Ruddy Flood Thing Again. And Armstrong.

Ruddy Flood Thing Again. And Armstrong. July 3, 2021

Dave Armstrong has supposedly refuted my refutation to his refutation of my claim that the Noah’s flood myth is a good example of the multiple sources of the Pentateuch evidenced by both redundancies through repetition and contradictions.

Just to let you know, my position is wholesale accepted by pretty much every single Hebrew Bible scholar the world over. It really is. More than this, the Genesis examples given in my pieces are, together with the multiple threads for the creation story, the poster examples for multiple sourcing. This is Bible 101 stuff here. Really basic stuff. But he disagrees with the multiple-source/multiple-era proposition for the creation of the Pentateuch, which is accepted by every serious scholar.

It is not accepted by Bible literalists. Of which Armstrong is one. Indeed, he opens:

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:

What I say is not an argumentum ad populum; it is a deference to the entire body of experts in the field who do not take the axiomatic approach that Armstrong has above: he accepts the infallibility of this random, parochial ancient book, with its first five books dictated to a 120-odd-year-old man in pre-literate Sinai by a god. Because he starts with that foundation, there literally can be no theory that invalidates his already-held conclusion.

There is no point having this argument with him.

I do suggest he does some reading, though. I mean it. Some real reading. I would suggest starting with Baden’s The Composition of the Pentateuch and then move on to The Oxford Handbook for the Pentateuch, and follow this with The Formation of the Pentateuch: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Europe, Israel, and North America (Forschungen zum Alten Testament). 

If he doesn’t have time to read what is almost 3000 pages in those books alone, there are these he could watch. I honestly, really advise he does so. Both Baden and Reed discuss explicitly how no one in Hebrew Bible academia supports a single (Mosaic) authorship:

Okay, so what does Armstrong say? What he does is say, essentially, it’s all about that one claim (40 days vs 150) so he doesn’t need to look at the context (such as the discontinuity, the stylistic differences, the terminology differences and further contradictions). This is akin to the fallacy I referred to the other day as The Focusing on Minor Details Fallacy, whereby he is ignoring the wider context to hone in one sole aspect.

He quotes a layman responding to the DH:

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:

He then lists a bunch of people who disagree with the DH under the three headings. What was quite amusing is his listing of people who disagree with the Documentary Hypothesis who are liberal: a handful – four. Whybray died before the Neo-Documentary Hypothesis was even a thing. He was also a strong critic of the first scholar Armstrong mentioned: Rendtdorff.

Rendtdorff criticised, as many did in the 70s, the DH, which is what scholars, like scientists do, so that the theory becomes refined. It did. And this was almost 50 years ago. He favoured form criticism. See Baden and Stackert’s opening chapter in The Handbook… that discusses his inaccuracies and lack of understanding of source criticism. But, and I am sure that Armstrong knows this, Rendtdorff didn’t deny multiple sources. Indeed, he argued for it:

For example, building on mid-twentieth-century tradition-historical research, some have suggested that the patriarchal and Exodus accounts represent competing traditions of Israelite origins that were only first combined in the Priestly source (Rendtorff 1977…)….

The primeval history is sometimes considered to be an entirely separate and late addition to the complex (Rendtorff 1990, 185).

And, Thomas Dozeman’s Chapter 11 shows Rendtdorff’s nuanced approach in terms of wanting source criticism to fit in with form-tradition criticism.

Fourth, the conflict in the methodological presuppositions of source and form-tradition criticisms came under close scrutiny in the research of Rolf Rendtorff. Gunkel, Rad, and Noth viewed the growth of pentateuchal tradition as a process of expansion and reinterpretation from small units, like sagas, to larger complexes of tradition, such as collections of sagas organized around a central theme, while source criticism started with the present form of the text to identify problems of literary unity in order to identify independent parallel sources of the entire hexateuchal story. The result of the uneasy alliance of tradition history and source criticism, according to Rendtorff, was that the process of reinterpretation, which characterized the oral stage of tradition history, was never carried through the literary development of the larger complexes of tradition as a process of redaction criticism rather than source composition (Rendtorff 1990, 170–175).

I could go on.

Now, the funniest part is Armstrong not knowing what he is talking about in adding Hess to the liberal list. He is an evangelical conservative who, even so…

…is agnostic about the composition of the Pentateuch, assigning only its poetic strands to the second millennium (and thus non-Mosaic as a whole; pp. 141–42). With regard to the Decalogue, he describes the question of its dating as “a vexed one,” lacking empirical evidence for any date whatsoever (p. 163). This assertion appears to discount the Bible’s own witness to Mosaic authorship as well as nearly universal pre-Enlightenment Jewish and Christian tradition. With respect to the reference to Yahweh in Genesis, and thus its pre-Mosaic antiquity, Hess remains ambivalent, being content to consign this and other divine names to “the Bronze Age of the second millennium B.C.” (p. 179).


There’s more. He adds Kikawada and Quinn’s book. Neither is a Hebrew Bible scholar, their 1985 book would be woefully out of date, and I have no evidence that either is a liberal. Their book, for example, looks anything but. Then again, he said “liberals or other”, so there is that.

He then lists a bunch of Jewish and Christian conservatives, many from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, throwing in archaeologist Kenneth Kitchen for good measure. Always good to see an axiomatic biblical maximalist in there for fair and objective academia.

I really don’t know what I am supposed to do with this list. If this refutes DH, then I’m God. I’m not God. Not even remotely. There is no serious criticism on show of the DH or any multiple source theory.

The Flood

Let me remind you of Baruch Shwartz talking of redundancy in the flood myth and more in The Handbook…:

For example, in the course of the story of the flood (Gen 6:5–9:17), the narrator twice describes the evil that spurred Yahweh’s decision to bring about the flood (Gen 6:5–6 and 6:11–12); we read twice that Yahweh informed Noah of his decision (6:17 and 7:4); twice we learn that he conveyed his instructions to Noah (6:18–21 and 7:1–3), and more. In the course of the account of Moses’s commissioning (Exod 3:1–4:17), Yahweh twice mentions that he has seen the affliction of his people and has decided to act (3:7–8 and 3:9); Moses twice expresses his objections to having the task imposed upon him (3:11, 13 and 4:1, 10, 13); twice Yahweh responds to his reservations (3:12, 14–15 and 4:2–9, 11–12, 14–16), and so forth. In all these cases and innumerable others, the individual passages provide no recognition that the event itself has already transpired or that it might not be the only such event. Every such narrative, and every similarly duplicated subsection of a repetitive narrative text, presents itself as the one and only account of the event described, as does its counterpart.

Jakob Wohrle’s excellent chapter also details this:

In the primeval history, it is indeed possible to reconstruct two complete—or at least nearly complete—narrative strands, a priestly and a non-priestly. It begins with two independent and self-standing creation accounts in Gen 1:1–2:4a (P) and Gen 2:4b–25 (non-P). In the flood story, in which the priestly and the non-priestly texts are intertwined, most parts of the narrative are given twice, such as God’s announcement of the flood (7:4 [non-P]; 6:17 [P]), his command to enter the ark (6:18b–21 [P]; 7:1–3 [non-P]), the beginning of the flood (7:6, 11 [P]; 7:10, 12 [non-P]) or the end of the flood (8:1–2a, 3b–5 [P]; 8:2b–3a, 6–12, 13b [non-P]). Moreover, even smallest narrative details, like the notice that Noah obeyed God’s command (6:22 [P]; 7:5 [non-P]) or that he and his family entered the ark (7:13 [P]; 7:7 [non-P]), are told twice.

Additionally, in the flood story one finds small redactional notices added in order to balance the two narrative strands. For example, Gen 7:8–9 says that Noah took one pair of all clean and unclean animals, which can be seen as a secondary combination of the non-priestly account, according to which Noah took seven pairs of the clean and one pair of the unclean animals, and the priestly account, according to which he took one pair of every kind of animal.

Wohrle also has a chapter in The Formation of the Pentateuch, “There’s No Master Key!”, in which he says (p. 399):

Within the primeval history it is possible to reconstruct two parallel flood stories (Gen 6–9), a completely preserved Priestly version and a nearly completely preserved non-Priestly version.22 The same applies in the book of Exodus for the stories of the plagues (Exod 7–12) and the crossing of the sea (Exod 14).23 Remarkably, in these parts of the Pentateuch even the smallest narrative details are preserved twice. For example, the flood story in Gen 6–9 gives two nearly identical commands to enter the ark:

Genesis 6:18b (P) You shall go into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sonsʼ wives with you.
Genesis 7:1 (non-P) Go into the ark, you and all your household.

To give just one more example, within the story about the crossing of the sea in Exod 14, the notice that the waters of the sea came back appears twice:

Exodus 14:27 (P) [. . .] The sea returned to its bed when the morning appeared [. . .]
Exodus 14:28 (non-P) The waters of the sea returned [. . .]

Such doublets of the smallest details strongly speak against the assumption that the Priestly passages can be understood as a redactional layer. There is no plausible explanation for why a Priestly redactor should have added to the flood story a second request to enter the ark or why he should have added to the story about the crossing of the sea a second notice about the returning waters.

Armstrong’s content is desperate. He is pleading for “abating” meaning this or that. Go read it. He puts up a link to his defence of 7 pairs vs 1 pair. Gah. I can barely be bothered.

Thing is, he really, really wants to believe the Bible is infallible. He has motivated reasoning for such. There’s nothing I can do for that. No treatment I can suggest. It’s a psychological ailment that will need, no doubt, a psychological cure.

I mean, this is his level:

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.

Sweet bejesus. 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. Let me remind you of Schwartz again:

A case of redundancy in the Torah is essentially an instance of unexplained and unwarranted repetition of what has already been said. In the narrative portions of the Torah, redundancy is present whenever each of two or more passages purports to provide the one and only account of an event that can logically have occurred only once. In the legal sections of the Torah, redundancy is a case in which two or more passages purport to provide the legal stipulation that is to be fulfilled in a given, uniquely defined situation…. mutually exclusive competition between two accounts constitutes redundancy….

Not only do we possess four independent accounts of the time, manner, and location of the lawgiving, each alleging to be the only such account, but each of the four also includes its own version of the laws themselves, each version purporting to be the laws and statutes commanded by Yahweh through the agency of Moses. The existence of four mutually ignorant legal corpora on the one hand, and of four mutually exclusive stories functioning as distinct narrative frameworks for them on the other, is incontrovertible evidence that the writings of several authors have been incorporated in the Torah.

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?

There is simply no thought that goes into this kind of apology. It’s merely, “If there is any way at all that there might be some possibility of a conception of a hint of an answer, then that is what will suffice for me.”

It’s our good friend possibiliter ergo probabiliter.

I don’t know that I have the energy for this. Better you look at this source that puts P and non-P sources, as Genesis verses, side by side to make two wholly coherent narratives. This is a good resource and I have placed the two threads from P and non-P below, taken from that link.

I suggest you read this carefully, Dave, because I don’t think any of your criticisms of my points hold water. And this here below absolutely elegantly solves every single one of your problems. Look how bloody coherent each narrative source is, and how coherent the story becomes! If you read these as individual narratives, the whole thing makes sense.


Priestly source Other source
  [6.1-8] When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose. Then YHWH said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.

YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And YHWH was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

So YHWH said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of YHWH.

[6.9-22] These are the Records of Noah.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.”

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

[7.1-5] Then YHWH said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

And Noah did all that YHWH had commanded him.

[7.6] Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth.
[7.7] And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark, to escape the waters of the flood.
[7.8-11] Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth. 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.
[7.12] And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
[7.13-16] On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast according to its kind, and all the cattle according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, every bird of every sort. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And they that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and YHWH shut him in.
[7.17-18] The flood continued forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters.
[7.19-22] And the waters prevailed so mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man; everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.
[7.23] He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark.
[7.24-8.5] And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days. But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated; and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat. 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.
[8.6-12] At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made, and sent forth a raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put forth his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent forth the dove; and she did not return to him any more.
[8.13a] 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;
[8.13b] and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.
[8.14-19] In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Go forth from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh – birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth – that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.”

So Noah went forth, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. And every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves upon the earth, went forth by families out of the ark.

[8.20-22] Then Noah built an altar to YHWH, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when YHWH smelled the pleasing odor, YHWH said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
[9.1-17] And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.”

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 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.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 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. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”

[9.18-27] The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled.

Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed by YHWH my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.” God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.”

[9.28-29] After the flood Noah lived three hundred and fifty years. All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.

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

Because he definitely has nothing to say to that.

As you can see, my patience is thin because he is not attempting to do any serious academic work here.

Sticking Plasters

As has been noted by critics of infallibilists and the DH, every issue they come across, they have to present a sticking plaster (bandaid) and stick it to the wound in the text. Here, for example, Armstrong has done this to the days, the number of animals and every other instance of contradiction, repetition (redundancy), discontinuity, and stylistic and terminological divergence. In the end, the whole Bible is just a groaning mass of plasters, imploding under its own weight of ad hoc conceptual possibilities.

This so miserably fails Ockham’s Razor, lacks plausibility and definitely lacks elegance.

And here’s the thing. The Documentary Hypothesis solves almost every single contradiction in the Bible.

And there are a lot. As this famous chart shows. For each one here, Armstrong has to provide a bandaid. But they effectively disappear under DH or similar.

Stay in touch! Like A Tippling Philosopher on Facebook:

A Tippling Philosopher

You can also buy me a cuppa. Or buy some of my awesome ATP merchandise! Please… It justifies me continuing to do this!

"World War I Debunked: photographs from the Western Front reveal "trench warfare" https://uploads.disquscdn.c..."

Authoritarianism, Economic Liberalism and Moderation
"So that makes it at most 2000 years old compared to a history of other ..."

God Is Unfair – An Accident ..."
"As I said, the two are not identical. Much ado about nothing. They're identical in ..."

God Is Unfair – An Accident ..."

Browse Our Archives