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November 12, 2021

Atheist and former Christian “eric” is a regular commentator at Jonathan MS Pearce’s Tippling Philosopher blog, where this exchange took place. His words will be in blue.

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[with heavy sarcasm and a mocking intent] It’s all quite easy. The story is literally true. You just have to remember that:

-“Wipe out mankind” means “wipe out just some mesopotamians living in the lowlands”

-“and animals as well, and crawling things” means “some local varieties of only those animal species living in mesopotamia that can’t find their way to higher ground”

-“and birds of the sky” means “a few birds, basically just those incapable of flying above a local flood level. You know, like baby chicks caught in nests.”

Of course, for any serious scholar concerned with understanding God’s message rather than critics seeking to find ways to quibble with it, the true meaning I’ve described above is obvious and clear. God’s focus on mesopotamians and those local regional animal varieties is just the plain writing of the text, people! How else could anyone of unbiased clear mind interpret those words?!?

So your position is that the Bible is always intended to be absolutely literal and that ancient Hebrew and the OT have no non-literal, metaphorical figures of speech (I have a book that details how it has over 200, with many subcategories)? “All” in the Bible always means literally “every single one, without exception“; there is no hyperbole, etc.?

Is this your position that you wish to defend? Are you truly that out to sea regarding the Old Testament?

My position is that the above interpretations specifically has no basis in scripture.
It’s a post-hoc attempt to save a literal flood story but while remaining consistent with science.

If you want to say the flood story is an allegory or myth intended to teach a moral lesson, we can discuss that. Or if you want to discuss the Song of Solomon or Psalms and the nonliteral meanings in those, we can do that too. Jesus’ parables? Sure. But if you want to say that “wipe out mankind” meant “wipe out some mesopotamians in a local flood,” no, I see no justification for thinking that’s what those words mean, and I’d ask to you provide one before I change my mind.

I long since provided evidence for non-literal aspects of the Flood language, and linked it here (and in direct reply to you), but you ignored it at the time. It’s from my article, Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought. Here is the argument:

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For further reading on the interpretation of a local Flood, see geologist Carol A. Hill’s article, “The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local?” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 54, Number 3, September 2002). She writes:

Earth. The Hebrew for “earth” used in Gen. 6–8 (and in Gen. 2:5–6) is eretz (‘erets) or adâmâh, both of which terms literally mean “earth, ground, land, dirt, soil, or country.” In no way can “earth” be taken to mean the planet Earth, as in Noah’s time and place, people (including the Genesis writer) had no concept of Earth as a planet and thus had no word for it. Their “world” mainly (but not entirely) encompassed the land of Mesopotamia—a flat alluvial plain enclosed by the mountains and high ground of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia (Fig. 1); i.e., the lands drained by the four rivers of Eden (Gen. 2:10–14). The biblical account must be interpreted within the narrow limit of what was known about the world in that time, not what is known about the world today.

Biblical context also makes it clear that “earth” does not necessarily mean the whole Earth. For example, the face of the ground, as used in Gen. 7:23 and Gen. 8:8 in place of “earth,” does not imply the planet Earth. “Land” is a better translation than “earth” for the Hebrew eretz because it extends to the “face of the ground” we can see around us; that is, what is within our horizon. It also can refer to a specific stretch of land in a local geographic or political sense. For example, when Zech. 5:6 says “all the earth,” it is literally talking about Palestine—a tract of land or country, not the whole planet Earth. Similarly, in Mesopotamia, the concept of “the land” (kalam in Sumerian) seems to have included the entire alluvial plain. This is most likely the correct interpretation of the term “the earth,” which is used over and over again in Gen. 6-8: the entire alluvial plain of Mesopotamia was inundated with water. The clincher to the word “earth” meaning ground or land (and not the planet Earth) is Gen. 1:10: God called the dry land earth (eretz). If God defined “earth” as “dry land,” then so should we. . . .

An excellent example of how a universal “Bible-speak” is used in Genesis to describe a non-universal, regional event is Gen. 41:46: “And the famine was over all the face of the earth.” This is the exact same language as used in Gen. 6:7, 7:3, 7:4, 8:9 and elsewhere when describing the Genesis Flood. “All (kowl) the face of the earth” has the same meaning as the “face of the whole (also kowl) earth.” So was Moses claiming that the whole planet Earth (North America, Australia, etc.) was experiencing famine? No, the universality of this verse applied only to the lands of the Near East (Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia), and perhaps even the Mediterranean area; i.e., the whole known world at that time.

The same principle of a limited universality in Gen. 41:46 also applies to the story of the Noachian Flood. The “earth” was the land (ground) as Noah knew (tilled) it and saw it “under heaven”—that is, the land under the sky in the visible horizon, and “all flesh” were those people and animals who had died or were perishing around the ark in the land of Mesopotamia. The language used in the scriptural narrative is thus simply that which would be natural to an eyewitness (Noah). Woolley aptly described the situation this way: “It was not a universal deluge; it was a vast flood in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates which drowned the whole of the habitable land … for the people who lived there that was all the world (italics mine).”

Regarding specifically the water covering “all the high mountains” (Gen 7:19), Hill states:

[T]he Hebrew word har for “mountain” in Gen. 7:20 . . . can also be translated as “a range of hills” or “hill country,” implying with Gen. 7:19 that it was “all the high hills” (also har) that were covered rather than high mountains.

This being the case, Genesis 7:19-20 could simply refer to “flood waters . . . fifteen cubits above the ‘hill country’ of Mesopotamia (located in the northern, Assyrian part)”. The Hebrew word har (Strong’s #2022) can indeed mean “hills” or “hill country”, as the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon defines it. Specifically for Genesis 7:19-20, this lexicon classifies the word as following:

mountain, indefinite, Job 14:18 (“” צוּר); usually plural mountains, in General, or the mountains, especially in poetry & the higher style; often figurative; הָרִים, הֶהָרִים, covered by flood Genesis 7:20 compare Genesis 7:19; . . .

In the New American Standard Version, that Jonathan Pearce believes is “renowned as the most accurate” (7-2-21), har is rendered as “hill country” many times in the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 10:30; 14:10; 31:21, 23, 25; 36:8-9; Numbers 13:17, 29; 14:40, 44-45; Deuteronomy 1:7, 19-20, 24, 41, 43-44; 2:37; 3:12, 25; Joshua 2:16, 22-23; 9:1; 10:6, 40; 11:2-3, 16; 11:21; 12:8; 13:6; 14:12; 15:48; 16:1; 17:15-16, 18; 18:12; 19:50; 20:7; 21:11, 21; 24:30, 33; Judges 1:9, 19, 34; 2:9; 3:27; 4:5; 7:24; 10:1; 12:15; 17:1, 8; 18:2, 13; 19:1, 16, 18; 1 Samuel 1:1; 9:4; 13:2; 14:22; 23:14; 2 Samuel 20:21; 1 Kings 4:8; 12:25; 2 Kings 5:22; 1 Chronicles 6:67; 2 Chronicles 13:4; 15:8; 19:4.

The same version translates har as “hill” or “hills” nine times too: Deuteronomy 8:7; 11:11; Joshua 13:19; 18:13-14, 16; 1 Kings 16:24; 2 Kings 1:9; 4:27.

Even the location of the present-day Mt. Ararat as the landing place of the ark is not required in the biblical text. Hill continues:

[T]he Bible does not actually pinpoint the exact place where the ark landed, it merely alludes to a region or range of mountains where the ark came to rest: the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4). Ararat is the biblical name for Urartu (Isa. 37:38) as this area was known to the ancient Assyrians. This mountainous area, geographically centered around Lake Van and between Lake Van and Lake Urmia (Fig. 1), was part of the ancient region of “Armenia” (not limited to the country of Armenia today). “Mountain” in Gen. 8:4 is plural; therefore, the Bible does not specify that the ark landed on the highest peak of the region (Mount Ararat), only that the ark landed somewhere on the mountains or highlands of Armenia (both “Ararat” and “Urartu” can be translated as “highlands”). In biblical times, “Ararat” was actually the name of a province (not a mountain), as can be seen from its usage in 2 Kings 19:37: “… some escaped into the land of Ararat” and Jer. 51:27: “… call together against her (Israel) the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Askkenaz …”

She additionally noted that:

Only in the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD did the focus of investigators begin to shift toward Mount Ararat as the ark’s final resting place, and only by the end of the fourteenth century AD does it seem to have become a fairly well established tradition. Before this, both Islamic and Christian tradition held that the landing place of the ark was on Jabel Judi, a mountain located about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of the Tigris River near Cizre, Turkey (Fig. 1).

Jabel Judi is 6,854 feet in elevation. The current Mt. Ararat wasn’t even known by that name until the Middle Ages (see more on its names in Wikipedia).

1. Your limited interpretation is not consistent with history or the story.

Your flood doesn’t cover Egypt or the Indus valley, and the people of Mesopotamia knew about both. Archaeologists have found Indian shells and beads in Mesopotamian tombs dating to 2500 BC. So I think you’re historically wrong in claiming the writers at the time thought of ‘earth’ as referring to just Mesopotamia. The other problem with your earth-as-how-the-authors-knew-it theory is that the story reports God’s words. God’s words will be based on what God knows, not what the human scribes know. Unless you’re saying that the human authors of the story made up God’s words, and so ‘earth’ and ‘mankind’ refer to earth and mankind as they, the scribes, knew it?

2. Your interpretations, applied consistently, cause the story to lose all sensible meaning.

In my opinion you want to have it both ways. When the story talks about God seeking the wickedness of mankind on the earth, you want to interpret that as being all mankind on all the earth. But then when it comes to God talking about drowning the wicked in a flood, you want interpret that as referring only to Mesopotamians. That doesn’t work. It’s the same referent. The same wicked people. Mankind in verse 6 refers to the same group as mankind in verse 7. So when verse 6 says God was sorry to have created mankind on the face of the earth, and verse 7 says he’s going to wipe out all mankind, and you Dave say that the rational way to interpret “mankind” in verse 7 is that it refers only to Mesopotamians, then that means in verse 6 God was only sorry to have created Mesopotamians, that he only views them as wicked, and he’s totally cool with the Chinese, Egyptians, Indians, Mesoamericans, and so on. Because it makes no sense to switch the meaning of mankind so radically in the middle of a single set of verses. Similarly, translating ‘all the mountains’ to mean regional low-lying hills might get you out of geological record trouble, but it renders the ‘wipe out mankind’ part of the story dubious and the ‘wipe out birds’ part of the story completely insensible.

So yes, there are word interpretations you can use that support your position. But when you put those word interpretations in the story consistently, that story no longer makes any sense. At least, not to me. God’s going to wipe out birds with a 100′ flood? Really? God thought the Mesopotamians were especially wicked, when the Olmecs were almost certainly practicing human sacrifice of children. Really? Or maybe it’s the case that God saw the wickedness of the Olmecs, and determined to wipe out the Mesopotamians in order to start mankind anew. Really?

As for your #1, the text I cited stated: “in Noah’s time and place, people (including the Genesis writer) had no concept of Earth as a planet and thus had no word for it. Their “world” mainly (but not entirely) encompassed the land of Mesopotamia.” So you are already fighting straw men.

I’m not wrong about what people at that time and place thought the “earth” was, and I provided exhaustive data showing that this was how the Bible viewed the matter. So you say “God’s words will be based on what God knows, not what the human scribes know.” Actually, it’s both. God knows everything, but in communicating His message to human beings limited in education and understanding, He has to condescend and express it ways that are comprehensible to us, and that brings us to the anthropomorphism and anthropopathism that atheists almost to a person can’t comprehend as part of the worldview of the biblical writers.

As for #2, you write, “When the story talks about God seeking the wickedness of mankind on the earth, you want to interpret that as being all mankind on all the earth.” I addressed this in my paper, Noah’s Flood: Not Anthropologically Universal + Miscellany.

I’ve already addressed at length what “earth” meant in these early chapters of Genesis, from my cited article above (by Dr. Hill). Genesis 6:11-12, 17 refers to “all flesh” three times, so that God chose to judge them, due to “wickedness” and “evil” (6:5) and being “corrupt” (6:11-12).

So it comes down to the meaning and scope of “all”. Is it meant absolutely literally, or figuratively, as an example of very common Hebrew hyperbole in the Bible? I say the latter. It’s easy to show that “all” in Scripture often means less than literally “every one.” It’s used in a hyperbolic way. As an example of that, we could examine how Scripture views the issue of the righteousness of men in a non-literal way. The following is from a lengthy article of mine:

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[L]et us briefly look at how the word “all” was regarded by the ancient Hebrews. In a related paper on the exegesis of Romans 3:23, I wrote:

. . . the word “all” (pas in Greek) can indeed have different meanings (as it does in English), . . . It matters not if it means literally “every single one” in some places, if it can mean something less than “absolutely every” elsewhere in Scripture. . . .We find examples of a non-literal intent elsewhere in Romans. . . . Paul writes that “all Israel will be saved,” (11:26), but we know that many will not be saved. And in 15:14, Paul describes members of the Roman church as “….filled with all knowledge….” (cf. 1 Cor 1:5 in KJV), which clearly cannot be taken literally. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely, and are as accessible as the nearest Strong’s Concordance.. . .

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Abridged Ed.) states: “Pas can have different meanings according to its different uses . . . in many verses, pas is used in the NT simply to denote a great number, e.g., “all Jerusalem” in Mt 2:3 and “all the sick” in 4:24. “(pp. 796-7)

See also Mt 3:5; 21:10; 27:25; Mk 2:13; 9:15, etc., etc., esp. in KJV. Likewise, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament gives “of every kind” as a possible meaning in some contexts (p. 491, word #3956). And Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words tells us it can mean “every kind or variety.” (v.1, p. 46, under “All”).

. . . One might also note 1 Corinthians 15:22: “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” {NIV}. As far as physical death is concerned (the context of 1 Cor 15), not “all” people have died (e.g., Enoch: Gen 5:24; cf. Heb 11:5; Elijah: 2 Kings 2:11). Likewise, “all” will not be made spiritually alive by Christ, as some will choose to suffer eternal spiritual death in hell.

So much for an overly-literal (or rationalistic) interpretation of “all” as necessarily meaning “without exception.”

St. Paul appears to be citing Psalm 14:1-3:

1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.
2: The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God.
3: They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.

Now, does the context in the earlier passage suggest that what is meant is “absolutely every person, without exception”? No. We’ve already seen the latitude of the notion “all” in the Hebrew understanding. Context supports a less literal interpretation.

In the immediately preceding Psalm 13, David proclaims “I have trusted in thy steadfast love” (13:5), which certainly is “seeking” after God. Indeed, the very next Psalm [14] is entirely devoted to “good people”:

1: O LORD, who shall sojourn in thy tent? Who shall dwell on thy holy hill?
2: He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart;
3: who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
4: in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5: who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. (complete)

Even two verses after our cited passage in Psalms David writes that “God is with the generation of the righteous” (14:5). In the very next verse (14:4) David refers to “the evildoers who eat up my people”. Now, if he is contrasting the evildoers with His people, then obviously, he is not meaning to imply that everyone is evil, and there are no righteous. So obviously his lament in 14:2-3 is an indignant hyperbole and not intended as a literal utterance. Such remarks are common to Jewish poetic idiom. The anonymous psalmist in 112:5 refers to a good man (Heb. tob), as does the book of Proverbs repeatedly (11:23; 12:2; 13:22; 14:14,19), using the same word, tob, which appears in Ps 14:2-3.

And references to righteous men are innumerable (e.g., Job 17:9; 22:19; Ps 5:12; 32:11; 34:15; 37:16, 32; Mt 9:13; 13:17; 25:37, 46; Rom 5:19; Heb 11:4; Jas 5:16; 1 Pet 3:12; 4:18, etc., etc.).

We see Jewish idiom and hyperbole in other similar passages. For example, Jesus says: “No one is good but God alone”(Lk 18:19; cf. Mt 19:17). Yet He also said: “The good person brings good things out of a good treasure….” (Mt 12:35; cf. 5:45; 7:17-20; 22:10).

Furthermore, in each instance in Matthew and Luke above of the English “good” the Greek word used is agatho.

Is this a contradiction? Of course not. Jesus is merely drawing a contrast between our righteousness and God’s, but He doesn’t deny that we can be “good” in a lesser sense.

Psalm 53:1-3 is very similar (perhaps the very same writing originally, or close parallel):

1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none that does good.
2: God looks down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any that are wise, that seek after God.
3: They have all fallen away; they are all alike depraved; there is none that does good, no, not one.

All the same elements are present: it starts with a reference to atheists or agnostics, then moves on to ostensibly “universal” language, which is seen to admit of exceptions once context is considered. Like Psalm 14, there is the following contrast in the next verse:

Psalm 53:4 Have those who work evil no understanding, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?

And Like Psalm 14, we see other proximate Psalms refer to the “righteous” or “godly” (e.g., 52:1, 6, 9; 55:22; 58:10-11). David himself eagerly seeks God in Psalms 51, 52:8-9; 54-57; 61-63, etc. Obviously, then, it is not the case that “no one” whatsoever seeks God. It is Hebrew hyperbole and exaggeration to make a point. And this is, remember, poetic language in the first place. Therefore, it is fairly clear that there — far from “none” — plenty of righteous people to go around.

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So (back to our immediate dispute), can “all” not mean literally all (i.e., every single one)? Absolutely. I have shown how this is often the case in the Bible, and it is in the case of the Flood, which is described in non-literal terms “all flesh” and was in fact a local Mesopotamian phenomenon.

It’s completely consistent interpretation: a real event, expressed in some metaphorical, non-literal terms. You can come up with your present critique only because you have utterly ignored key and crucial parts of my argument in our past interactions.

But you have interacted more than almost anyone else here, so I don’t want to be too hard on you. You simply need to be more educated with regard to biblical literary forms and biblical exegesis.

And what kind of Christian were you in your past life? Were you up on all these sorts of things? Or did you interpret almost everything in the Bible hyper-literally, as you basically do now, most of the time?

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Related Reading

Old Earth, Flood Geology, Local Flood, & Uniformitarianism (vs. Kevin Rice) [5-25-04; rev. 5-10-17]

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts [8-18-15]

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? [9-10-15]

New Testament Evidence for Noah’s Existence [National Catholic Register, 3-11-18]

Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought [7-2-21]

Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia [7-9-21]

Tower of Babel, Baked Bricks, Bitumen, & Archaeology (Also, Archaeological Verification of Sufficiently Available Bitumen and Wood for the Building of Noah’s Ark) [8-26-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #47: Mockery of a Local Flood (+ Striking Analogies Between the Biblical Flood and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927) [9-30-21]

Pearce’s Potshots #48: Flood of Irrationality & Cowardice [10-1-21]

Noah’s Flood: Not Anthropologically Universal + Miscellany [10-5-21]

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Photo credit: Smimbipi (9-2-19) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]

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Summary: An atheist insists that the biblical description precludes a Local Flood. I explain how the Flood was historical, but that said language was non-literal and hyperbolic.

September 30, 2021

+ Striking Analogies Between the Biblical Flood and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

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First Jonathan wrote a blog article saying that a universal Flood model was ridiculous, but a local Flood model was equally so. No rational person could believe in either, etc. I started replying on his blog, underneath the posting:

I make a serious apologia for a local flood, drawing from a geologist and her husband, a physicist who make fascinating and quite scientifically plausible arguments. Needless to say, Jonathan hasn’t interacted with it (nor has anyone else). It’s real easy to simply ignore good opposing arguments. “Hear no evil, see no evil . . . ” My article easily answers and refutes many of the things that Jonathan trots out in his. See:
 

See also for much necessary preliminary info.:

Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought

Are you serious? Your “paper” is really stretching credibility beyond…the outer reaches of sanity. Essentially, it boils down to “god did a miracle”. Well, if that’s the case, let’s stop presenting natural evidence.

But when you do try to present natural evidence, you present someone saying it might just about be done if x, y, z happen and there is a 40-day model of 2.75 inches of rain per hour and tapering off to “just” 1 inch per hour every hour for the next 110 days. Solid.
 
I stopped reading after that.
 
Let’s look at world records: Wettest place on earth by year: 1041 inches over 365 days = 2.85 inches A DAY = 0.1 inches per hour (your figures require 27.5 times that). Wettest place on earth by month: 370 inches over 31 days = 11.9 inches per day = 0.49 inches per hour (your figures require over 5 times that).
 
You would be demanding, with ALL SORTS of extra variables in place, at least 2046 inches per month, and then for an extra ten days, and then a whole big bunch more thereafter. That is over double the rate seen in one month than over one year in the single wettest place – a village. And I’m still not convinced it would not flow away too quickly.
 
I mean, your piece is littered with issue. Need I go on? If you believe that, you’ll believe anything and there is nothing we can prescribe for that.
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That’s how you do it. Ignore, mock, move on. It’s a great strategy for the ostrich with his head in the sand. If I refused to interact with any atheist piece that I thought had atrocious reasoning I’d hardly respond to any, and I have several hundred.
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It gets worse, though, because those rainfall stats I provided are for a tiny place, not a whole region. So for that amount of rain to fall over a behemoth region is – well – impossible. Actually impossible. There is simply not that amount of rain possible in the world. The atmosphere cannot collect that. For clouds to hold that much rain and dump it over THE ENTIRETY of Mesopotamia is utterly ridiculous. Just think about it. Dude, look at the sheer size of the area. It’s mahoosive. Then there is the entire land to the South – flat and sandy. And then the seas.  I mean – seriously, no actual scholar even remotely entertains such claims. In any field. Your paper is a) demanding things that have never even remotely been experienced in the history of the planet and b) demanding things that are still physically impossible.
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It’s only the floodplain of Mesopotamia, and it doesn’t have to be all that deep. Also, there was snowmelt and springs and seawater causing significant amounts of the sustained water volume. But that’s probably in the parts of the paper that you never got to, because you split, all self-righteous in your supposed profound intellectual superiority.
 
I wouldn’t want your head to explode, pondering opinions different than your own, so maybe your arrogant, condescending intransigence is for the better in the long run.
 
There have been several floods of the magnitude that my model posits: from storm surges, tidal waves, etc. And there have been instances of a great deal of water remaining for months. 
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No – not for that amount of time and over that area. There have not.
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Consider the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927:

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles (70,000 km) inundated in depths of up to 30 feet (9 m) over the course of several months in early 1927. . . .

Flooding began due to heavy rainfall in summer 1926 across the river’s central basin. By September, the Mississippi’s tributaries in Kansas and Iowa were swollen to capacity. On Christmas Day of 1926, the Cumberland River at Nashville, Tennessee, exceeded 56.2 ft (17.1 m), the second-highest recorded level (a destructive flood in 1793 had produced the record level – 58.5 ft (17.8 m). . . .

The flood affected Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. Arkansas was hardest hit, with 14% of its territory covered by floodwaters extending from the Mississippi and Arkansas deltas. By May 1927, the Mississippi River below Memphis, Tennessee, reached a width of 80 miles (130 km). . . .

By August 1927, the flood subsided. [note that this is a year after it started] . . . (Wikipedia)

Another article on the same event observed:

Ninety years ago, the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers — swollen from months of rainfall — burst through levees, sending muddy water into businesses, homes and farmland across Louisiana.

Families and farm animals sought refuge on rooftops, raised railroad beds and levees. Thousands were left homeless for weeks, even months. . . .

As heavy rainfall in 1926 continued into the spring of 1927, the Mississippi River began cresting in places like Cairo, Illinois, sending tons of water rushing south to Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Note that the rainfall began in August 1926 and lasted till April 1927: that’s eight months or more than 240 days: six times the length of the 40-day rains in Noah’s Flood (Gen 7:4, 12). The entire Genesis Flood, up until the waters dried up, lasted 10 1/2 months (cf. Gen 7:11 and 8:13). No problem. The waters in the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 took even longer to dry up: an entire year.

A 2001 National Geographic article noted the size of this flood:

A period of heavy rain for several months eventually led to the great flood . . . They [the rains] came down over several hundred thousand square miles, covering much or all of the states of Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. In New Orleans in 18 hours there were 15 inches of rain—the greatest ever known there.

In comparison, the Tigris–Euphrates Basin is 879,790 square kilometers or 339,690 square miles. The floodplain portion in the lower basin is certainly no more than half of the entire area at most (likely less than that). So it’s maybe 170,000 square miles, compared to “several hundred thousand square miles” in the Great Flood of 1927 in the southern US.
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Moreover, both areas are similar and analogous insofar as:

1) they are (in the costal areas) very flat,

2) lie near a large body of water (Gulf of Mexico / Persian Gulf),

3) have a large river or rivers running through them (Tigris & Euphrates / Mississippi).

4) probably have similar climates as well (without verifying it, but they are located virtually at the same latitude).

5) both have “rings” of mountains or much higher elevations around the flat basin and flood plain on three sides: in the US South there are mountains in Arkansas, Tennessee, and northern Alabama and Georgia.

So yeah; contrary to Jonathan’s bald statement: “No – not for that amount of time and over that area. There have not”: this one flood alone had:

1) sustained heavy rain for six times as long as the biblical flood,

2) flood waters remaining for a year, compared to 10 1/2 months in Genesis, and

3) coverage over an area larger than my proposed local Mesopotamian flood (likely twice as large or more).

And that’s just one flood. Certainly we can extrapolate from this data that there have been many more such floods in the entire history of the world. This one was within the previous hundred years. Both my parents were alive when it happened.

So, nice try. Jonathan provided unsubstantiated (and cynical / skeptical) words; I provide historical and scientific facts. We’re different that way. I like to stick to facts and reason and not mere wild subjective speculations and theories with little objective basis at all.

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It’s easy to bash a straw man. You say my supposed model is all of Mesopotamia. It’s not. It’s a small part of the whole: in the Mesopotamian floodplain, north of the Persian Gulf, between the Tigris and the Euphrates (incidentally one of the flattest places on earth: perhaps the flattest).
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1) Notice how YOU didn’t interact with my figures and claims.
2) No offence, but of course I mock it – it’s patently ridiculous. I literally don’t understand how someone can rationally assent to the claim. 
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Your claims were (in a general sense: “how do we get this much water?”) dealt with in the paper (that’s assuming one actually reads it). I’m not intellectually obliged to go off on the rabbit trail of your reasoning, when you don’t even grant me the courtesy of reading and considering my argument.
 
But that’s your only choice (mockery and dripping condescension). That saves you from serious point-by-point interaction, which you want no part of.
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Photo credit: suemon123 (12-27-11). Mississippi flood of 1927, in Vidalia, Louisiana [Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0 license]
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Summary: I wrangle with the intransigent, condescending atheist Jonathan MS Pearce about a biblical local flood, & note striking analogies to the Mississippi Flood of 1927.
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July 2, 2021

One “eric”: a regular (and thoughtful, friendly, and articulate) commenter on atheist antitheist Jonathan Pearce’s blog, made an argument there having to do with the volume and water and other difficulties in a “universal flood” view:

I vaguely recall an old Panda’s Thumb post where someone worked out the rain density/flow necessary to cover the Earth (up a few km from sea level) in 40 days. It worked out to be stronger than a firehose over every square inch of surface. The ark wouldn’t have floated, it would’ve been destroyed – flattened by the water pressure coming down.

A very quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: Everest = 8,848m above sea level. Divide by 40 days gives a flood rise of about 2E-3 meters per second. This can be considered cubic meters though since the rain has to ‘fill up’ the space. While that doesn’t sound like much, the flow rate out of a firehose is about 3E-4 m3/s (5 gallons per minute where 1 gpm = 6E-5 m3/s). So the rain was coming down with a force of about 10x the force of a firehose. The ark would’ve been kindling. Even if it was magically structurally sound, it would’ve been pounded under the water instead of floating on top, the same way floatable things get pushed under the water at the bottom of a waterfall. (7-2-21)

Well first, I brought it up mainly because I find it amusing.

Second, I think replacing most believers’ mental images of rain falling around a boat with what it really would’ve looked like – essentially, the entire Earth sitting under Niagara falls, the water pounding anything and everything into dust – can be a useful way to bring home the sheer unfeasibility of the scenario.

Last, Mr. Armstrong seems to go to great lengths to try and figure out how various biblical events could’ve occurred within the bounds of physics (e.g. nativity star = Jupiter). So there may be some value in showing those sorts of believers that no, there is no way this story can be explained by any appeal to nature. “It only rained for 40 days, then the water took 150 days to recede” isn’t a viable solution to the DH identification of inconsistencies, because “it only rained for 40 days” is a huge problem in itself. It would’ve had to have been more like 4,000 days to get down to even the level of torrential downpour. (7-2-21)

This is delicious (and yes, highly “amusing” on this end, too!), in light of the fact that Pearce had just been lecturing me as follows:

[N]o serious Pentateuchal scholar adheres to the mosaic authorship and single-source proposal for the Pentateuch. I have listened to countless scholars attest to this. No conference, no symposium, no meeting for the Society of Biblical Literature entails any scholar advocating for mosaic authorship or a single source of the Pentateuch. It just doesn’t happen.

Yet the view of Mosaic authorship is very common. In apologetics only. There is a vast chasm that separates serious Hebrew Bible scholarship and Christian apologetics.

This is simply untrue. Many Christian scholars accept the Documentary Hypothesis, but by no means all, as I showed in my previous paper. Pearce was merely over-arguing it, as he so often does, absurdly exaggerating, in the service of condescension, and making his usual overzealous “universal negative” statements.

Right after that (after he misrepresents Christian thinking), eric comes along and strongly insinuates that all or virtually all Christian thinkers believe in a universal Flood, rather than a local one. This is the very common tendency of atheists (many of whom were themselves formerly fundamentalist Protestants) collapsing all of Christian thought into a brand that is a tiny fringe position compared to the whole.

Fundamentalists are a small portion of a sector (traditional or “conservative” Protestants) of a small minority among all Christians (Protestantism). In no sense or way does this represent all of Christian thinking. It’s (without question) intellectually dishonest to ever imply that it does. Yet this regularly occurs in anti-theist atheist polemics and rhetoric, thus opening up the way for massive and clueless bashing of straw men.

Note that eric above simply assumes that the biblical flood accounts must be interpreted as literally universal in nature (including the waters literally covering every mountain, which would include Mt. Everest: 29,032 feet elevation above sea level). He never qualifies or nuances his statement above; never notes that any Christian thinkers believe in a local flood (let alone the vast majority of them, as is the case, and as I will show). Eric takes for granted that the language of “all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered” (Gen 7:19) was intended to be absolutely literal in the first place. If it’s not literal, then (applying that interpretation consistently) there is no necessity for the Flood waters to literally cover even Mt. Ararat.

It’s hard to say with precision, but I shall consider Mesopotamia as constituting the land area of present-day Iraq, Syria, the eastern quarter of Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel: basically what was also known as the “Fertile Crescent”: minus Egypt. Here are the square miles in land of all these regions:

Iraq 169,235
Syria 71,498
Turkey (one-fourth) 75,634
Armenia 11,484
Lebanon 4,036
Jordan 34,495
Israel 8,550

Total square miles = 374,932 [the square miles of Texas and Arizona combined is 375,556]

The square miles of the entirety of the earth’s surface (including oceans) add up to 197 million square miles. Dividing this figure by 374,932, we find that the surface area of the entire earth (universal Flood) is 525 times larger than the area of Mesopotamia (local Flood). So the comparison of local to universal Flood is as follows:

Flood water (of far, far less depth) in and around an area of approximately 374,932 square miles.

vs.

29,054 feet of water covering the entire earth: an area of approximately 197 million square miles (525 times larger)

It’s obviously vastly less water in any version of the local Flood scenario, which would have nothing to do with eric’s calculations of “the entire Earth sitting under Niagara falls, the water pounding anything and everything into dust” etc. A rough estimate of a local Flood in Mesopotamia covers an area 525 times smaller.

For further reading on the interpretation of a local Flood, see geologist Carol A. Hill’s article, “The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local?” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 54, Number 3, September 2002). She writes:

Earth. The Hebrew for “earth” used in Gen. 6–8 (and in Gen. 2:5–6) is eretz (‘erets) or adâmâh, both of which terms literally mean “earth, ground, land, dirt, soil, or country.” In no way can “earth” be taken to mean the planet Earth, as in Noah’s time and place, people (including the Genesis writer) had no concept of Earth as a planet and thus had no word for it. Their “world” mainly (but not entirely) encompassed the land of Mesopotamia—a flat alluvial plain enclosed by the mountains and high ground of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia (Fig. 1); i.e., the lands drained by the four rivers of Eden (Gen. 2:10–14). The biblical account must be interpreted within the narrow limit of what was known about the world in that time, not what is known about the world today.

Biblical context also makes it clear that “earth” does not necessarily mean the whole Earth. For example, the face of the ground, as used in Gen. 7:23 and Gen. 8:8 in place of “earth,” does not imply the planet Earth. “Land” is a better translation than “earth” for the Hebrew eretz because it extends to the “face of the ground” we can see around us; that is, what is within our horizon. It also can refer to a specific stretch of land in a local geographic or political sense. For example, when Zech. 5:6 says “all the earth,” it is literally talking about Palestine—a tract of land or country, not the whole planet Earth. Similarly, in Mesopotamia, the concept of “the land” (kalam in Sumerian) seems to have included the entire alluvial plain. This is most likely the correct interpretation of the term “the earth,” which is used over and over again in Gen. 6-8: the entire alluvial plain of Mesopotamia was inundated with water. The clincher to the word “earth” meaning ground or land (and not the planet Earth) is Gen. 1:10: God called the dry land earth (eretz). If God defined “earth” as “dry land,” then so should we. . . .

An excellent example of how a universal “Bible-speak” is used in Genesis to describe a non-universal, regional event is Gen. 41:46:
“And the famine was over all the face of the earth.” This is the exact same language as used in Gen. 6:7, 7:3, 7:4, 8:9 and elsewhere
when describing the Genesis Flood. “All (kowl) the face of the earth” has the same meaning as the “face of the whole (also kowl)
earth.” So was Moses claiming that the whole planet Earth (North America, Australia, etc.) was experiencing famine? No, the
universality of this verse applied only to the lands of the Near East (Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia), and perhaps even the Mediterranean area; i.e., the whole known world at that time.

The same principle of a limited universality in Gen. 41:46 also applies to the story of the Noachian Flood. The “earth” was the land (ground) as Noah knew (tilled) it and saw it “under heaven”—that is, the land under the sky in the visible horizon, and “all flesh” were those people and animals who had died or were perishing around the ark in the land of Mesopotamia. The language used in the scriptural narrative is thus simply that which would be natural to an eyewitness (Noah). Woolley aptly described the situation this way: “It was not a universal deluge; it was a vast flood in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates which drowned the whole of the habitable land … for the people who lived there that was all the world (italics mine).”

Regarding specifically the water covering “all the high mountains” (Gen 7:19), Hill states:

[T]he Hebrew word har for “mountain” in Gen. 7:20 . . . can also be translated as “a range of hills” or “hill country,” implying with Gen. 7:19 that it was “all the high hills” (also har) that were covered rather than high mountains.

This being the case, Genesis 7:19-20 could simply refer to “flood waters . . . fifteen cubits above the ‘hill country’ of Mesopotamia (located in the northern, Assyrian part)”. The Hebrew word har (Strong’s #2022) can indeed mean “hills” or “hill country”, as the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon defines it. Specifically for Genesis 7:19-20, this lexicon classifies the word as following:

mountain, indefinite, Job 14:18 (“” צוּר); usually plural mountains, in General, or the mountains, especially in poetry & the higher style; often figurative; הָרִיםהֶהָרִים, covered by flood Genesis 7:20 compare Genesis 7:19; . . .

In the New American Standard Version, that Jonathan Pearce believes is “renowned as the most accurate” (7-2-21), har is rendered as “hill country” many times in the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 10:30; 14:10; 31:21, 23, 25; 36:8-9; Numbers 13:17, 29; 14:40, 44-45; Deuteronomy 1:7, 19-20, 24, 41, 43-44; 2:37; 3:12, 25; Joshua 2:16, 22-23; 9:1; 10:6, 40; 11:2-3, 16; 11:21; 12:8; 13:6; 14:12; 15:48; 16:1; 17:15-16, 18; 18:12; 19:50; 20:7; 21:11, 21; 24:30, 33; Judges 1:9, 19, 34; 2:9; 3:27; 4:5; 7:24; 10:1; 12:15; 17:1, 8; 18:2, 13; 19:1, 16, 18; 1 Samuel 1:1; 9:4; 13:2; 14:22; 23:14; 2 Samuel 20:21; 1 Kings 4:8; 12:25; 2 Kings 5:22; 1 Chronicles 6:67; 2 Chronicles 13:4; 15:8; 19:4.

The same version translates har as “hill” or “hills” nine times too: Deuteronomy 8:7; 11:11; Joshua 13:19; 18:13-14, 16; 1 Kings 16:24; 2 Kings 1:9; 4:27.

Even the location of the present-day Mt. Ararat as the landing place of the ark is not required in the biblical text. Hill continues:

[T]he Bible does not actually pinpoint the exact place where the ark landed, it merely alludes to a region or range of mountains where the ark came to rest: the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4). Ararat is the biblical name for Urartu (Isa. 37:38) as this area was known to the ancient Assyrians. This mountainous area, geographically centered around Lake Van and between Lake Van and Lake Urmia (Fig. 1), was part of the ancient region of “Armenia” (not limited to the country of Armenia today). “Mountain” in Gen. 8:4 is plural; therefore, the Bible does not specify that the ark landed on the highest peak of the region (Mount Ararat), only that the ark landed somewhere on the mountains or highlands of Armenia (both “Ararat” and “Urartu” can be translated as “highlands”). In biblical times, “Ararat” was actually the name of a province (not a mountain), as can be seen from its usage in 2 Kings 19:37: “… some escaped into the land of Ararat” and Jer. 51:27: “… call together against her (Israel) the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Askkenaz …”

She additionally noted that:

Only in the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD did the focus of investigators begin to shift toward Mount Ararat as the ark’s final resting place, and only by the end of the fourteenth century AD does it seem to have become a fairly well established tradition. Before this, both Islamic and Christian tradition held that the landing place of the ark was on Jabel Judi, a mountain located about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of the Tigris River near Cizre, Turkey (Fig. 1).

Jabel Judi is 6,854 feet in elevation. The current Mt. Ararat wasn’t even known by that name until the Middle Ages (see more on its names in Wikipedia).

Lorence G. Collins is a geologist and petrologist. His Wikipedia page observed that he is “known for his opposition to creationist geological pseudo-science.” He has 36 articles on a website Opposition to Creationism that describe various views of young-earth creationists and their scientific errors in interpretations. He wrote a fascinating article, “Yes, Noah’s flood may have happened but not over the
whole earth” (Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 2009, 29(5): 38-41. He lays out geological evidence for a local Mesopotamian Flood:

REGIONAL EVIDENCE FOR THE NOACHIAN AND SIMILAR FLOODS

Two rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris flow through Mesopotamia, which is now the country of Iraq (Figure 1).There are several layers in exposed rocks near these two rivers in southeastern Mesopotamia (Iraq) that are likely flood deposits. Most are about a foot (0.3 m) thick, but one is as much as 3 meters thick (MacDonald 1988). Flood debris from this same thick deposit along the Euphrates River near the ancient Sumerian city of Shuruppak about 200 km southeast of Baghdad has been dated by the C14 method, giving an age of 2900 BCE (Best nd). Flood deposits 2.4 meters thick are also reported by MacDonald (1988) as far northeast as the ancient Babylonian city of Kish (120 km south of Baghdad). At any rate, the many flood-deposit layers show that flooding in southeastern Mesopotamia was not unusual in ancient times.

Reference Source:

MacDonald D. 1988. The Flood: Mesopotamian archaeological evidenceCreation/Evolution 8 (2): 14–20.

The Bible habitually uses phenomenological language. Collins makes note of this with regard to the Flood:

Northeast and southwest of the nearly flat surface that contains the two rivers, the topography rises to more than 455 m [1493 feet] in Saudi Arabia and in Iran. Calculations show that elevations of 455 m high cannot be seen beyond 86 km [53 miles] away, and these places are more than 160 km [99 miles] from the Euphrates or Tigris Rivers. Therefore, none of the high country in Saudi Arabia or Iran would be visible to a tribal chief (or Noah). On that basis, the “whole world” would definitely appear to be covered with water during the Flood, and that was the “whole world” for the people in this part of southeastern Mesopotamia at that time.

Here is a good topographical map of Mesopotamia (see also a second one). One can see that there is a sort of “basin” in the alluvial floodplain in this area. An article about the region referred to:

. . . the floodplain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which is bordered by the Zagros Mountains to the east, the Himreen Mountains to the north, the Arabian Plateau to the west and the Persian Gulf to the south.

Now, all that remains is to show that the opinion of a local Flood is mainstream Christian thought. Its rather easy to do. First I go to the Catholic Encyclopedia (since I am a Catholic). It’s article on “Deluge” was written in 1908, so these are no recent developments in scholarly thinking.

Universality of the Deluge

The Biblical account ascribes some kind of a universality to the Flood. But it may have been geographically universal, or it may have been only anthropologically universal. In other words, the Flood may have covered the whole earth, or it may have destroyed all men, covering only a certain part of the earth. Till about the seventeenth century, it was generally believed that the Deluge had been geographically universal, and this opinion is defended even in our days by some conservative scholars (cf. Kaulen in Kirchenlexikon). But two hundred years of theological and scientific study devoted to the question have thrown so much light on it that we may now defend the following conclusions:

The geographical universality of the Deluge may be safely abandoned

Neither Sacred Scripture nor universal ecclesiastical tradition, nor again scientific considerations, render it advisable to adhere to the opinion that the Flood covered the whole surface of the earth.

(a) The words of the original text, rendered “earth” in our version, signify “land” as well as “earth”; in fact, “land” appears to have been their primary meaning, and this meaning fits in admirably with Genesis 4, 5 and 10; why not adhere to this meaning also in Genesis 6:9, or the Flood story. Why not read, the waters “filled all on the face of the land”, “all flesh was destroyed that moved in the land”, “all things wherein there is the breath of life in the land died”, “all the high mountains under the whole heaven (corresponding to the land) were covered”? The primary meaning of the inspired text urges therefore a universality of the flood covering the whole land or region in which Noah lived, but not the whole earth. . . .

(c) There are also certain scientific considerations which oppose the view that the Flood was geographically universal. Not that science opposes any difficulty insuperable to the power of God; but it draws attention to a number of most extraordinary, if not miraculous phenomena involved in the admission of a geographically universal Deluge.

  • First, no such geological traces can be found as ought to have been left by a universal Deluge; for the catastrophe connected with the beginning of the ice-age, or the geological deluge, must not be connected with the Biblical.
  • Secondly, the amount of water required by a universal Deluge, as described in the Bible, cannot be accounted for by the data furnished in the Biblical account. If the surface of the earth, in round numbers, amounts to 510,000,000 square kilometres, and if the elevation of the highest mountains reaches about 9000 metres, the water required by the Biblical Flood, if it be universal, amounts to about 4,600,000,000 cubic kilometres. Now, a forty days’ rain, ten times more copious than the most violent rainfall known to us, will raise the level of the sea only about 800 metres; since the height to be attained is about 9000 metres, there is still a gap to be filled by unknown sources amounting to a height of more than 8000 metres, in order to raise the water to the level of the greatest mountains.

For Protestant opinion, I cite the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: a marvelous helpful work similar to the Catholic Encyclopedia. It dates from 1915. I quote from its article, “Deluge of Noah”. It was written by George Frederick Wright (a Congregationalist), about whom Wikipedia states:

. . . an American geologist and a professor at Oberlin Theological Seminary, first of New Testament language and literature (1881 – 1892), and then of “harmony of science and revelation” (until retirement in 1907). He wrote prolifically, publishing works in geology, history, and theology. Early in his career he was an outspoken defender of Darwinism, and later in life he emphasised his commitment to a form of theistic evolution.

And now from the article:

Was the Flood Universal?:

In considering the credibility of the Biblical story we encounter at the outset the question whether the narrative compels us to believe the Flood to have been universal. In answer, it is sufficient to suggest that since the purpose of the judgment was the destruction of the human race, all the universality which it is necessary to infer from the language would be only such as was sufficient to accomplish that object. If man was at that time limited to the Euphrates valley, the submergence of that area would meet all the necessary conditions. Such a limitation is more easily accepted from the fact that general phrases like “Everybody knows,” “The whole country was aroused,” are never in literature literally interpreted. When it is said (Genesis 41:54-57) that the famine was “in all lands,” and over “all the face of the earth,” and that “all countries came into Egypt …. to buy grain,” no one supposes that it is intended to imply that the irrigated plains of Babylonia, from which the patriarchs had emigrated, were suffering from drought like Palestine (For other examples of the familiar use of this hyperbole, see Deuteronomy 2:25Job 37:3Acts 2:25Romans 1:8.)

As to the extent to which the human race was spread over the earth at the time of the Flood, two suppositions are possible. First, that of Hugh Miller (Testimony of the Rocks) that, owing to the shortness of the antediluvian chronology, and the violence and moral corruption of the people, population had not spread beyond the boundary of western Asia. An insuperable objection to this theory is that the later discoveries have brought to light remains of prehistoric man from all over the northern hemisphere, showing that long before the time of the Flood he had become widely scattered.

Another theory, supported by much evidence, is that, in connection with the enormous physical changes in the earth’s surface during the closing scenes of the Glacial epoch, man had perished from off the face of the earth except in the valley of the Euphrates, and that the Noachian Deluge is the final catastrophe in that series of destructive events.

Likewise, we can cite The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954) an immensely influential work from Baptist theologian Bernard Ramm, representing mainstream evangelical [as opposed to “fundamentalist”] Protestant, post-World War II thinking:

Although many Christians still believe in the universal flood, most of the recent conservative scholarship of the church defends a local flood. (p. 238; he cites the article directly above as “the best discussion on the flood”)

Criticisms of the universal flood interpretation

. . . (i) It cannot demonstrate that totality of language necessitates a universal flood . Fifteen minutes with a Bible concordance will reveal many instances in which universality of language is used but only a partial quantity is meant. All does not mean every last one in all of its usages. Psa. 22: 17 reads: “I may tell all my bones,” and hardly means that every single bone of the skeleton stood out prominently. John 4: 39 cannot mean that Jesus completely recited the woman’s biography. Matt. 3: 5 cannot mean that every single individual from Judea and Jordan came to John the Baptist. There are cases where all means all, and every means every, but the context tells us where this is intended. Thus, special reference may be made to Paul’s statement in Romans about the universality of sin, yet even that “all” excludes Jesus Christ.

The universality of the flood simply means the universality of the experience of the man who reported it. When God tells the Israelites He will put the fear of them upon the people under the whole heaven , it refers to all the peoples known to the Israelites (Deut. 2: 25). When Gen. 41: 57 states that all countries came to Egypt to buy grain, it can only mean all peoples known to the Egyptians. Ahab certainly did not look for Elijah in every country of the earth even though the text says he looked for Elijah so thoroughly that he skipped no nation or kingdom (I Kings 18: 10). From the vantage point of the observer of the flood all mountains were covered, and all flesh died. (pp. 240-241)

There is the problem of the amount of water required by a universal flood. All the waters of the heavens, poured all over the earth, would amount to a sheath seven inches thick. If the earth were a perfect sphere so that all the waters of the ocean covered it, the depth of the ocean would be two and one-half to three miles. To cover the highest mountains would require eight times more water than we now have. It would have involved a great creation of water to have covered the entire globe, but no such creative act is hinted at in the Scriptures. (p. 244)

Getting rid of such a vast amount of water would have been as miraculous as providing it. If the entire world were under six miles of water, there would be no place for the water to drain off. Yet the record states that the water drained off with the help of the wind (Gen. 8: i). A local flood would readily account for this, but there is no answer if the entire world were under water. (p. 245)

The flood was local to the Mesopotamian valley. The animals that came, prompted by divine instinct, were the animals of that region; they were preserved for the good of man after the flood. Man was destroyed within the boundaries of the flood; the record is mute about man in America or Africa or China. The types of vegetation destroyed quickly grew again over the wasted area, and other animals migrated back into the area, so that after a period of time the damaging effects of the flood were obliterated. . . .

We judge, then, that within Christian and supernaturalistic premises, there is nothing in the Scriptures about geological matters which should cause offence to anyone; on the contrary, we may believe the Biblical records with full assurance of being in agreement with geological science according to the principles developed in this chapter. (p. 249; all page numbers correspond to my hardcover edition, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company [Grand Rapids, Michigan], in 1954; my copy reprinted in 1966).

Ramm also discusses “The Babylonian Flood account” on pages 247-249. It can be read online at the link. In the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, George Frederick Wright (see the link above) also devotes significant space to it in his sections 9 and 10: for those who want to understand the true nature of the comparison of the Babylonian and biblical accounts. Here are a few striking differences, as elucidated by Wright:

The dimensions of the ark as given in Ge (6:15) are reasonable, while those of Berosus and the cuneiform tablets are unreasonable. According to Gen, the ark was 300 cubits (562 1/2 ft.) long, 50 cubits (93 2/3 ft.) wide, and 30 cubits (56 1/4 ft.) deep, which are the natural proportions for a ship of that size, being in fact very close to those of the great steamers which are now constructed to cross the Atlantic. The “Celtic” of the White Star line, built in 1901, is 700 ft. long, 75 ft. wide and 49 1/3 ft. deep. The dimensions of the “Great Eastern,” built in 1858 (692 ft. long, 83 ft. broad, and 58 ft. deep), are still closer to those of the ark. The cuneiform tablets represent the length, width and depth each as 140 cubits (262 ft.) (II. 22, 23, 38-41), the dimensions of an entirely unseaworthy structure. . . .

The accounts differ decidedly in the duration of the Flood. According to the ordinary interpretation of the Biblical account, the Deluge continued a year and 17 days; whereas, according to the cuneiform tablets, it lasted only 14 days (II. 103-7, 117-22). . . .

[T]he duration of the Deluge, according to Genesis, affords opportunity for a gradual progress of events which best accords with scientific conceptions of geological movements. If, as the most probable interpretation would imply, the water began to recede after 150 days from the beginning of the Flood and fell 15 cubits in 74 days, that would only be 3 2/3 inches per day–a rate which would be imperceptible to an ordinary observer.

Despite these massive differences, (((J_Enigma23))) on Pearce’s blog wrote:

As stated numerous times, the Biblical flood also reads very much like the Flood myth from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Right. The Babylonian ark was 262 feet wide, deep, and long (a giant cube), whereas the biblical ark has similar proportions to actual ocean liners in our time. The biblical Flood lasted over a year, and the waters subsided over seven months’ time. But the Babylonian Flood lasted 14 days. That doesn’t sound “very much like” to me. There are several parallels that can be drawn, but having massively different boat descriptions and duration lengths are certainly essential differences.

See a summary of the major theological differences between the two stories in the article, “Down Came the Rain: Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin on Noah and Gilgamesh” (The Schechter Institutes, Inc., 1-10-19)

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Photo credit: jeffjacobs1990 (7-20-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

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Summary: “eric”: an atheist who frequents Jonathan Pearce’s blog, blithely assumed that mainstream Christian thinking accepts a worldwide Flood. This is false: a local Flood is the norm.

 

May 10, 2017

GrandCanyon2

Was the Grand Canyon formed from one deposit after Noah’s Flood? Photograph by Antoine Taveneaux (4-24-11) [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

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(5-25-04; many defunct links removed and new ones added: 5-10-17)

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I will list a host of links to articles explaining the evidences which (I believe) form a compelling refutation of flood geology and a young earth. This constitutes my response to Kevin Rice’s friendly, probing and challenging questions and criticisms, along with further dialogue. His words will be in blue.
***

See also my own web page on Science and Philosophy.

*****

Kevin was asking for reasons for why I reject flood geology. The articles I shall cite below provide many such reasons. He wrote:

I see that these questions (age of the earth and whether there was a Universal Flood) as distinct, and I see two sides of a debate being pursued in a way that indicates that everyone who is doing the research is completely blind to the distinction. Not that they have seen this as a possible apparent distinction and rejected it, but that they have never considered it for a moment. I am not impressed by that. Therefore I can’t summon any confidence in the consensus of scientific and scholarly opinion concerning whether the distinction that I can plainly see has been considered reasonably and ruled out by a rational, scientific process. I see that even you, who have no apparent personal stake in this matter whatsoever, are reluctant to even re-examine the question or treat it as legitimate. Instead you are quite willing to defer to the opinions of others who have not even considered the question, who have never even done any research into it. For you, the fact that no research whatsoever has been done by those socially, politically and philosophically entrenched researchers on this question is ACTUALLY SUFFICIENT!!

That is not the same critical, questioning attitude that led you to seek and find the truth about how materialistic evolutionary science is pursued in the first place. This lack of intellectual curiosity on your part and your willingness to accept the same lack of curiosity in the scholarly and scientific community, is not consistent with that spirit of inquiry that you have demonstrated elsewhere at other times.

And later:

I was actually hoping that the reasons you had for rejecting Flood Geology and a Universal Flood in favor of uniformitarianism in the form that I find suspicious were going to be quite good, and that would resolve the issue . . . Since you are neither a materialist nor a young earther, I was hoping that your rejection of a Universal Flood and Flood Geology would be for reasons that I could find persuasive, rather than being based on that uncritical area of agreement which I find questionable.

. . . The fact that the universe, and thus very likely the earth, is older than the young-earther’s say, does NOT mean that there was no Universal Flood, or that Flood Geology is wrong and uniformitarianism is right!!

Davis Young, an evangelical geologist, wrote:

The maintenance of modern creationism and Flood geology not only is useless apologetically with unbelieving scientists, it is harmful. Although many who have no scientific training have been swayed by creationist arguments, the unbelieving scientist will reason that a Christianity that believes in such nonsense must be a religion not worthy of his interest. . . . Modern creationism in this sense is apologetically and evangelistically ineffective. It could even be a hindrance to the gospel.

Another possible danger is that in presenting the gospel to the lost and in defending God’s truth we ourselves will seem to be false. It is time for Christian people to recognize that the defense of this modern, young-Earth, Flood-geology creationism is simply not truthful. It is simply not in accord with the facts that God has given. (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, Thousand Oaks, California: Artisan Sales, 1988, 163)

St. Augustine wrote:

If they [the infidel] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

NOTE: As with most links, I don’t agree with everything in these links. For example, an atheist might be entirely skeptical of the Bible and the existence of God, yet offer cogent and compelling critiques of the errors of flood geology (just as he might correctly identify such errors in anti-Catholic theological arguments). At the moment, my interest is in flood geology, not the worldview of the people making the critiques (though I freely admit — always have — that we all have biases which affect our reasoning).

“Problems with a Global Flood,” Mark Isaak

“Creationist Geologic Time Scale: an attack strategy for the sciences,” Donald U. Wise

“Equal Time For The Origin Of Granite – A Miracle!,” Lorence G. Collins

Collins is a Methodist and committed Christian. See his article:

“Christianity and science are they contradictory?,” Lorence G. Collins

“ARE POLONIUM 210Po) HALOS IN COALIFIED WOOD EVIDENCE FOR THE NOACHIAN FLOOD?,” Lorence G. Collins

“THE DEPTHS OF THE OCEANS: INCOMPATIBLE WITH A GLOBAL FLOOD MODEL,” Joseph Meert

“A Criticism of the ICR’s Grand Canyon Dating Project,” Chris Stassen

“‘Polystrate’ Tree Fossils,” Andrew MacRae

“A Whale of a Tale,” Darby South

“Coal Beds, Creationism, and Mount St. Helens,” Keith Littleton

“Is the Devonian Chattanooga Shale Really a Volcanic Ash-Fall Deposit?” (A Review of a Creation Research Society Quarterly Paper), James L. Moore

“Biblical Geology?,” David Mathews (Church of Christ)

The Age of the Earth [many links from Talk.Origins Archive]

Flood Geology [many links from Talk.Origins Archive]

Catastrophism [links from Talk.Origins Archive]

Critiques of Young Earth Creationism Theology (Evidence for God website)

The Age of the Earth (Chris Stassen)

Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: A Biblical and Scientific Critique of Young-Earth Creationism [Bruce L. Gordon]

Radiometric Dating and the Geological Time Scale (Andrew MacRae)

WHY I REJECT A YOUNG EARTH VIEW: A BIBLICAL DEFENSE OF AN OLD EARTH (Jonathan McLatchie)

BIBLICAL REASONS TO DOUBT THE CREATION DAYS WERE 24-HOUR PERIODS (Justin Taylor)

Perspective: Ice Ages Research Demolishes Young Earth Creationism (D. STUART LETHAM and COL J. GIBSON)

Young Earth Creationism Ignores Basic Geology – And Christian Theology (Michael Martinez)

Old Earth Creationism and the Fall (William A. Dembski)

The Bible, Rocks, and Time: Christians and an Old Earth (+ Part II / Part III / Part IV / Part V) (Ted Davis, Davis A. Young, & Ralph Stearley)

Science and Faith (excellent, comprehensive Catholic Links Page on Christianity and science)

*****

Here’s a question that I have held in abeyance for years concerning your views:

Years?! :-)

Why do you reject a Universal Flood and Flood Geology in favor of uniformitarianism?

For my part, I am not committed to Flood Geology (though I find it interesting) nor do I believe in a young-earth scenario putting the age of the universe in the thousands of years rather than billions.

But I am curious about your rejection of Flood Geology. I have enjoyed your papers on critiquing evolution immensely, but I have not seen any apologia for this rejection.

Flood geology or “catastrophism,” usually goes hand-in-hand with the young earth hypothesis (if you’re talking about the view that includes such scenarios as all the layers of the Grand Canyon being deposited as a result of the flood, etc.).

It is simply unable to be synthesized with the findings of geology. Uniformitarianism is fundamental to science. It has to assume that the processes we observe now have always been in operation. Otherwise it is difficult to build up a body of reliable, internally-consistent data.

I formed my view on this during the early 80s due largely to Bernard Ramm’s book, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1954). He pointed out things like the 18 layers of forests on top of each other in Yellowstone Park, which blows away the young earth and flood geology alike.

As for a universal flood (if by that one means that the waters literally covered the entire earth), the Bible doesn’t require this. The theory also suffers from several serious flaws having to do with what would happen with that much water around, even covering the mountains.

Why did you do it?!! Why did you take down one of my favorite papers of yours from your site, “An Empirically-Minded Philosophical Critique of Evolutionary Claims for the Fossil Record”???!!

I took down almost all of my papers on evolution and creationism because I wanted my focus in such matters to be on refutations of scientific materialism, which is the real enemy of Christianity, not the theory of evolution (flawed though it is, in its most popular forms). For myself, I never thought evolution was an intrinsically immoral or wicked scheme. I simply thought it was false.

But my own views have been undergoing a slow transformation, I think (no pun intended). I’ve read a few books on the overall subject, including Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, and plan to read several more which I have already purchased. My view now might be described as an “agnostic” position. God created. How He did it is an open question for me.

Behe (a Catholic) is an evolutionist, in terms of common descent. But his point is that the natural laws as we know them cannot account for the evolution we see at the biochemical level; that there is irreducible complexity and therefore intelligent design is required to explain these origins. So he is not a Neo-Darwinist and he doesn’t play the game of pretending that science, philosophy, and theology all exist in airtight compartments with no overlap.

That’s what I believe at present. However organic development and diversity is explained, there must be a component beyond physical processes, because I don’t think those can explain evolution all by themselves (i.e., scientific materialism: either philosophical or merely methodological). God has to either intervene to create new complexities or else he has put into natural scientific laws potentialities so extraordinary that we cannot at present explain them using simply the scientific knowledge that we have.

In other words, God can’t be separated from science. Materialism has failed as a worldview, and the more we learn in science, the more this is established.

I was going to re-read it in order to prepare for whatever answer you would have for my question about Flood Geology and your rejection of a worldwide flood,

I don’t think that paper dealt much with this issue.

and now I notice it isn’t there! When did THAT happen??!

About 12-18 months ago, I think.

Why did you take it down?

Because of the above explanation. My fight (as a Christian apologist and armchair philosopher) is not with evolutionists, but with materialists.

It was brilliant and filled with excellent stuff! I kept a print-out for years, but I felt free to discard it later for space reasons since you would always have it on your site, or so I mistakenly thought!

Well, thanks!

All I wanted was to get some feedback about a Universal Flood and Flood Geology vs. Uniformitarianism. As I recall, Dave, in that missing paper, says that he rejects the former in favor of the latter, “not a priori, but because of evidence.” I just wanted to know what evidence tipped the scales in favor of uniformitarianism. For my part, I see the evidence as readily admitting to either interpretation, and I am totally agnostic on the subject. I have a vague subjective preference for Flood Geology, only because it makes Biblical hisotry so much more concrete and imaginable, which I enjoy. I would be captivated by that history even if I were not Christian, if I knew it as well as I do, only because it has the quality of grand, sweeping, epic myth. It reminds me of Tolkien, only Genesis is better!

Well, science isn’t of the nature of a biblical or Tolkien “myth.” It operates under the assumption that data exists sufficient enough to verify a given hypothesis or theory, and that theories should be falsifiable. Flood geology is filled with hundreds of holes. It is basically held anymore only by fundamentalist Protestants. Bernard Ramm was a Baptist writing in 1954 and he said even then that most theological conservatives had rejected the universal flood, as contrary to science and not required by the biblical text.

Hope my answers have helped. I can’t really get into a major discussion on geology right now, but maybe others would enjoy discussing it.

*****

First of all, “flood geology” and the question of universal vs. local flood are two different issues. You seem to be confusing them, but maybe not.

You say flood geology doesn’t have to be tied to a young earth scenario. Very well, then: can you provide me with some links of reputable, credentialed scientists who adopt flood geology over against uniformitarianism and also accept the old earth? And also (if you can find it) a listing of their publications in respected scientific journals? Thanks!

Not a single one. And do you know how much that fact impresses me or persuades me that these self-evidently distinct ideas (young earth and a universal flood) are necessarily connected? Exactly this much: Not at all.

I am a lay philosopher (got my B.A. at Stony Brook), who stopped just short of his Master’s degree at Franciscan University of Steubenville, having completed all the coursework, but having gotten bogged down by writing the thesis. Even after I reverted to my Catholic faith following nine years of agnosticism and paganism (during which I was actively hostile to Christianity) and returned to school to finish my B.A. in philosophy, I retain a strong streak of skepticism and agnosticism about a great many things which most people seem comfortable to accept without much questioning or critical reflection. The fact that a great many people with advanced degrees take one position or another, and each side is quite convinced that the other is dead wrong, is never in itself convincing to me that one side is right and the other is wrong. When it comes to the question about Flood Geology, I see two sides struggling to make ALL the data fit their theory, and neither side is succeeding in a way that I find compelling. I ask myself this question: suppose I have become convinced by independent (non-geological) evidence that the universe was not created 6,000 years ago, and thus it is quite thinkable that the earth is very old as well – does that mean that a Universal Flood never occurred, or could not have occurred? Just because young-earthers use the Flood to try (in vain, it seems to me) to explain ALL the evidence of an old earth, that does not mean that such an event as a worldwide flood never occurred. I know that we are not required by our faith to believe in a Universal Flood. I just don’t think that we are required by reason and the scientific evidence at hand to deny it. I feel free to accept or reject it.

BTW – You are right that I have been confusing Flood Geology with the idea of a Universal Flood. Do you know of anyone who rejects the former but accepts the latter?

To answer your question: no. I haven’t really followed that particular discussion lately.

I am not deciding truth based on majority vote. And if you have read my papers on evolution, you would (or should) certainly know that. The two following propositions are distinct:

1. Truth is determined by a head count.

2. If the vast majority of experts and scholars in a given field believe something to be false, chances are that it is. It may still be true, but that is exceedingly unlikely.

Part of my reasoning for rejecting flood geology is #2, but it is not #1 at all, because that is clearly a falsehood. My understanding has been that flood geology and the young earth hypothesis have basically gone hand in hand. If I am wrong about that, I am happy to be corrected, but when I asked you to direct me to a flood geology advocate who accepted an old earth, you didn’t have anything to give me. That’s fine, but since you have said that you accept the old earth, I think this is an important consideration for you to ponder, since you remain agnostic on the flood geology question. There is such a thing as an eccentric opinion, no matter how much gadfly thinkers and intellectual nonconformists like you and I might like to think we are totally independent of all schools of knowledge.

The bottom line is that if flood geology (or a 6000-year-old earth) is true, then both should have at least some advocates who have impeccable scientific credentials, whether or not they are shut out by the journals. If few can be found, then all that tells me is that it is lousy science, and can’t even provide a paradigm for further research, exploration, explanatory value, and discovery, which is what science is about. It’s just (in my opinion) Christian fundamentalism pretending to be “scientific” neither good theology nor science.

The research I have seen is by people with those credentials, or at least who claim to have them — a claim that I cannot confirm but which I have no reason whatsoever to doubt. They have started their own journals.

There may be any number of scientifically credentialed people who have a clear enough grasp of these ideas to realize that the question of the age of the earth is distinct from whether there was a universal flood, and how the geological evidence is to be interpreted. I just have no idea how to find them, esp. of they are keeping certain doubts/questions/beliefs to themselves out of fear for their academic position. You must realize that such factors come into play on occasion. These questions become confused because they are not pursued in a dispassionate non-social, non-political, non-religious purely scientific vacuum. People dig in their heels based on their commitments to how Biblical text is to be interpreted, which is very close to their hearts. Atheists and believers alike have this tendency to take a position on Biblical exegesis. I am sure you have seen how committed atheists are to the least charitable interpretations available. Believers can be “charitable” in a way that doesn’t help much – they can “rescue” Biblical text from the truths they are intended to affirm if they see those truths as incredible or inconsistent with the spirit of the age. Even orthodox believers can succumb to this. No one is totally immune to the seductive power of the zeitgeist.

I see that these questions (age of the earth and whether there was a Universal Flood) as distinct, and I see two sides of a debate being pursued in a way that indicates that everyone who is doing the research is completely blind to the distinction. Not that they have seen this as a possible apparent distinction and rejected it, but that they have never considered it for a moment. I am not impressed by that. Therefore I can’t summon any confidence in the consensus of scientific and scholarly opinion concerning whether the distinction that I can plainly see has been considered reasonably and ruled out by a rational, scientific process. I see that even you, who have no apparent personal stake in this matter whatsoever, are reluctant to even re-examine the question or treat it as legitimate. Instead you are quite willing to defer to the opinions of others who have not even considered the question, who have never even done any research into it. For you, the fact that no research whatsoever has been done by those socially, politically and philosophically entrenched researchers on this question is ACTUALLY SUFFICIENT!!

That is not the same critical, questioning attitude that led you to seek and find the truth about how materialistic evolutionary science is pursued in the first place. This lack of intellectual curiosity on your part and your willingness to accept the same lack of curiosity in the scholarly and scientific community, is not consistent with that spirit of inquiry that you have demonstrated elsewhere at other times.

I see that even you, who have no apparent personal stake in this matter whatsoever, are reluctant to even re-examine the question or treat it as legitimate.

Asking for links to articles about it by credentialed scientists is hardly doing that. But it is true that I have no time for the young earth worldview, so if flood geology is indeed inextricably tied to that (as I suspect), then it would go down with it.

Instead you are quite willing to defer to the opinions of others who have not even considered the question, who have never even done any research into it.

I am? How do you know who I have read, or how much they have “considered the question”? You are arriving at quite a few unwarranted conclusions here.

For you, the fact that no research whatsoever has been done by those socially, politically and philosophically entrenched researchers on this question is ACTUALLY SUFFICIENT!!

You are getting more and more wildly speculative. I made it clear that I didn’t want to get unto a full discussion on geology at this time. I have also said that the Q & A Forums were mostly for short answers. I may or may not choose to go into topics at greater length. But if I don’t do so, it doesn’t therefore follow in light of these stated factors , that I have all these supposed opinions you are now attributing to me.

Why is this particular question so important to you? Generally, folks who take an agnostic position on something do not get all excited about it and argue with such zest and enthusiasm precisely because they have no formed opinion yet.

That is not the same critical, questioning attitude that led you to seek and find the truth about how materialistic evolutionary science is pursued in the first place. This lack of intellectual curiosity on your part and your willingness to accept the same lack of curiosity in the scholarly and scientific community, is not consistent with that spirit of inquiry that you have demonstrated elsewhere at other times.

Are you telling me that there are no opinions in the area of science which may be considered “fringe” or discounted or refuted? Would you include geocentrism and a non-rotating earth among those opinions? How about phrenology, or a flat earth, or racist eugenics theories? I want to see what theories you yourself have ruled out. If you have done so, then I am equally entitled to do the same, and shouldn’t be subjected to criticism about my supposed lack of the “spirit of inquiry” based on that fact alone.

Everyone is entitled to regard some beliefs as unworthy of further attention (provided they do some study). For me, the young earth is one of those. I have not stated that flood geology was; only that in my experience, it was usually tied with the young earth view. You have not provided me with a single link to disabuse me of my present opinion. Perhaps someone can or will. The link between the two is where my “intellectual curiosity” lies at the moment.

Looks like this may be another paper of its own eventually . . .

Following my stated curiosity above, I have started to look for some material to resolve the question. Lo and behold, in two minutes on Google, I found the link to the “Science and the Bible Bibliography”  [link defunct] by Christian Research Institute (CRI). It states:


Secular evolutionism explains the origins of the world and man from a purely naturalistic perspective, seeing evolution as the only explanation required; God is left out of the picture (whether or not He is admitted to exist). Theistic evolutionism views God as the Creator of all through the process of evolution, perhaps conceding that the first man’s soul was created directly by God. In both of these views, the earth is regarded as about 4.5 billion years old. Young-earth creationism regards the universe and the earth to have been created some six to ten thousand years ago within a six 24-hour-day period, with a global flood in Noah’s day producing major earth-wide geological effects (known as flood geology). Old-earth creationism accepts the time scale of billions of years, and regards many of Gods creative acts as taking place over long periods of time and involving natural processes as well as supernatural acts; while rejecting organic evolution as a mechanism in the creation of diverse kinds, as does young-earth creationism, the old-earth view also rejects flood geology.


DAVE! You Da MAN, dude!

Thank you so much for the generous time you put into helping me out on this. I am going to check every one of those links in detail, and that should keep me busy for some time.

See the related papers:

Question on the Nature and Extent of Noah’s Flood (as Understood in Catholicism) and My Reply [Facebook]

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity?

New Testament Proofs of Noah’s Historical Existence (Seton Magazine article)

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures

*****

July 9, 2021

This is a follow-up to my article, Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought (7-2-21), and it will deal with some elements of proposed local Flood models that are “difficulties” to work through. I’ll start by citing again (with some abridgement and slight modification of presentation) key parts of the previous post that have to do directly with what I will address here, so this article can be more coherent and complete on its own.

Carol A. Hill, in her article, “The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local?” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 54, Number 3, September 2002), wrote:

In no way can “earth” be taken to mean the planet Earth, as in Noah’s time and place, people (including the Genesis writer) had no concept of Earth as a planet and thus had no word for it. Their “world” mainly (but not entirely) encompassed the land of Mesopotamia—a flat alluvial plain enclosed by the mountains and high ground of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia (Fig. 1); i.e., the lands drained by the four rivers of Eden (Gen. 2:10–14). The biblical account must be interpreted within the narrow limit of what was known about the world in that time, not what is known about the world today. . . .

The “earth” was the land (ground) as Noah knew (tilled) it and saw it “under heaven”—that is, the land under the sky in the visible horizon, and “all flesh” were those people and animals who had died or were perishing around the ark in the land of Mesopotamia. The language used in the scriptural narrative is thus simply that which would be natural to an eyewitness (Noah). Woolley aptly described the situation this way: “It was not a universal deluge; it was a vast flood in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates which drowned the whole of the habitable land … for the people who lived there that was all the world (italics mine).”

Regarding specifically the water covering “all the high mountains” (Gen 7:19), Hill states:

[T]he Hebrew word har for “mountain” in Gen. 7:20 . . . can also be translated as “a range of hills” or “hill country,” implying with Gen. 7:19 that it was “all the high hills” (also har) that were covered rather than high mountains.

This being the case, Genesis 7:19-20 could simply refer to “flood waters . . . fifteen cubits above the ‘hill country’ of Mesopotamia (located in the northern, Assyrian part)”. The Hebrew word har (Strong’s #2022) can indeed mean “hills” or “hill country”, as the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon defines it. Specifically for Genesis 7:19-20, this lexicon classifies the word as following:

mountain, indefinite, Job 14:18 (“” צוּר); usually plural mountains, in General, or the mountains, especially in poetry & the higher style; often figurative; הָרִיםהֶהָרִים, covered by flood Genesis 7:20 compare Genesis 7:19; . . .

Lorence G. Collins is a geologist and petrologist. He wrote a fascinating article, “Yes, Noah’s flood may have happened but not over the
whole earth” (Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 2009, 29(5): 38-41. In it, he observed:

Northeast and southwest of the nearly flat surface that contains the two rivers, the topography rises to more than 455 m [1493 feet] in Saudi Arabia and in Iran. Calculations show that elevations of 455 m high cannot be seen beyond 86 km [53 miles] away, and these places are more than 160 km [99 miles] from the Euphrates or Tigris Rivers. Therefore, none of the high country in Saudi Arabia or Iran would be visible to a tribal chief (or Noah). On that basis, the “whole world” would definitely appear to be covered with water during the Flood, and that was the “whole world” for the people in this part of southeastern Mesopotamia at that time.

Basically, the big problem with this scenario, is how to get to a Flood as described in the Bible in its duration and scope — even if construed as a local phenomenon — that can sustain itself for some 11-12 months without, in this instance, draining into the Persian Gulf: the one direction in relation to the Mesopotamian floodplain (unlike the other three) with no barriers or elevation gain. Thus, this local Flood theory gets pilloried by Christian believers in a universal, global Flood, and atheists alike (odd bedfellows those!). Geoff Benson, one of the latter, wrote on 7-8-21:

A local flood makes no sense biblically and it makes no sense physically. How could flood water just accumulate to a great height relative to non-flooded adjacent areas, in way placid enough to allow a huge boat to float merrily on its way? It’s physically impossible.

A discussion thread on the site, Evidence for God from Science called “Location of Noah’s Local Flood” is fascinating. First, we hear objections to the local Mesopotamian Flood. Greg Neyman, who thinks the local Flood occurred in the area of what is now the Caspian Sea, observed:

It does look like a plausible theory, however, the major problem this theory has is that the entire area drains into the Persian Gulf. There is no possible way to contain the flood waters, and a flood of this magnitude would never have occurred here. The rain waters would simply run away into the ocean. The only way to make this work is to have God perform a miraculous event at the southern end, making an invisible wall, or barrier, to keep the flood waters within the region. There is no indication in the Biblical text that this occurred.

I wrote today on atheist Jonathan Pearce’s blog:

It’s also true that the Flood may be partly supernatural and not wholly a natural event. That’s the question with the parting of the Red Sea (or whatever the actual body of water was). Was it a natural phenomenon (several scenarios have been suggested), wholly supernatural, or a combination? Any of those are possible in the biblical worldview.

Sometimes in the Bible God is described as having caused something that is actually natural. In these cases, the meaning would be that God “upholds” creation and/or caused the origin of natural laws in the first place, which now govern natural events, short of the rare miraculous divine intervention with a miracle. Other times it is purely miraculous (several of the plagues of Egypt seem to fit that bill well; also people being raised from the dead).

God’s statement in Genesis 6:17: ” I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth” (RSV; cf. 6:7, 13) could, I submit, be interpreted in either way. Also, see 7:4: “I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights . . .” and 8:1: “. . . And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided”. After the Flood, when God makes a covenant with Noah, He says:

Genesis 9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

Genesis 9:15 I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Thus, if God didn’t directly cause the Flood, it sure seems like He is directly intervening here to prevent such a catastrophe again. To me, this implies by analogy that He likely directly caused the Flood, meaning that supernatural aspects were at least partially involved. Carol A. Hill (“Qualitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood”Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006) discussed these distinctions:

Noah’s Flood was a miracle because God intervened into his physical laws. One does not have to invoke the notion of the suspension or violation of natural laws in “nature miracles.” Divine action can simply be understood as higher-order laws (God’s ultimate purpose) working seamlessly with lower order laws (God’s physical laws). Is it any less a miracle because it can be explained by natural processes? This is the nature of “nature miracles”: to have the timely intervention of God into natural processes.

One of the best examples of a “nature miracle” that comes to mind is Jesus rebuking the winds and sea (Matt. 8:23–26). In Matt. 8:26, the calming of the winds and sea could be explained by a sudden change of barometric pressure—which was probably the case. But it was God who caused this change to take place exactly when Christ commanded the waves and wind to be still.

Geologist Hill in this article makes many fascinating observations about this proposed local Flood scenario. After describing typical cyclical weather patterns in Mesopotamia, she gets more specific and talks about flooding:

Long-duration downpours are caused by the stalling or blocking of a Mediterranean frontal system, and depending on how long the system stalls, a “100-year” or “1000-year” precipitation event can result. [5] These rare occurrences of extremely high precipitation are referred to as the “Noah effect” by meteorologists and hydrologists. [6] When circulation patterns persist, then high amounts of rain (and snow in the mountains) can also precede or follow a cyclonic event. An example of this happening was in 1969 over the Jordan basin, when cyclonic circulation patterns persisted for 24 days, and rain and snow fell for almost two months. [7] The stalling of this front, over a period of 80 hours, brought an average of 75 inches (300 mm) of rain to the basin—the highest amount in 150 years— and caused considerable flooding.

Other stalled frontal systems are recorded for the Mississippi River region, USA. In the Mississippi River flood of 1927, it rained 15 inches in 18 hours, the water rose one inch an hour, the flood waters did not start to recede for two months, and some of the tributaries of the Mississippi actually flowed backward (up into their channels) due to the rapid flooding of the Mississippi River. [8] In the Mississippi River flood of 1973, the duration of flooding in some parts of the watershed was up to 97 days (over three months). [9] This 1973 flood was caused by the duration and persistence of a large-scale, anomalous, atmospheric circulation pattern, where the trough (low) existed in roughly the same location for a prolonged period of time in March and April.

Precipitation. Southern Mesopotamia is one of the driest spots on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of less than four inches. [10] The Mediterranean cyclonic disturbances that pass through Iraq in winter and spring provide practically the only rain of the year for this area, and even this meagerly rain can be “fickle”—with some years having no rain at all and with other years having substantial amounts.  . . .

The Zagros Mountains of eastern Mesopotamia run parallel to the Tigris River, and practically every spring, melting snow feeds the Tigris to overflowing. In these areas, mountain snows come mainly in the winter months (January–February), while the greatest rainfall occurs in the spring (March–April). Spring rainfall can quickly melt the mountain snow, causing the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to reach their highest flood level in late spring. [14] . . .

She then discussed wind conditions, but for brevity’s sake I will omit it. These weather conditions remarkably line up with the biblical account, as she explains:

Accordance with the Biblical Account

If the “second month, seventeenth day of the month” of Gen. 7:11 is interpreted as denoting the season of the year when the flood started, . . . then the Bible is in remarkable accordance with the weather patterns that actually exist (and have existed) in the Mesopotamian area. If one compares the tropical calendar of today with the sidereal calendar of the Mesopotamians for the years around 2900 BC, [22] then this would place the “second month, seventeenth day” in about the middle of March when meteorological conditions bring the most abundant rain to the Mesopotamian region. Genesis 7:12 says that it was a “heavy” rain which fell upon the earth (land) for forty days and forty nights, [23] and this is the type of rainfall (continuous downpour) that can result from the activity of maritime air masses characteristic of this season. The duration of the rain (forty days and forty nights) could have been caused by the stalling of a Mediterranean cyclonic front over the Mesopotamian area in combination with maritime air masses moving up from the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean. This stalled storm would have been associated with southerly winds (the sharqi and/or suhaili), not with the northwesterly shamal wind, and these could have been very intense winds both in strength and duration.

The Bible (Gen. 8:1) also records that sometime before the 150 days of Gen. 7:24 (five months or about in the middle of August, assuming a middle-of-March start-date for the Flood), a wind passed over the earth causing the waters to subside. This wind could correspond with the northwest shamal wind that blows almost continuously during the summer months. In spring, the melting of snow and steady rain in the mountains of northern Iraq produces flooding in the valleys of the south. Then in summer, the wind howls southward along the narrow fertile strip between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, and the drying process begins. [24] Thus, the Genesis account accurately records the actual meteorological situation that exists (and has existed) in Iraq (Mesopotamia).

She notes how the region has actually been known for having a lot of floods, albeit not as large as Noah’s Flood:

Floods in Mesopotamia

The Mesopotamian alluvial plain is one of the flattest places on earth. The surface of the plain 240 miles (400 km) inland from the head of the Gulf is less than 60 feet (20 m) above sea level, [25] and at An Nasiriyah, the water level of the Euphrates is only eight feet (<3 m) above sea level, even though the river still has to cover a distance of more than 95 miles to Basra (Fig. 1). Once As Samawah and Al ‘Amarah are passed, the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are lost in an immense marshland-lake region (Fig. 1), where water flows very slowly to the Persian Gulf. During spring this whole region—from the Euphrates east to the Tigris—can become severely inundated. [26] The level surface of the plain and shallow river beds of the Euphrates and Tigris, which offer the right conditions for irrigation, [27] can also cause immediate, widespread flooding. And, however difficult it is to get water to the land via irrigation canals, it is just as difficult to get it off the land when it floods. [28] Before any dams were built (before ~1920), about two-thirds of the whole area of southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) could be underwater in the flood season from March to August. [29] . . .

There are historical references to floods in Mesopotamia in the tenth, eighteenth, and twentieth centuries BC and seventh and eighth centuries AD. 33 From AD 762–1906, thirty major floods were recorded in and around Baghdad. [34]

How to account for a 150-day accumulation of rain and floodwaters and seven more months of drainage? She offers some theories:

A number of hydrologic factors could have been responsible for 150 days of flooding as recorded by Gen. 7:24.

Rain. Not only did it rain heavily and continuously for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:12), but it could have also rained intermittently after that until Day 150, when Gen. 8:2 says the rain finally stopped. The exact duration of the rain is unclear, and exactly where it rained is also unclear. It likely rained where Noah lived and built the ark (probably Shuruppak, the traditional “hometown” of Noah), as that is where the ark was lifted above the ground and began to float (Gen. 7:17). But if the cyclonic storm was regional, it could have rained over all of Mesopotamia and the surrounding highlands.

Snow. While the Bible does not specifically mention the involvement of snow in the Genesis Flood, melting of mountain snows by the rains of Gen. 7:17 could also have been an important factor affecting flooding. Vast amounts of water are held in snow storage, and the greatest floods on large rivers (such as the Tigris or Mississippi) tend to occur in spring in response to snow melt. [36] . . .

Springs. The Bible mentions the “fountains of the deep” (springs) twice in its narrative—once when the springs start (Gen. 7:11) and once when they stop (Gen. 8:2). Springs are a prime factor that could have caused prolonged flooding. When it rains or when snow melts, water does not only flow over the ground as stream runoff. It can also travel underground as “groundwater,” finally exiting at springs. . . .

Springs exist all over Mesopotamia and surrounding highlands, and most of these are limestone (karst) springs. Ras-el-ain (ain means “spring”), near the border of Syria and Turkey, is one of the largest limestone karst springs in the world and is the effective head of the Khabr River, a major tributary of the Euphrates. [41] . . .

Specific springs (among many) that could have contributed water to the Mesopotamian hydrologic basin during Noah’s Flood are those located near ancient Sippar, Babylon, and Kish; [42] those in the vicinity of Hit; [43] and those in the Jezira desert region between Baghdad and Mosul. [44] . . .

Storm Surge. There is the possibility that a storm surge (in addition to rainfall and snow melt) may have helped maintain flooding in the southern part of Mesopotamia. Storm surges are where a low-pressure meteorological system causes high winds and tides, which can drive seawater inland for hundreds of miles. This hypothesis is supported by written cuneiform records.

She then tackles the question of Flood sediments, and why so few can be found in Mesopotamia (detractors of a local Mesopotamian Flood make much of this):

At Shuruppak, and also at Uruk, the last Jemdet Nasr remains are separated from the subsequent Early Dynastic I Period by clean, water-lain clay deposited by a flood. This clay is nearly five feet thick at Uruk [60] and two feet thick at Shuruppak. [61] Since the Sumerian King List mentions that Noah (Ziusudra) lived in Shuruppak (today the archaeological mound of Fara), and since Noah is believed to have lived during the Jemdet Nasr Period, [62] then these sediments date from the right time and place and may be deposits left by Noah’s Flood. [c. 2900 BC]

A popular misconception is that a great inundation such as Noah’s Flood should have left a widespread layer of sediment all over Mesopotamia. If flood deposits occur at Shuruppak (Fara), then why not at nearby Kish? Why have no flood deposits been found at Ur that correspond to Noah’s Flood, and why in the city-mound of Ur do some pits contain thick flood deposits while other pits nearby contain no flood deposits?

This presumed problematic situation is completely understandable to hydrologists—in fact, it is what they expect. Floods erode sediment as well as deposit sediment. Rivers in vegetated terrain (like in northern Mesopotamia) are capable of eroding less sediment than in unvegetated, clay-silt terrain (like in southern Mesopotamia). Rivers may scour and down cut sediment along steep gradients, whereas they may deposit sediment in shallow-gradient situations. Or, sediment left from the waters of one flood may be removed by erosion in a later flood. Most Mesopotamian cities were located close to former river channels or canals since commerce and transportation depended on these waterways.

The entire article is fascinating and should be read by anyone interested in Noah’s Flood and particularly this hypothesis as to its location and extent. Carol’s husband is physicist Alan E. Hill, Distinguished Scientist of the Quantum Physics Institute at Texas A&M University. He has spent some forty years inventing and developing evermore-powerful lasers of the Star Wars variety. In the early 1960s, while at the University of Michigan, Alan was the first person to discover nonlinear optics phenomenon. They make up quite a team of scientists who are also devout Presbyterian Christians.

I shall now cite his article, “Quantitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006) at length:

[T]his paper specifically answers the physical objections raised by Young Earth Creationists, who ask: (1) How could the flood waters, if constrained to a local region, have stayed backed up for 150 days, and (2) How could the ark have traveled against the current, landing in the mountains of Ararat, instead of floating with the current down to the Persian Gulf? . . .

I have constructed a mathematical model into which the most critical topological features of the Mesopotamian region have been incorporated. Then, the literal biblical description of the period of rainfall and period of spring-water flow (“fountains of the deep”) was entered into the calculation. . . .

Finally, having developed input conditions that conform with Scripture, it is most interesting that the required rainfall and spring flow rate values are entirely consistent with the actual meteorological and hydrological conditions that can prevail in the Mesopotamian region. [2] . . .

[W]e are unable to realistically determine what actually happened to any level of detail during Noah’s Flood. However, even my simplistic approach can be used to determine what might have happened, in terms of possible scenarios consistent with the Genesis record. And, we are enabled to generate a plausible set of conditions, and subject to these, show that the ark could have readily been blown against the gradient to land 440 miles upstream, over an elevation change of 2100 feet within 40 days. . . .

I have evaluated many rainfall distribution scenarios, but for simplicity sake, only a single “benchmark” one (with several variations) will be presented. For this scenario, a rainfall and spring water distribution has been adjusted to develop the characteristics specifically described in Genesis 6–8. Essentially, the water depth immediately rises to 40 ft (not including the central 600-ft-wide assumed river channel of an additional depth of 20–30 ft) and floods the entire Mesopotamian plain, including the ziggurats there. The foothills of the mountains of Ararat are also flooded by rain, snow melt, and spring waters pouring off the surrounding mountain highs.

The rainfall distribution over time for the benchmark scenario is shown in Fig. 3A. As Gen. 7:12 states, the hard rainfall is limited to a 40-day period, whereas weaker rain fell thereafter until day 150, and then both the rain and spring flow stopped completely after 150 days (Gen. 8:2). Interestingly, a peak rainfall of only 2.75 inches per hour, tapering off to just one inch per hour in 40 days produces the requisite conditions. Such rainfall rates are not unreasonable for large hurricanes.  . . .

He then proceeds to show (with all kinds of scientific and mathematical calculations) that the ark could have been blown by strong winds, to its landing place near Cizre, (elevation 1,237 feet), where the plain starts transforming into foothills and mountains (“mountains of Ararat”), and the traditional landing-site,  Jabel Judi (discussed in my previous paper) is nearby. The biblical text doesn’t require the ark resting on top of a mountain. It says “came to rest upon the mountains of Ar’arat.” Ararat was a region, and it is where the traditional ark resting place (in Christian thinking prior to the 11th century) is located: just north of the Mesopotamian floodplain where the hills and mountains begin.

I can’t follow all the science and math (it gets very technical), but for those who can, it should be an even more fascinating read. A topographical map of the area (“Cudi Dagi” is Jabel Judi or Mt. Judi) shows how the hills and mountains abruptly begin. Thus it makes perfect sense for a boat that came from southern Mesopotamia, floating on massive floodwaters, to land at the first higher elevation landforms that it runs into.

Much less technical is an article cited on the site (referred to above), Evidence for God from Science and the discussion “Location of Noah’s Local Flood”.  It’s entitled “Noah’s Flood: A Bird’s-Eye View” by Steve Sarigianis. He stated:

The topography of the Mesopotamian region forms a huge U-shaped bowl that stretches 600 miles from the Persian Gulf to the northwest. Steep escarpments that rise quickly from less than 200 meters to 1,000 meters set boundaries for the Mesopotamian Plain on the north and the east. Terrain that rises gradually, but consistently, to heights above 400 meters forms the southern and western boundaries. Elevations above 400 meters fully contain the Mesopotamian Plain except where it meets the sea. . . .

A super-storm of this unprecedented magnitude would have produced an enormous surge in the Persian Gulf. During a storm surge, the force of the winds circulating around the storm’s low-pressure center pushes water ashore. A large hurricane can cause storm surges 50 miles wide and 25 feet deep. Shallow coastal waters like those in the Persian Gulf only amplify a storm surge. And, greater storm surges are observed with slow-moving storms.

Astrophysicist Hugh Ross added in the same comment in this thread:

The Genesis text does not specify the exact depth of the floodwaters. It states only that the ark floated up on the waters and that the nearby hills were so inundated that from Noah’s perspective the whole face of Earth was covered with water. That is, from one horizon to the other, all Noah could see was water.

An ark 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet high, loaded with animals and supplies, probably needed a draft of at least 20 feet. If Noah stood on top of the ark, his eye level would have been approximately 30 feet above the waters (refraction corrections included). The water level horizon for him would have been about 8 miles away. Any hill more distant than about 15 miles, sticking up even a hundred feet or more above the water, would have been invisible. Hills higher than 500 feet and 1,000 feet above water level would have been beyond the possible view of Noah if they were more than 28 and 38 miles distant, respectively. . . .

The rate at which a 50-foot, 100-foot, or higher surge of water above the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers would flow out to the Persian Gulf depends upon the slope of the land. From 400 miles northwest of Ur to Ur (the location of the Persian shore at the time of Noah), the Euphrates and Tigris rivers drop just 300 feet in elevation. This drop provides a grade of only about 0.01 percent. With that gentle a slope, the Flood waters would have moved very slowly out to the Persian Gulf. Moreover, for several months after the rain stopped, any water that exited to the Gulf would have been replaced with runoff from springs and melting snow on the distant mountains that surround the Mesopotamian Plain.

Searching around, I found several peer-reviewed, scientific articles that talked about floods in coastal areas, rate of drainage, and what is possible. One such article stated:

Designers of coastal drainage systems recognize the unique characteristics of coastal flooding, particularly the impacts of tides, low elevations, and high groundwater tables (Kuo 1980). The rate at which gravity can drain an area depends in part on the difference in elevation between the area being drained and the place to which the water flows. The greater the difference in elevation, the greater the slope of the “hydraulic head” and the faster the water can drain.

Coastal areas generally are low-lying and thus vulnerable to flooding. High tides can decrease the elevational difference and further slow gravity drainage. Moreover, storm surges in coastal areas frequently occur during rainstorms, and can completely stop natural drainage. (“Greenhouse Effect, Sea Level Rise, and Coastal Drainage Systems”, James G. Titus et al, Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, Vol. 113, No. 2., March 1987).

This plainly has relevance to the scenario of a Mesopotamian Flood. As noted above, there is only a 300 foot drop in elevation of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers over 400 miles (0.01 % grade). That’s as flat as it gets. Rivers can barely even flow. Since the elevation change is so slight between the floodplain and the Persian Gulf, any flood that occurred would drain relatively slowly, and storm surges would slow the drainage all the more. This is from an article that has nothing to do with Noah’s Flood. It’s simply describing hydrology.

Since southern Mesopotamia is one of the flattest places on earth (the only raised areas being raised mounds of the archaeological remains of cities like Shuruppak and Uruk), then it is one of the places where we would most expect a slow drainage of flood waters: precisely what the Genesis text requires. So this aspect also shows remarkable harmony between the Bible and actual topography in present-day Iraq.

Another article specifically about the Persian Gulf notes a “period of the flooding of the Gulf and the subsequent flooding of the low-lying delta region when sea levels rose perhaps a few meters above its present level between about 6000 and 3000 yr BP. (“Shoreline reconstructions for the Persian Gulf since the last glacial maximum”, Kurt Lambeck, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 142 [1996] 43-57)

This time-period is 4000-1000 BC; I am defending a model where the Flood is thought to have occurred in around 2900 BC. The article also tosses out this fascinating tidbit:

During-Caspers [37] notes evidence for ancient civilisations on the bottom of the now northern part of the Persian Gulf. Excavations at Ur and elsewhere have led to evidence of a flooding event at about 4000-3000 B.C. and it is tempting to associate the Sumerian ‘Flood’ legend [36] with the peak of the Holocene transgression.

An article at the Carbon Brief website, from marine scientist Thomas Wahl and engineer Shaleen Jain: “How storm surges and heavy rainfall drive coastal flood risk in the US” (7-27-15), reinforces aspects of a theoretical biblical Flood with heavy rains and a storm surge from the Persian Gulf:

For coastal areas, flooding can happen in two main ways: from sustained heavy rain that doesn’t drain away, or from storm surges, when storms drag the sea up and over the coastline. But when they occur together, or in close succession, the consequences can be even more severe.

In a study, just published in the journal  Nature Climate Change, we look at how heavy rainfall and high water levels combine to cause “compound flooding”. . . .

When a storm weather system is over the sea, its low pressure centre pulls up the surface of the water. As the storm blows onto the land, the wind pushes the sea towards the coast, creating even higher sea levels and battering the coastline with large waves. This is known as a  storm surge, which can breach coastal defences and cause flooding. . . .

Heavy rainfall can combine with a storm surge to cause a “compound flood”. High water levels can impede stormwater draining into the sea, causing flooding inland, or high rainfall can add yet more water to an existing tidal flood.

Peak winds of up to 150 miles per hour were in fact recorded in Super Cyclonis Storm Gonu in June 2007, in Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Iran, not far from southern Iraq. It was the most powerful tropical cyclone known to have hit the Arabian Peninsula and attained peak one-minute winds of  170 mph and gusts of 195 mph, with a 17-foot storm surge on the coast of Oman, in the Gulf of Oman, which is connected to and southeast of the Persian Gulf. Waves along the coast of the United Arab Emirates on the southern end of the Persian Gulf were 32 feet high.

Carol Hill offers more great information in her book, A Worldview Approach to Science and ScriptureMaking Genesis Real (Kregel Publications, 2019), in chapter 6: “Noah’s Flood: Global or Local?”.

She supports a landing-place for the ark on Jabel Judi by noting that it wasn’t “far from a region of vineyards and olive trees” (p. 81). The Bible states that a dove came back with an olive leaf (Gen 8:11) and that Noah planted a vineyard after the flood (9:20). She notes that we know that wine was made in northern Mesopotamia from before 3000 BC. This requires a hot climate with mild winters, but not too hot and dry.

North of this area (present-day Mt. Ararat) and the southern floodplain don’t fit the requirements for vineyards. But northern Iraq / ancient Assyria / northern Mesopotamia does, with moderate rainfall and lots of streams. The Bible refers to the area in this regard (2 Kgs 18:32), mentioning  both vineyards and olive trees. Olive trees also need very particular conditions to survive (met by this area). Dr. Hill argues that this is an indication of a local Flood:

If a raging flood had covered the entire planet Earth to 17,000 plus feet (the height of Mount Ararat) with seawater for a whole year, an olive tree (or even its seeds) could not have survived. The return of the olive leaf by the dove (Gen. 8:11) suggests the survival of relatively unharmed trees outside the flooded area. (p. 81)

She makes another argument for a local Flood based on a proposed landing in this area:

If the ark did land in the Cizre, Turkey area, then it means that the flood stayed within the (northern) boundary of the Mesopotamian hydrologic basin. . . . if the flood was global, why wouldn’t the ark have floated to . . . a place like Europe or Asia? (p. 82)

Dr. Hill notes on page 83 that mud or clay flood deposits have been found in five locations in Mesopotamia: Ur, Kish, Shuruppak, Uruk, and Lagash: all dating to 2900-2800 BC: which she proposes as the time of Noah and the Flood.

Related Reading

Fountains of the Great Deep and Noah’s Flood (Lorence G. Collins, 8-18-20)

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Photo credit: The Building of Noah’s Ark (c. 1675), by Französischer Meister [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: I document several fascinating scientific arguments (from scientists) for a local Mesopotamian Flood c. 2900 BC. The various cumulative evidences are self-consistent and striking.

October 5, 2021

Someone on the Tippling Philosopher atheist blog that I frequently visit who brought up the point that the Bible and/or Catholicism requires an “anthropological universality” in the Flood (meaning that all the human beings in the world were in the Mesopotamian floodplain in c. 2900 BC and were wiped out, save for those in the ark).

The Catholic Encyclopedia in it’s article, “Deluge” in 1908 indeed espouses this view. But it’s not authoritative or magisterial (i.e., not binding on Catholics). I just asked a theologian friend of mine (Dr. Robert Fastiggi) who worked on the latest version of the best source of explaining the various levels of authority of Catholic dogma (Heinrich Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum: A Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations of the Catholic Church [San Francisco: Ignatius Press; 43rd edition: September 1, 2012; revised by Peter Peter Hunermann; partially edited and translated by Robert Fastiggi and Anne Englund Nash]), and he clarified that Catholics are not required to accept anthropological universality as part of Catholic dogmatic belief.

That is, Catholics can have different opinions on the question and follow secular science, history, anthropology, archaeology, etc., to where they lead us. I was happy about that because it corresponded with my own inclinations and suspicions related both to history / archaeology and Catholic dogma.

Clarifications in this regard were made by the Biblical Commission of the Church in January 1948 and in Ven. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani generis in August 1950. These clarifications / modifications of prior prevailing views (and allowance of different ones) also prove once again that the Catholic Church is open to science and is willing to even modify its best understanding of the Bible as a result of further understandings and discoveries. And that’s exactly as it should be.

Protestantism, for the most part, takes the same general view of the relationship of science and Scripture, but there are those (albeit a tiny — though very vocal and visible — number in Protestantism and even smaller number in Catholicism) who hold to older traditions and so believe in a universal Flood (i.e., water covering the entire earth to a depth higher than Mt. Everest’s elevation), a young earth (6-10,000 years), flood geology (or “catastrophism”), a literal six-day creation, complete denial of any aspect of evolution (even theistic evolution), etc.

Here are the relevant documents:

Letter of the Secretary of the Biblical Commission to Cardinal Suhard, Archbishop of Paris, January 16, 1948

3864 The question of the literary forms of the eleven first chapters of Genesis is far more obscure and complex. These literary forms correspond to none of our classical categories and cannot be judged in the light of Greco-Latin or modern literary genres. One can, therefore, neither deny nor affirm their historicity, taken as a whole, without unduly applying to them the canons of a literary genre within which it is impossible to classify them. If one agrees not to recognize in these chapters history in the classic and modern sense, one must admit that the current scientific data do not allow giving a positive solution to all the problems they pose.

The first duty here incumbent upon scientific exegesis consists above all in the attentive study of all the literary, scientific, historical, cultural, and religious problems connected with these chapters; one should then examine closely the literary processes of the early Oriental peoples, their psychology, their way of expressing themselves, and their very notion of historical truth; in a word, one should collate without prejudice all the material from the palaeontological and historical, epigraphic, and literary sciences. Only thus can we hope to look more clearly into the true nature of certain narratives in the first chapters of Genesis.

To declare a priori that their narratives contain no history in the modern sense of the term would easily convey that they contain no <history> in any sense, whereas they relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding of a less developed people, the fundamental truths presupposed for the economy of salvation as well as the popular description of the origin of the  human race and of the chosen people. (pp. 794-795)

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Ven. Pope Pius XII: Encyclical Humani generis, August 12, 1950

3898  Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies [see part of it above]. This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which, however, must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters <the letter points out>, in simple and figurative language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths that are fundamental for our salvation and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people.

If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.

3899 Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers. (pp. 807-808)

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Here are two exchanges on Noah’s Flood with atheists from the aforementioned page. Words of “Lex Lata” will be in blue; those of Geoff Benson in green.

I’m certain Armstrong understands that a local flood means most of the human race wasn’t impacted, and there can’t have been an eight-person bottleneck. It’s beyond reasonable scientific and historical dispute that we H. sapiens resided on countless islands and every continent except Antarctica ca. 3000 BCE, and still did ca. 2800. We were utterly not wiped out.

Even in southern Mesopotamia, any destruction cannot have been civilization-ending. The Sumerians there were farming, building, writing, fighting, and worshiping their gods ca. 3000, and farming, building, writing, fighting, and worshiping their gods ca. 2800. Was there occasional local flooding, sometimes even catastrophic to certain communities? Of course; lower Mesopotamia is a big, relatively flat drainage basin, and we have evidence of local floods, both ancient and modern. Was there one massive regional deluge that wiped out the entire Sumerian population, from Eridu in the south to Kish in the north? Absolutely not. Which kinda puts another wrinkle in the narrative.

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THE LORD: Noah, humanity’s wickedness and violence have made me heartsick, so I will send a great flood to cleanse the earth. But you, righteous Noah, have found favor in my sight. So you will build an ark, and survive the deluge with your household.

NOAH: Glory to you, Lord. Great is your wrath, but greater is your mercy. I will build this ark, so that I and my family alone may avoid the destruction you are visiting upon all other human beings.

THE LORD: Well, to be precise, not all other human beings. I mean, this is kind of a regional flood. Most people in existence won’t be killed. Or even get wet, really. At least not from this.

NOAH: . . . . Oh. Still. You are wise beyond wise, Lord, and who am I to question your ways? I will build this ark, so that I and my family alone may avoid the destruction you are visiting upon . . . all other Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia?

THE LORD: Yeah, this is actually a little awkward. I wouldn’t say all the other Sumerians. Maybe most. Well, no, let’s go with a lot. A lot. Definitely. Some. I’ll figure it out.

NOAH: Okaaaay. Just curious. Will the other surviving Sumerians also have to build arks, and cram into them with their families and livestock for weeks or months?

THE LORD: Ha! No, no. They’ll be able to get to high ground, or just not be flooded to begin with.

NOAH: Huh. I’m sure I’ll regret asking this, but are they more righteous than I, and have they found greater favor in your sight?

THE LORD: No, not particularly. I just . . . y’know. [THE LORD SHRUGS.]

NOAH: Wow. I get the distinct impression you haven’t really thought this through.

THE LORD: I have not. Get to building.

Short reply: Hebraic idiom uses a lot of exaggeration. “All” is oftentimes not intended to be literally all. So it’s a question of how to interpret the language in the narrative of the Flood. I go into this in great depth in my paper, Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought.

Even you (one of the more insightful and thoughtful folks here: I mean that sincerely) descend to jokes and mockery [ha ha ha ho ho]. All this shows is that you are insufficiently acquainted with Hebrew idiom and figures of speech: of which there are over 200 in the Bible: and with many sub-categories as well.

Thank you for the kind words.

As for your local flood theory, I ain’t got time to write “point-by-point” thoughts about every point in one blog post (much less three). But I don’t mind temporarily assuming arguendo that the general contours of your theory are roughly correct. From the subjective perspective of a survivor, a sufficiently catastrophic local deluge might appear to extend to the horizon–or do so in later human remembering and retellings. And we know that catastrophic floods sometimes occur in the Mesopotamian region, and did so in antiquity, hitting certain communities especially hard. As for possible and specific depth, volume, duration, etc.–those are largely speculative variables about which this non-hydrologist and non-meteorologist is confidently and contentedly agnostic. Y’all knock yourselves out debating rainfall and line-of-sight.

And frankly, I think they’re peripheral to the material literary and theological meaning of the Mesopotamian flood tradition (whether we’re talking about Ziusudra or Noah or whomever). The Powers That Be get angry at the incorrigible human race. They drown everybody, except a righteous, determined, vessel-building man and his household. They express remorse. There is reconciliation with humanity, and a vision of hope. That’s the important stuff, whether one reads the text as a Campbellian heathen like me, or as a believer like you.

In any event, switching to history, we can probably agree on a few points, if we assume that a specific local flood in southern Mesopotamia ca. 2900 is the basis for the tradition reflected in Genesis.

1. The flood killed a small fraction of the human beings then in existence on the planet.
2. The flood killed an even smaller fraction of the plants and animals then in existence on the planet.
3. The flood might’ve been particularly devastating to one or more specific Sumerian communities, but did not wipe out all the Sumerians and all their urban centers in southern Mesopotamia.
4. If there was a Ziusudra or Noah or etc., he and his family were a miniscule fraction of the human beings still alive when the flood ended, and were in no way a genetic, cultural, or religious bottleneck. (Recall our chat about the Table of Nations being an authentic depiction of the Hebrew authors’ subjective worldview, but containing material historical and anthropological inaccuracies.)
5. If there was a Ziusudra or Noah or etc., he was Sumerian.

Now, a lot of those points have interesting and often problematic implications for many believers and theologians, but that’s a much longer discussion, and I’ve got to get busy not going to church this morning.

Cheers!

We can pretty much agree on those things, yes. The judgment would then be essentially upon the Sumerians under the figurative / exaggerated / non-literal Hebrew idiom of “all”: just as God judged various other groups of humans at different times.

As for possible and specific depth, volume, duration, etc.–those are largely speculative variables about which this non-hydrologist and non-meteorologist is confidently and contentedly agnostic. Y’all knock yourselves out debating rainfall and line-of-sight.

Exactly. This is why I cited a geologist and a physicist (one who co-wrote an influential article in optics that has been cited by 4,392 other scientific articles and who worked in a department of quantum mechanics). He gave a theory, backed up by complicated mathematic equations that are Greek to me. But they sure look impressive.

Jonathan has argued that we have no exact parallel of a modern storm with the [local] biblical Flood: even construed as local and involving depths of about 40-60 feet (my model). But there are some parallels (including inches of rain in a day and duration of flood waters), and I most recently argued that it’s plausible that there could be such a storm, seeing that we only have dependable records of weather since 1880 and seeing that these past 141 years are 1 / 32.23 millionth of earth’s total history. It’s very difficult to argue that in all that time a natural storm of that magnitude, causing a long-lasting flood is “impossible.” But if anyone is willing to make that silly argument, it’s Jonathan.

I think the geologist / physicist husband and wife team I cited have made a plausible argument and case: at least as far as I can understand it as a layman. And I think it could and would be fun for atheists to examine it and show us all how it is impossible. So far, no takers. Yours is the longest sustained and serious analysis so far, and even it isn’t point-by-point. But I sure do appreciate it, because it is sui generis around here so far (save for a few similar sentences from Geoff Benson).

***

I’ve read your article in full and I’m not sure it changes or challenges anything that’s been said, either on this post or previous ones. You claim that lots of the words used in bible translations can be, if not exactly mistranslations, found to have different meanings, suggesting that, for example, ‘earth’ might just mean what people could see. Okay, fair enough, with a little effort you’ve been able to show that maybe, just maybe, the bible doesn’t say what lots of people think it does. Let’s accept this is true, where does it leave God? Surely he at least inspired the words that were written down, so why didn’t he tell people who were scribbling away about the earth being ‘as far as they could see’, and tell them that no actually it’s much bigger than that, but it’s only people round here that I’m going to drown?

I’m also not convinced your local flood theory is a majority view. Many sites accuse you of being positively non-Christian for such a view, and there are numerous, significant looking sites, which claim ‘of course it was a universal flood’.

Lastly, the physical implications of a local flood are not readily dismissed. Flood water, no matter how quickly it falls, is subject to physical limits. Indeed it’s the physical movement of the water that makes flood water to be so dangerous, as it follows the physical law that water finds its own level. This happens the moment it falls, and whilst the sheer rapidity of the deluge may have caused yet more localised extreme flooding, this could not have been widespread, given the terrain. It certainly could not have produced depths sufficient to float a boat the claimed size of the Ark for any significant period of time (though the suggestion that it could have matched anywhere near the size of more modern steel ships is fallacious).

Just my thoughts.

I appreciate the openness in your first paragraph. Kudos.

The last paragraph is dealt with at length in my extended argumentation for a local Flood, enlisting the aid of a geologist and physicist.

***

Photo credit: [PxFuel / free for commercial use]

***

Summary: Catholics are not required (as a matter of dogma) to believe that Noah’s Flood was “anthropologically universal” (i.e., that it killed ALL the non-Ark people on the earth).

October 1, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

Jonathan managed to scrounge up a desperate pseudo-pseudo-quasi-“reply” [choke] to my most recent paper on Noah’s Flood with passing references to my earlier primary one: Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia. He completely ignored another preliminary paper (Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought), that dealt with biblical language, and why virtually all Christians scholars believe in a local, not a universal Flood.

It’s a case study of intellectual evasion and cowardice and relentless unwillingness to engage point-by-point, with the usual mockery and condescension that we have come to know and love from almost all atheists (at least of the anti-theist variety) who interact online with Christians at all. He calls his “reply” God, Floods, Miracles and Evidence (10-1-21).

It’s an argument about physical evidence, and, of course, there is no physical evidence for it – whether global or regional. 

It’s also an argument from analogy, dealing with the science of what is possible and what could have been entailed in Noah’s Flood. Part of Jonathan’s argument is that even a local Flood, such as what I proposed, is not possible according to the laws of science and specifically of the behavior and characteristics of water, storm systems, etc. Therefore, if I show that it is indeed possible, his counter-argument is defeated. In that respect, it is not simply about literal physical evidence. But there actually is some of that (that Jonathan ignored or never read: per his usual sloppy and unsystematic modus operandi.

The scientific article that I mostly relied on, from geologist Carol A. Hill, was “Qualitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood”Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006). She maintained:

At Shuruppak, and also at Uruk, the last Jemdet Nasr remains are separated from the subsequent Early Dynastic I Period by clean, water-lain clay deposited by a flood. This clay is nearly five feet thick at Uruk [60] and two feet thick at Shuruppak. [61] Since the Sumerian King List mentions that Noah (Ziusudra) lived in Shuruppak (today the archaeological mound of Fara), and since Noah is believed to have lived during the Jemdet Nasr Period, [62] then these sediments date from the right time and place and may be deposits left by Noah’s Flood. [c. 2900 BC]

A popular misconception is that a great inundation such as Noah’s Flood should have left a widespread layer of sediment all over Mesopotamia. If flood deposits occur at Shuruppak (Fara), then why not at nearby Kish? Why have no flood deposits been found at Ur that correspond to Noah’s Flood, and why in the city-mound of Ur do some pits contain thick flood deposits while other pits nearby contain no flood deposits?

This presumed problematic situation is completely understandable to hydrologists—in fact, it is what they expect. Floods erode sediment as well as deposit sediment. Rivers in vegetated terrain (like in northern Mesopotamia) are capable of eroding less sediment than in unvegetated, clay-silt terrain (like in southern Mesopotamia). Rivers may scour and down cut sediment along steep gradients, whereas they may deposit sediment in shallow-gradient situations. Or, sediment left from the waters of one flood may be removed by erosion in a later flood. Most Mesopotamian cities were located close to former river channels or canals since commerce and transportation depended on these waterways.

Apologist Dave Armstrong was complaining that I wasn’t interacting with his apologia for a localised flood. So I half-read it. I say half because I got halfway down and couldn’t take any more. I declared, “I literally don’t understand how someone can rationally assent to the claim.”

There you have it folks. He not only refused to grapple with my paper (or it’s preliminary / introductory precursor) point-by-point, he also didn’t even read the whole thing. By his own estimate he only read “half” of it. This is not the response of one who is confident of his own positions, or who has a robust courage of his convictions. It’s sophistry and special pleading, obscurantism and obfuscation.

His first piece (linked above) essentially boils down to “God did a miracle” (we’ll get onto this in a bit) as well as, “but just in case he didn’t, here’s a bunch of modeling and ‘evidence’ to suggest it could well be natural”. He’s eating his cake and keeping it, too.

This is a gross caricature of my thought (what else is new with Jonathan?). Christian thinking with regard to the relationship of God, natural laws, and miracles is far more sophisticated than Jonathan thinks. I wrote:

Sometimes in the Bible God is described as having caused something that is actually natural. In these cases, the meaning would be that God “upholds” creation and/or caused the origin of natural laws in the first place, which now govern natural events, short of the rare miraculous divine intervention with a miracle. Other times it is purely miraculous . . .

Then I cited Carol Hill:

One does not have to invoke the notion of the suspension or violation of natural laws in “nature miracles.” Divine action can simply be understood as higher-order laws (God’s ultimate purpose) working seamlessly with lower order laws (God’s physical laws). Is it any less a miracle because it can be explained by natural processes? This is the nature of “nature miracles”: to have the timely intervention of God into natural processes.

One of the best examples of a “nature miracle” that comes to mind is Jesus rebuking the winds and sea (Matt. 8:23–26). In Matt. 8:26, the calming of the winds and sea could be explained by a sudden change of barometric pressure—which was probably the case. But it was God who caused this change to take place exactly when Christ commanded the waves and wind to be still.

The argument I made, accordingly, can and should be construed as a purely natural one, insofar as scientific analysis is brought to bear. Christians simply refuse to exclude God as the creator and upholder of the laws of nature that are capable of being observed and more deeply understood via the scientific method.

And when he does try to present natural evidence, he presents someone saying it might just about be done if x, y, z happened and there is a 40-day model of 2.75 inches of rain per hour and tapering off to “just” 1 inch per hour every hour for the next 110 days. Solid.

Yeah, as I said, I stopped reading after that.

That’s not interaction with an exceedingly nuanced and detailed argument that involved far, far more than the above. It’s selective presentation, mockery, and dismissal.

It also inaccurately reports what Dr. Alan Hill argued as to the rate of rainfall. It wasn’t 2.75 inches per hour for all forty days. It was a “peak” of 2.75 inches, then gradually “tapering” to one inch per hour at 40 days. As Figure 3A on page 135 shows, it’s actually two inches, thirty days in, gradually going down to one inch by forty days. Dr. Hill stated “in forty days”: meaning in context, “by forty days.” It then continues to drop, whereas Jonathan mischaracterized it as “1 inch per hour every hour for the next 110 days.” The graph in Figure 3A shows how this is false. The rate decreases to one-half inch by about 85 days and one-quarter inch by 110 days.

Dr. Hill notes: “Such rainfall rates are not unreasonable for large hurricanes.” Indeed, we can match and exceed them (for a 24-hour period) in examining the greatest historical rates of rainfall (since it has been recorded). Dr. Hill’s peak rate is 66 inches in 24 hours. That was surpassed on January 7-8, 1966, when 71.8 inches of rain fell in 24 hours on Reunion Island: approximately 670 kilometers east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, during Tropical Cyclone Denise. Therefore, we know it is possible to rain that much in a day. But that’s only the “peak” figure, that only lasts a few days at most in Hill’s mathematical model.

The world record for a month’s rainfall is 366 inches [30.5 feet] at Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India in July 1861. That’s 0.49 inches per day, which matches over a month’s time, Dr. Hill’s calculation for the rate of rain at Day 85 of the Flood. Now, granted, we can’t match the figure for the entire 150 days, but we can get close enough to render it at least thinkable or possible to conceive of the Ultimate Superstorm: Noah’s Flood. We only have an accurate record of global weather since 1880. We can’t rule out much larger storms during all of history before that. 141 years of weather-keeping is so low of a percentage of the world’s age (4.543 billion years) that it actually comes out to 0% in calculations. It’s 32.23 million times more time in earth’s history than the vanishingly tiny and miniscule length of time we have been recording weather.

Consequently, there are huge meteorological and climatological / catastrophic events that we know of such as the Altai flood in Siberia, from 12-15,000 years ago, the Black Sea Deluge (about 5600 BC), the Missoula floods in northwest United States, from 13-15,000 years ago, the Zanclean flood that refilled the Mediterranean Sea 5.33 million years ago, and the Bonneville flood in Utah and Idaho (14,500 years ago). One article on prehistoric “monster hurricanes” stated:

A new record of sediment deposits from Cape Cod, Mass., show evidence that 23 severe hurricanes hit New England between the years 250 and 1150, the equivalent of a severe storm about once every 40 years on average. Many of these hurricanes were likely more intense than any that have hit the area in recorded history, . . .

There is even a field of study called Paleotempestology, which is “the study of past tropical cyclone activity by means of geological proxies as well as historical documentary records.”

It stands to reason that in all these millions and billions of years of earth history, that something like Noah’s Flood was entirely possible and did indeed happen.

You are absolutely right. I did misread that and therefore mischaracterise his figures to some extent. But it makes absolutely no difference at all. I will try and respond to this in greater detail when I’m not just about to go to bed…

However, one of the main problems is the fact that Hill and yourself are comparing record statistics over a tiny area of concentrated rain during a cyclone that had limited time, area and scope and extending that to a massive geographical region over a huge amount of time. This is just simply impossible. It is literally impossible. There is more, to boot, but I am not sure I have the energy. We shall see.

***

He relies heavily on Alan Hill’s “Quantitative Hydrology of Noah’s Flood”. 

That’s one of my two main sources, yes. At least he got that right.

However, even the author of this calculation admits God ‘having performed a “nature miracle”‘ (p. 130). 

The notion of “nature miracle” was explained above by his wife.

He also admits, “First, this model, and the nature of the assumptions it embraces, are crude at best” and “we are unable to realistically determine what actually happened to any level of detail during Noah’s Flood” (p. 131).

Of course: just as would be the case with virtually any other scientific analysis of events estimated to have occurred some 4,900 years ago. Any good argument doesn’t claim more for itself than is warranted. Such straightforward and realistic honesty doesn’t disqualify his and his wife’s articles as serious, worthy scientific analyses: not at all of the anti-intellectual, fundamentalist type that Jonathan and many atheists used to be part of (and which still highly influences their thinking in their deeply flawed understanding of Christianity).

The piece relies on an incredibly unrealistic storm surge that lasts for an inordinate amount of time, relying on a whole set of variables. Due to the “paper’s” complete lack of citation, I imagine no one takes this stuff seriously.

Note the mocking dismissal, which (again) is not any attempt at seriously interacting with the argument. He’s so out to sea he doesn’t even seem to realize that the main component of my argument is Carol Hill’s presentation, not Alan Hill’s. Carol Hill isn’t even mentioned! That’s how far he is from actually interacting with and grappling with my actual overall argument. He picks and chooses what he thinks will be best for his purposes of sophistry and mere mockery.

As to a supposed “complete lack of citation”, this is untrue. Anyone can look at the 12-page presentation (complete with very complex mathematical calculations), go to the end, and observe 15 citations. Three are from two articles by his geologist wife. The rest, as far as I can tell, are completely secular scientific citations. Carol Hill’s article, that Jonathan ignores, is copiously footnoted, with 74 footnotes.

So here we have the spectacle of Jonathan MS Pearce, who doesn’t seem to have earned a doctorate even in philosophy (I’ve never been able to ascertain what the case is there, and he got angry about it when I asked him one time), in effect lecturing a geologist and physicist about true science, as if they are quacks and frauds. Near the end of his farcical “reply” Jonathan takes another shot at Dr. Hill:

It’s just, you know, for me, I need good rational evidence. And that, I’m sorry to say, doesn’t include Alan E. Hill and his hydrological winguttery.

“Winguttery” is, I confess, a new term for me. I couldn’t find it in any online dictionary, but it seems to be a term of abject scorn, used mostly by leftish and skeptical-type folks, looking for a colorful insult. Ad hominem, straw men, non sequiturs, switching topics, ignoring, sophistry,  anything at all used in the service of avoiding serious interaction at all costs with a serious Christian and scientific argument: setting forth views he disagrees with, is Jonathan’s goal. It’s pathetic and a disgrace.

In fact, Alan Hill was formerly a Distinguished Scientist of the Institute For Quantum Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University. He has spent some forty years inventing and developing lasers of the Star Wars variety, and in the early 1960s, while at the University of Michigan, Alan and co-workers on a study, were the first to discover nonlinear optics and second-harmonic generation. Wikipedia describes the latter discovery:

Second-harmonic generation was first demonstrated by Peter Franken, A. E. Hill, C. W. Peters, and G. Weinreich at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1961.[7] The demonstration was made possible by the invention of the laser, which created the required high intensity coherent light. They focused a ruby laser with a wavelength of 694 nm into a quartz sample. They sent the output light through a spectrometer, recording the spectrum on photographic paper, which indicated the production of light at 347 nm. Famously, when published in the journal Physical Review Letters,[7] the copy editor mistook the dim spot (at 347 nm) on the photographic paper as a speck of dirt and removed it from the publication.[8] The formulation of SHG was initially described by N. Bloembergen and P. S. Pershan at Harvard in 1962.[9] In their extensive evaluation of Maxwell’s equations at the planar interface between a linear and nonlinear medium, several rules for the interaction of light in non-linear mediums were elucidated.

Here is the article that Dr. Hill contributed to: “Generation of Optical Harmonics” (P. A. Franken, A. E. Hill, C. W. Peters, and G. Weinreich; Physical Review Letters, 7, 118 – Published 15 August 1961). This highly significant and influential article has been cited by no less than 4,392 scientists.

No doubt, Jonathan will interact point-by-point with that, too, and show us all how he is the real, bona fide scientist. Yes, I’m sure (but hey, I won’t be holding my breath waiting. I value my life). Dr. Alan Hill is quite obviously not a nutcase or some fundamentalist pretender. This is a real scientist, and Pearce doesn’t even pretend to overthrow his calculations.

He knows when he is over his head. And so he childishly mocks and lies about a supposed lack of citations (about a scientist whose most famous article has been cited 4,392 times), to try to cover it up. If he insists on embarrassing himself with emptyheaded pseudo-academic displays like this, I will be more than happy to host such novelties on my blog.

The main issue appears to be his reliance on a fairly arbitrary 40-mile conduit into the Persian Gulf  as being the only place where the water can escape. Of course, Mesopotamia is BIG and VERY FLAT. In fact, there is a 1200-odd km southern flatness where, you know, an absolute deluge of water could flow and no storm surge could keep it in.

Again, this is not a comprehensive, point-by-point attempted refutation of the actual argumentation. It is a caricatured, cynical summary of arguments and a mere dismissal. It’s sophistry. The Mesopotamian floodplain being “VERY FLAT” is actually part and parcel of the overall argument, rightly understood and comprehended. But this was in Carol Hill’s article that Jonathan (conveniently) makes no note of, whatever:

The Mesopotamian alluvial plain is one of the flattest places on earth. The surface of the plain 240 miles (400 km) inland from the head of the Gulf is less than 60 feet (20 m) above sea level, [25] and at An Nasiriyah, the water level of the Euphrates is only eight feet (<3 m) above sea level, even though the river still has to cover a distance of more than 95 miles to Basra (Fig. 1). Once As Samawah and Al ‘Amarah are passed, the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are lost in an immense marshland-lake region (Fig. 1), where water flows very slowly to the Persian Gulf. During spring this whole region—from the Euphrates east to the Tigris—can become severely inundated. [26] The level surface of the plain and shallow river beds of the Euphrates and Tigris, which offer the right conditions for irrigation, [27] can also cause immediate, widespread flooding. And, however difficult it is to get water to the land via irrigation canals, it is just as difficult to get it off the land when it floods. [28] Before any dams were built (before ~1920), about two-thirds of the whole area of southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) could be underwater in the flood season from March to August. [29] . . .

There are historical references to floods in Mesopotamia in the tenth, eighteenth, and twentieth centuries BC and seventh and eighth centuries AD. 33 From AD 762–1906, thirty major floods were recorded in and around Baghdad. [34]

Footnotes

25 J. N. Postgate, Early Mesopotamia—Society and Economy at the Dawn
of History (London: Routledge, 1992), 180.

26 M. C. DeGraeve, The Ships of the Ancient Near East (c. 2000–500 BC)
(Lewen: Department Orientalistich, 1981), 8.

27 C. A. Hill, “A Time and Place for Noah,” Perspectives on Science and
Christian Faith 53, no. 1 (2001): 28.

28 Postgate, Early Mesopotamia, 180.

29 Semple, “The Regional Geography of Turkey,” 346.

30 H. F. Vos, Beginnings in Bible Archaeology (Chicago: Moody Press,
1973), 13; DeGraeve, The Ships of the Ancient Near East, 11.

31 S. N. Kramer, “Reflections on the Mesopotamian Flood: The Cuneiform Data New and Old,” Expedition 9, no. 4 (1967): 16.

32 K. Smith and R. Ward, Floods: Physical Processes and Human Impacts
(New York: John Wiley, 1998), 10.

33 Kramer, “Reflections on the Mesopotamian Flood,” 16.

34 Harza Engineering, Hydrological Survey of Iraq (Baghdad: Ministry
of Agriculture, Government of Iraq, 1963), 3–2, 3–3.

And, before I go on, none of Armstrong’s piece or the sources overcome the problems I set out in my own piece, particularly the theological issues (A regional flood is a retribution on all of humanity? How does this fit with Cain and Abel, and the Tower of Babel etc.?) and the idea that, if this was a localised flood, then anyone could have just, you know, escaped the region or run up a taller hill… I mean, what proportion of all of humanity that is supposedly evil and requires punishment lives on this floodplain? None of this makes nay sense of the Hebrew Bible.

It’s all so desperate.

This sort of (silly, hackneyed) objection was, of course, dealt with in my article, Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought), that he has chosen to ignore, now, and when I announced it on his blog, almost three months ago now.

Let’s look at world records to quickly check Hill’s thesis:

Wettest place on earth by year: 1041 inches over 365 days = 2.85 inches A DAY = 0.1 inches per hour (your figures require 27.5 times that).
Wettest place on earth by month: 370 inches over 31 days = 11.9 inches per day = 0.49 inches per hour (your figures require over 5 times that).

Here again, as noted above, Jonathan distorts what Dr. Alan Hill actually argued. I think he had such derision for it that his mind simply didn’t process the words properly. That’s what extreme bias does. In both calculations above, he is using the figure of 2.75 inches per hour over the entire period in question, that was in actuality, only a short-term peak figure, and comparing that to the wettest place on earth by year and month. It’s invalid, because he’s using incorrect figures. Noah’s Flood still has a lot more water, but it’s comparatively much less than it would be, using these inaccurate numbers.

He’s also completely neglecting in his equation, as I noted last time, additional water from snow melting off of the surrounding mountains, from the abundant springs in the area, and from surging seawater. Genesis 8:2 refers to “the fountains of the deep” in conjunction with the Flood: presumably a reference to these springs.

You would be demanding, with ALL SORTS of extra variables in place (such that the water doesn’t just rush away into that big flat desert area to the south, there), at least 2046 inches per month, and then for an extra ten days, and then a whole big bunch more thereafter. That is over double the rate seen in one month than over one year in the single wettest place – a village.

It gets worse, though, because those rainfall stats I provided are for a tiny place, not a whole region. So for that amount of rain to fall over a behemoth region is – well – impossible. Actually impossible. There is simply not that amount of rain possible in the world, and no example of this ever having happened. The atmosphere cannot collect that. For clouds to hold that much rain and dump it over THE ENTIRETY of Mesopotamia is utterly ridiculous.

Just think about it

And I’m not convinced it would not flow away too quickly due to…storm surges.

That’s all fine and dandy, but doesn’t deal with the dual arguments of husband and wife (physicist and geologist) Alan and Carol Hill: laid out in the greatest detail. If Jonathan wasn’t merely firing blanks or throwing manure pies, desperately hoping some of it will stick, and hoping that no one will notice his unsavory and unworthy tactics, he would certainly attempt (in his allegedly oh-so-superior academic excellence) a serious systematic interaction and refutation. But he ain’t interested. All he cares about is maintaining the illusion that all Christians are stupid and anti-science.

His “paper” is…

a) demanding things that have never even remotely been experienced in the history of the planet, and
b) demanding things that are still physically impossible.

He replied “Nonsense. There have been several floods of the magnitude that my model posits: from storm surges, tidal waves, etc. And there have been instances of a great deal of water remaining for months.”

Yeah, but no. Not to that degree. Ever.

That was the purpose of my last article: Pearce’s Potshots #47: Mockery of a Local Flood (+ Striking Analogies Between the Biblical Flood and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927). That was but one example of a flood with remarkable similarities to the biblical description of Noah’s Flood (with an even longer sustained rain and longer overall drying time) and to my proposed local model in Mesopotamia. Jonathan dismisses it with an eight-word “sentence.” That’s not rational dialogue, folks. It’s just . . . silly. Don’t fall for this crap. It’s not a serious reply at all, and as far from a “refutation” as east is from west.

And he seems to have reduced his flood theory scope over time so now this really, really is a local flood: “It’s only the floodplain of Mesopotamia, and it doesn’t have to be all that deep.

Wow. Quite the climbdown.

There is no “reduced” scope or “climbdown.” This has been my view for (at the very least) almost 40 years. I wrote in a related paper, dated 5-25-04 (that’s over 17 years ago):

I formed my view on this during the early 80s due largely to Bernard Ramm’s book, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1954). He pointed out things like the 18 layers of forests on top of each other in Yellowstone Park, which blows away the young earth and flood geology alike.

As for a universal flood (if by that one means that the waters literally covered the entire earth), the Bible doesn’t require this. The theory also suffers from several serious flaws having to do with what would happen with that much water around, even covering the mountains.

So, nice try at misrepresenting my views (in the effort to — you guessed it! — make me look silly), but no cigar.

I suggest you go and read Genesis 7-9 and see whether the Bible is talking about the Mesopotamian floodplain, and not at all that deep. “It doesn’t have to be all that deep” also happened to kill every human being and animal, including swarming insects. All dead. From a floodplain flood.

I suggest Mr. Science and Mr. Bible go and read my paper, Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought), that deals with all this in infinitely more detail than Jonathan’s self-serving tidbits of tedium.

I could go on looking at Armstrong’s apologetics but it’s a waste of time, it really is. 

Yet another elegant evasion, that fools no one but himself and his sycophant, clonish, groupthinking followers.

But perhaps this is a “win” of sorts. He is moving goalposts because evidence has actually forced him to admit a smaller and smaller scope for the huge inundation so that perhaps we will get to some real local flood that he admits was the foundation of a mythologised biblical account like, you know, we see in every other culture of the world.

Nice bit of “wishful mythologizing” there.

He’s written another piece on how a Mississippi flood can be used as evidence for such a flood. That reasoning, too, was erroneous for a whole bunch of reasons. A 30ft flood that took a year to subside (without having a massive flat desert to the south). I think it, at peak, rained 15 inches in 18 hours, not remotely near 2.75 inches every hour for 40 days, and then another 1 inch every hour for 110 days…

This article absolutely refuted Jonathan’s idiotic claims about proposed analogous floods: Not to that degree. Ever” and “No – not for that amount of time and over that area. There have not.” So he uses his usual vacuous method: 3-4 sentences of hyper-biased, jaded “summary” followed by the breezy dismissal. “How the mighty have fallen.”

Perhaps my favorite Armstrong quote is this: “Then we wouldn’t have the wonderful story, laden with spiritual meaning. Obviously, he did what God told him to do. If one believes in God, and this God communicates, the follower listens and obeys.”

Nothing says wonderful story and spiritual meaning like human and animal genocide. Oh yeah, hmm mmmm, just feel that spiritual goodness seeping through like…moral poison.

Holy crud. It’s worse than I thought.

So when God righteously judges, it’s “genocide.” But when us oh-so-good and holy human beings decide to wickedly, heartlessly torture and murder innocent, helpless children in their mother’s wombs (some 2.5 billion times over the last 50 years or so; certainly more than the entire population of the world in Noah’s time), it’s “choice” and “a woman’s right” and “spiritual goodness”. Gotcha.

Jonathan cites in agreement some anonymous idiot saying, “Physics, obstacles, boundaries and rules don’t apply when you’re talking about God’s magnificence.” This is rich in irony and farce. Here I have cited an actual physicist bringing his expertise to bear on the topic of proposed models for a local Flood, and Jonathan claims thatno one takes this stuff seriously” and that Dr. Hill is a proponent ofhydrological winguttery.”

No true interaction; no serious examination of either his or his (utterly ignored) geologist wife’s extensive and fascinating arguments. Only mockery. And why? Well, obviously, it’s because Jonathan is way over his head here and he knows it. He’s not fooling anyone not already in his adoring choir. But (here’s his dilemma) he can’t ever be “shown up” by a Christian apologist (and above all: not one who is utterly despised by his sycophants on his blog) and so this is what we get: fatuous silliness and verbal diarrhea.

In all honesty, I did plan on a section on this in my previous piece, but it would have dragged on even more. As this one has.

We could have all sorts of scenarios where God can do perpetual miracles, can do something insanely big like a flood and then clean up afterward to make sure no evidence exists and so on.

Sure, you can always find anything you want to find out there somewhere. It has nothing, however, to do with my analysis, so it’s a perfect non sequitur.

If God can do crazy miracles, and can set up scenarios where we have no natural evidence of those miracles, then there’s no point arguing with believers. 

I already went through this above.

They can just assert anything. But we shouldn’t believe it because the only evidence are the claims in a single 2000-year-old book (or their heads). And when we do textual and anthropological analysis of that text, things don’t look good for the believer. This is a conversation ender.

That’s not all there is. One can analyze the biblical claims made about the Flood and see if such a Flood is possible or impossible, based on what we know as a result of scientific inquiry and discovery.

But if such massive miracles are not miraculously cleared up afterwards, then there would be evidence of them happening. A global flood should leave mountains of evidence across heaps of domains. The same can be said of a regional flood.

Not necessarily, as explained by Carol Hill (and ignored by Jonathan).

What we have is a confluence of criticisms against people like Armstrong. Not only do your claims not even work scientifically,

. . . as he ignores virtually every scientific argument that I cite, and mocks one scientist I cite and ignores the other . . . impressive!

but there is no positive scientific evidence for them, and your book is textually, anthropological, historically, linguistically, theologically, philosophically problematic to boot.

We have evidence of a sort by possibility and analogy. It’s not a book; it’s a series of articles.

Or, Mr Armstrong, you have no rational justification for believing what you do. 

Whatever you say, Jonathan, o inexhaustible font of wisdom and knowledge!

Psycho-socially? Why, yes, you were born where you were to the family and community you were. So, of course, you are Christian, and, of course, your entire life revolves around sustaining your worldview.

I was born into a nominally Methodist family; didn’t know diddley squat about Christianity for my first 19 years (wasn’t even aware that Jesus claimed to be God), was a practical atheist and didn’t go to church for ten years, became politically and socially ultra-liberal in high school and college, and became an evangelical Protestant based on my own choice (not my nominal family’s) at age 19. Thirteen years later, I became convinced (through very extensive research) of Catholicism, which is even more remote and further away from my all-Protestant immediate family. Nothing was “of course” about it at all. No one could have predicted wither my theological or intellectual path.

If I had followed my initial upbringing, I would be a typical secularist, far left Democrat today who probably wouldn’t go to church and who would accept a vague “God” at best: One Who had no effect on one’s day-to-day life (more like the deists’ “god”). One would have seen no outward indication at all in 1975, that I would be a fervent evangelical two years later, or in 1988, that I would become convinced of Catholicism two years later.

So this bullcrap pseudo-psychoanalytical “analysis” doesn’t work with me. I don’t fit into Jonathan’s arbitrary boxes that he puts Christians into. As soon as I was old and equipped enough to do so, I adopted positions and worldviews based on my own reasoning and research: not caring one whit what anyone else thought or thinks of my choices.

Moreover, I have refuted this line of argument in-depth, twice (twelve years apart). Author of multiple books and webmaster John Loftus (one of Jonathan’s mentors and inspirations), calls this “the outsider test of faith.” He challenged me to grapple with it. I have, two times, with (according to the usual anti-theist atheist intellectual cowardice) no reply from him:

Reply to Atheist John Loftus’ “Outsider Test of Faith” Series [9-30-07]

Loftus Atheist Error #4: The Outsider Test for Faith [9-5-19]

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I wrote on Jonathan’s blog (in response to a post of his that did exactly what I critique here):

Once again, folks are doing anything and everything except interacting point-by-point with my very extensive argument. Now it’s fine if any given person chooses not to do so. But don’t pretend that my argument has been interacted with when it hasn’t. Jonathan has taken a few chunks of it and replied. At least he has done that.

This could actually be a fun and enjoyable discussion about science.

You guys should be overjoyed that a Christian has taken science seriously, and tried to harmonize it with the Bible, that he takes equally seriously. That’s what you always demand: show how the two are compatible. Others here have sought to do so with a Universal Flood view.

Instead we get the “101 topics” routine. I’m not gonna go down that rabbit trail. I made my argument and I defend THAT. So far no one has offered any comprehensive reply to it. All the questions are just a way to avoid grappling with my argument as I have constructed it.

That’s not to say they have no validity in and of themselves. Many of them do. But I don’t address them based on a methodological gripe: if someone makes a methodical, systematic argument, then IT needs to be taken on. If folks want to talk about a million other Flood-related things, more power to them. I continue to stand by my argument and wait for someone to actually interact with it in a sustained, comprehensive fashion. So far, no takers.

My overall argument for a local Mesopotamian Flood (c. 2900 BC) has three parts:

Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought

Local Mesopotamian Flood: An Apologia

Pearce’s Potshots #47: Mockery of a Local Flood (+ Striking Analogies Between the Biblical Flood and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927)

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Photo credit: Hans [Pixabay / Pixabay License]

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Summary: Anti-theist atheist Jonathan MS Pearce displays a “flood of irrationality & cowardice” in his desperate non-answers to my elaborate arguments for a local Flood.

July 4, 2021

Also, a Summary Statement on Catholics and the Documentary Hypothesis

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

Jonathan Pearce, in his concerted effort to absolutely avoid engaging in any exegetical debates about Genesis with me, lest the sky fall down (see my first and second reply to him concerning the Flood, and a third related paper), has repeatedly noted that the stories about the Flood in Genesis are redundant and needlessly repetitive. This, in turn, so he assumes without adequate evidence, is an irrefutable indication of multiple authors being in play (the Documentary Hypothesis [“DH”]). My current reply is an effort to show that a biblical literary technique known as chiasmus can more plausibly explain this, without necessary and/or knee jerk recourse to DH.

First, let’s document his cocksure magisterial utterances in this regard:

For those uninitiated, the Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style. There is only one coherent solution: it was compiled using multiple sources, and written at multiple times. (6-29-21)

The Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style.

The basic principle is that these four issues demand an explanation.

The only thing that makes sense of this is that there are multiple sources (over multiple time periods) that have been redacted to produce the finished document. (7-2-21)

What a pointless repetition [Gen 6:19] even if it didn’t contradict. This is known as redundancy and is a major reason why the DH/SH exists. There are doublets and triplets all over the Pentateuch that have no discernible raison d’etre (and even some things four times). (7-2-21)

Look at this passage and tell me it makes sense on its own without needing a theory that proposes multiple sources woven into a single narrative: [cites Gen 7:6-13] . . .

Repetition, redundancy and contradiction.

I really wish Armstrong would read his Bible. (7-2-21)

I will also furnish you with an account of redundancies in the Torah (from Baruch J Schwartz’s chapter “The Documentary Hypothesis”, . . . (7-2-21)

[T]he Noah’s flood myth is a good example of the multiple sources of the Pentateuch evidenced by both redundancies through repetition and contradictions. (7-3-21)

Of course, the key to repetition was the word “redundancy” that he conveniently forgets. The issue with redundancy in the Torah is that the repetitions serve no purpose. That’s the point. (7-3-21)

. . . the days, the number of animals and every other instance of contradiction, repetition (redundancy), discontinuity, and stylistic and terminological divergence. (7-3-21)

There is simply no use for the repetition in the Genesis flood accounts. What is it we are so obviously going to forget about those details that we so desperately need to remember? (7-3-21)

Before we begin, let me make a comment about Catholics and the Documentary Hypothesis / Theory. Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, writing about the Documentary Hypothesis (1-1-13) stated: “It is . . . possible for a Catholic to hold a number of positions, from full Mosaic authorship, to the documentary hypothesis, to intermediate positions, depending on how one sees the evidence.”

After yet another exercise of sheer mockery and pompous “know it all” condescension from Pearce in his combox, including his revelation that once again he read virtually none of my paper that he supposedly “responded” to, and describing my argument as “apologetic nonsense” and “disingenuous construction”, I wrote there:

Catholics are free to accept or reject DH / Mosaic authorship as they please, and at least one pope (St. John Paul II) believed in it. You seem to worship DH as the Holy Grail. To me it’s something I don’t believe in, based on what I have seen. I’m free to do so as an orthodox Catholic. There is no requirement that I must believe it. If someone else does (up to and including great heroes of mine, like Pope John Paul II) that’s fine. Live and let live. It’s a big ho hum and a yawner.

Pope St. John Paul II referred to the “Yahwist” source (the “J” in “JEPD”) in 16 of his addresses or writings: 15 of these were general audiences (1979-1980), and the other usage was in his papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995). He referred to “Elohist” in three general audiences (1979-1980). But Pope Benedict XVI never did so. Nor did Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John XXIII, Ven. Pope Pius XII, or Pope Francis. Benedict XVI was certainly as good of a Bible scholar (if not better) than John Paul II. I note also that he did refer to DH before he was pope (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) in his book, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall: a book that I have in my library and which I have cited several times.

But back to the immediate topic:

There can certainly be various reasons for repetition: one obvious one being its obvious utility as a teaching and memorization device (as I have already noted in this larger exchange). Another quite plausible thing is something I was excited to learn about this very day: a Hebrew literary technique called chiasmus. Jimmy Akin (in whose article I first saw it mentioned) provided a good basic summary:

The biblical authors commonly structure their material according to a literary form known as chiasmus.

This involves a sequence of elements that can be divided into two halves, with the second half being a mirror image of the first, like steps leading up one side of a pyramid and down the other.

A simple example is Jesus statement that the “first will be last, and the last first” (Matt. 19:30), which has an A-B-B’-A’ structure.

This chiasmus occurs in a single sentence, but there are much more involved ones in the Bible, ones that span large blocks of text and that serve as a major organizational principle for an entire book.

This is the case with Genesis. Much of the book is organized into large chiastic structures.

Pearce, who ludicrously fancies himself as a big expert on the Bible, never mentions “chiasmus” or “chiastic” on his blog. So he can learn something from this, too (i.e., making the huge assumption that he reads this article, and doesn’t give up in a hissy fit after the second paragraph.

Wikipedia (“Chiastic structure”) offers an excellent overview. After noting the basics of chiasmus, as Akin did, it elaborates:

Chiastic structures that involve more components are sometimes called “ring structures”, “ring compositions”, or, in cases of very ambitious chiasmus, “onion-ring compositions”. These may be regarded as chiasmus scaled up from words and clauses to larger segments of text.

These often symmetrical patterns are commonly found in ancient literature such as the epic poetry of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Classicist Bruno Gentili describes this technique as “the cyclical, circular, or ‘ring’ pattern (ring composition). Here the idea that introduced a compositional section is repeated at its conclusion, so that the whole passage is framed by material of identical content”.[1] Meanwhile, in classical prose, scholars often find chiastic narrative techniques in the Histories of Herodotus:

“Herodotus frequently uses ring composition or ‘epic regression’ as a way of supplying background information for something discussed in the narrative. First an event is mentioned briefly, then its precedents are reviewed in reverse chronological order as far back as necessary; at that point the narrative reverses itself and moves forward in chronological order until the event in the main narrative line is reached again.”[2]

The article continues:

Mnemonic device

Oral literature is especially rich in chiastic structure, possibly as an aid to memorization and oral performance. In his study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cedric Whitman, for instance, finds chiastic patterns “of the most amazing virtuosity” that simultaneously performed both aesthetic and mnemonic functions, permitting the oral poet easily to recall the basic structure of the composition during performances.[6] Steve Reece has demonstrated several ambitious ring compositions in Homer’s Odyssey and compared their aesthetic and mnemonic functions with examples of demonstrably oral Serbo-Croatian epic. [7]

Use in Hebrew Bible

In 1986, William H. Shea proposed that the Book of Daniel is composed of a double-chiasm. He argued that the chiastic structure is emphasized by the two languages that the book is written in: Aramaic and Hebrew. The first chiasm is written in Aramaic from chapters 2-7 following an ABC…CBA pattern. The second chiasm is in Hebrew from chapters 8-12, also using the ABC…CBA pattern. However, Shea represents Daniel 9:26 as “D”, a break in the center of the pattern.[8]

Gordon Wenham has analyzed the Genesis Flood narrative and believes that it is essentially an elaborate chiasm.[9] Based on the earlier study of grammatical structure by F. I. Andersen,[10] Wenham illustrated a chiastic structure as displayed in the following two tables.

Chiastic structure of the Genesis Flood Narrative
A: Noah and his sons (Gen 6:10)
B: All life on earth (6:13:a)
C: Curse on earth (6:13:b)
D: Flood announced (6:7)
E: Ark (6:14-16)
F: All living creatures (6:17–20 )
G: Food (6:21)
H: Animals in man’s hands (7:2–3)
I: Entering the Ark (7:13–16)
J: Waters increase (7:17–20)
X: God remembers Noah (8:1)
J’: Waters decrease (8:13–14)
I’: Exiting the Ark (8:15–19)
H’: Animals (9:2,3)
G’: Food (9:3,4)
F’: All living creatures (9:10a)
E’: Ark (9:10b)
D’: No flood in future (9:11)
C’: Blessing on earth (9:12–17)
B’: All life on earth (9:16)

A’: Noah and his sons (9:18,19a)

[Dave: see a much nicer, more visually appealing version of this]

Within this overall structure, there is a numerical mini-chiasm of 7s, 40s, and 150s:

Chiasm of the numbers 7, 40, and 150
α: Seven days waiting to enter Ark (7:4)
β: Second mention of seven days waiting (7:10)
γ: 40 days (7:17)
δ: 150 days (7:24)
χ: God remembers Noah (8:1)
δ’: 150 days (8:3)
γ’: 40 days (8:6)
β’: Seven days waiting for dove (8:10)

α’: Second seven days waiting for dove (8:12)

Use in New Testament

Form critic, Nils Lund, acknowledged Jewish and classical patterns of writing in the New Testament, including the use of chiastic structures throughout.[11]

The article, “Literary structure (chiasm, chiasmus) of Book of Genesis: Chiastic Structure and Concentric Structure and Parallel of each pericope” is a marvelous compendium of no less than 81 spelled-out uses of the technique in the book of Genesis alone. If it weren’t already obvious, I note that it would be extraordinary for four authors to construct such obviously deliberate literary techniques or devices, across their allegedly intertwined stories. Thus, chiasmus is a strong argument for single authorship and/or Mosaic authorship of Genesis. And there are massive examples in the other five books of the Torah as well, as I will document.

As just one example from this article, I offer the section on the covenant with Noah: which occurred right after the account of the Flood:

[8]The Covenant with Noah  (Gen 9:1-17)
A(9:1-7)
Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat (9:4)
(בשׂר)
B(9:8-11)
never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood (9:11)
(המבול)
C(9:12)
A sign of the covenant
(אותהברית)
C'(9:13)
A sign of the covenant
(לאותברית)
B'(9:14-16)
the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings (9:15)
(למבול)
A'(9:17)
This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all mortal creatures that are on earth (9:17)
(בשׂר)
A: Flesh. B: All creatures never be destroyed by the waters of a flood. C: A sign of the covenant.
Gen 9:1-7
A(9:1) Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth (9:1)
B(9:2) the human is in charge of beast, birds and fish (Human as the administrator of the animals)
C(9:3) Eating creatures is permitted
D(9:4) Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat (9:4)
C'(9:5) Shedding blood is prohibited
B'(9:6) If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed (9:6) (Human as the administrator of the human)
A'(9:7) Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it (9:7)
Gen 9:8-11
A(9:8-9) covenant with you and your descendants after you (9:9) (covenant for future)
B(9:10) Covenant with every living creature
A'(9:11) covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; (9:11) (covenant eternal)
Gen 9:12-17
A(9:12-13) The sign of the covenant
B(9:14-15a) God will recall the covenant with all living beings
C(9:15b) the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings (9:15)
B'(9:16) God will recall the covenant with all living beings
A'(9:17) The sign of the covenant

Biblical Chiasm Exchange: a site devoted to comprehensively listing all instances of chiasmus in the Bible, lists no less than 100 of them in Genesis, 55 in Exodus, 26 in Leviticus, 38 in Numbers, and 64 in Deuteronomy. This is 283 times in the Pentateuch. Lots of “pointless repetition” and “redundancy”: as Pearce (who is likely no longer reading this article) would put it.

The book of Psalms contains a whopping 196 instances, which is more than one per Psalm. As an elegant example from a very well-known passage of Scripture, here is the chiastic structure of Psalm 23:

A. 1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

B. Food and drink

He maketh me to lie down
in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

C. security

He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

D. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:

C’. security

for thou art with me; 
thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me.

B’. Food and drink

Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.

A’. 6 Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and will dwell in the house of the LORD
for ever.

Isaiah, my favorite Old Testament book, contains 119 chiasms in 66 chapters. Jeremiah has 87, Ezekiel, 71.

The New Testament continues the technique, with the Gospels exhibiting 101, 63, 92, and 81. For a relatively famous example, see a portion of the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:22-48.

The book of Acts has 84 chiasms. Romans leads the way in the Pauline letters, with 33.

See another paper specifically about Noah’s Flood and chiasmus, and a second.

An in-depth examination of chiasmus in classical literature, noted many examples in Homer and cited another scholar who found 1257 examples in Livy and 1088 in Tacitus.

Bible scholar E. W. Bullinger catalogued “over 200 distinct figures [in the Bible], several of them with from 30 to 40 varieties.” That’s from the Introduction to his 1104-page tome, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London: 1898): a very useful volume in my own library. He devotes 31 wonderful pages to a slightly larger category of literary devices that he calls “Correspondence” (pp. 363-393).

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ADDENDUM: Exchange with Pearce on His Blog

[this was his preliminary “response” to the above paper]

Jesus wept, your first paragraph.

Another item for your not-to-read list. First paragraph and out. LOL

Dude, to think I’m not engaging with you is ridiculous.

You’re right. Far from me to think you don’t engage. You do, after all (just going by your own reports) read one paragraph of each of my lengthy new articles responding to you. Credit where due. Seidensticker, Madison, and Loftus don’t read my rebuttals at all and never ever respond (and ban me from their sites as an extra bonus). At least you respond with fine comedic material and non sequiturs. You’re funny and entertaining, whereas those guys are grim as the grim reaper.

I’ve just spent 2 solid weeks researching the documentary hypothesis and writing a chapter on it for a forthcoming book. Have you actually read any source material on the documentary hypothesis? I mean, really? or have you only read conservative evangelical supposed critiques of it?

I use your method. I get through one paragraph and think to myself, “this is hogwash!” and then stop reading.

Oh, okay, so that’s how to dismiss an entire discipline of rational scholarship…

I haven’t dismissed it at all (in the sense of claiming that no orthodox Christian could possibly believe in it). To the contrary, I have noted how Pope St. John Paul II believed in it, and to some extent, also Pope Benedict XVI. I do not. I simply have no interest in it and it has no bearing whatsoever on my arguments. Can you not grasp that? Go argue with someone who actually believes in the thing!

You have dismissed something I think you barely understand.

Whatever the case, I’m not the one to wrangle with about it. It’s not my burden to defend it, anymore than it is your burden to defend the existence of God. I defend the non-contradictory nature of Sacred Scripture, which is an issue that goes far beyond DH.

As I mentioned recently, you assumed there was a contradiction in a particular passage and then went on to say that DH adequately accounts for it. I denied the presence of a contradiction in the first place. Thus, that discussion was prior to the application of DH. It was at the level of premises.

It is your burden of proof since you are asserting a single authorship of a book that is clearly not. You need to provide positive evidence of this. You have it the wrong way round.

I am not asserting that at all in these particular arguments. I’m simply defending what we have in the text, as non-contradictory, and a local Flood (and often, non-literal texts) as opposed to a universal one.

My arguments stand on their own, whether the Pentateuch was written by one person or a hundred.

I do think that my recent discovery of chiasmus is quite consistent with single authorship and makes little sense if it is four or more. But I wasn’t trying to prove that. I was showing that this remarkable technique truly is present in the text: massively in the Flood story and at least 81 times in Genesis.

You’ll likely simply ignore it. That’s your frequent “out” and technique of avoidance and evasion, as I’m discovering more and more.

Yesterday you were carping on and on about how I completely ignore the Epic of Gilgamesh Deluge story and had nothing to say about it. In fact, I was addressing it in my second paper published on the same day you were making the false claim, and had done so a few times in my writings. So you were dead wrong. And you simply ignore what I said.

Yesterday you were also waxing delusionally about how DH would shut my mouth and how I couldn’t possibly have any reply to it in any possible universe. Yet here I am today offering a fairly striking explanation (the literary technique of chiasmus) of the “redundance” that you see everywhere in Genesis. So you were dead wrong again. And you will in all likelihood ignore what I said about this, too, lest you stumble into what could be a very interesting and fascinating discussion indeed.

You have no interest in that, in the final analysis. Your goal is to make out that I am an imbecile, idiot, and ignoramus. Your increasingly shrill and boorish comments about me personally and my beliefs and research are specifically designed to give precisely that impression to your adoring, fawning audience.

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Photo credit: bytrangle (1-19-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

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Summary: Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce has taken to belittling Genesis as “redundant” & then using the Documentary Hypothesis as his “go-to” answer to everything. But Chiasmus better explains this.

July 2, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

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I am replying to Pearce’s paper, Armstrong, the Genesis Flood Contradictions and Multiple Sources (7-2-21), which in turn was a response to my Pearce’s Potshots #36: Noah’s Flood: 40 or 150 Days or Neither? (7-1-21).

As is obvious from the title of my previous paper, I didn’t set out to refute or even engage the Documentary Hypothesis (DH): which (full disclosure, if it isn’t obvious) I reject. I simply provided three critical papers of mine: one being a collection of links. My point of view could be set forth without reference to whatever position one holds on the DH, because it was claimed that contradictions existed in the biblical text (i.e., however constructed or by whom) as to the length of Noah’s Flood.

A person who accepts the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible (as I do, and as the Catholic Church does) think that it doesn’t contradict whether or not some form of DH is true and an accurate understanding of the Pentateuch / Torah. Thus, all his carping on about DH is perfectly irrelevant to my argument. I specifically chose one part of his argument: the claim of contradiction. Pearce wrote in his paper that I responded to:

[I]n one part of Genesis the flood is 40 days and nights, and in another it is 150 days. These sorts of contradictions . . . [my bolding and italics]

In his present paper he refers back to this:

I posted a quick, “Look, here’s a biblical Genesis flood contradiction, and it’s one of the famous ones for illustrating the multiple source issue”. 

He assumes it is a contradiction and then proposes that multiple authorship (good ol’ DH) can explain the “contradiction.” Like the socratic that I am, I go right to the premise. I deny that the contradiction is present in the text in the first place. That’s a matter of logic and exegesis, not elaborate, wildly speculative and subjective theorizing as to authorship. Two texts can contradict whether one author wrote them or two. They can also be logically consistent whether one author wrote them or two. Therefore, the question of DH is, to repeat, a non sequitur in relation to the very particular, specific argument I was making.

But I do want to briefly address one arrogant charge and falsehood that Pearce throws out:

[N]o serious Pentateuchal scholar adheres to the mosaic authorship and single-source proposal for the Pentateuch. I have listened to countless scholars attest to this. No conference, no symposium, no meeting for the Society of Biblical Literature entails any scholar advocating for mosaic authorship or a single source of the Pentateuch. It just doesn’t happen.

Yet the view of Mosaic authorship is very common. In apologetics only. There is a vast chasm that separates serious Hebrew Bible scholarship and Christian apologetics.

One of the articles I linked to in my collection of critical articles about the DH was “The Documentary Hypothesis” (Alice C. Linsley, Just Genesis, 1-11-10). She writes:

The Documentary Hypothesis was the topic of heated discussion recently at Stand Firm. A priest made this this facile comment:

But the overwhelming consensus of modern scholars is that the Pentateuch is indeed a composite of multiple traditions, coming from a wide variety of times and places and reflecting a considerable variety of theological viewpoints and group interests.

To which a a layman, Michael A. responded:

The more I thought about this, the more irritated I became, because it is such typical liberal humbug: “This is what everyone is thinking don’t question it”. Yet it is quite untrue – *numerous* scholars reject the documentary hypothesis. I assembled a quick list, broken down into (a) liberals or other; (b) jewish (a huge field of scholars that the liberals always ignore); and (c) conservative christian:

(a) liberal or other

*Rolf Rendtdorff “problems of process of transmission in the Pentateuch”, trans English 1977

*R.N. Whybray, Introduction to the Pentateuch 1995.

*Whybray acidly comments: “There is at the present moment no consensus whatever about when, why, how, and through whom the Pentateuch reached its present form, and opinions about the dates of composition of its various parts differ by more than five hundred years.”

*Kikawada, Isaac M. and A. Quinn. Before Abraham Was: The Unity of Genesis 1-11. Nashville: Abingdon, 1985.

*Richard S. Hess, Israelite Religions, 2008 [This is a huge and detailed study on the subject]

*Literally from left field are scholars like Gmirkin in “Berossus and Genesis” 2006 who argues that the entire Pentateuch was written in the 3rd century BC! Obviously his position is radically different to mine (I believe it was written/edited by Moses, as Jesus said). Yet the end result is the same: Gmirkin rejects the documentary hypothesis.

(b) Jewish

*Umberto Cassuto completely debunked the DH. His “The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch” is still highly recommended reading (1966 in english)

*Yehezkel Kaufmann (1950s)

*Cyrus H. Gordon (1960s)

There are plenty of recent Jewish scholars who reject the Documentary Hypothesis:

*Dr. Yohanan Aharoni

*Amos Hakham

*Rabbi Dr Joshua Berman

*Rabbi Yosef Reinman

(c) Conservative christian

*John Bimson

*Bryant Wood

*Colin Smith

*R.K. Harrison, An Introduction To The Old Testament 1970

*K.A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient And The Old Testament 1966

*Gleason Archer (d. 2004) of Fuller and Trinity.

*Walter Kaiser of Gordon-Conwell

*Ronald F. Youngblood

*James Orr, The Problems of the Old Testament

*R.W.L. Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament

*J Gordon McConville

*T Desmond Alexander

*Edwin Yamauchi

*Prof. Joseph Free, Archaeology and Bible History 1969

*Prof. Randall W. Younker, 1999

*Duane A. Garrett 1991.

*Derek Kidner, Commentary on Genesis

*J Harold Greenlee

*Prof. Claude Mariottini

*Joseph Blenkinsopp 1995.

*McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. 1988

Liberal scholars are of course unaware of any of these, in their intellectual ghetto. Go figure.

Catholic writer Mark Shea provided (in 2002: link unable to be found) a funny satire on Documentary Theory, using The Lord of the Rings:

One standard staple of biblical criticism for the past century has been the theory that the Old Testament isn’t composed of “books” that somebody “wrote” but is instead a pastische of “sources” that religio political factions “assembled”. If you find yourself thinking “Only an academic–and a German one–could suppose that the foundational literature of Western civilization could be pasted together by a committee and only an academic–and a German one–could suppose that you find out what the text really means by dissolving it in the acid bath of deconstruction to tease out the supposedly original Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), Priestly (P) and Deuteronomic (D) sources”, you’re right. The theory has run into trouble (since nobody seems to agree on which cut n paste fragments belong to which source and nobody knows why the editors who allegedly stuck all these sources together did what they did. But, as with pure naturalistic theories of evolution, your task is to shut up and bow to your superiors, not ask obvious questions.

In the spirit of redaction criticism, Bruce Baugh now offers some preliminary theories on the variation in sources used by the makers of the Two Towers. I think he’s on to something. Jackson is clearly operating from Rohanian sources for purely political reasons. Truly educated people can see these things right off the bat. It’s obvious to any thinking person that the whole “Tolkien Authorship Myth” must go. The Lord of the Rings was not “written” by a so-called “author” named “Tolkien”. Rather, it is a final redaction of sources ranging from the Red Book of Westmarch, to Elvish Chronicles, to Gondorian records, to tales of Rohirrim which were only transcribed centuries later. The various pressure groups which preserved these stories all had their own agendas. For instance, the Gondorian records clearly seek to elevate the claims of the Aragorn monarchy over the house of Denethor. So the record has been sanitized. Indeed, many scholars now believe the “Faramir being healed by Aragorn” doublet of the “Frodo being helped by Aragorn” is a sanitized version of the murder of Denethor by Aragorn through the administration of poison. “Faramir” never existed and is a corruption of “Boromir”, who died under uncertain circumstances in the wilderness. Since the scenes of Aragorn healing “Frodo” also take place in the wilderness, most scholars conclude that “Frodo” is a mythic echo of Boromir, whose quest for Power is like Aragorn’s quest for the Throne. Perhaps, Boromir was one of Aragorn’s first victims. Of course, the whole “Ring” motif appears in countless folk tales and is to be discounted altogether. The real “War of the Ring” was doubtless some small tribal dispute that was exaggerated by bardic sources, much like the Exodus or the Fall of Troy. Gandalf appears to have been some sort of shamanistic figure, introduced to the Narrative by W (the Westmarch source) out of deference to local Shire cultic practice.

Rohan seems to have been of much help to the establishment of the Aragorn monarchy and so R sources find their way into the final version of the LOTR narrative, but greatly altered so as to give Theoden a subordinate role. Meanwhile, we can only guess at the Sauron and Saruman sources, since they seem to have been destroyed by the victors and give a wholly negative view of these doubtlessly complex, warm, human and many-sided figures. Scholars now know, of course, that the identification of Sauron with “pure evil” is simply wrong. Indeed, many scholars have become quite fond of Sauron and are searching the records with a growing passion and zeal for any lore connected with the making of the One Ring. “It’s all nonsense, of course,” says Dr. Gol M. Smeagol, “There never was such a Ring. Still… I… should… very much like to have a look at it. Just for scholarly purposes of course.”

That noted, we move on.
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I am supremely confident in what I am claiming, . . . 
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Excellent! Then maybe he will interact point-by-point with my argument this time: a thing that he scarcely did in this paper.
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Perhaps I am just really bad at this. I apologise to you all.
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I appreciate it. That’s much more likely. He’s a prisoner of his own relentlessly false presuppositions.
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Armstrong, in looking for some “win scenario” took on the simple claim of the flood lasting 40 days and nights vs 150 days and went with it, broadly writing a piece on how the rains lasted forty days but the flood took 150 days to recede, so there is no contradiction,
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Yes I did. That was my issue. I pick out things that can be objectively discussed, as matters of logic (+ exegesis, if required) or fact. This was one such item. I have a long history of dealing with alleged biblical contradictions, as Pearce himself is, I think, well aware.
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and isn’t Pearce rubbish…
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Not Pearce, just many of his nonsensical and incoherent or factually dubious arguments.
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The thing is, I have to respond because there will be lurkers here who might want to know how to respond to things like this.

How kind and considerate of him.

What he failed to quote was some in-between bits. But before we get onto that, literally look at his own quote:

Genesis 8:3-4 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated; [4] and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ar’arat.

Genesis 8:5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

This makes no sense. The waters abated at the end of 150 days. 

Yes, after 150 days they reached their highest level and started to recede. “Abate” according to Dictionary.com means “to reduce in amount, degree, intensity, etc.; lessen; diminish:” It doesn’t mean “disappear.” Likewise, the Hebrew word châsêr (“abate” in Gen 8:3; Strong’s word #2637) means, in this instance, “to fail, to be lessened”: according to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: a standard Hebrew linguistic reference.

Various English translations of Genesis 8:3 more clearly indicate that the waters just started the process of receding after 150 days. They weren’t totally gone (hence, the passage is not saying that the entire Flood was over, with all the additional flood water on the earth’s surface totally gone):

NIV . . . At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down,

NKJV . . . At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

NASB . . . at the end of 150 days the water decreased.

Amplified Bible . . . At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had diminished.

ASV . . . after the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

Douay-Rheims . . . and they began to be abated after a hundred and fifty days.

JPS Tanakh 1917 . . . after the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

Knox . . . beginning to abate, now that the hundred and fifty days were over.

Moffatt . . . began to subside . . .

Armstrong has quoted himself into a corner! This is precisely what the DH/SH solve.

Also, we have a verse that he did include, but didn’t dwell on. I use, always where possible, the NASB as a Bible translation as it is renowned as the most accurate. Here is Genesis 7:17:

17 Then the flood [l]came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.

The footnote for the “flood came” is that is can be translated as “it was”. So, here we have the flood was “upon the earth for forty days”. NOT, it rained for forty days, but “it was upon the earth for forty days” and “it lifted up the ark”. The waters lifted up the ark for forty days, not the rain from above.

We know this is a differentiation from the idea of it raining for forty days because Genesis 7:12, from which 17 is an idea continuation, states:

12 The rain [i]fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.

Let’s put them together:

12 The rain [i]fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.

17 Then the flood [l]came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.

At most, at best for Dave, we have a 40-day rain and then a 40-day flood (80 days in total). 

This is just silly. Plainly, in context, this particular use of flood was synonymous with the forty days of rain. Hence, some Bible translations make this equation crystal-clear:

Knox For forty days that flood came down on the earth . . .

Moffatt For forty days and forty nights rain fell upon the earth . . .

Amplified Bible The flood [that is, the downpour of rain] was forty days . . .

Pearce tries to play with cross-referencing to force the larger text to fit into his erroneous schema, by asserting that Genesis 7:12 and 7:17 differentiate “rain” and “flood” (even though both refer to forty days). I could just as well do cross-referencing with regard to “waters” / “water.” After all, 7:17 refers to “the flood” and then appears to equate this with “the water increased” (as opposed to saying “then it subsided” or “then it dried up”). In Pearce’s ridiculous, contrived, and mythical 80-day Flood, the water would have to dry up after the second forty-day period referred to in 7:17. But it does not do so. Rather, “the water [“waters” in RSV] increased.”

In fact, “flood” and “water[s]” appear together, in a synonymous use seven times in RSV, in Genesis 6, 7, and 9 (including 7:17):

“flood of waters”: 6:17; 7:6

“waters of the flood”: 7:7, 10

“The flood . . . the waters increased”: 7:17

“waters of a flood”: 9:11

“the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh”: 9:15

If we are to consult immediate context, Genesis 7:18-20, 24 repeat four times that “the waters prevailed”: with 7:24 adding that they did so “a hundred and fifty days” (not forty or eighty!). It was after 150 days that the waters “subsided” (8:1), “receded from the earth continually” (8:3) and “abated” (8:3). They “continued to abate until the tenth month” (8:5), which was the eighth month after it started to rain (see 7:11). The waters didn’t totally dry up till “the first month, the first day of the month”: when “the waters were dried from off the earth; . . . the face of the ground was dry” (8:13). This was about ten-and-a-half months from the beginning of the torrential rains, and it was when the Flood ended, in any reasonable reading of the plain texts.

Therefore, Pearce’s “exegesis” (or I should say, eisegesis) is atrocious, as always. He sees only what he wants to see, and this is the hallmark of all skeptical, hostile, hyper-rational “can’t see the forest for the trees” eisegesis and Bible “interpretation” [choke] from those who approach the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog: big knife in hand.

Now let’s see the in-between bit he forgot to quote:

Genesis 8:6:After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground.

So, next, he opens the window after the fortieth day! How convenient Armstrong forgot this.

Genesis 8:6: “At the end of forty days” (RSV) is not forty days after the beginning of the Flood, but forty days after the time mentioned in the previous verse: ” in the tenth month, on the first day of the month . . .” That’s the context. Then after Noah sent the raven and the dove out, 8:13 asserts: “in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth” (the end of the Flood).

Then Pearce tries to smuggle in another alleged pseudo-“contradiction” having nothing to do with the duration of the Flood:

Let’s look at the wider context (don’t read the NIV translation as they try to bodge this in utter dishonesty):

Genesis 7:2-3:You shall take [a]with you [b]seven pairs of every clean animal, a male and his female; and two of the animals that are not clean, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, [c]seven pairs, male and female, to keep their [d]offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

And:

Genesis 6:19: 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

What a pointless repetition even if it didn’t contradict.

I have dealt with this already: Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals [9-7-20] I have refuted atheist anti-theist Bob “the Bible Basher” Seidensticker now 72 times: without a single peep of a reply.

Pearce then goes into reams of more analysis of DH (which is utterly beside the point of my paper) and chastises the Bible for “Repetition, redundancy and contradiction”. To the contrary, “repetition is a great teacher.” I typed in those words for a Google search and tons of stuff came up. Pearce seems oblivious to the possibility that such repetition was a deliberate tactic of one author, rather than supposed proof of multiple authors. If he wants to see “redundancy” Genesis 7:6-13 can’t hold a candle to Psalm 136. It repeats the same phrase: “for his steadfast love endures for ever” 26 straight times, in as many verses.

The sad end result (for him) is that Pearce hasn’t refuted a single point of my paper, whereas I have now strengthened and bolstered my argument all the more, which I always do when a challenge is kept up or increased (unless, of course, it is something I have conceded; and I do gladly concede where the facts and arguments and evidence warrant it; just as I did in a major way in converting to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism).

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ADDENDUM: Pearce’s “Reply”

Ruddy Flood Thing Again. And Armstrong. (7-3-21)

Here, Pearce doesn’t interact with even a single one of my many exegetical arguments against his charge of contradiction as to the duration of the Flood. He simply repeats endlessly his uncritical praise of the Documentary Hypothesis. At least he was kind enough to include words of mine (seen above, near the beginning) that show how all of this is perfectly irrelevant to my own arguments, which never were about the Documentary Hypothesis in the first place (that’s his pet argument, but has nothing to do with mine):

My point of view could be set forth without reference to whatever position one holds on the DH, because it was claimed that contradictions existed in the biblical text (i.e., however constructed or by whom) as to the length of Noah’s Flood.

A person who accepts the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible (as I do, and as the Catholic Church does) think that it doesn’t contradict whether or not some form of DH is true and an accurate understanding of the Pentateuch / Torah. Thus, all his carping on about DH is perfectly irrelevant to my argument. I specifically chose one part of his argument: the claim of contradiction.

Thank you, Jonathan. If only you could figure out that this renders all of your carping on and on about DH and how supposedly not a single Bible scholar in the history of the universe (with an IQ higher than a pencil eraser) has ever denied it or has been critical of it, null and void. You’re arguing one thing; I’m arguing another. We are literally ships passing in the night.

[for more on the Documentary Hypothesis, see: Jimmy Akin, “Who Wrote the Books of Moses?”, Catholic Answers, 1-1-13]

Rather than engage my exegetical arguments, Pearce — showing remarkable (and to me, surprising) intellectual cowardice — decides to opt out with sweeping, unsubstantiated generalities:

I don’t think any of your criticisms of my points hold water. . . . 

If Armstrong seriously thinks he has answered my with his apologetic discourse here, trying to special plead his 40 vs 150 day issue is coherent, he is sadly mistaken. I really have nothing more to say since all of my original points hold. He just hasn’t touched them. 

Pearce takes another misguided blank shot:

And as for the Epic of Gilgamesh, he didn’t even mention it.

Because he definitely has nothing to say to that.

It’s true that I didn’t in this paper, because it had nothing whatsoever to do with what I was arguing: which was a logical / exegetical matter having to do with a few biblical texts in Genesis. And that was, of course, why I didn’t deal with it: not Pearce’s wishful mythology that my mouth and mind are sealed shut as to that issue, in abject fear, due to his profoundly unanswerable utterances.

In fact, I dealt with it several times in my companion-paper, also posted yesterday, along with this present one, in response to someone in his own combox (and announced in the same place): Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought (7-2-21; revised a few times today on 7-3-21, as I found some more interesting and relevant material).

I dealt with it at the very end of the paper, noting that two reputable Protestant scholarly sources that I cited at length and linked to (online versions in their entirety) both addressed the issue. It was in the initial version of the paper before I added material to it and removed some, excepting the very last sentence, that I added today. All of it was written before I read Pearce’s new article today, making this criticism. Thus, his statement that I allegedly havenothing to say to that” is ridiculous (adding to a long collection of such utterances of his against me — and the Bible — and Christianity). Anyway, here is the end section of my “Local Flood” article from yesterday:

[Baptist theologian Bernard] Ramm [author of The Christian View of Science and Scripture] also discusses “The Babylonian Flood account” on pages 247-249. It can be read online at the link. In the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, George Frederick Wright (see the link above) also devotes significant space to it in his sections 9 and 10: for those who want to understand the true nature of the comparison of the Babylonian and biblical accounts. Here are a few striking differences, as elucidated by Wright:

The dimensions of the ark as given in Ge (6:15) are reasonable, while those of Berosus and the cuneiform tablets are unreasonable. According to Gen, the ark was 300 cubits (562 1/2 ft.) long, 50 cubits (93 2/3 ft.) wide, and 30 cubits (56 1/4 ft.) deep, which are the natural proportions for a ship of that size, being in fact very close to those of the great steamers which are now constructed to cross the Atlantic. The “Celtic” of the White Star line, built in 1901, is 700 ft. long, 75 ft. wide and 49 1/3 ft. deep. The dimensions of the “Great Eastern,” built in 1858 (692 ft. long, 83 ft. broad, and 58 ft. deep), are still closer to those of the ark. The cuneiform tablets represent the length, width and depth each as 140 cubits (262 ft.) (II. 22, 23, 38-41), the dimensions of an entirely unseaworthy structure. . . .

The accounts differ decidedly in the duration of the Flood. According to the ordinary interpretation of the Biblical account, the Deluge continued a year and 17 days; whereas, according to the cuneiform tablets, it lasted only 14 days (II. 103-7, 117-22). . . .

[T]he duration of the Deluge, according to Genesis, affords opportunity for a gradual progress of events which best accords with scientific conceptions of geological movements. If, as the most probable interpretation would imply, the water began to recede after 150 days from the beginning of the Flood and fell 15 cubits in 74 days, that would only be 3 2/3 inches per day–a rate which would be imperceptible to an ordinary observer.

Despite these massive differences, (((J_Enigma23))) on Pearce’s blog wrote:

As stated numerous times, the Biblical flood also reads very much like the Flood myth from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Right. The Babylonian ark was 262 feet wide, deep, and long (a giant cube), whereas the biblical ark has similar proportions to actual ocean liners in our time. The biblical Flood lasted over a year, and the waters subsided over seven months’ time. But the Babylonian Flood lasted 14 days. That doesn’t sound “very much like” to me. There are several parallels that can be drawn, but having massively different boat descriptions and duration lengths are certainly essential differences.

I have also addressed it (albeit briefly) now and then in my 3600+ apologetics articles through the years. For example, in one of my 46 utterly unanswered refutations of atheist David Madison (dated 8-7-19), I wrote:

It’s often noted that there is a Deluge account in the Epic of Gilgamesh; therefore, this casts doubt on the story of Noah’s Flood. But why would it? Is it not more plausible to assert that if in fact (for the sake of argument) such a major Flood had occurred, that other cultures besides Hebrew culture would more likely know about it, rather than not? Say for the sake of argument that the Bible had mentioned Halley’s Comet. We now know that it passes by the earth every 76 years. No doubt many cultures have some written record of observing it. But if the Bible had happened to mention it, it would immediately be suspect because non-Hebrews also wrote about it? Clearly not. . . .

In fact, Catholic apologist G. K. Chesterton, in his masterpiece, The Everlasting Man, argued that it is precisely to be expected, and is an argument in favor of Christianity, that there are many precursors to it: especially in the paganism that flourished in the previous 500 years or so. Anglican apologist C. S. Lewis, in his book, The Abolition of Man, has a section at the end (“Illustrations of the Tao”) in which he shows (and rejoices in) many similarities of world religions.

Young Lewis (very much like myself in my teen years) was enthralled with Norse mythology and Wagner’s operas, etc., and was an atheist. He became a theist after a discussion with J. R. R. Tolkien, in which the latter noted that “Christianity was a true myth.” It had never occurred to Lewis that there could be such a thing as a myth that actually happened. I have written about supposed “pagan elements” in Catholicism: which is a charge that anti-Catholic Protestants often make. It’s fascinating to now see an atheist former Methodist minister use the same fallacious tactic:

I had also dealt with it in an analysis of a deconversion story, about four months earlier (3-28-19):

[words of an atheist, in green] One week, he began a 4 part series on the story of Noah and the flood. He came at it from a totally different perspective than I had ever heard or thought of before, and I was enthralled. On the 4th Sunday, he mentioned that there were different interpretations of the story within the church, and he brought up the fact that the flood story actually appeared in earlier writings that were not biblical at all. I was stunned. Could it be true that the bible borrowed the flood story from earlier secular writings (hint: Epic of Gilgamesh)? It was just a fable?

Huh? The reasoning here is very convoluted. How is it that simply because another culture also had a story of a massive Flood, therefore, somehow it becomes a “fable”? Isn’t it much more likely and plausible that an event of such shattering magnitude would be recorded by someone besides the Hebrews? Therefore, the mere presence of a similar story elsewhere is no disproof of the biblical account at all.

Pagan or heathen parallels or precursors do not necessarily “disprove” the biblical account. Thus, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) notes how such parallel stories of the Flood, confirm, rather than disconfirm, the historicity and trustworthiness of the Bible:

The historicity of the Biblical Flood account is confirmed by the tradition existing in all places and at all times as to the occurrence of a similar catastrophe. F. von Schwarz . . .  enumerates sixty-three such Flood stories which are in his opinion independent of the Biblical account. R. Andree . . .  discusses eighty-eight different Flood stories, and considers sixty-two of them as independent of the Chaldee and Hebrew tradition. Moreover, these stories extend through all the races of the earth excepting the African; these are excepted, not because it is certain that they do not possess any Flood traditions, but because their traditions have not as yet been sufficiently investigated. Lenormant pronounces the Flood story as the most universal tradition in the history of primitive man, and Franz Delitzsch was of opinion that we might as well consider the history of Alexander the Great a myth, as to call the Flood tradition a fable. It would, indeed, be a greater miracle than that of the Deluge itself, if the various and different conditions surrounding the several nations of the earth had produced among them a tradition substantially identical. Opposite causes would have produced the same effect.

I was deeply shaken to realize that the bible was not the historically accurate document I was always told and completely believed it was.

I don’t know why. It certainly wasn’t because of the above things mentioned, because that conclusion simply doesn’t follow.

That’s an awful lot from someone who (according to the inimitable and polemics-prone Jonathan Pearce) supposedly “definitely has nothing to say” about the topic, ain’t it? 

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Photo credit: Noah: The Eve of the Deluge (1848), by John Linnell (1792-1882) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce invents pseudo-“contradictions” & engages in lengthy irrelevant diversions on the Documentary Hypothesis, in analyzing the length of Noah’s Flood.

July 1, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling PhilosopherHis “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

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I am replying to Pearce’s paper, The Flood Myth Contradictions Explained by the Documentary Hypothesis (6-29-21).

For those uninitiated, the Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style. There is only one coherent solution: it was compiled using multiple sources, and written at multiple times. Though there are several alternative theories, they all agree on this point. The Documentary Hypothesis remains the best theory for the job, and work that is constantly being carried out in academic institutions across the world further refine it.

See:

Documentary Theory of Biblical Authorship (JEPD): Dialogue [2-12-04]

Documentary Theory (Pentateuch): Critical Articles [6-21-10]

C. S. Lewis Roundly Mocked the Documentary Hypothesis [10-6-19]

Pearce cites Tim Callahan’s The Secret Origins of the Bible (pp. 65-66) in agreement:

[I]n the J narrative the flood is caused by rain alone, and it rains for 40 days and nights (Gen. 7:12, 17). The P version is far more grand and complex. . . . the flood lasts 150 days rather than 40 (Gen. 7:24).

Pearce then repeats the bogus charge in his own words:

The simple fact of the matter that in one part of Genesis the flood is 40 days and nights, and in another it is 150 days. These sorts of contradictions are ten-a-penny and are best resolved by multiple sources writing at multiple times and being woven together by redactors.

Genesis 7:4 (RSV) For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights . . .

Genesis 7:11-12, 17 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. [12] And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. . . . [17] The flood continued forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.

Genesis 7:24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.

Genesis 8:3-4 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated; [4] and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ar’arat.

Genesis 8:5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

Genesis 8:13-14 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry[14] In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

I truly do wonder (after examining and refuting hundreds of accusations of “contradiction!”) whether Bible skeptics like Pearce even read the texts they are so quick to accuse of internal inconsistency. This is one of the more ridiculous alleged “contradictions”: but — inexplicably — it’s an old chestnut from the hoary old volumes of doctrinaire anti-theist atheism: passed down to yet another generation of gullible and irrational fools.

Pearce creates the ersatz pseudo-“contradiction” by distorting language to his own ends:in one part of Genesis the flood is 40 days and nights, and in another it is 150 days.” But of course “the flood” and “how many days” it rained are two different things. By trying to make both texts refer to “the flood” he seeks to create a contradiction:

40-day Flood vs. 150-day Flood

If indeed, that is what the texts stated, it would be a contradiction. But the texts actually state the following notions:

40 days of rain (Gen 7:4, 12, 17)

Waters of the Flood “receded” or “abated” after 150 days, which was the point of the “high water mark” or deepest water (Gen 8:3)

Noah’s Ark rested on Mt. Ararat in the fifth month after the Flood began (Gen 8:4)

Waters of the Flood “continued to abate” at the time of the eighth month after the Flood began (Gen 8:5)

The waters finally “dried” up about eleven months after the rain began (Gen 8:13)

To present it more basically and logically:

1) It rained 40 days.

2) The resultant waters reached their highest level and then started receding after 150 days.

3) The Flood waters were still receding after eight months.

4) The Flood waters finally dried up after eleven months.

None of this is “contradictory” in the least. If someone wants to say the Flood was 150 days long based on remaining waters (Gen 8:3), this isn’t true, either, because the Bible still refers to water that “continued to abate” after eight months, and the final drying after eleven months. They are all quite obviously referring to a continual process of the waters receding and drying up. It’s a matter of degree. The only “absolute” numbers in this textual sequence are 40 days of rain and eleven months’ total time before the waters of the Flood dried up.

Pearce’s claim isn’t even internally coherent. He cites Callahan, claiming that “the flood lasts . . . 40” days, based on Genesis 7:12, 17. But Genesis 7:12 never references the “flood”; only “rain.” 7:17 states “The flood continued forty days upon the earth” but this is followed by “and the waters increased . . .” Then the next verse says, “The waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth . . .” It’s clearly not saying that 40 days was the entire duration of the Flood.

Thus, subsequent verses refer to 150 days, five, eight, and eleven months’ time of the Flood waters still being present. Pearce thinks that Genesis 7:24 is asserting a Flood of 150 total days. But again, it is not. That was the high water mark, after which the water started receding (8:3). The only duration that makes any sense at all in the biblical texts is neither 40 days nor 150, but rather, eleven months, based on Genesis 8:13.

When floods occur, first it rains (or sometimes it could initially be from a tidal wave / tsunami). Rivers and lakes start to rise and overflow their banks; and in urban environments sewers overflow, basements flood, etc. (one of my sons just experienced this, in his basement). This leaves extra water around for various lengths of time. It takes time to dry up. Thus, the Bible simply states what is a perfectly obvious fact that we have observed many times.

So, for example, we see the headline: “Harvey floodwaters will take more than a month to recede” (Laura Italiano, New York Post, 8-30-17). After two hurricanes in Florida in 2016 and 2017, waters were still receding after 16 months: five months longer than the time Noah’s Flood took to dry up!:

Since Central Florida was visited by Hurricanes Mathew on October 6, 2016 and Irma that made landfall on September 9, 2017; the St John’s River has not returned to its normal state. [by January 2019] . . . 

As I write this today in mid-January of 2019 the water levels are still not back to normal!  Some of the land is still flooded. (“16 Months Later, Water Is Still Receding…”, Doug Little, 1-22-19)

Conclusion? No biblical contradiction is present, but plenty of self-contradictions exist in Jonathan Pearce’s and other anti-theists’ pitiful attempts to falsely accuse the Bible of contradiction, with regard to the length of Noah’s Flood.

Related Reading

Old Earth, Flood Geology, Local Flood, & Uniformitarianism (vs. Kevin Rice) [5-25-04; rev. 5-10-17]

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts [8-18-15]

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? [9-10-15]

New Testament Evidence for Noah’s Existence [National Catholic Register, 3-11-18]

Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals [9-7-20]

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Photo credit: The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge (1829), by Thomas Cole (1801-1848) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: Atheist anti-theist Jonathan Pearce seeks to assert that Scripture contradicts itself regarding the duration of Noah’s Flood. As usual, it does not do so at all, but he is self-contradictory.




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