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Monday, July 11, 2011

Was the Noahic Flood a worldwide or local phenomenon?







I have heard that there are two competing schools of thought concerning this dilemma for quite some time now. I've never really given it that much thought really. I never believed that the question as to whether the great deluge was a local or worldwide occurance was actually central to my faith in any way. I know that one of the most famous Christian apologists, William Lane Craig, adheres to the local-flood theory although there are many who state that the matter is open to interpretation.



Chapter 48 of James Montgomery Boice's book, An Expositionary Commentary, Genesis Volume I, (Genesis 1-11) yields some interesting information as Boice summarizes his argument that the flood of Noah was indeed worldwide (Instances of emphasis are the author's, not mine) ...






1. "The construction, outfitting and stocking of the ark would have been absurd if the flood were local...

What would have been the purpose of a ship like this if the flood affected only the Mesopotamian river valley, as proponents of the local-flood theory maintain? I would have been far more sensible for God simply to have warned Noah to move out of the valley to higher ground, as he warned Lot and his fmily to leave Sodom. The birds and animals could also have moved out of the area without having to be stored in the ark for an entire year.



2. After the flood was over God promised never again to destroy the earth by flood(Gen. 8:21-22, 9:11, 15), and this is a false promise if the flood to which it refers is local.

There have been many local but terrible floods in earth's history. Many have perished in such floods. If God's promises refer to that kind of flood, they have been broken repeatedly. But this was not the nature of God's promises. They refer to the destruction of all creatures throughout the whole earth and the temprary cessation of the seasons that, God says, will never again occur: "Never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease" (Gen. 8:21, 22). This makes sense only if the flood of Noah's day was of worldwide dimensions.



3. In later chapters of Genesis, the Bible traces all the peoples of the earth to Noah and his three sons (Gen. 9:18-10:32). It is true, as the proponennts of the local flood point out, that these verses do not mention peoples beyond the rather limited area of the Near East. In that sense, the description is local. But neither do theses verses preclude a further explanation to include other nations! They do not say that these are all the people who desceded from noah. They do say that the world's people descended from him! "The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) Theses were the three sons of Noah and from them came the people who scattered over the earth" (Gen. 9:19-19). "From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood" (Gen. 10:32)



4. Other biblical references to the flood presuppose its universality or at least do not oppose this interpretation. There are quite a ferw such texts: Job 22:1516; Psalm 104:5-9; Isaiah 54:9; Hebrews 1:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5, 3:5-6."




Given the above arguments by Boice, many of which he quoted from another author (John D. Morris) , I must admit that I am leaning toward the flood as having been a global occurance if the Bible is to be consistant as a literary work. I plan to address some other points such as so-called flood geology and geneologiesin future entries. For now though, I am willing to discuss any opposing views on the global/local question if anyone is so interested.




7 comments:

Bavarian Orange Order said...

"From Eden to Exile" by David Rohl gives a reasonable-sounding explanation which supports a local flooding to the Tigris & Euphrates.

Jquip said...

I've not an opinion on this one. But I would offer some cautions. Point 2 is textually weak as the Hebrew can be read just as easily both ways. Point 3 doesn't mandate anything as either would be consistent with anthropology. There are issues of dating and the Aussie Abos; but nothing strikes me as dispositive to either camp. Point 4 I haven't looked into any further as the argument itself is too weak in it's own claim to be dispositive.

Point 1? Maybe, as a point of logical consistency. But then I don't know a thing about the arguments on the other side either.

GentleSkeptic said...

I'll just say this:

After the flood was over God promised never again to destroy the earth by flood … and this is a false promise if the flood to which it refers is local.

UNLESS, of course, the hearer of said Promise believes that local = global. In other words, if you think that where you live is the whole world, you'll think that any local phenomenon is 'global', and you'll record it as such.

I think we can be confident that Noah was unaware of the existence of the western hemisphere.

His Lordship The Gun-Toting Atheist said...

I think Boice makes a strong case that the text of Genesis refers to a global event.

This does not mean that I believe in the Flood, (you know I don't) but strictly based on the text, his analysis appears logical.

Stormbringer said...

A local flood theory is ludicrous. Not only could Noah just move instead of building the ark, but it's problematic with the rest of Scripture:

"...through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." (2 Pet 3:6-7, NASB)

So, will the coming judgment by fire be just a local event, too? Bible-believing Christians have no problems here, but compromisers have to say that Peter didn't know what he was talking about.

Timeless said...

"1. "The construction, outfitting and stocking of the ark would have been absurd if the flood were local..."

*Sure enough, such a project would have been absurd. Even if localized, the entire planet would have had animals. One note however is that typical construction of a boat or ship you have pictured. I've seen documentaries before that specify that the actual blueprints given by God were for a squared box like structure which was demonstrated in the documentary to be the best design for floating since the Ark never had to voyage anywhere.

"2. After the flood was over God promised never again to destroy the earth by flood(Gen. 8:21-22, 9:11, 15), and this is a false promise if the flood to which it refers is local."

*Clearly when you read those verses, it mentions destruction of the Earth again, not some localized valley or region.

"3. In later chapters of Genesis, the Bible traces all the peoples of the earth to Noah and his three sons (Gen. 9:18-10:32)."

*Sure enough many major religious beliefs and doctrines can be traced back to Mesopotamia. This would be consistant with the confusing of languages of the people then who were refusing to follow the command to spread out across the entire surface of the earth. They wanted to create a massive celebrated city for themselves with the Zuggurat or first pyramid at it's center.

"4. Other biblical references to the flood presuppose its universality or at least do not oppose this interpretation. There are quite a ferw such texts: Job 22:1516; Psalm 104:5-9; Isaiah 54:9; Hebrews 1:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5, 3:5-6."

*I believe even some of the fundamentalists question a global event, yet the other scriptures verify a global event. Even Jesus Christ made reference to the Genesis account as a factual event. Had it been a localized event or hoax, this Jesus who many consider their god would have set the record straight I'm sure.

Joe Crow said...

1. First of all, a local flood theory doesn't propose a small flood, it still proposes a rather large flood. Secondly, it hardly seems absurd that God would ask Noah to build an ark because what the skeptic of a local flood ignores is the obvious usefulness of the building of the ark as a warning to the people of the world. If God had told Noah to just migrate away from the flood area, the people would not have been warned of the impending judgment. Ultimately, they were without excuse in their rebellion against God, since the impending judgment was proclaimed to them for 100 years before it happened. God always gives a warning to those who will be judged, and Noah building the ark is the warning for this great deluge.


2. Yes, God does indeed promise to never again destroy the earth by flood. However, we need to be consistent. We also have a promise in the Creation Psalm (Psalm 104). In this Psalm, Psalm 104:9 says "You set a boundary that they may not pass over, So that they will not return to cover the earth." This is referring to when God created the oceans and land, and He separated the two. If we take into account this verse, it rules out the possibility of a flood in which the waters break these barriers and flood the entire earth. So the question we need to ask is...how much of the earth did it cover and what does God mean when He promises never to flood the earth again?
I think its most consistent to say that God will never flood the earth in such a way in which it imposes judgement on all men. This is consistent scripturally as it almost always qualifies the earth with 'of men' (in the flood account) making it clear that we are not talking about the entire earth, but only the region of earth which men had inherited. Sometimes it also qualifies the word 'earth' or 'world' with 'at that time'. In other passages in the Old Testament we also see this qualifier which in those passages always denoted a region of the world, not the entire globe.
And so what God is promising is to never judge the world of men by flood ever again - which is the type of flood which a local flood could have done since the world of men was only in that region 'at that time'.


3. So being as these verses simply do not mention other peoples, at most we can say "I don't know". But again, a local flood interpretation in which all men were judged because all men resided only in that area, would be consistent with these verses saying that all people descended from Noah.

4. Again, I would say with the qualifiers, these verses need not be interpreted as universal - in fact I would argue it is more consistent to be interpreted as local.