Friday, April 14, 2006

Re: What is your view of the Noahacian flood? #1


Thanks for your message and apologies for the delay. As is my policy, whenever I answer a private message on a creation/evolution/design topic, I copy it to my blog CreationEvolutionDesign (CED), after removing/changing the sender's personal identifying information. This is not an invitation to discuss this further privately as have a long-standing policy not to get involved in private discussions of creation/ evolution/ design issues. I have broken this post up into three parts because of its length.

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 3:25 AM
Subject: Hi; Question re: Your Site

AN>Hi. I recently stumbled across your blog -- very well done!

Thanks for your positive feedback, which is much appreciated.

AN>I think my position on many of the issues you discuss is similar to yours.

I briefly checked out your blog (from Googling your name) and it seems that we do have some things in common.

AN>I'm just curious, what is your view of the Noahacian flood? It seems that any position -- global, local but anthropological universal, or fully local, has problems.

I will summarise my position in a series of points on Noah's Flood (most of which I have posted on discussion groups over the years):

1. First, my basic position in Bible-science issues is that I regard both the Bible and nature as two books with the one Author:

"If we believe that the God of creation is the God of redemption, and that the God of redemption is the God of creation, then we are committed to some very positive theory of harmonization between science and evangelicalism. God cannot contradict His speech in Nature by His speech in Scripture. If the Author of Nature and Scripture are the same God, then the two books of God must eventually recite the same story." (Ramm B.L., "The Christian View of Science and Scripture," [1955], Paternoster: Exeter, Devon UK, 1967, reprint, p.25)

Therefore they cannot contradict each other when all the facts are known. If our interpretion of the Bible contradicts the evidence of nature (or vice-versa) then we need to change our interpretation of one or both.

2. I regard Genesis 1-11 as symbolic history, analogous to the Book of Revelation (i.e. real history, expressed in symbolic form):

"It is argued that the picture of God working like a potter with wet earth, anthropomorphically breathing life into man, constructing woman from a rib, with an idyllic garden, trees with theological significance, and a talking serpent, is the language of theological symbolism and not of literal prose. The theological truth is there, and this symbolism is the instrument of inspiration. We are not to think in terms of scientific and anti-scientific, but in terms of scientific and pre-scientific. The account is then pre-scientific and in theological symbolism which is the garment divine inspiration chose to reveal these truths for their more ready comprehension by the masses of untutored Christians. This is the view of James Orr who wrote: `I do not enter into the question of how we are to interpret the third chapter of Genesis-whether as history or allegory or myth, or most probably of all, as old tradition clothed in oriental allegorical dress- but the truth embodied in that narrative, viz. the fall of man from an original state of purity, I take to be vital to the Christian view.'" (Orr J., "The Christian View of God and the World," 1897, p.185, in Ramm, Ibid, pp.223-224).

This seems to me to be the position of the New Testament, e.g. the Apostle John's interpretation of the snake in Gen 3:1-14 as symbolic of Satan (Rev 12:9; 20:2).

3. Jesus (who was God: Mat 1:23; John 1:1,14; 8:58-59; 10:32-33; 20:27-28; Acts 20:28; Php 2:5-6, Col 2:9; Rom 9:5; Tit 2:13; etc), referred to Noah, the Ark and the Flood as though they were real and historical:

Mat 24:37-41: 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

The orthodox historical Christian position is that while Jesus in his human nature was limited in his knowledge (e.g. He grew in wisdom - Lk 2:52; and did not know who touched him in a crowd - Mk 5:30; His God nature would prevent Him from teaching anything false:

"The two-minds hypothesis. This may seem a promising way to understand the incarnation, but Morris knows the real test comes when trying to make sense of how Jesus can exemplify very human qualities at the same time that he has similar divine attributes that contradict those human qualities. In particular, Jesus as divine is omniscient, but as human he has limited knowledge. Hence the properties of omniscience and of limited knowledge are both predicated of one and the same person, and that is a contradiction. Moreover, one wonders whether at any moment of his earthly life the person Jesus knew everything or only some things. If everything, then how can Scripture say (Lk 2:52) that he grew in wisdom and knowledge? Morris answers that in Christ there were two minds (two distinct ranges of consciousness), one divine and one human. Christ possessed the eternal mind of God the Son, which knows all things. But he also possessed a `distinctly earthly consciousness that came into existence and grew and developed as the boy Jesus grew and developed.' [Morris T.V., "The Logic of God Incarnate," Cornell UP, 1986, p.103] The relation between the two minds was asymmetrical. That is, the divine mind knew and had access to everything the human mind knew, but the human mind had access to the divine only when the divine mind allowed it access. What Jesus knew through his human mind alone and apart from any access it had to his divine mind was only what was available to any other human living at that time. But since he was not merely human, Jesus had access to information that no mere human could know apart from divine revelation. [Ibid]." (Feinberg J.S., "The Incarnation of Jesus Christ," in Geivett R.D. & Habermas G.R., eds., "In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History," Apollos: Leicester UK, 1997, p.234. Emphasis original).

Note that in the gospel passage above, Jesus is prophesying His second coming, and moreover refers to what life was like in Noah's day before the Flood, which is not found in the Old Testament. I therefore conclude that Jesus was in His God nature teaching that there really was a Noah, an Ark and a Flood. So as a consistent Christian, I accept that there really was a Noah, an Ark and a Flood.

4. But there is also corroborating evidence of Noah's Flood being true, namely widespread ancient stories of a single great flood. Even Plato mentions it in one of his dialogues as "tradition" that although "human race has been repeatedly annihilated by floods and plagues and many other causes" there was one that was called "the flood" and "the cataclysm":

"LIFE AFTER THE FLOOD ... ATHENIAN: Do you think there is any truth in tradition? CLEINIAS: What sort of tradition do you mean? ATHENIAN : This: that the human race has been repeatedly annihilated by floods and plagues and many other causes, so that only a small fraction of it survived. CLEINIAS: Yes, of course, all that sort of thing strikes everyone as entirely credible. ATHENIAN: Now then, let's picture just one of this series of annihilations - I mean the effect of the flood. CLEINIAS : What special point are we to notice about it? ATHENIAN: That those who escaped the disaster must have been pretty nearly all hill- shepherds - a few embers of mankind preserved, I imagine, on the tops of mountains. ... And we can take it, can't. we, that the cities that had been built on the plains and near the sea were destroyed root-and-branch? CLEINIAS: Yes, we can. … ATHENIAN: Perhaps we can describe the state of mankind after the cataclysm like this: in spite of a vast and terrifying desolation, plenty of fertile land was available, and although animals in general had perished it happened that some cattle still survived, together with perhaps a small stock of goats. They were few enough, but sufficient to maintain the correspondingly few herdsmen of this early period. CLEINIAS: Agreed." (Plato, "The Laws," [1970], Saunders T.J., transl., Penguin: London, 1975, reprint, p.119-120)

And Ramm notes that the box-like construction and proportions of the Ark (see above 1:150 scale model) are credible, considering that nothing like it was not built until the 19th century:

"The Ark. Preliminary to discussing the flood it will be appropriate to discuss the ark described in Gen. 6. The word ark signifies a box (Hebrew, tebah; Greek, kibotos), not a boat-like structure of classical or modern times. It was composed of gopher wood (Hebrew, 'atse gopher; Greek, kuparissos) which is usually taken to be cypress wood. This is a light, durable wood. Alexander built his fleet at Babylon of this wood, and the doors of the church of St. Peter at Rome were made of cypress wood and are a thousand years old. It was also the wood used by the Phoenicians for their ships. The ark had cabins (Hebrew kinnim) or nests of cells. Their size is not indicated. but their function was (i) to separate the animals, and (ii) to supply the function of a modern bulkheading for bracing the ship. The ark was pitched (Hebrew, kopher; Greek, asphaltos). It has been suggested that this material was either the pitch of the cypress tree or bitumen, deposits of which have been found at Hit in the Euphrates valley above Babylon. The function of the pitch was to supply a flexible waterproofing. The ark was pitched inside and out and this served as modern caulking does. Being of a flexible nature it would yield to pressure without cracking and would stretch without pulling away from the wood. The dimensions of the ark were 300 x 50 x 30 cubits. Perhaps this was originally some Babylonian measurement of which the Hebrew cubit was the closest analogue. The actual length of the cubit varies from 18 inches to 25 inches. There were long cubits and short cubits and royal cubits and Egyptian cubits and Talmudic cubits; 22 inches was the legal cubit of the Talmudists. We can know the actual side only within limits. The dimensions of the ship are large and a vessel of such size was not built till modern times. The ratio of the dimensions of the ark are also modern, and modern ships have been built approximating the dimensions and the ratios (Celtic of the White Star Line, 1901, 700 x 75 x 49½; Great Eastern, 1858, 629 x 83, x 58). ? The ark had a door and three stories. The stories functioned similarly to the cabins in providing a division of animals and a bracing of the structure. The shape of the ark was boxy or angular, and not streamlined nor curved. With this shape it increased its carrying capacity by one-third. It was a vessel designed for floating, not for sailing. A model was made by Peter Jansen of Holland, and Danish barges called Fleuten were modelled after the ark. These models proved that the ark had a greater capacity than curved or shaped vessels. They were very sea-worthy and almost impossible to capsize. ... Suffice it to say, the ark was a reasonable structure. For its specific purpose it was of credible shape, credible size, and credible proportions. It was made from a wood well adapted for such a barge and was divided into stories and state-rooms for proper bracing. It apparently had some system of lighting and ventilation. All in all, the record of the ark bears witness to the credibility of the construction of such a ship, and we believe its features were matters of revelation to Noah who, living in the plains of Babylon, was a `North Dakota' sailor." (Ramm, Ibid, pp.156-158).

As for the date of the Flood, I agree with the archeologist John Bright that it was "far back in the Stone Age":

"[John] Bright granted that researchers had uncovered clear evidence of flooding in Mesopotamia, at Ur and Kish as well as Fara and Nineveh. Archeologists had produced unquestionable evidence that a deluge had interrupted occupation at Ur during the fourth millennium, for example - but that flood had not even disturbed the entire city, much less the whole region. Further analysis of deposits at Kish led to the conclusion that they were centuries younger than deposits at Ur. The sediments at Fara indicated an inundation earlier than the one at Kish but later than the one at Ur. Nineveh's flooding may have been temporally close to that of Ur. Bright concluded that none of these represented the flood of Genesis. Even at Ur the deposits before and after the flood indicated the same general civilization. Bright concluded that the Mesopotamian flood strata simply represented local inundations of the type that still occur from time to time. `Either Mesopotamian archeology has yielded no trace of Noah's Flood,' he wrote, `or else the Genesis narrative is but an exaggeration of a flood of purely local significance.' [Bright J., "Has Archaeology Found Evidence of the Flood?" Biblical Archeologist, Vol. 5, 1942, p.58] The latter alternative was difficult for him to accept because he believed that the flood tradition had been widely diffused. On the other hand, any proposal to date the flood in the fourth millennium B.C. ruled out the possibility that it could have been dispersed globally in light of the developing consensus that early settlement of the Western Hemisphere via the Bering Strait probably took place over a long period of time prior to 5000 B.C. Since archeology had provided no traces of the flood that Bright found convincing, he felt safe in assigning it a date far back in the Stone Age; he was unwilling to view the flood narrative as pure myth." (Young D.A., "The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church's Response to Extrabiblical Evidence," Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1995, p.220)

[Continued in part #2]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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