I can’t believe I’m going to have to do this, but it will hopefully be useful to some people. I am going to run through the gamut of arguments in the hope that someone like Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong recognises the terminal problems associated with a Mosaic authorship of a literally true Pentateuch in terms of stories like Noah’s flood.
This first piece will be about general arguments, the second focusing on how it was appropriated from the pre-existing Epic of Gilgamesh, and the third one concentrating on the fact that it consists – very obviously indeed – of two different sources (a Priestly and a non-Priestly source).
So, basic arguments.
It’s a myth, silly
The first thing that needs to be said – well, it doesn’t need to be said because it should be flaming obvious – is that this is a myth. We know this because it reads like a myth, is taken from a pre-existing myth, and flood myths are ten-a-penny across time and place.
It’s a myth.
Imagine you didn’t believe in the Bible, and someone came up to you with this text and said, “Look what this 2,500-year-old text says from this random part of the world!” You would say something like, “That’s interesting. I mean, it’s obviously a myth, right.”
Because if I approached you, a Christian, and asked you to read Tablet XI of the Epic of Gilgamesh, that’s exactly what you would rightly think.
There is special pleading that takes place in order to say that these ridiculously mythological tales are obvious false and mythological but this ridiculously mythological tale is true and historical.
As Wikipedia states of this most common of mythological tales:
A flood myth or deluge myth is a myth in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. Parallels are often drawn between the flood waters of these myths and the primaeval waters which appear in certain creation myths, as the flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. Most flood myths also contain a culture hero, who “represents the human craving for life”.
The flood-myth motifoccurs in many cultures as seen in: the Mesopotamian flood stories, manvantara-sandhya in Hinduism, the Gun-Yu in Chinese mythology, Deucalion and Pyrrha in Greek mythology, the Genesis flood narrative, Bergelmir in Norse mythology, flood during the time of Nuh (Noah) of Qur’an, the arrival of the first inhabitants of Ireland with Cessair in Irish mythology, in parts of Polynesia such as Hawaii, the lore of the K’iche’ and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans in North America, the Muisca and Cañari Confederation in South America, Africa, and some Aboriginal tribes in Australia.
Let me just list only a handful of the boat-load of arguments I could give.
- OmniGod (an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving god) did it because we were a sinful world. We still are; therefore, it didn’t work.
- This would have killed untold numbers of children, including foetuses in utero. Is this pro-life?
- The account is a reworking of Tablet XI of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest written story in the world. It details the building of the ark, the floods coming, the release of a raven and a dove through the window and more. We have parts of the epic dating to 2100 BCE, some 1500 years, arguably, before the Torah was completed, whilst in exile, surrounded by the culture in which the Epic of Gilgamesh was embedded. We very much advise the reader surveys Tablet XI of the Epic and compares it to the Noah story. It is astonishingly similar.
- If the deluge destroyed all, why do we have the writings and journals of people before, during and after the deluge?
- There is internal contradiction from the spliced accounts from the Bible – for example, were there two of each animal or seven?
- Eight people looking after the world’s biggest zoo is ridiculous.
- Noah lived 350 years beyond the end of the flood, dying at 950.
- The ark is physically bigger than a wooden vessel can be made, apparently by 50%.
- Clearly the gathering of all the animals is impossible: micro-organisms, polar bears, penguins, condors, glow-worms, koalas, snails, and so on. How did they all get there?)
- The ark’s reported dimensions would have to be considerably larger to fit all of the actual animals of the world.
- Population of eight could not rebound in the timespan claimed. It is simply not possible.
- Rainfall would have to have been six inches per minute. Again, not possible. A category 5 hurricane gives six inches per hour which is impossible to sustain over 40 days.
- The weight of the water would have disastrous consequences on the Earth’s crust, emitting noxious gases and eruptions, leading to, potentially, a boiling sea! In all probability, it would have imploded in some way.
- There is no geological evidence for any of this.
- There are reefs that have been undisturbed in the world for 100,000 years. These would have been crushed and destroyed. They were not.
- Lots more evidence of fossil, radiometrics and isotopes etc. mean that the flood clearly never happened.
- How did Noah actually get all the animals on the ark without them trying to eat each other or his family?
- Asexual animals and hermaphrodites appear to not be accounted for.
- Ventilation, food, faeces and many other terminal problems would have existed on the ark. How were all the animals fed, including the carnivores? There would have had to have been untold extra animals further down the food chains to sustain the predators and then the apex predators.
- The DNA pool finds no evidence of this. There no trace of this through DNA analysis (i.e., we know we came from Africa, etc.).
- All sea fish would have died from the influx of fresh water.
- All plants that do not rely on the seeds of Noah to survive would die. There are many plants that reproduce in many ways other than seeds.
- Explaining it away as a local flood is contradictory to Genesis, and would also not have killed all the humans who were so evil. Liquids find their own level, and so a local flood of that magnitude and description is physically impossible.
Some apologists, who don’t fancy doing much thinking, but do fancy explaining things away with the wave of the hand, claim that, to get round the mountains of evidence and arguments against a global flood, there was a localised flood instead.
Let’s just excerpt a little Genesis 8 & 9 for you all:
16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every crawling thing that crawls on the earth, that they may [k]breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every animal, every crawling thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out [l]by their families from the ark….
21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma, and the Lord said [m]to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the [n]intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again [o]destroy every living thing, as I have done….
15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.
There are two reasons that this invalidates a localised flood.
- God admitted he destroyed every living thing. All flesh. Not just some. All. Every animal that crawls on earth. Not just local ones, every one.
- Localised floods still happen, and still kill people, invalidating his promise, unless his promise referred instead 9more obviously) to a global flood.
Further to this, we can add the rather obvious issue:
4 Then in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the\\ month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the water decreased steadily until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.
Asside from the fact that we have discontinuity here because it is saying the same thing twice in a form of contradiction – the Ark came to rest on Mt Ararat in the seventh month, and then in the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible, we have another glaringly obvious problem. Let us not settle in t his article on the obvious problems with continuity and the fact that we clearly have two sources woven together, but let us concern ourselves with a flood covering the tops of mountains.
As mentioned in one of the above points, water finds its own level. If water is above the mountains, and given that water is over 5,100m high to cover Ararat, then this cannot have been a local flood. This is obvious. Water cannot be 5,100m high here, but not there, unless we are talking about a 5,100m high bowl.
Which we are not.
So, I am sorry to burst the bubble of apologists who try to create a solution for one problem but end up making a bigger problem: your solution is ridiculous.
That’s really all I need to say about a local flood – water finds its own level and will run to the lowest point.
The food myth is obviously a myth. Obviously. Anyone who believes it literally needs their head checked. If you believe this, then you are detaching yourself from rational reality; this means that there is no reason for me to debate you on other stuff.
This is creationism, for all intents and purposes. If you are a young Earth creationist, there is no point in me investing my time in debating you about anything else, since you are obviously not on the same rational plane. The same goes for the flood myth, to be honest.
The only get-out-of-jail-free card is the completely unfalsifiable claim that God created this as a huge miracle. There is no point arguing from naturalistic grounds when he can do crazy amazing things.
A few things to say on that. First, he has also cleaned up good and proper. In fact, he has cleaned up afterwards in such a way that he has made it look like there is positive evidence against a global flood happening. This would really need explaining.
Second, it still suffers from the special pleading problems.
Third, if he is perpetually miracle-ising every facet of the flood story, including how that family built, collected, looked after and released gazillions of animals, then this is all about God, and nothing about Noah and his family.
Fourth, it still suffers from internal consistency and contradiction problems, which then start to unravel the trust that such believer would have in the text as a whole and its claims.
Fifth, I could claim any such nonsense based on the Flying Spaghetti Monster doing absolutely anything in history – anything that you could possibly conceive, any miraculous event – but then covering it up afterwards.
Lastly, I will add that a person who accepts the infallibility of the Bible and then starts to evaluate its claims for fallibility, as apologist Dave Armstrong does, is going about things exactly the wrong way.
Stay in touch! Like A Tippling Philosopher on Facebook: