The Genesis Flood: An Interpretive Key to the Past

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Excerpt For centuries, the Biblical Flood described in chapters 6–8 in the book of Genesis was considered global, cataclysmic and historical. Since the late 18th century, however, the historicity of the Flood has come under constant attack, and is now rejected as a fable by most people in Western societies... Continue reading

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This article was first published in the Fall 2006 issue of Bible and Spade. 

In the 600th year of Noah’s life, on the 17th day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened (Gn 7:11).

For centuries, the Biblical Flood described in chapters 6–8 in the book of Genesis was considered global, cataclysmic and historical. Since the late 18th century, however, the historicity of the Flood has come under constant attack, and is now rejected as a fable by most people in Western societies. Even some in the Church have rationalized the so-called “evidences” against the Flood, trying to reinterpret it as local event. This has been most unfortunate, because Noah’s Flood is one of the most significant events in the history of the world, impacting interpretations in the physical sciences, history, archaeology and Biblical studies. My purpose here is to briefly review the implications on some of these fields of study.

1) Geology.1 Clearly, if the Flood of Noah’s day was a recent and worldwide event, it would have drastically affected the topography and geology of the entire planet. Major geological structures and topography are much better explained by recent catastrophism, not slow processes over eons of time. Mountain formation, ocean floor topography, plate tectonics, river valleys, volcanism, canyon formation, the formation of coal deposits, lakes and a plethora of other geologic features are dramatically impacted by the reality of a recent, cataclysmic Flood. The formation of these and many other structures will be misunderstood if not interpreted via a young earth/Flood model, a framework that the Bible plainly presents in its teaching. The dogma of uniformitarianism dominates all current paradigms, so the Flood is rejected out of hand. Additionally, the Flood is a very plausible triggering mechanism for the Ice Age, which required a set of unique and simultaneous circumstances unexplainable by uniformitarian principles.2

2) Biology. The Bible tells us that God sent two of each kind of land animal to the Ark so that they would be preserved during the Flood (Gn 6:19–20). When the Flood ended, the animals dispersed from “the mountains of Ararat” (Gn 8:4) and began to repopulate the planet. The history of animal habitat and genetic distribution across the planet must be understood in the context of the Flood and its immediate aftermath, or erroneous conclusions will result. The Flood or its subsequent affects serve to explain animal extinctions on a massive scale.3 This includes dinosaurs, which have been hijacked by the evolutionary establishment as a propaganda tool against the Scriptures. Most of the dinosaurs were simply unable to survive the adverse environmental conditions that existed after they left the Ark.

The Flood would also have drastically impacted the entirety of the plant kingdom, which most likely survived via floating mats of vegetation and other mechanisms. Since the Flood lasted for a period of 371 days, the carbon cycle of the entire earth was completely disrupted in a relatively short period of time. This state of affairs would drastically affect the results of C-14 dating methods as one moves back in history closer to the Flood. Rejecting the historicity of the Flood leads to erroneous assumptions built into the C-14/C-12 ratios4 needed to calculate dates. Again, ignoring the historicity of the Flood and its consequent effects on the entire planet leads to flawed conclusions.

3) Anthropology and Archaeology.5 Almost all current scientific paradigms assert that man evolved from primitive life forms into humans at some point in the distant past. This dogma is so deeply entrenched in the mind of the scientific community that no other paradigm will even be considered. Therefore, when “primitive” remains of ancient human societies are discovered, it is automatically assumed they are from an earlier time when man was less evolved. The Bible, however, plainly teaches that man was created fully formed and with a sophisticated intellect right at the beginning of creation (Mk 10:6, Gn 1:27). When God decided to judge the world because of its great wickedness (Gn 6:7, 2 Pt 2:4–5), Noah and seven others from his family were spared in the Ark. All human beings alive today are descendants of Noah’s family. If this fact of history is rejected, once again false conclusions will be drawn.

Noah and his immediate descendants entered a brand new world, a world that had lost most of its technical knowledge and civilization. Although Noah and his sons were certainly quite intelligent, they did not carry the full knowledge of all human society wiped out in the Flood. In a real sense, they were starting over (much like a modern man being stranded on a deserted island, isolated from civilization, yet not a primitive brute), so the technologies and level of civilization of humanity were no doubt more “primitive” in the immediate post-Flood world. Living in caves and using more “primitive” tools to survive would have been perfectly logical for humans living in a new and barren world. Neolithic and other ancient remains predating the explosion of civilization in the third millennium BC therefore need to be reinterpreted in a post-Flood context.

The errors of evolutionary interpretations are further compounded by a rejection of the Tower of Babel incident (Gn 11), which fractured the human community and sent various people groups all across the globe. Genetic distribution in human culture was vastly affected by this event. People groups were separated because they could not communicate with one another and therefore the human gene pool was split apart. Cultural identity began with similarity of language and expanded to include physical features such as skin color and various other physical, yet superficial, differences. Modern anthropology and archaeology are entrenched in a paradigm antithetical to the Biblical young earth/Flood/Babel paradigm and therefore have continuously drawn incorrect conclusions from the data in their respective fields.6

4) Biblical Studies—The Plain Meaning of the Text. One interesting aspect of the Genesis Flood is the unique use of language7 in Scripture when referring to the Flood. In the Old Testament, the authors utilize a unique Hebrew word, mabbûl, when referring to the Flood. This word is used mainly in the Flood narrative, Genesis 6:17; 7:6–7, 10, 17; 9:11, 15. Genesis 9:28; 10:1, 32 and 11:10 utilize mabbûl when referring to the Flood as a past event. Psalm 29:10 is the only other passage in the Old Testament where mabbûl is found. This psalm of David describes the “voice of the LORD,” referring to His authority and power. In this context, David speaks of the LORD’s power over the mighty waters and the cedars of Lebanon. He continues in verse 10, “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood [mabbûl]; the LORD is enthroned as king forever.” The context asserts the great power and majesty of God, which is required to be in control of a cataclysm like Noah’s Flood.8

In the New Testament, we find several references to the Noachian Deluge. The unique Greek word used in these passages of Scripture is kataklusmŏs and its derivatives. Strong’s Concordance defines this word as meaning “to dash, wash down, to deluge, surge of the sea, inundation, flood.”9 From this we derive the modern English word “cataclysm.”

Jesus describes the time of His return as analogous to that of the Flood in Matthew 24:38–39:

For in the days before the flood [kataklusmŏs], people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood [kataklusmŏu] came and took them all away.10

The immediate context indicates there will be universal and worldwide ignorance about the time of Jesus’ return, just as there was a universal and worldwide ignorance regarding the coming inundation in Noah’s day. A local flood was not in Jesus’ view.

The Apostle Peter certainly recognized the universal and cataclysmic nature of the Flood when he wrote:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood [kataklusmŏn] on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others...11

Of further interest are references to the Flood in the Septuagint, the third century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. In every instance where mabbûl appears in the Hebrew text, the Septuagint translators used kataklusmŏs as the Greek translation. Genesis 7:6, 17; 9:11 are translated as kataklusmŏs. Genesis 6:17; 9:15, 28; 10:1, 32; 11:10 and Psalm 29:1012 are translated as kataklusmŏn. Genesis 7:7, 10 and 9:11 are translated as kataklusmŏu. In each instance, the Septuagint translators recognized the unique nature of Noah’s Flood and used derivatives of this specific Greek word to communicate that fact.

It appears that the New Testament authors picked up on this usage, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit continued using it when they authored the New Testament in the first century AD. Jesus Himself verified this usage when speaking of His return in Matthew 24 and Luke 17. For the Christian, there should be no doubt that Jesus verified this usage and its clear meaning (universal and cataclysmic, not local) by virtue of His absolute authority.13

This is just a small sampling of the impact of the Flood on Biblical studies and the historical realm of the physical sciences. In this issue of Bible and Spade, you will read research regarding the landing place of Noah’s Ark. It is ABR’s position that the Flood in Genesis 6–8 was a recent, global, cataclysmic event and there is no hermeneutical, exegetical or Biblical justification for reinterpreting it as some localized event in Mesopotamia.14 To do so is to contort the Biblical text in a way that cannot be justified. We must remain true to the plain meaning of Scripture. If we cannot fully understand how a universal, cataclysmic Flood occurred, we must still submit ourselves to the authority of Scripture and adopt the attitude of Martin Luther: “if you cannot understand how this was done...then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”15

Noah’s Flood must be given its proper place in the history of the world and in Biblical history. Ignoring or dismissing its historicity impugns what God has plainly said, a serious sin indeed. The spiritual lessons are obvious as well. God is gracious and merciful, but takes sin very, very seriously. Let us give the Flood its proper place in our Biblical studies and as an important factor in developing a Biblical worldview.

Recommended Resources for Further Study

     
The Genesis
Record

 Explorers of Ararat

Paradise to Prison
  
Notes

1. The most notable work on this subject is by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb in their classic The Genesis Flood (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1961).

2. See Michael Oard, An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1990).

3. Some animals such as the wooly mammoth appear to have been wiped out in catastrophic events after the Flood. For a discussion on the wooly mammoth, see Michael Oard, Frozen in Time (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004).

4. See Don Batten, ed., The Answers Book (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2000), pp. 75–94.

5. “The Sumerian King List records the rulers of ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia prior to and following the flood.” (Genesis 5 and 11b—From Moses or Mesopotamia? Bible and Spade 1 [1972]: 84–86.)

6. For a detailed study of the Flood in the ANE context, see the four-part series in the 1996 issues of Bible and Spade by David T. Tsumura, “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood” (Bible and Spade 9).

7. We should be careful about dogmatically asserting the inherent definition of words alone (especially when one solely looks at etymology), but in this section we see how references to the Flood are quite unique.

8. For further reading on Psalm 29:10 and the Flood, see John Wheeler, “Who Wrote Psalm 29: David or a Canaanite?” (Bible and Spade 5 [1992]: 28–33).

9. See James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), p. 40.

10. We find the Synoptic parallel in Luke 17:27, where kataklusmŏs is once again used.

11. 2 Peter 2:4–5. Peter’s reference to the Flood in 1 Peter 3:20 is undoubtedly universal, but he does not use kataklusmŏs in that context.

12. The Septuagint and the Hebrew Psalms differ by one chapter. This passage is found in Psalm 28:10 of the Septuagint.

13. Jesus’ absolute authority and supremacy over all existence are indelibly stamped on the pages of the New Testament, notably in Colossians 1:15–20.

14. Local flood eisegesis has even afflicted the NIV translators, readily apparent in reading the footnotes of the NIV in Genesis 6–8.

15. See Martin Luther, What Martin Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1986), p. 1523. In this quote Luther is referring to the six days of Creation, but Luther’s attitude toward Scripture is my main point.

Comments Comment RSS

5/28/2009 4:55 AM #

Hello,
  Can the population of the earth be determined by estimating the population of the earth with the flood, and without, and compare it to today? To again prove that everyone was destroyed but Noah and family. Am I making any sense?

David Voyles - 5/28/2009 4:55:07 AM

5/29/2009 10:49 PM #

Dear David,

Thanks for your question. It is almost impossible to know the earth's population prior to the Flood. We can generally surmise, since there were extremely long life spans, that people had many children and that the population may have been substantial. See Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood, 23-30.

Regarding post Flood calculations, if we take the Flood at around 3000 BC or so, and calculate a very modest rate of growth from 8 people, we can easily reach the population total today. Henry Morris has provided the calculations in his book, Scientific Creationism, on pages 167-169. The numbers need updating since the book was published in the 1970's. But the formula he uses is still valid.

Starting with 2 people at a low growth rate of 2%, you can reach 6 billion people in about 1100 years.  Further, if long ages and human evolution were true, the population should be literally in the multiple trillions, even with a very modest growth rate of .002%. It is obvious the long age and/or evolutionary story is a fairy tale. See: John Morris, The Young Earth, pages 70-71.

The "explosion" of civilization from about 3000 B.C. forward and population statistics are more evidence in support of the Genesis Flood from the time of Noah.

I hope this helps.

Henry Smith

ABR - 5/29/2009 10:49:06 PM

5/30/2009 8:17 PM #

Hello Henry,
Thank you so much for your reply. I am really enjoying your website and am visiting often. Thanks! David Voyles

David Voyles - 5/30/2009 8:17:06 PM

9/2/2009 3:47 PM #

I  recently read a news article on- line about genetic research which indicated that there was a huge "die- off" of the human population in the "recent" past.  I cannot relocate the article, but as I recall the researcher was from New Zealand.  His research centered around an African tribe called the Hottentots and another people group whose name I can't recall.  His conclusion was that about 14,000 years ago the human population went from a very large number (millions or billions) to a very small number (under 1000 as I recall).  I don't know how he arrived at the time and final population numbers (could it be for instance 5000 yrs. and eight people?) but I thought genetic proof of a die-off significant.    

James Tucker - 9/2/2009 3:47:29 PM

9/3/2009 8:21 PM #

Do you believe that all animals on earth, except the ones in the ark, died as a result of the flood?

David from GA - 9/3/2009 8:21:08 PM

9/3/2009 8:30 PM #

You stated: All the finches on the Galapagos Islands are descended from birds that survived Noah’s Flood on board the Ark, some 4,500 years ago. After the Flood, the birds multiplied and gradually migrated away from the Middle East. Some eventually reached the islands where they rapidly diversified into different environmental niches.

Do you think Noah's flood was worldwide?

David from GA - 9/3/2009 8:30:33 PM

10/19/2009 8:48 PM #

David from GA, If the flood were not global then there would have been no point in building an Ark as people and animals would merely have moved to dry land elsewhere.

Apart from the logic Jesus treated the Flood as total and so do all other references in the Bible.

Not that it is necessary, but the physical evidence from all over the globe also backs up a global flood. The survival of delicate creatures like jelly fish as fossils indicate sudden total inundation. Fish caught in the act of eating another fish, the list goes on and on.

In answer to your first question; yes, all land animals except those on the Ark died; just as all the people, except those on the Ark, died. All the birds died except those on the ark.

Glenn - 10/19/2009 8:48:18 PM

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