----- Original Message -----
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Sunday, September 10, 2006 10:01 PM
Subject: why creation?
Continued from part #1
[Graphic: Lake Van region south of Mt Ararat]
>This is the same book that expects us to believe that a god can make people, but not be responsible for how they behave.
That is correct. The God of the Bible can not only "make people" but also can and does give them a free will so that they are "responsible for how they behave".
>It is the book that tells us that a 600 year old man gathered two of all the kinds of animals in the world put them on a big boat, floated around with them for 10 months and then all the animals somehow got back to their natural habitats.
No. The Bible does not say "two of all the kinds of animals in the world" (my emphasis). Even the main English translations do not have "world" in the Genesis flood account (Gen. 6-8) but "earth." And as the late Old Testament theologian Gleason L. Archer pointed out, "the Hebrew text does not necessarily imply a universal flood. .... the Hebrew 'eres, translated consistently as `earth' in our English Bibles, is also the word for `land'" and "There is another term tebel, which means the whole expanse of the earth, or the world as a whole" but "Nowhere does tebel occur in this account, but only 'eres, in all the statements which sound quite universal in the English Bible":
"Noah's Ark and the Flood As to the Great Deluge of Genesis 6-8 ... the comparative lack of geologic evidence for a world-wide cataclysm has given rise to doubts as to the universality of the Flood. .. even staunch conservative apologists ... have defended the theory of a flood restricted to the cradle of the human race in Mesopotamia ... the Hebrew text does not necessarily imply a universal flood. .... In explanation of this assertion, it needs to be pointed out that the Hebrew 'eres, translated consistently as `earth' in our English Bibles, is also the word for `land' (e.g., `the land of Israel,' `the land of Egypt'). There is another term tebel, which means the whole expanse of the earth, or the world as a whole. Nowhere does tebel occur in this account, but only 'eres, in all the statements which sound quite universal in the English Bible (e.g., 7:4, 10, 17, 18, 19). Thus, Genesis 6:17c can be rendered: `...everything that is in the land shall die'-that is, in whatever geographical region is involved in the context and situation." (Archer G.L., "A Survey of Old Testament Introduction," Moody Press: Chicago IL, 1964, pp.192-194. Emphasis original).
Therefore, if Noah's flood was large but local, e.g. in the Lake Van region south of Mt Ararat (see graphic above and also this Landsat image from Wikipedia), as I posted to the Calvin Reflector on 17-Feb-97 (see also 03-Mar-97):
[...] I do not necessarily favour this view, preferring the Lake Van theory:
"Similar problems are immediately encountered when attempts are made to recover and identify the ark used by Noah to escape from the worst effects of the Flood. The mountains of Ararat, the traditional resting-place of the ark, can quite possibly be identified with the Urartu of Assyrian inscriptions, corresponding to the neighborhood of Lake Van in modern Armenia. However, the other attempts to locate the Biblical Ararat have witnessed archaeological activity in Iranian and Russian territory, as well as that of Turkey." (R. K. Harrison, "Introduction to the Old Testament", Tyndale Press: London, 1970, p100)
Lake Van has a surface area of 1,443 square miles and is 330 feet deep. It is in a depression was formed by movements of the earth's crust, probably in the Pleistocene Epoch (2,500,000 to 10,000 years ago), the lower bound of which would place it within the time of Noah's Flood. Its catchment area exceeds 5,790 square miles, forming the second largest interior basin of Turkey. The area is geologically active, the lake having been dammed by a lava flow:
"Van, Lake The largest body of water in Turkey and the second largest in the Middle East, Lake Van lies in the region of eastern Anatolia near the border of Iran. It covers an area of 1,443 square miles (3,738 square kilometres) and is more than 74 miles across at its widest point. Known to the ancient Greek geographers as Thospitis Lacus or Arsissa Lacus, its modern Turkish name, Van Golu, is derived from Van or Chauon, the name of the capital of the Urartian kingdom that flourished on the lake's eastern shore between the 10th and 8th centuries BC. Roughly triangular in shape, the lake lies in an enclosed basin; its brackish waters are unsuitable for either drinking or irrigation. The salt water allows for no animal life save the darekh (related to the European bleak, a small soft-finned river fish of the carp family), a freshwater fish that has adapted to a saline environment.
Physiography. Lake Van occupies the lowest part of a vast basin bordered by high mountains to the south, by plateaus and mountains to the east, and by a complex of volcanic cones to the west. The depression was formed by movements of the earth's crust either in the Late Tertiary Period (26,000,000 to 7,000,000 years ago) or else (more probably) in the Pleistocene Epoch (2,500,000 to 10,000 years ago). During the latter epoch a lava flow from the Nemrut volcano extended for nearly 37 miles across the southwestern end of the basin, blocking westward drainage to the Murat River and thereby transforming the depression into a lake basin without outlet.
Lake Van is divided into two sections, the main body of water being separated from its much shallower northern extension by a narrow bottleneck-shaped passage. Its shores are generally steep and lined with cliffs; the southern shore is extremely sinuous and eroded. The waters are dotted with islands, including Gadir, the largest, in the north-Carpanak in the east; and Aktamar and Atrek in the south. The main body of the lake to the south is much deeper than its northern section, with the greatest depths exceeding 330 feet along the southern shore.
Hydrography. Lake Van's catchment area exceeds 5,790 square miles- it forms the largest interior basin of Turkey except for that of the central Anatolian region. The lake is fed by rainfall and meltwater as well as by several tributaries, notably the Bendimahi and Zilan rivers, which flow in from the north, and the Karasu and Micinger rivers, which enter the lake from the east." (Erinc S., "Van, Lake", Encyclopaedia Britannica, Benton: Chicago, 15th edition, 1984, 19:20-21).
Lake Van meets all the Biblical requirements for a local Flood. It is in the mountain country of ancients Urartu, and being high above sea level, it would solve the problem of where the water drained to. The whole area is recently geologically unstable and it would not be hard to imagine geological movements that blocked water flow to create a basin and then later unblocked to drain the water off again. Any sediments from the Flood would either be at the bottom of Lake Van or were flushed out by the when the block was removed. [...]
then the many logistic and other problems of a global flood largely disappear.
As per my previous blog post on Noah's flood, the bottom-line reason why as a Christian I believe that there really was a Noah, an ark and a flood, is because 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.
and indeed added information which is not contained in the Old Testament account about what the "days of Noah" were like. Now if Jesus was not God, then Christianity would be false and the question of the reality of Noah's flood would be irrelevant. But since Christianity is true, then Jesus was (and is) God, and therefore there really was a Noah, an ark and a flood.
Which is not to say that there are not good evidential reasons for believing that there really was a Noah's flood. Two in particular are:
1) "Noah who, living in the plains of Babylon, was a `North Dakota' sailor'" yet "The Ark ... For its specific purpose ... was of credible shape, credible size, and credible proportions":
"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 49 ½; 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, B.L., "The Christian View of Science and Scripture,"  Paternoster: Exeter, Devon UK, 1967, reprint, p.156-158. Emphasis original)
2) As the German liberal Old Testament theologian Claus Westermann points out (and finds "truly astonishing"), that "everywhere on earth we find stories of a great primeval flood" which "agree in their major features, such as the destruction of the human race and the deliverance of an individual, while exhibiting characteristic differences" in particular that "the decision of the gods (or of a single god) to destroy the human race is found only in the flood stories of the advanced civilizations" (my emphasis):
"THE FLOOD NARRATIVE OUTSIDE ISRAEL The flood story is found throughout the world. Like the creation narrative, it is part of our basic cultural heritage. It is truly astonishing: everywhere on earth we find stories of a great primeval flood. For a long time, scholars knew of scattered flood narratives only among the high civilizations of the ancient Near East, above all the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh epic. New research has shown, however, a whole history of flood traditions to be surveyed throughout the Near East. Furthermore, a wealth of flood traditions among primitive civilizations has been discovered; these agree in their major features, such as the destruction of the human race and the deliverance of an individual, while exhibiting characteristic differences, so that, for example, the decision of the gods (or of a single god) to destroy the human race is found only in the flood stories of the advanced civilizations." (Westermann, C., "Genesis: A Practical Commentary", Green D.E., transl., Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1987, pp.51-52)
Continued in part #3.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol) .
Genesis 1:14-19. 14And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening, and there was morning-the fourth day.