Legends of the flood (Part 3) The Biblical flood
The Bible's account
We've looked at some of the oral traditions of the story of the flood and some of the written accounts not found in the Bible but now it's time to look at the story of Noah and see if what the Bible says actually makes any sense in this modern era.
Most people read the Bible thinking that it's giving a literal 'blow by blow' account of what went on. I may shock you to say it doesn't and it never pretended to! The Bible is much more interested in why something happened than how it happened. That's not to say that it doesn't record events as they happened (it does) but when you look at what it really tells us then the picture can be very interesting and very different to what you expect.
The whole point of the first five chapters of Genesis is to tell us how far from God man had drifted in the time it took for the generations from Adam to Noah to live.
Legend or not?
For two hundred years everything about the Bible and other Holy Books (Qur'an and Torah) was challenged by scholars in the west. Nothing was accepted and the academia of the day thought that 'at best' these books were nice stories of fables and fairy tales from an age long ago. The Outbreak of WW1 and the horrors man inflicted on himself convinced many that there was no God and if there was he wasn't worth the effort if he allowed his creation to go on this way!
In the late 1920s and early 1930s Sir Leonard Woolley (already a famous archeologist and kind of an 'Indiana Jones' of his day) was working on a site in southern Iraq when he started making some surprising discoveries. Deep in the earth he started finding evidence of massive flooding of an area four hundred miles long and about one hundred miles wide somewhere about 4,000 BC
From this work he was the first to propose that there actually was a great flood of the 'known world' of that time but it wasn't a global flood as such.
One interesting thing is I've just been reading an article written for the Daily Telegraph (A very reputable UK Newspaper) saying that Scientists at the university of Leicester have calculated that the Ark had a capacity for 70,000 animals without sinking. Here is the link to the article
What is interesting is that the Bible never tells us Noah's starting point, just where he ended up, on the Mountains of Ararat
Would the Ark have floated?
- Noah's Ark would have floated...even with 70,000 animals - Telegraph
Scientists at the University of Leicester have discovered that Noah's Ark could have carried 70,000 animals without sinking if built from the dimensions listed in The Bible.
Where is the Ark?
Is the Ark here? The oldest legends have the Ark coming to rest on the actual Mountain. The Bible simply says 'Mountains of'
The Epic of Gilgamesh says the Ark is here! Is it?
The Qur'an and some medieval Jewish traditions say that the Ark is here. The Bible and the Jewish scriptures allow for all three to be right!
Could the flood have been a local one?
Since then Historians and Archaeologists have proposed a number of possible 'local floods' that could have been big enough to take up the whole 'known world' the only problem is they're in different places and thousands of miles apart (but all around the same time 5,000 to 7,000 BC)
Suggested places for the flood
- Tigris/Euphrates basin.
Where the two rivers merge has been noted for centuries to be prone to flooding. Woolley noted this and it was part of his reason for suggesting the idea of a local flood. The evidence that he found at ancient Ur in Southern Iraq and other places confirmed that there was a massive localized flood around 4,000 BC
- The Persian Gulf.
More recently Scientists have discovered that at some time in the distant past the Persian Gulf was actually dry land with a Mountain range at the strait of Hormuz sealing off the region that was below sea level. A massive earthquake broke the natural dam and allowed the water to gush in thus flooding the entire region. Scientists have dated this event to around 8,000 BC (using their carbon dating methods that are not all that reliable (see my hubs on 'Creation Myths')
- The Mediterranean Sea.
Situated literally between the two continents of Europe and Africa and according to Geologists some five million years ago according to their dating methods (see my hub Creation Myths part 2 for the accuracy of the methods) about five million years ago a major earthquake caused by the bucking of the tectonic plates allowed water into the area that flooded the whole region in a period of about a year! (see the note below about this location)
- The Black Sea.
The latest theory is that the flood was a 'Black Sea' event that occurred some 7,000 years ago in a similar way that the Mediterranean sea happened with devastating consequences for the fledgling civilization of the time.
Myth tells us that Atlantis (the mythological city that was lost underwater due to a major earthquake and flooding) was somewhere in what is now the gulf of Cadiz! (other locations have been suggested but this is the most popular and was proposed by Plato (4th Century BC) who got the information from Solon one of the founders of Athens and a leading light in the creation of the concept we now call democracy.
These events are fascinating in themselves. But what if they are only part of the story. What if they all happened at the same time and were part of the wider flood?
The Bible makes it clear that the event was one of global proportions. Many have said that it was the 'known world of the time' but with the idea that the 'known world' was a small area of a few hundred miles wither side, IT WASN'T!!
We know from archeological evidence that the world at 4,000 BC was actually vast with Egypt already trading as far away as China (Chinese silk found in the tombs dating to the 1st Dynasty circa 3,600 BC) and Afghanistan. The first and earliest temples found have not been in the Middle east where we expected them but in the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland and dating back to at least 3,000 BC
By the time of Moses (when the account was put into it's final form around 1,400 BC Britain was trading both Copper and Tin (the two ingredients for Bronze) with Spain and from there the wider world.
All the ancient accounts make it clear that they were talking of a global flood, but why?
The Black Sea flood?
Or was it global?
Which one do you think in nearer the truth? (Both are reputable news agencies and that's why I used that footage)
One is by ABC News and covers the idea of a local flood. The other is CBN News and covers the idea of a global flood
Why the Bible's account can't be a 'later copy of the Babylonian'
There is the argument among scholars that the Bible's account is a sixth century rewrite of the epic of Gilgamesh possibly 'padding out' an earlier spartan narrative and using various parts of the Gilgamesh narrative to build the flood account into a credible narrative. But that is at best a shortsighted idea that disregards evidence both in the account itself and what we know of the Ancient world.
Tradition has it that Moses penned the book of Genesis during the forty years the children of Israel were wandering in the desert. At times in the account Egyptian words occur in the account that can't really be explained except to say that maybe the writer was struggling to find the right word in the language he was using (Moses first language would probably have been Egyptian) so he/she reverts to the language that are more comfortable with. Interestingly enough that's exactly what happens when the narrative talks about the Ark! The Word (תיבת נח pronounced tebah) is originally an Egyptian (a Hamitic language) loan word. If the source was Babylonian or Akkadian you'd expect the writer to use the Akkadian word but it's not there! The same happens in his account of being found in the bulrushes where Egyptian words are found not Babylonian!
The evidence is a bit 'thin on the ground' at first glance but so far we've only dealt with the first six chapters of the Genesis account and they show they can't be late copies of the Babylonian. But clearly there must have been another source for both of them to have access to the material. I believe there was and as we go through we 'll look at that idea.
Noah's Ark and the sailing ship
Why did the flood happen?
Reading the Bible's account it seems straightforward why the flood happened. Man got too sinful right? Not necessarily.
You see in Genesis chapter 6 verse 1 and 2 it says that the 'sons of God' married the daughters of men and began to have children. Many scholars argue that this is the sons of Seth marrying the daughters of the descendants of Cain thus corrupting the line of the true worshipers and leading them into apostasy. But there is another possible explanation that is much more sinister.
The 'sons of God' may also refer not to Human beings but also to spirit beings or Angels who on seeing the beauty of creation and in particular the women walking the earth that they transformed themselves into men to come and marry the women (Greek Mythology has this happening a lot especially with Zeus) to have children by them. As this went on the line of men was corrupted from the original creation until there was only one line left, that of the family of Noah!
What may have been going on is known to us today as Genetic engineering and has even been tried in our time (the Nazis were trying to create a master race!) and to some degree is still going on in the laboratories of the world today. This may have actually been the trigger that caused God to move in such a dramatic way to prevent the corruption from totally wiping out the human race.
Noah built the Ark and all the while it was a message to the people that the flood was coming but still no one would listen until the floods came and everything not inside the Ark perished
What could God have used to cause the flood?
Water right! But where did it come from? Sounds dumb but the amount of water required to flood the earth would be more than is stored in the polar icecaps. And then where did it all go?
I can't answer the latter yet but as for the former I think I can shed some light on it. Recently I was watching the movie 'Deep Impact' starring Elijah Wood and Morgan Freeman where an asteroid about two miles in diameter is on the way to earth. The devastation it's expected to cause is basically so great that they're facing the extinction of all life on the planet! The movie is fiction, but the worrying fact is that the calculations for damage aren't!! Could the flood of Noah have been caused by a massive meteorite strike?
Such things have happened in the past.in fact below is a record of all meteorite strikes in the last hundred years (that we know of). Most of these were only tiny but a few (like the one in Nicaragua in Sept 2014) were as big as a house!
Comets and meteorites are mostly made up of Ice and dust. The Rosetta Mission (launched in 2004 was specifically sent out to investigate the feasibility of landing on a comet and telling us what they are made of, it's doing both and might just answer where the water came from for Noah's flood.
As to where it all went well maybe once the water subsided it flowed down,found a new equilibrium (with the Mediterranean sea, the Persian Gulf and the Black sea being created and the rest freezing at the polar icecaps to await global warming!
Meteorite Strikes in the last 20 years
The Movie "Noah"
Before leaving this hub I want to mention the movie that Russel Crowe was in last year where he played Noah. I finally watched the movie over Christmas and was pleasantly surprised. It's not the Biblical account of the flood but is taken mostly from the Apocryphal book of Enoch. The story really addresses some issues well. Especially the issue of how do you cope with the idea that what you know of what God has told you is going to be bad news for your family! (Noah spends almost the whole movie believing that while God wants him to build the Ark man is to become extinct!) Noah is almost driven mad by the partial revelation that he's given but he's faithful to it and it's only at the end that he finally realizes that he had part of it wrong and God wanted Humanity to survive. It was thoroughly watchable (I want to say enjoyable but it's not a light movie by any stretch) and well done. I'm not going to put a link here but want to recommend the movie as one to watch for it's dealing with the Human side of Noah
A new theory
Someone explained to me a few weeks ago that scientists start with Hypotheses, they are the ideas that haven't yet been tested. Once there's been testing and the tests seem to hold up the idea then it becomes a working theory as the science community can take the ideas and run with them because there are parts that work and they can build on them.
Recently I came across an idea that started as a Hypothesis but is now a working theory from a Creation point of view. The Theory is called the Hydroplate theory.
Below is a link that explains the theory.
A Theory of how the flood could have happened
Dr Walt Brown and the Hydroplate Theory
I've avoided most of the traditional stuff that people look for when talking about the Ark simply because I think there is just too much evidence for the flood and the Ark to ignore! I wanted to look at other parts of the whole and try to draw some stuff out of that.
There's a lot of stuff we haven't mentioned but I hope I've covered enough to give you some idea of just how much material there is around.
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