Trusting the Bible has never been more difficult than it is today. And that’s kind of strange actually. In the past century we’ve experienced some amazing wins for the Bible such as finding the dead sea scrolls and proving that King David was a real historical figure. But the Bible continues to sit in the interrogation room, constantly being questioned on historical, scientific and moral grounds. Two of the most common questions in the area of science have to do with the book of Genesis. Was the world really made in 6 days, less than 10,000 years ago? And, was there really a global flood? And many people think the Bible falls short in it’s answer to both of these questions. Others—namely, many Christians who have put their faith in Jesus—have chosen to believe the Bible against all the evidence. The question I have been asking in this series is, can we trust both, science and the Bible?
How can we really know there was a global flood?
First off, I will freely admit, I am not an expert. I have a really great book, an insatiable need to ask questions and seek out answers, and some solid googling skills, and that’s about it. My goal here is not to prove anything, but simply to suggest a possible interpretation of Scripture that remains faithful to the Bible while lending credence to science at the same time.
The question I will be answer is, is there sufficient evidence to believe that Noah’s flood was more than an allegory, and that it covered the entire globe? There are three different sources of information we need to pay attention to when it comes to this question: History, Science, and the Bible. Let’s go.
Nearly every ancient civilization has a tradition of a flood account of some kind that wiped out all of mankind. These ancient records number in the hundreds, and their similarities are compelling evidence that they, at least most of them, are describing the same event. The percentages beside each question below is the percentage of the recorded ancient flood accounts that have that particular element in its story. For example, in question number 5, 67% of the ancient flood accounts teach that animals were saved from the flood.
- Was there a favored family? 88%
- Was the flood due to the wickedness of man? 66%
- Was the flood global? 95%
- Was survival due to a boat? 70%
- Were animals also saved? 67%
- Did survivors land on a mountain? 57%
- Were birds sent out? 35%
- Was the rainbow mentioned? 7%
- Did survivors offer a sacrifice? 13%
- Were specifically eight persons saved? 9%
That we have hundreds of ancient flood accounts which tell basically the same story affirms that, “They all derive from the same source—an actual event,” (Creation Answer Book, p. 84). There really was a flood that affected nearly every civilization in the world. This helps justify our confidence in Scriptural flood story. But it isn’t all we have to reckon with.
Scientists are quick to point out that a global flood would not have worked the way Genesis seems to tell us it did. Here are just a few of the top objections to a global flood.
- All the animals around the world would not have fit on the ark.
- How did all the animals make the long journey across the water from their native continents to the ark, and back again?
- Where did enough water come from to cover the tallest mountains by 15 cubits, and where did all that water go when it subsided?
These are difficult questions to answer, and have caused many people to second guess whether what the Bible teaches is really true. So let’s look at what exactly the Bible tells us about this great flood.
To repeat our original question, is there sufficient evidence to believe that Noah’s flood was more than an allegory, and that it covered the entire globe? So far we know that a large scale flood is clearly not a myth or allegory, but a historical event, because nearly every ancient culture hosts a catastrophic flood story in their historic records. But we also know that a global flood is scientifically impossible. And I want to look at the Bible to help answer the question of a global flood. I mentioned before that nearly every civilization has a record of a world-wide flood. What I did not mention is that almost every civilization during the time of Noah, “Was largely confined to the fertile crescent,” (Creation Answer Book, p. 86). “The fertile crescent is the region in the Middle East… from the Persian Gulf, through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and northern Egypt…” Just about everybody on the planet lived there. So the question I want to pose is, is it possible that Noah’s flood was actually a giant regional flood that did not cover the entire globe, but did destroy nearly all mankind, since almost all of mankind lived in the fertile crescent?
Does Scripture really say it was a “global” flood?
If Scripture clearly says that God flooded the entire globe, then we have a predicament. Science tells us the impossibility of a global flood, yet scripture still says it really happened:
“I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Gen. 6:13).
But when we look at all of Scripture, it becomes reasonable to interpret this verse as referring to the “known world,” rather than the globe. There are other places in Scripture that talk about the “whole world” which we know are not really referring to the whole world:
“Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.” (Gen. 41:57)
“And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.” (1 Kings 10:24)
These verses are clearly not talking about the globe, but the surrounding nations. And this verse in Genesis can be read the same way.
Was a global flood necessary?
If God’s purpose was to destroy mankind, it would not have been necessary to flood the entire planet. If nearly all mankind was confined to the fertile crescent at this time, which is basically the corners where Africa and Asia meet, then the flood could have been much smaller and still destroyed mankind. This was a large scale flood, and as far as it’s destruction, caused far more damage and took far more lives than any other flood in the history of the world. But it could have done all of that without flooding the globe.
Shouldn’t we just accept the Flood as a miracle instead of trying to explain it scientifically?
If it was a miracle, then of course we should. It doesn’t seem to me, though, to be written primarily like a miraculous event. That there was somehow enough water to cover every square inch of the planet 15 cubits above the tallest mountains, that all the animals were miraculously transported from 7 different continents and then transported back, that all the animals survived away from their natural climates and diets for an entire year, and for all of the water to somehow subside and go somewhere and not turn ours into a permanent water planet, are all things we have to deduct from the story. None of those things are mentioned in Scripture, but we know they would have been necessary, so we assume that they took place miraculously. But usually if there is a miracle, the Bible is clear that it was a miracle. My question is, does Scripture communicate this story to us in such a way as to expect us to assume all of these details really did take place, and took place miraculously?
The “why” is more important the “how”:
The point of the flood story in Genesis is not to give us a reason to ask questions and seek truth. These are just modern hurdles we have to clear so that we can see what God is really trying to say to us. So what do we actually learn about God’s character when we look at the great flood that killed just about everybody?
God loves family.
As we talked about last week, the reason for the flood, according to the Bible, is that godly men married ungodly women and their hearts were turned away from the Lord because of it. They abandoned their faith and convictions, and their children reeked havoc throughout the earth. Noah’s flood teaches us that who you marry and how you raise your children matters to God.
God loves all life.
As Christians, we believe that people have a place of dignity that animals will never have, because we we are created in God’s image. But this does not mean we do not care for and respect animals. Our God is a pro-life God, which means He is for all life. From conception to death, from people to ants, life matters to God.
God is merciful.
When I say God is merciful, you might think that I’m talking about the rainbow, where God promised to never destroy everyone again. This is certainly mercy. But what I’m talking about is that God didn’t destroy everyone. He let Noah and His family survive and start over. This God who “regretted that He made man” (Gen. 6:6-7), did not bring a complete end to all of us. He spared some of us. And this is a pattern repeated over and over throughout the Bible (Jer. 5:18, Ez. 20:17, Amos 9:8). No matter how sinful and wicked mankind becomes, we matter to God.
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Read the rest of this series: