Saturday, April 15, 2006

Re: What is your view of the Noahacian flood? #3


----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones

Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 3:25 AM
Subject: Hi; Question re: Your Site

[Continued from part #2]

[c] "fully local" This has the least problems. A local Flood would avoid all the difficulties of a global (part #1) and anthropologically universal (part #2) Flood. For example, the water could drain away from a high local area like the plateau at the foothills of the Ararat range, and there would be no reason why there would be a lot of sediment (since sediment accumulates downstream on the flats where water slows):

"Arguments for a local flood. Although many Christians still believe in the universal flood, most of the recent conservative scholarship of the church defends a local flood. Those who defend a local flood believe that the time of the flood was some time prior to 4000 B.C. The waters were supplied by the rains from above and the ocean waters beneath. Some sort of geological phenomenon is indicated by the expression `and the fountains of the deep were broken up.' This caused the ocean waters to creep up the Mesopotamian valley. The waters carried the ark up to the Ararat range. The Hebrew text does not mean that the ark was deposited on the 17,000 foot summit of the peak, but that the ark rested somewhere on the Ararat range. It would have taken a special miracle to get Noah and his family down from such dizzy mountain heights where the cold would have been extreme. By the reversal of the geological phenomenon, the water is drained back from the valley. ... The purpose of the flood was to blot out the wicked civilization of Mesopotamia, and being a local flood of a short duration we would not expect to find any specific evidence for it, especially after the minimum of another six thousand years of weathering." (Ramm B.L., "The Christian View of Science and Scripture," [1955], Paternoster: Exeter, Devon UK, 1967, reprint, p.162).

By comparing scripture with scripture, it can be readily seen that (just as in our everyday conversation) universal-sounding language does not necesarily mean literally that:

"It cannot demonstrate that totality of language necessitates a universal flood. Fifteen minutes with a Bible concordance will reveal many instances in which universality of language is used but only a partial quantity is meant. All does not mean every last one in all of its usages. Psa. 22:17 reads: `I may tell all my bones,' and hardly means that every single bone of the skeleton stood out prominently. John 4:39 cannot mean that Jesus completely recited the woman's biography. Matt. 3:5 cannot mean that every single individual from Judea and Jordan came to John the Baptist. There are cases where all means all, and every means every, but the context tells us where this is intended. ... The universality of the flood simply means the universality of the experience of the man who reported it. When God tells the Israelites He will put the fear of them upon the people under the whole heaven, it refers to all the peoples known to the Israelites (Deut. 2:25). When Gen. 41:57 states that all countries came to Egypt to buy grain, it can only mean all peoples known to the Egyptians. Ahab certainly did not look for Elijah in every country of the earth even though the text says he looked for Elijah so thoroughly that he skipped no nation or kingdom (1 Kings 18:10). From the vantage point of the observer of the flood all mountains were covered, and all flesh died. We must concur that: `The language of the sacred historian by no means necessarily implies that the flood overspread the whole earth. Universal terms are frequently used in a partial and restricted sense in Scripture.' ["JFB Bible Commentary," 1870, Vol. I, p.98]" (Ramm, Ibid, p.164. Emphasis in original)

There remains one problem with the local Flood interpretation, Gen 7:19-20; 8:3-5, which says that "The waters ... covered the mountains [Heb. hills] to a depth of more than twenty feet" towards the end of the Flood, "the tops of the mountains became visible" clearly implying the mountains had been completely covered:

"19They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. ? 3The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, 4and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible."

Personally, I consider that the interpretation that this is from Noah's perspective looking out of the Ark:

"Genesis 7:19,20: `And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.' Some Genesis commentators have seized on these passages to assert that the high mountains of the whole earth were covered to a depth of fifteen cubits (about 22 feet). Where the water would have come from is problematical, as well as what became of it. Measuring any depth at all raises a question. How would the passengers from inside the ark have any idea what the depths were? ... Again, the word for `mountains' and `hills' is the same in Hebrew. If the flooding was restricted to the region of the Mesopotamian valley, then the `mountains' submerged by the flood could have been the lower mountains of the region surrounding the valley, or it may signify the lower foothills at the beginning of a mountain range. As to the language used to describe the flood, it would make no difference whether the flood, in fact, was global or local. From the standpoint of the passengers on the ark, the description is entirely true and accurate in either case. These verses do not oblige us to ponder whether the Rockies, or the Andes, or the Urals, or the Himalayas were under water. Considering that mountains were not inundated by the flood, as the evidence indicates, in no way should that impugn the accuracy or inerrancy of Scripture. From Noah's and Shem's view point, the text describes their situation and surroundings in terms we might have used had we been passengers on the ark ourselves." (Fischer D., "The Origins Solution: An Answer in the Creation-Evolution Debate," Fairway Press: Lima OH, 1996, pp.283-284)

is perfectly adequate. Particularly when the Flood account (Genesis 6-9) is either on "Tablet 3 ... The histories of Noah" or on "Tablet 4 ... The histories of the sons of Noah" :

"Accordingly the present writer feels justified in following Wiseman [Wiseman P.J., "New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis," 1958, pp.53ff] in the assertion that Genesis contains in the first thirty-six chapters a series of tablets whose contents were linked together to form a roughly chronological account of primeval and patriarchal life written from the standpoint of a Mesopotamian cultural milieu. ... The tablets that may be isolated will be seen to have a title, a residuum of textual matter, and a colophon, along with certain additional features .... The sources can be described briefly as follows:
Tablet 1: Gen. 1:1-2:4. The origins of the cosmos
Tablet 2: Gen. 2 :5-5:2. The origins of mankind
Tablet 3: Gen. 5: 3-6:9a. The histories of Noah
Tablet 4: Gen. 6:9b-10:1. The histories of the sons of Noah
Tablet 5: Gen. 10:2-11:10a. The histories of Shem
Tablet 6: Gen. 11:10b-11:27a. The histories of Terah
Tablet 7: Gen. 11 :27b-25:12. The histories of Ishmael
Tablet 8: Gen. 25:13-25:19a. The histories of Isaac
Tablet 9: Gen. 25:19b-36:1. The histories of Esau
Tablet 10: Gen. 36:2-36:9. The histories of Esau
Tablet 11: Gen. 36:10-37:2. The histories of Jacob
.... The present writer is of the opinion that the foregoing classification of material represents the genuine literary sources underlying the first thirty-six chapters of Genesis." (Harrison R.K., "Introduction to the Old Testament," [1969], Tyndale Press: London, 1970, p.548)

depending on whether the colophon "these are the generations" (KJV) is the header or footer of the tablet. But either way, the Bible itself indicates that the Flood account was based on an eyewitness testimony.

However, John H. Walton (whose argument is that "If we are to reach an understanding of an ancient text such as Genesis 1 [and presumably also Genesis 6-9], we have to be able to think about the issues the way the ancients would have") provides an interesting alternative explanation, namely that to Noah's "an ancient Near Eastern mindset", "the mountains of Ararat" were not regarded as mountains but as the pillars of "the heavens":

"[Genesis 8:3-5] Tops of the mountains visible. This is the most difficult statement to explain for those arguing that the text does not require a global flood. In saying that the tops of the mountains became visible, this verse conveys that the tops, not just the flanks of the mountains, had been obscured. ... If it were not for 8:3-5, an interpreter can easily claim that the face value of the text does not demand a geographically global flood. All of the other statements are compatible with a flood of the known populated world. ... We must still consider whether 8:3-5 strikes us the way it does because we are thinking in terms of our understanding of the world. Would this text have meant something different if we could read it with an ancient Near Eastern mindset? ... In the Mesopotamian worldview the known world was comprised of a single continent fringed with mountains (such as the Zagros mountains in the east and the mountains of Ararat in the north) and ringed by the cosmic sea. The fringe mountains were believed to hold up the heavens and have roots in the netherworld. In the east, the mountain primarily associated with this role is Mount Masu. ... What happens if we try to read the Flood narrative against the background of this sort of worldview? ... Is it possible that the ancient writers did not count the mountains at the fringes of the world among the `high mountains' that the water covered? Cosmic mountains were places of the gods and would be impervious to flood waters sent by the gods. In this scenario, the ark drifts to the edge of the known world and rests against the mountains of Ararat (or perhaps on the foothills of Ararat). Noah views this as the edge of the world, just as some before Columbus's day believed they could reach the edge of the world. There the ark sits while the water recedes and the tops of the mountains in the occupied portion of the continent become visible. This means that when the waters totally dissipate, the ark is at the foot of the Ararat chain. The logic of not including the fringe mountains is that they were believed to support the heavens, and the waters are not seen as encroaching on or encountering the heavens. This way of thinking yields a flood of the then- known world (with boundaries as described, for instance, in the Sargon Geography and in the list of Noah's descendants in Gen. 10); it covered all the elevated places that were within eyesight of the occupants of the ark. Though this would be a geographically limited flood, it could still be anthropologically universal if people had not yet spread beyond this region. One of the advantages of seeking out views such as this is that they allow us to affirm the truth of the text without getting tied up in complicated logistical and scientific discussions." (Walton J.H., "Genesis," The NIV Application Commentary, Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2001, pp.326-328) .

Finally, I wish to add a fourth position (mine), [d] "geographically and anthropologically local but theologically universal." That is, I think that both the YEC global Floodists and the OEC local Floodists are half-right and half-wrong. The OEC local Floodists are right about the Flood being geographically and anthropologically local, and the YEC global Floodists are right that the language is universal. My proposal is that the Flood story started off as a factual, eye-witness account by Noah or one of his sons, but was later recast by Moses (or even Noah) in the literary form of a re-creation epic, to teach universal theological lessons of sin, judgment, mercy, salvation, etc. The evidence is is the deliberate "series of parallels between the events of [Genesis] chs. 8-9 and those of ch. 1 in their literary order ... Ch. 1 describes the original beginning, while chs. 8-9 describe a new beginning after the flood":

"[Gen ]8:1 ? wind. The Hebrew word translated `Spirit' in 1:2 is here rendered `wind,' and introduces a series of parallels between the events of chs. 8-9 and those of ch. 1 in their literary order: Compare 8:2 with 1:7; 8:5 with 1:9; 8:7 with 1:20; 8:17 with 1:25; 9:1 with 1:28a; 9:2 with 1:28b; 9:3 with 1:30. Ch. 1 describes the original beginning, while chs. 8-9 describe a new beginning after the flood." (Barker K., ed., "The NIV Study Bible," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1985, p.16).

I hope this has been of some help. As I said at the start, my policy is not to get involved in private discussions of creation/evolution/design issues. I try to `kill two birds with one stone' by converting my answers into blog posts, so that others can benefit and I have an additional incentive to be far more comprehensive than I would normally be in a private post. Once again, thanks for your question.

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

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