former is merely illustrative of how ancient Jewish and Christian interpreters used the Biblical texts as solid historical “data” that could be used to calculate the age of the earth and humanity.)

[12] Unlike the Olivet Discourse, off-hand I’m not aware of any modern scholars who’ve suggested that what 2 Peter 3 really had in mind here was, for example, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.—which is partly why I included (the admittedly vague) “metaphysical” too. We mostly have to go to really sketchy sources to find any direct suggestions of the sort. To the extent that scholars have suggested that 2 Peter 3 doesn’t necessarily conceive the actual end of the space-time universe, this is usually done merely by deemphasizing the (literal) cosmological dimensions here and emphasizing the aspect of eschatological judgment, no matter how the latter’s actually enacted.

Edward Adams quotes Kraftchick who suggests that “the author is not interested in cosmology per se, but in proving that there is a future judgment for human sin. The elements of apocalyptic thought and of Stoic cosmology were simply used to convey the idea of universal divine judgment, not to propose a theory of cosmology.” Of course, it’d be extremely trivial to reiterate that the author of 2 Peter wasn’t composing a cosmological treatise in nuce here. Adams responds to this that “[t]he shift to the thought of the judgement of the ungodly does not in the least negate, undermine or relativize the . . . cosmological statements” (The Stars Will Fall From Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe in the New Testament and its World, 215-16).

(I certainly don’t think it’s useful to even separate the cosmological from the eschatological here. 2 Peter 3:5 is the only verse that doesn’t suggest judgment; but it leads into 6 which does.)

However: there are isolated modern scholars who have taken things in much more of a preterist direction more generally here; and at least speaking historically speaking, some have suggested connections with Jerusalem’s destruction.

For example, in an article on BioLogos, Brian Godawa suggests that

Peter writes figuratively about the final ending of the Old Covenant, with God’s judgment on Israel for rejecting Messiah, and the final establishment of his New Covenant as a New World Order, or in their case, a “new heavens and new earth.”

He also clarifies that “[t]he New Covenant inauguration and implementation were not merely abstract claims of contractual change; it was physically verified that the destruction of the Old Covenant emblem, the Temple, finalized the dissolution of the Old Covenant itself.” Further, he quotes John Lightfoot from the 17th century, who had suggested that “[t]he destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state is described as if the whole frame of this world were to be dissolved.” In fact, this interpretation applied to 2 Peter 3 seems to have had its heyday around the 17th century, with the likes of Hugo Grotius and Henry Hammond and others: “[i]n its literal sense, Grotius and Hammond argued, the Petrine conflagration was applicable only to the historical destruction of Jerusalem; any futurist application of the fire dissolving the heavens and the earth would violate the historical context of the prophecy and had to be understood in an allegorical sense” (Smolinski, “Apocalypticism in Colonial North America,” 452).

Of course, how this all makes any sense of the fact that 2 Peter 3:8-9 seems to offer an explanation for why all these things haven’t been fulfilled yet is beyond me. (I cover these verses in quite a bit of detail shortly in my post.)

[13] In terms of academic representatives of the sort of two opposing interpretive extremes here, we could point to N.T. Wright on “figurative” side, and Edward Adams on the “literal,” and also to a large degree Dale Allison. (Though terminological lines can be blurred here: for example, Brant Pitre speaks of Mark 13:24-25—which I discuss further below—as “literal language meant to describe the cosmic effects of an event that is both historical and eschatological: the destruction of Jerusalem” [Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile, 337].)

I’m sure there are other more relevant excerpts, but in conjunction with this Wright comments that

the New Testament simply doesn’t support this literalistic use of apocalyptic language. For all we know, there may have been some Christians in the early church who really did believe that the space-time universe was about to come to a complete halt, to be utterly destroyed. Perhaps whoever wrote 2 Peter 3.10 (“the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed”) expected it to be taken literally, but the last word of that quotation strongly suggests otherwise. It was only later that various scribes altered the phrase to “will be burnt up”, which you still find in some Bibles.

(By contrast, Allison comments on 2 Peter 3:10-13 that “I believe that this should be read literally” in his “Jesus & the Victory of Apocalyptic,” 139.)

Much of the discussion has focused not on 2 Peter 3, however, but on the Olivet Discourse, which I discuss more following immediately following this note in the main body of my post. I’ve also discussed Wright’s proposals in this regard, as well as Adams’ a bit here, where I was quite critical of the former (specifically his suggestion that the “coming of the Son of Man” here is oriented rather exclusively toward the destruction of Jerusalem).

For a readily available article arguing that Mark 13:24-27 is metaphor for the destruction of Jerusalem, see Hatina’s “The Focus of Mark 13:24-27: The Parousia, or the Destruction of the Temple?” For two available articles by Adams, see his “Historical Crisis and Cosmic Crisis in Mark 13 and Lucan’s Civil War” and “The Coming of the Son of Man in Mark’s Gospel.” The former might be particularly instructive in looking at Mark 13:7 and its parallels. (More recently on the Olivet Discourse is Robert Stein’s Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13—which at the same time that he seeks to distance himself from some of Wright’s more implausible suggestions here, nonetheless seems to end up with an implausible apologetic interpretation. Which is somewhat in keeping with the fact that Stein’s is sort of only a mid-tier academic work; and it actually only cites the work of Adams three short times in the whole book.)

But Dale Allison asks, quite instructively, in reference to “in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven” (Mark 13:24-25), etc.,

Why . . . suppose that Mark 13:24 is less prosaic than, let us say, 1 Enoch 70:6, which foretells that one day the stars “will change their courses and their activities, and will not appear at the times which have been prescribed for them,” or that it is less realistic than Barnabas 15:8, which says that when the Son of God abolishes the time of the lawless one, God “will change the sun and the moon and the stars” or than Lucan’s Pharsalia 1.72-80, which envisions stars plunging into the sea at history’s end? According to Seneca (Natural Questions 3.29), Berossus, the Babylonian astrologer, foretold that “the world will burn when all the planets that now move in different courses come together in Cancer, so that they all stand in a straight line in the same sign.” If this is not metaphor, can we be confident that Mark 13:24 is? Should we not understand Mark 13:24 the same way we understand Sibylline Oracles 2:200-202 (“But the heavenly luminaries will crash together, also into an utterly desolate form. For all the stars will fall together on the sea”), that is, literally? One wants to ask how Mark, if he had wished to forecast an astronomical disaster, could have forecast it. What more could he have said? (“Jesus & the Victory of Apocalyptic,” 131)

(Cf. Adams’ The Stars Will Fall From Heaven, which I cited in my last note, and which considers some of these things at much greater length.)

Wright seems to have been less than clear in his views on and reconstructions of all these things. For example, in reference to the non-Biblical material involving cosmic/eschatological catastrophe, Allison wonders “one would still like to know how Wright interprets the evidence that suggests at least a few Jews and Christians indeed expected a cataclysmic end of the world in their day and age” (“Jesus & the Victory of Apocalyptic,” 139).

More importantly in my view though, Allison also writes elsewhere that

it seems to me that, whether or not we speak of the end of the space-time universe with reference to Jesus’ eschatology, what matters is that his vision of the kingdom cannot be identified with anything around us. God has not yet brought a radically new world. Specifically, if Jesus hoped for the ingathering of scattered Israel, if he expected the resurrection of the patriarchs and if he anticipated that the saints would gain angelic natures, then his expectations, like the other eschatological expectations of Judaism, have not yet met fulfillment. To this extent we may speak of his “unrealized eschatology.” (“Jesus & the Victory of Apocalyptic,” 129)

Of course, Wright devotes great attention elsewhere to the universal eschatological resurrection, which he clearly interprets as a firmly future event that hasn’t been realized yet. In summarizing his sort of hybrid preterist-futurist synthesis of all this, he suggests that “the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the sending of the divine spirit” constituted “the decisive ‘end’ for which Israel had longed had already happened, and . . . the consummation for which they still waited was simply the final outworking of that now-past event” (emphasis original). Clearly, for him, the universal resurrection was part of that future and final consummation, having already been preliminary realized in nuce.

But it’s hard not to think his separation of this from the other eschatological elements present in the New Testament—for example, its being integrally tied to the parousia and final judgment—is quite artificial, and wasn’t shared by these early Christian figures and authors themselves. Again in reference to the Olivet Discourse, etc., I think Ben Witherington hits the nail succinctly on the head when he writes, in reference to Wright’s proposals, that “[i]n view of the fact that language about the future coming Son of Man draws on the Yom Yahweh [=Day of the LORD] language about last judgment, when God will come and judge in person, it is difficult to doubt that something more final than the destruction of the Jerusalem temple was in mind when this language was used by Jesus” (Jesus the Seer: The Progress of Prophecy, 275). Brant Pitre, in his Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile, seems to also go entirely too far in his preterist vision of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21), which for him is also separated (in my view, highly artificially) from the time of the final judgment—which seems to lead to poor interpretations of the gospel material on the eschatological coming of the Son of Man.

[14] To be sure, it’s difficult to discern exactly what may have been intended a reference specifically to the Jewish-Roman War and destruction of Jerusalem, and what went beyond this. Matthew 24:6 (Mark 13:7) suggests “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars . . . this must take place, but the end is not yet.” The next verse speaks of wars and earthquakes and famines as “but the beginning of the birth pangs.” Things like 24:15f. seem to pretty clearly refer to some crisis in Jerusalem itself; though 24:22f. seems to be a pretty clear indication of expected things beyond these events. (Also, for what it’s worth, the parallel to Matthew 24:6 in Luke 21:9 replaces “rumors of wars” with “insurrections/rebellions.”)

Davies and Allison, in their seminal commentary on Matthew, note that

Already Ephrem the Syrian reported: ‘It is said that he [Jesus] was speaking of the punishment in Jerusalem and at the same time referring to the end of this world’ (Comm. Dial. 18.14). (The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Volume 3: 19-28, 331)

(As for other texts which speak of “the end,” Allison and Davies cite 1 Cor 15.24; 1 Pet 4.7; Rev 21.6; 22.13; Liv. Proph. Jon. 10. The first of these comes in the context of Paul’s discussion of the eschatological resurrection; more on this below.)

As mentioned above, I think Adams’ “Historical Crisis and Cosmic Crisis in Mark 13 and Lucan’s Civil War” might be particularly instructive, offering an analogy to this. In reference to Lucan’s text, he writes

There are four places in the Civil War [1:67-80; 1:639-72; 2:289; 7:134-8] where the destruction of Rome is directly and explicitly associated with the end of the universe. (337)

Lucan’s Civil War juxtaposes (what is for the writer) a socio-political catastrophe, the fall of the Roman Republic, with the cosmic calamity that will end the world. The ruin of the Republic foreshadows the inevitable cosmic ruin. (342)

Similarly, in the New Testament gospels and elsewhere, the Jewish-Roman War and destruction of Jerusalem aren’t figuratively portrayed as the “end of the world,” but as events that portend and lead up to genuine eschatological events.

[15] Cf. Joseph Verheyden’s “Eschatology in the Didache and the Gospel of Matthew,” 209f., suggesting that “Matthew does not mention the resurrection of the dead in 24:31 (nor in 25:32), but most probably ‘the resurrection of the dead is presupposed'” (quoting Davies and Allison at the end there). Perhaps most importantly, Daniel 12:1-3 seems to view the eschatological time of distress—and note that Mark 13:19 (Matthew 24:21) clearly cites Daniel 12:1b here, and Mark 13:4 (Matthew 24:3) alludes to Daniel 12:6, 8—as more or less coterminous with the resurrection; or at the very least, the resurrection seems to immediately follow upon these events: compare perhaps Daniel 12:12-13 with Matthew 24:3, 29f. (“at the end of the days” and “the end of the age” / “immediately after the suffering/tribulation of those days”). See Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church Under Persecution, 576-7, on the background of Matthew 27:52f. in Daniel 12:2, and also Schwindt, “Kein Heil ohne Gericht: Die Antwort Gottes auf Jesu Tod nach Mt 27,51–54,” on connections with eschatological judgment here.

Cf. also the Apocalypse of Peter, which follows the “timetable” of the Olivet discourse closely in some ways, but then includes these additional eschatological elements relating to resurrection; and on this Nicklas, “Resurrection—Judgment—Punishment.”


Particularly on the trumpet in Matthew: the mention of the trumpet is absent from the source verse in Mark 13:27.

Just out of curiosity here, I was compelled to see if there were any more Jewish traditions that also shared some of the specific motifs with the New Testament here in their connecting the Genesis flood with eschatological calamity. Specifically looking for any association with a trumpet here, in one of the later Jewish midrashim—actually this seems to bring together several common things from the Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael and Midrash HaGadol—building on the Biblical texts that mention thunder and lightning and the sound of a loud trumpet at the time of God’s revelation of the Torah to Moses on Sinai (Exodus 19:16; 20:18), we read

Something like the sound of a horn filled the air—as it is written, “a very loud blast of the horn” [Exodus 19:16]—to the point where the whole world shook.

All the nations of the world gathered around Balaam, son of Beor, and said to him, “The Omnipresent seems to be destroying His world with water, as in the verse, ‘The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood’ (Ps. 29:10).”

After Balaam rebukes them and reminds them that God had sworn to never destroy the world by floodwaters again (cf. Genesis 9:15; Isaiah 54:9), this continues that

They said, “Perhaps he will not bring a flood of water, but he may bring a flood of fire?” He said to them, “He is going to bring neither a flood of water nor a flood of fire [לא מבול של מים ולא מבול של אש]. It is Torah that the Holy One, blessed be he, is giving to his people…”

Again, though, it’s unclear exactly how many of these specific traditions are early. However, among the Dead Sea Scrolls, in 4Q370 (4QExhortation/Admonition Based on the Flood) it’s suggested re: the unrighteous of the flood generation that, before the flood proper, “[God] thundered against them with [his] might, [and] all the foundations of the ea[rth sh]ook”: without the lucunae, וירעם עליהם בכחו וינעו כל מוסדי ארץ. Cf. Isaiah 24:18. Similarly, in Sibylline Oracles 1.217-219, in preparing to send the flood, “[God] threw clouds together and hid the brightly gleaming disk. Having covered the moon, together with the stars, and the crown of heaven all around, he thundered loudly, a terror to mortals, sending out hurricanes.”

More generally, Cosby notes that

In Jewish and Christian tradition, trumpet calls are said to announce divine judgment (Rev 8:2-9:21; 11:15-19; Apoc. Mos. 22; Sib. Or. 8.239), the resurrection of the dead (2 Esdr 6.23-24; Sib. Or. 4.173-74), and the gathering of the elect from the four corners of the earth (Matt 24:31; Apoc. Abr. 31:1-2). (“Hellenistic Formal Receptions and Paul’s Use of ΑΠΑΝΤΗΣΙΣ in 1 Thessalonians 4:17,” 30)

Duane F. Watson, commenting on 2 Peter 3:10, notes that “[a] roar (ῥοιζηδόν) is part of the apocalyptic tradition of sounds describing the eschatological conflagration,” citing Sib. Or. 4:175; 1QH III, 32-36; Apoc. El. (C) 3:82 (“The Oral-Scribal and Cultural Intertexture of Apocalyptic Discourse in Jude and 2 Peter,” 209 and n. 64). Also particularly interesting is that in the Life of Adam and Eve (a.k.a. the Apocalypse of Moses) 22, Adam recounts that “as we heard the archangel sounding the trumpet, we said, ‘Behold, God is coming into Paradise to judge us.'” See the section “The Eschatological Significance of the Sound of Horns” of the entry σάλπιγξ κτλ. in TDNT 7, 84, for more citations. (Kennard, Messiah Jesus: Christology in His Day and Ours, 266, notes that “Gabriel blows the šophar for gathering into Kingdom [Quest. Ezra B 11; Gk. Apoc. Ezra 4.36].”)

Among the things cited above worth quoting more fully, in Sibylline Oracle 4.173-78, before the resurrection,

there will be fire throughout the whole world, and a very great sign with sword and trumpet at the rising of the sun. The whole world will hear a bellowing noise and mighty sound. He will burn the whole earth, and will destroy the whole race of men and all cities and rivers at once, and the sea. He will destroy everything by fire, and it will be smoking dust.

Specifically in relation to a connection between the flood and trumpets, this might be the biggest stretch, but… in Jubilees 5:24, at the flood “the Lord opened the seven floodgates of heaven and the openings of the sources of the great deep — there being seven openings in number. The floodgates began to send water down from the sky…” (Cf. also 1 Enoch 89 for this motif in relation to the floodwaters: “a high roof and seven sluices on it.”) Now, use of seven as a symbolic/typological number is of course very common throughout Jewish and Christian literature; though here, could we perhaps be reminded of the seven trumpets or seven bowls in Revelation, which inaugurate the cataclysmic destructions? In Revelation 8,

5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. 6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them. 7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

That being said, the punishments in Revelation are clearly intended to recall the plague tradition of the exodus, too.

But if the angels here are themselves responsible for throwing/hurling fire down to the earth, etc., this might be compared to the angels who “were in charge of the power of the waters” in the Noah section of 1 Enoch‘s book of Parables: cf. 66:1, “he showed me the angels of punishment, who are ready to go forth and let loose all the power of the water that is beneath the earth, that it might be for the judgment and destruction of all who reside and dwell on the earth.” This is made all the more compelling in the unique mention of the “angel of the waters” in Revelation 16:5, during the punishment of the seven bowls. Also, in view of the midrashim cited above, note how in Revelation 8:5 the “thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” recalls the Sinai theophany of Exodus 19:16; 20:18.

However, in some ways, several other relevant traditions here actually suggest a connection between the cessation of the flood and some of the things mentioned above. For example, in conjunction with the revelation of the Torah on Sinai, it might be tempting to draw connections here between Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, which commemorates the giving of the Torah, and the flood of Noah—a connection integral to the book of Jubilees, where Shavuot is to be celebrated in commemoration of the establishment of the rainbow as a symbol/covenant that God won’t send another flood (Jubilees 6:15f.; cf. Genesis 9:15).

Further: what’s come to be understood as Rosh Hashanah appears in the Bible as Yom Teruah (Numbers 29:1), the day of (trumpet-)blaring—more commonly known as the the Feast of Trumpets. According to Leviticus 23:24, this was to be celebrated on the first day of the seventh month; and interestingly, according to the book of Jubilees, it was also “on the first [day] of the seventh month” that the floodwaters began to recede—”all the sources of the earth’s deep places were opened, and the waters started to go down into the deep below” (5:29)—and which is later connected explicitly with the festival (6:26).

Finally, as for other things potentially associated with early Christian idea of the eschatological trumpet, cf. “the “shouts of acclamation at Hellenistic formal receptions” discussed in Cosby, “Hellenistic Formal Receptions,” cited above, and the response note by Gundry. Also, Plutarch writes about an actual trumpet-sounding in the sky during the conflict of Sulla and Marius—one that was then interpreted as “a change of conditions and the advent of a new age” (Sulla 7).

[16] As a side-note, while we’re on subject of coordinating motifs from the Olivet Discourse with the flood story: although the days of Noah analogy is unique to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, not appearing in Mark’s eschatological discourse, the “truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until…” statement does originate from Mark. And here it might be noted that the background of the phrase “this generation” itself is often located precisely in the flood narrative in Genesis, and appears nowhere else in the Old Testament. For example, in Genesis 7:1 we find

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation

(Cf. also Genesis 6:9. “This generation” appears both elsewhere in the New Testament and in rabbinic literature in a similar context, where it has an overwhelmingly negative connotation and is contrasted to the righteous.)

Of course, it could be argued that even though this phrase is unattested in the Old Testament other than here in Genesis, it’s still too vague to suggest a direct connection between the two stories. For example, it could be argued that it’s just a sort of variation on the phrase “this people,” more common in the OT (though note that “this generation” and “this people” are not synonymous).

However: could we maybe compare this with the argument of Thomas Hatina and select others pertaining to the saying “truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power” in Mark 9:1—cf. also Mark 13:26—where the proposed intention here was not that some of that current generation would survive to reap the rewards of the kingdom, but that the unrighteous among them would live to see their punishment? (Cf. again Thomas Hatina, “Who Will See?”) Here, then, Mark 13:30 would be construed more as a warning than anything. Compare perhaps some of the things mentioned in my discussion of Genesis 6:3 below; and see a bit more discussion of “this generation” here.

[17] Translations quoted from P. W. van der Horst’s “‘His Days Shall Be One Hundred and Twenty Years’: Genesis 6:3 in Early Early Judaism and Ancient Christianity.” Targum Neofiti here reads יהבית לכון ארכא מאה ועשרין שנין דילמא די יעבדון תתובה.

[18] In the Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab) from the Dead Sea Scrolls, in a section (VII) interpreting Habakkuk 2:3, we find

For the vision has an appointed time, it will have an end and not fail [Hab 2:3a]. Its interpretation: the final age will be extended and go beyond all that the prophets say, because the mysteries of God are wonderful. Though it might tarry, wait for it; it definitely has to come and will not delay [Hab 2:3b].

(This section began “and God told Habakkuk to write what was going to happen to the last generation, but he did not let him know the consummation of the era”—which might remind one of Mark 13:32.)

[19] Greek hopōs sōthōsin hapantes.

[19b] See now Frey, “Fire and Water? Apocalyptic Imagination and Hellenistic Worldview in 2 Peter” on the date and sources of 2 Peter, especially in light of its eschatology.

[20] Again see Note 2.

[21] One thing I haven’t discussed thus far is Jonathan Huddleston’s Eschatology in Genesis; but I won’t have room to get into it here.

[22] The phrase “bear fruit worthy of repentance” might be compared to the similar “make repentance” in Ecclesiastes Rabbah and elsewhere, עבדין תתובא. (Also, the verb I’ve translated “make” here is in fact specifically used in an agricultural sense a few times, a la “produce.”)

[23] Cf. The Literal Meaning of Genesis, 1.19. Nevertheless, there are senses in which there’s tension in Augustine’s thought here, which I’ve elaborated on here and a little bit here

[24] Translation from Feldman, Flavius Josephus, Judean Antiquities 1-4, 37.

[25] I’m using several different translations of Augustine here: McCracken’s and Walsh’s. The original Latin of this line in particular is

Annorum . . . numerositas cuiusque hominis, quae temporibus illis fuit, nullis nunc talibus documentis uenire in experimentum potest. Nec tamen ideo fides sacrae huic historiae deroganda est, cuius tanto inpudentius narrata non credimus quanto impleri certius praenuntiata conspicimus.

For more on Greco-Roman ideas about historical or legendary humans with long life-spans, cf. Parkin, Old Age in the Roman World: A Cultural and Social History, 43f.

[26] In fact, the pejorative sense of “mythological” appears just earlier in the text of Josephus. In relation to Josephus’ analysis of Genesis 6:1-4, Tuval writes that

Josephus definitely shared Philo’s distaste of mythology, and, similarly to Philo in Opif. 1.1-2, clearly states at the beginning of Antiquities that, in contrast to “[o]ther legislators [who followed] myths, [and] have, with their tales ascribed to the gods, imputed to them the shame of human errors and have given a considerable pretext to the wicked,” Moses followed a totally different path (1.22–23). Nevertheless, according to his retelling of Gen 6:1–4 Josephus recognized that the biblical story was similar to the myths of the Greeks. (“‘Συναγωγὴ γιγάντων’ (Prov 21:16): The Giants in the Jewish Literature in Greek,” 55)

Augustine also mentions Pliny the Elder in relation to the existence of giants (e.g. in Homer and elsewhere), that Pliny “does not ridicule such statements as poetic fictions but, speaking as a recorder of the wonders of nature, assumes their historicity.”

[27] Though, as hinted at earlier, some tried to get around this by emphasizing that a flood of fire is different than a flood of water. See, again, Note 10.

[28]  “Once in Khartoum,” 122.


Davis Young, The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church’s Response to Extrabiblical Evidence

Louis Feldman, “Questions about the Great Flood, as Viewed by Philo, Pseudo-Philo, Josephus, and the Rabbis”

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