Joined: Sep. 2009
On page 12, the possibility of a local Flood was raised. In response to that, I would point out:
There is absolutely NO chance the Noahic Flood can be local....unless, as the late OEC professor of Old Testament Gleason Archer suggested in his book Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, the Bible is just flat-out in error about the Flood, period.
First, the Bible itself only points in ONE direction: Global Noahic Flood. Not local. Accept it or reject it, take it or leave it. Global Flood or No Flood. That's the only choice the Biblical data offers to you.
IOW, if the Bible is wrong about the Global Noahic Flood, you actually CANNOT salvage that situation by claiming it was just a local flood. Simply doesn't work that way.
And even the skeptics know the score on that situation. Notice what the Secular Blasphemy blog at Salon.com says.
|Why the Ark?|
One obvious question, often asked by global flood proponents, is: If the flood was only local, why should Noah and family have to build an ark to survive?
It would have been much easier to just relocate. Given the long warning, they could have relocated practically anywhere on the planet.
Also, why all the work to save the animals? Animal species would easily survive elsewhere.
Also, why birds? If the water started to rise, the birds would be better off flying away than staying inside a ship. This is certainly a strong argument against a local flood scenario. The internal logic of the Genesis story strongly implies a global flood.
Even if we leave this question aside, the Ark story is not much easier to defend from the perspective of a local flood than a global one.
It is the obvious fact that whoever wrote the Genesis flood legend was not a member of a sea-faring nation. Ancient Israel was not famous for its ships, and the description of the Ark shows that the author hadn't the faintest clue about how to make a seaworthy vessel. It is safe to say that the story would look very different had it been written in Phoenicia, Britain or, for that matter, Norway.
Anyone growing up by the sea in Norway, as I have, would learn the sad truth about wooden vessels: they leak. Always. A lot. Even a small wooden rowboat will accumulate so much water during a few hours in the water that you get very familiar with a scoop and, if you're not used to it, painful blisters in your hands.
A wooden sea vessel 140 meters (450 ft) long is simply impossible.
First, it would leak so much and so heavily that even a battery of modern engine pumps would be hard pressed to save it from a watery grave.
Second, the structure would not be strong enough to carry its own weight in calm water, and much less during a violent flood. Large wooden vessels have hardly been possible even in the industrial age, and then they needed to be reinforced with iron and of course they required constant pumping.
To the landlubber who wrote Genesis, pitch may sound like it's sufficient to make a boat watertight. It is not. Obviously, extrapolating experience with pitch on roofs that only had to sustain rain to what is needed for a boat is very inadequate. Wooden vessels must also be allowed to swell for a period in water before they are sea worthy. The Ark in Genesis didn't even go through this process. No wonder the Hebrews stayed on dry land....
|Where was the Flood?|
....The arguments against the flood outlined above are really just included for completeness, because there is one topic where the local flood scenario breaks down completely and proves to be almost equally absurd as the global flood:
the geographic location of the flood.
In debating flood proponents, I have had serious problems making them understand this very simple fact: a local flood requires a totally enclosed area, where all of the mountains or hills making up the enclosing rim around the flooded area must be higher than the flood itself.
A simple kitchen experiment will confirm this. You can try from here to eternity to fill up only half of the area of your kitchen sink with water, while allowing the other half to remain dry.
Without making some sort of wall, it is simply not possible. Given a chance to escape, water will run out of the enclosure. That is why we have rivers, and that's why the few land areas in the world lower than the sea level are not connected to the ocean by a channel or river.
Where was the local flood? Most casual Bible readers will assume this to be a silly question. Everybody knows that the Ark landed on Mt. Ararat. This is the reason fundamentalist Christians from time to time are engaged in the silly exercise of trying to find the Ark somewhere on this mountain.
Obviously, if the Ark landed on Mt Ararat, the local flood scenario is physically impossible.
This mountain is actually by far the highest in the whole region, with the highest peak 5,137 meters (16,854 ft) above sea level. If the water stood higher than the top of Mt Ararat, then only a small handful of peaks, like a few mountains in the Himalayas, were visible above the water. The flood would have to be global. End of story.
However, the Bible does not actually say that the Ark landed on Mt Ararat. It says:
Genesis 8:3,4 "The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat."
Ararat, in this text, does not describe a mountain, but a region:
"The name Ararat, as it appears in the Bible, is the Hebrew equivalent of Urardhu, or Urartu, the Assyro-Babylonian name of a kingdom that flourished between the Aras and the Upper Tigris rivers from the 9th to the 7th century BC." Encyclopædia Britannica, "Mount Ararat" (article no longer freely available online)
We actually find the region, or kingdom, mentioned in four different verses of the Bible (two of which reads the same):
Genesis 8:4 "and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat."
2 Kings 19:37 and Isaiah 37:38 "One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer cut him down with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king." (These two scriptures are the same)
Jeremiah 51:27 "Lift up a banner in the land! Blow the trumpet among the nations! Prepare the nations for battle against her; summon against her these kingdoms: Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz. Appoint a commander against her; send up horses like a swarm of locusts."
The Ararat area thus was a remote, but known, area to the Hebrew authors of Old Testament books. It corresponds, actually, to the region where we find Mt Ararat, so the tradition of placing the Ark on this mountain is not contrary to the Bible, but it must be noted that the quoted verse, in isolation, allows the Ark to land on any of the mountains in this area.
According to Black's Bible Dictionary, the Ararat area is
"A section of E[ast] Armenia E[ast] of the Araxes River, somewhat N[orth] of Lakes Van and Urmia, today belonging to Turkey. Ararat provides part of Euphrates' source." (M. S. Miller and J. L. Miller. 1973. Black's Bible Dictionary. London: A. and C. Black Limited. Page 31.)
If the reader is to take the Bible's word as fact, and accept that the Ark landed on some mountain in the Ararat area in East Armenia, then obviously the whole discussion about how to translate the Hebrew word 'har' (discussed later) is totally moot.
To adapt the old joke saying there is no such a thing as 'half a mile' in Australia, it is obvious that the Ararat area has no hills, only mountains. When the Bible says that the water rouse above the 'highest mountains' in this area - which actually is Mt Ararat itself - this makes a local flood scenario absolutely impossible. Look up this area on a map. Lake Van is 1,662 meters (5,452 ft) above sea level. The area is, as far as it's possible to see on a good map, more than 200 kilometers from any area as low as 500 meters above sea level, and twice as long to any area below 200 meters.
Naturally, any flood rising to such levels would have been a global disaster.
The local flood proponents still face an impossible scenario.The local flood believers thus have to relocate the flood to some other region.
Disregarding the exact geographic designation found of the Bible - the whereabouts of the Ararat area is known both from Babylonian and Bible sources - they go searching for some area where they can find room for a local flood and an ark. Somewhere, presumably, with hills but without mountains.
One favorite location for many local flood proponents is the Euphrates-Tigris valley, also known as Mesopotamia. This, they say, is an area without many tall mountains (at least in the southern part), and it is also not too far away from the Biblical lands. Presumably, not moving the Ararat area too far away from where it historically was is also a concern with these apologists, even though their thinking here seems a bit hard to understand.
Again, local flood proponents demonstrate a total lack of understanding of topology and geography.
If you look at a map of an area, and a river runs through it, you can know quite a bit about elevation even without further investigation. If a river runs from the north to the south, as the Euphrates and Tigris rivers generally do, you can be certain about one thing: the land will consistently tilt southwards. Following the river, at no part of the run will the land rise notably. If the land flattens, or especially rises, the river will have to run around it or form a lake that rises to the edge, and then allows the water to run on. This is pretty self-evident.
So, since the Mesopotamian valley contains two rivers, it necessarily cannot contain any mountains or other formations that can form an enclosure for a large flooded area. If it should rain so heavily that it makes the water rise temporarily in some area, the water will quickly escape through any opening. The Biblical flood lasted for many months, which is physically impossible without a totally enclosed area.
|We also have to ask how large the flooded area would have to be. |
While local flood proponents will have to demonstrate imaginative exegesis generally, it can't be seriously denied that the Genesis text insists that Noah and the other people on the Ark did not see land during many months when they sailed around on the water:
Genesis 8:3-5: "The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible."
As we can see, only some time after the Ark had landed on a mountain did other tops become visible. From this we can easily conclude that this mountain was the tallest in the region, except, presumably, the enclosing mountains that were too distant from the Ark to be visible.
A rule of thumb, well known to sea men, is that the distance to the horizon in nautical miles is 1.17 times the square root of your height of eye in feet. So, since the Ark was 45 feet high (and the window was at the top), we find that an observer would be able to see the horizon 7.85 nautical miles (14.5 km, 9 miles) away. What we are looking for, of course, is how far away an observer could see the enclosing mountains, and since there is no totally smooth crater top of comparative size anywhere in the world, the edge can't be expected to be totally smooth.
Also, since the water resided over a number of months, the relative height of these mountains must steadily have raised. (Gen 8:3 says: "The water receded steadily from the earth.") Yet, nobody on the Ark could see them, so it had to be outside the area that could be seen from the Ark.
Even if we assume the height of the flood enclosure to be no more than 45 feet (same as height of Ark), we would need a circular area with a radius of around 20 km (12.4 miles). That would mean 40 km either way. And this, of course, assumes that the Ark was totally immovable, standing in the exact middle of the flooded area. Is that possible in a turbulent, violent flood? It goes without saying that such a scenario is impossible. And it gets worse. Anyone who has forgotten to moor a small boat, or done it badly, will know that even in smooth waters, only a few hours later the boat will be a speck on the horizon. If it is windy, the situation will be even worse. And the Bible says:
Genesis 8:1 "But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded."
This wind blew for 150 days, and a big, rectangular vessel like the Ark would be strongly influenced by this wind (large boats are not allowed to enter narrow channels in strong wind, because they can easily be pushed off course). Even if we assume that the Ark only held a speed of one knot (unrealistically slow), this could take the ark more than 6500 km (4000 miles). That would actually allow the Ark to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 150 days. With a more realistic speed, the strong wind God sent would send the Ark around the Earth many times.
Of course, this presumes a global, not a local, flood, which is exactly what the Genesis text describes.
There's a lot more anti-local-Flood arguments offered in that article, but this will do for now.
So, for Christians, a key decision must be made. Will you choose to believe the Bible and believe in the Global Noahic Flood? Or will you disbelieve the Bible and abandon the entire Flood story period?
Those are your only two choices, and whichever choice you make will influence future choices, when the skeptics come a-callin' again WRT other Bible issues.