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The Flood: Not Global, Barely Local, Mostly Theological, Pt. 1


"Science and the Sacred" is pleased to feature essays from various guest voices in the science-and-religion dialogue. Today's entry was written by Paul Seely. Paul Seely is likely well known to
serious students of the intersection of the OT and the ANE. He has
written numerous pieces in several venues, including Westminster Theological Journal and Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (formerly Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation).
He has also delivered numerous papers at the annual meetings of the
American Scientific Affiliation. His lifelong area of focus is Genesis
1-11. The book Inerrant Wisdom was published in 1989 through the non-profit organization he founded, Evangelical Reform, Inc.


Part One: Noah’s Flood was not global


Data from various scientific disciplines provides a clear indication that Noah’s Flood did not cover the globe of the earth. Before considering that data, however, we must first determine a rough earliest probable date for the Flood. If the Flood is an actual
historical event, it must touch down in the empirical data of history
somewhere. We can make a rough approximation of its date from the two
genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11. At one end is Adam, whose culture is
Neolithic and therefore can be dated no earlier than around 9,000 or
10,000 B.C. At the other end is Abraham who can be dated to
approximately 2000 B.C. In both genealogies the Flood occurs in the
middle of these two ends, and therefore roughly at 5500 or 6000 B.C. An
even clearer indication of the Flood’s date is implied by the statement
that shortly after the Flood, Noah planted a vineyard. This implies the
growing of domesticated grapes, which do not show up in the
archaeological record until c. 4000 B.C.1 The biblical Flood is therefore probably not earlier than 4000 or maybe 5000 B.C.2


What evidence is there then that there was no global Flood at any time since 5000 B.C.?


The first piece of evidence is geological. Christian geologists have given various scientific reasons why the Flood was not global.3 I will mention just one. From 9000 B.C. to the present, the only rocks in northern Mesopotamia which were made by rivers or oceans are along the river banks. This indicates that the only flooding which has
affected northern Mesopotamia in the last 11,000 years is from the
overflow of rivers.4

The second line of evidence is from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 ice core. The very close agreement of three independent, seasonally based, non-radiometric indicators of annual layers makes the age of the ice sheet on Greenland indisputably 11,000 years old, and the agreement of
two of those indicators adds another 100,000 years. Close examination
shows that the ice core is composed of fresh water from top to bottom.
There is not a single layer of ice in it or in the ground under it
composed of seawater nor any silt deposits such as a flood would leave.
Not a single layer gives evidence of having melted and refrozen. This
means no ocean water has ever stood over it or under it. Consequently,
this ice core falsifies the idea that there was a global flood in the
time of Noah.5

We can also consult archaeology. Before we do, however, we must briefly point out that carbon-14 dating has been fundamentally validated by comparison with other known dates. It fundamentally agrees with the tree ring record of American bristlecone pine going back to
6400 B.C. and with the tree ring record of European oak going back to
8480 B.C.6 The carbon-14 dates on these two different
sequences rise as the number of tree rings rise and are in such very
close agreement with each other that they convinced Gerald Aardsma,
Ph.D. specializing in carbon dating, and a teacher at the Institute for
Creation Research for 6 years, that Carbon-14 dating is reliable back
to c. 9300 B.C.7

With the validity of C-14 dating established back to at least c. 9000 B.C., we can now ask, "Is there any archaeological evidence for a Flood in the Near East subsequent to 4000 or 5000 B.C.?" The short answer is that the only evidence of serious flooding in the Near East
during that time period is from riverine floods.

When tells in the Near East which date from 5000 to the time of Abraham are examined, no evidence of a global flood is found. In fact, overlapping layers of occupation, one on top of the other, often with the remains
of mud-brick houses in place, are found intact spanning the entire
period. No matter what specific date one might put on the flood after
5000 B.C., there were sites in the Near East at that date where people
lived and remained undisturbed by any serious flood. In other words,
not only is there no evidence of a flood that covered the Near East,
there is archaeological evidence that no flood covered the Near East between 5000 and the time of Abraham.

In fact there are continuous cultural sequences which overlap each other from 9500 to 3000 B.C. and down into the times of the patriarchs and later.8

The empirical data of geology, glaciology, and archaeology, as interpreted by virtually all scientists qualified in these areas of study, clearly testify that no flood covered the entire globe or even the entire Near East at any time in the last 11,000 years.

The biblical flood story is likely based on more local events, which we will explore in my next post.

1. Jane M. Renfrew, “Vegetables in the Ancient Near East Diet,” CANE 1:192; Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World (2d ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 134

2. For more details see Paul H. Seely, “Noah’s Flood: Its Date, Extent, and Divine Accommodation,” Westminster Theological Journal 66 (2004) 291-293.

3. Glenn Morton, “Why the Flood was not Global,” http://home.entouch.net/dmd/gflood.htm; Donald C. Boardman, “Did Noah’s Flood Cover the entire World, No,” in Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., The Genesis Debate: Persistent Questions about Creation and the Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990) 210-229. Wayne Ault, "Flood," Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976) 2:556-563; Davis Young, Creation and the Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977) 176-210.

4. Personal communication from Glenn Morton verified by geological maps.

5. Paul H. Seely, “The GISP2 Ice Core: Ultimate Proof that Noah’s Flood was not Global,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 55 (2003) 252-60, available at http://www.asa3.org/aSA/PSCF/2003/PSCF12-03Seely.pdf.

6. M. Spurk, M. Friedrich, J. Hofmann, S. Remmele, B.Frenzel, H. H. Leuschner, and B. Kromer, "Revisions and Extension of the Hohenheim Oak and Pine Chronologies: New Evidence About the Timing of the Younger Dryas/Preboreal Transition," Radiocarbon 40 (1998) 1107- 1116.

7. Gerald Aardsma, "Radiocarbon, Dendrochronology and the Date of the Flood," in Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism (ed. Robert E. Walsh and Chris L. Brooks; Pittsburgh, PA: The Fellowship, 1990) 1-10; Gerald Aardsma, "Tree-ring dating and multiple ring growth per year," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 29
(March 1993) 184-189.

8. The two sites, Abu-Hureyra in Syria and Mehrgarh in Pakistan, by themselves, show continuous overlapping occupation from 9500 to 3000 B.C. Andres M. T. Moore, G. C. Hillman, and A. J. Legge, Village on the Euphrates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 491-93; Frank R. Allchin and Bridget Allchin, “Prehistory and the Harrapan Era,” The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India (ed. Francis Robinson; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 71; Dilip K. Chakrabarti, India: An Archaeological History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 126-36.

For another interesting discussion of science and faith, head over to "Jesus Creed" for their discussion of the question: "What effect does your approach to science have on your ability to be a missional witness in your communities? Will people set foot in the door and feel welcome?"

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Jason,

There is a Preterist gathering out in Baytown this coming Fri, Sat and Sun. It's put on by Tim King of the Presence Ministry and I hope to get out there either Friday or Sat. I don't agree with some of their positions but it might be a good chance to meet some other Preterist. If you get a chance you might want to drop in and meet some of them.

Blessings

Norm
Hey Jason,
Welcome to the site.You'll be happy to know your argument is the same one futurist use in refuting preterism.

Matthew 24: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

The Black Death
is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population, reducing the world's population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400.

Some scholars maintain that the definition of the Holocaust should also include the Nazis' systematic murder of millions of people in other groups, including ethnic Poles, Romani, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents.[4] By this definition, the total number of Holocaust victims would be between 11 million and 17 million people.

Josephus claims
that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege at AD 70.

Surely this is proof that "the great tribulation" of Matthew 24 cannot be referring to AD 70.

Please see Problems with a Global Flood by Mark Isaak

Here's a teaser for you...Were dinosaurs and other extinct animals on the ark?
When Jesus is speaking in Matt 24:21, I do not think he is specifically referring to numbers. He says that it would have been better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for Jerusalem on the day of Judgment. Its because the Tribulation of 66-70 was the period of Divorce, not because of a numerical system of counted dead - at least Scripturally speaking. Josephus also accounts people eating their babies. The Sicarri(sp) were killing people left and right in the city for no reason. The Temple was filled with corpses. Blood ran through the streets. Those captured from Jerusalem were crucified in public sight in many different positions and arrangements as a sign of what awaited them if they tried to escape starvation and catapults. It was also the time during Neronian persecutions of Christians in Rome when he set his sights on Jerusalem.

Rome was also "plunged into darkness" during the Year of the Four Emperors where chaos reigned again via civil wars and national instability. Not for nothing, but Satan was also the source of power of Rome (Rev 13). Even the Christians would suffer as witnesses for Jesus Christ as their testimony of love and forgiveness was met with angry mobs with torture in mind. I'm sure I could find dozens of other examples as to how 66-70 AD was the Great Tribulation. If we are going by sheer numbers then we are out of luck in hopes of knowing when that was because what if some nut kills 100 million people tomorrow? And then 10 years later someone does 200 million? Obviously the Great Tribulation is a broader than a numbers game.

I don't know if dinosaurs were on the ark. Were bumblebees, penguins and spider-monkeys on it too? Who knows these things? As a FP, all of this is new to me and personally, seems unwarranted. That's all I'll say about it though. As the "new guy" here I don't want to become anyone's pariah, that's why I am not a futurist or PP because they just bash each other (and us).
John,

Since Beyond Creation Science focuses on the Biblical argument for a local flood, Mark Isaak's article covers a lot of issues we purposefully avoided.

One sobering fact that Isaak's does not consider. One male elephant would require an ark load of hay and an ark load of clean water. One female elephant would require a 3rd ark for the hay and water it requires. The hippopotamus, rhinoceros, and a few other large herbivores would require an ark for each "kind" for food and water. Isaak made an argument that the ark was too big. The food and water requirements for large tropical herbivores shows that the ark was not big enough for the scenarios imagined by the professional Young-Earth Creationists that Isaak quotes from.

Blessings.
They were in embryonic form. You know, like test tube babies. OR...they hadn't mutated (hyper-evolutionized) yet. That happened *after* the flood. Before the flood, animals were much smaller. They were also *all*--every species that became the seed stock for all animals we see today--indigenous to the area where Noah lived. After the flood of course, they migrated across the planet, and as they traveled they mutated very rapidly (it would have been a fascinating sight to see!) so that they would adapt to their new environments--like the north pole--by the time they got there. Yes, penguins and polar bears originated and evolved (through an incredibly rapid process beyond Darwin's wildest dreams) from some type of creatures that were on Noah's ark just a few thousand years ago.

I think that is basically the layman's version of "Creation Science." And they wonder why they can't teach it in schools.
Jason,

You've dismissed a local flood, precisely the same way futurists dismiss a local/covenantal parousia. That didn't happen yet. When did every eye see him? When was 1/3 of the earth destroyed? You read Genesis like a futurist reads the New Testament? Have you ever heard the phrase Scripture interprets Scripture? Those global sounding (to us) phrases refer to judgment taken locally in physical extent.

Tim Martin's first edition of Beyond Creation Science came out just over 8 years ago. The Biblical case for a local genesis flood was the topic of that book. Most of your objections were answered in that first edition.

We are now in the third edition. The case for a local flood has been expanded several times.

We are still waiting for for a Biblical refutation of the case we make for a local flood. So far, there is none. Just some mocking and a claim by Sam Frost, "I don't care about the debate between local and global. To me, it's in the background, almost irrelevant." http://preterismdebate.ning.com/profiles/blogs/local-or-global-gene...

Frankly, your post is an ignorant tirade. It is exactly like that of a futurist against preterism. Several of your objections are specifically addressed in Appendix B of Beyond Creation Science, which can be read online. Just click the link. http://beyondcreationscience.com/index.php?pr=Read_Book_Chapters

The rest of your arguments are addressed on pages 111-170 of the current edition. I gave Greg Lee a list of the arguments we develop at this link http://preterismdebate.ning.com/profiles/blogs/local-or-global-gene...

One caveat, I don't remember directly addressing Gen. 2:6, but I believe it is adequately covered in discussion of the phrase "face of the earth."
Hi, JL

You said:
"You've dismissed a local flood, precisely the same way futurists dismiss a local/covenantal parousia."

That's not fair. Genesis has NEVER in the history of the world been considered figurative in regard to an underlying Covenant like that of Abraham's to Moses'. Only recently has this idea caught on and its not because "I'm one of them." I dismiss it simply because of the verses I quoted in Genesis concerning the ground being watered by springs without rain, the boat rising above the mountains, Noah wasn't told to move nor did the animals move to safety. I could go on and on but those points alone enough to dismiss it for me. Just because I disagree doesn't make me a futurist - guys, enough of that please! :)

You said:
"That didn't happen yet. When did every eye see him? When was 1/3 of the earth destroyed? You read Genesis like a futurist reads the New Testament? Have you ever heard the phrase Scripture interprets Scripture? Those global sounding (to us) phrases refer to judgment taken locally in physical extent."

Every eye saw his presence when the Temple fell. Even Josephus records the events that transpired - there were signs in the skies above the city of Jerusalem itself. A "third of the earth" was destroyed during Jerusalem's desolation by the Gentiles, along with the other "thirds" released by the Trumpets. I do not read Genesis the way a futurist reads NT - that is completely straw man. I read it for what it says, Revelation is a figurative book that is the UNSEALING of Daniel's prior prophecies! Genesis is not a sealing nor an unsealing. Nothing in Genesis is figurative - never does a prophet even remotely bring that up.

Now, Genesis has many shadows and types but that only means that's how we see they were physical and that lead to understanding of the spiritual realities and anti-types. We can't have a book of nothing but realities and anti-types, its absurd. I just find it illogical and especially when coupled with the statements of Genesis itself. Those things didn't "sound" global, they were global. Again, you haven't addressed any of my initial arguments concerning the rainbow being the promise not to destroy the whole earth again with water - yet you say it was local yet there have been infinite local floods since then. I live in Houston, I can tell you about local floods, brother. :) Also, what local floods rise above the mountains and kill all life under the heavens?

You said:
"Frankly, your post is an ignorant tirade. It is exactly like that of a futurist against preterism. Several of your objections are specifically addressed in Appendix B of Beyond Creation Science, which can be read online. Just click the link. http://beyondcreationscience.com/index.php?pr=Read_Book_Chapters"

I have joined the wrong group. Please excuse my "ignorance" for joining it. I'm sorry I don't read all of your website materials, JL, that must mean any time I have something to say or ask it makes what I say or ask an "ignorant tirade". Debate is more than dead here if that is the case and that usually is a result of fear and paranoia like what you have already demonstrated in insisting I'm a futurist. I love how you nonchalantly insult me and then ask me to consult some propaganda. The fact that you did that in public might speak volumes here.

I know if Sam Frost is against this position that its probably because the biblical case is most against it. I'm in good company there, no shame in that. I really wanted to join this group because a friend of mine recommended it and he's usually open to debate anything in peace. I guess I have some repenting to do for daring to question things. God help me.

Take care, DiD.
Jason,

And Josephus discussed the flood assuming it was a local event.

What you claim is "not fair," is dead on. You have not considered the case for a local flood. You have dismissed it with no study. This is exactly how the futurists dismiss preterism.

I have nonchalantly insulted you? "I just hope no Christians are buying this." "If the flood wasn't global, then God is a liar..." Look at your own post. It is a tirade. It is insulting. You've admitted that you've read nothing. You have admitted that your remarks are in ignorance.

You claim you want a debate. Then study what has been written and address the issues. Don't make false insinuations and accusations.

You made your claims in public. They need to be answered in public. You plainly stated that any view contrary to yours makes God a liar. That is not "anything in peace." You claimed you were irritated. That is not debate. You made it clear that you were not open to anything contrary to your current beliefs.

I'm quite happy to have an irenic discussion on this or most any issue. You already made it clear that you want an adversarial closed-minded call-it-what-you-want, by your words, we've already made God into a liar. I see no reason in your posts to see that you care about the truth. You only care about your current belief and condemning those who don't conform.

See you around.
One more and I'm done.

JL said:
"And Josephus discussed the flood assuming it was a local event."

Josephus wasn't there. Josephus also is very ignorant of the Scriptures in regards to even the New Covenant. He was a good reporter, but a theologian he was not.

JL said:
"What you claim is "not fair," is dead on. You have not considered the case for a local flood. You have dismissed it with no study. This is exactly how the futurists dismiss preterism."

Utter straw man. You said I was a futurist and THAT is what I said was unfair. You concur but with a twist - your straw man twist. Then you reaffirm the injustice! Unreal.

JL said:
"I have nonchalantly insulted you? "I just hope no Christians are buying this." "If the flood wasn't global, then God is a liar..." Look at your own post. It is a tirade. It is insulting. You've admitted that you've read nothing. You have admitted that your remarks are in ignorance."

You never even answered the question! You just boxed me in with a neat little bow with "FUTURIST" stamped on it. The Scripture is clear that the rainbow was the sign of God's Covenant with the earth not to destroy it again with water. This completely destroys a "local flood" possibility since we still have local floods everywhere on the face of the earth save for deserts (and even those have their own flash floods). Just because I'm making an argument doesn't make it a tirade. I could just as easily say that anything you have to share on this is an "ignorant tirade" - what does it prove? Nothing. But please, continue to box my straw men up for the sake of ignoring my real arguments. Doesn't matter at this point.

I never once "admitted I know nothing"! Another complete invention from your paranoia that I'm a futurist? I brought up the biblical contradictions to your case in the initial response, I think I know something. You didn't address them, so what does that reveal you know? You know how to insult me? Whoopdee doo. My remarks are biblical, if that is why they are "ignorant" to you then that would explain a lot at this point.

JL said:
"You claim you want a debate. Then study what has been written and address the issues. Don't make false insinuations and accusations."

You're kidding me, right? You didn't address my points and then "insinuated" and "accused" me of being rattling off an "ignorant tirade". You're too passive aggressive for my tastes, I think you are getting off on this somehow. I didn't "claim I want a debate", it is open forum debate! I don't have to claim a thing! I wanted more of a discussion (which is a fair expectation) and instead am met with "YOU'RE A FUTURIST!" and other straw man "insinuations and accusations". Really, how dare you.

JL said:
"You made your claims in public. They need to be answered in public."

That's not the part about saying what you do in public I was addressing. Its your eagerness to trash me calling me names ("futurist", "ignorant", etc) and then completely ignore my points and direct me to some website that doesn't pertain. If you know what you're talking about you can talk to me like I'm we're men instead of sending me off on rabbit trails.

JL said:
"You plainly stated that any view contrary to yours makes God a liar."

Absurd! I plainly stated that if the rainbow was the sign that God would not cause a "local flood" then God is a liar because we've had nothing but local floods since then! Talk about insinuation and accusation! LoL

JL said:
"That is not "anything in peace." You claimed you were irritated. That is not debate. You made it clear that you were not open to anything contrary to your current beliefs."

Lies! I said at the end of my arguments that I was irritated but I never once insulted John, Norm nor you. You, however, have found an affinity for lying about what I say! Why?!

JL said:
"I'm quite happy to have an irenic discussion on this or most any issue. You already made it clear that you want an adversarial closed-minded call-it-what-you-want, by your words, we've already made God into a liar. I see no reason in your posts to see that you care about the truth. You only care about your current belief and condemning those who don't conform."

More lies.
Jason,

I never called you a futurist. I said that you were arguing against a local flood in the same manner as a futurist argues against preterism.

You claim I never answered the question. Why should I? I already answered them elsewhere. Besides answering your questions, I have answered every statement you've made. Again, elsewhere.

Let's see, here is your entire post.

I just hope no Christians are buying this. If the flood wasn't global, God could have spared Noah the trouble building an ark big enough with withstand a global flash flood and to house two of each animal kind. God could have told Noah to simply move away from the region. He also could have told the animals to move away with Noah instead of coming to Noah in the "danger zone." Plus, the rainbow was God's sign of the Covenant he made with the earth that he would not destroy it with water again. If the flood wasn't global, then God is a liar because we've had countless local floods since then all over the globe. No to mention, HOW MANY ancient cultures have Flood stories? More than I can remember off the top of my head! I guess they all migrated from the same local spot and survived the flood that rose above the mountains (ever heard of a LOCAL flood that rises above mountains?) Before the flood there was no rain yet on the earth (Gen 2:5-6) and it was watered by misty springs. Are we to believe this is really just some lesson on theology rather than accepting the account of our the physical Creation? It says it watered the "whole surface of the ground", I guess that really means it only watered the part where Adam was standing - I mean come on! Gen 6:17, 9:11 say that "all life under the heavens" were destroyed. But I guess the "all life" was only some scorpions and camels in one city. Yeah, that explains why God saved a male and female of every kind of animal... This article really irritates me in case you can't tell. :)

Question 1: HOW MANY ancient cultures have Flood stories? You answered it. Did you actually want my answer? Lots of cultures have flood stories. You missed though. Lots don't. And many of those that do come from christian missionaries, from dealing with tidal waves, or from other sources that indicate that the Genesis Flood is not the source of those stories.

Question 2: ever heard of a LOCAL flood that rises above mountains? I assumed this was a rhetorical question. Sorry. The word translated "mountains" is the Hebrew word "har." Har has many meanings, including the the irrigation dikes that currently cover much of Mesopotamia. We discuss what Genesis says about the total depth of the flood. 15 cubits total. Not 15 cubits taller than Mt. Everest. 15 cubits is more than enough to destroy any irrigation dike. The Shurruppak Flood mentioned in John's post was about 15 cubits deep.

Question 3: Are we to believe this is really just some lesson on theology rather than accepting the account of our the physical Creation? Again, you answered it. This time mocking what you believe is our view of the statement. Your question pertains to Genesis 2:6. The "face of the earth" was watered and is watered today by natural springs. Cain was driven from the "face of the earth." That is, Cain was driven from the place that had no rain, was watered by springs, and was destroyed by the Flood. He was driven to a place that was not watered by springs, had rain, and was not touched by the Flood.
Jason, you wrote: "The Scripture is clear that the rainbow was the sign of God's Covenant with the earth not to destroy it again with water. This completely destroys a "local flood" possibility since we still have local floods everywhere on the face of the earth save for deserts (and even those have their own flash floods)."

Jason, you assume "earth" means "planet" but you haven't proved this. Are you actually saying that God made a covenant with planet earth, or even a "local" piece of dirt, rather than with His people? None of those other "local floods" were/are convenantal judgments, nor has anyone ever claimed that they were/are. They do not apply at all to God's promise to his covenant people. Your comparison is apples to oranges, so to speak, and therefore irrelevant.

We discussed what is specifically meant by a "local" Genesis flood as well as some other key arguments laid out in BCS in this interview with Tim Martin, for anyone who is interested.
Jason,
Relax,your not being picked on or made anyone's pariah. You are most welcome here and your questions especially.But as has been pointed out you haven't asked any questions.

Your initial salvo was exactly as JL put it.I would add you not only didn't ask any questions every remark you made was based on one logical fallacy after another.

So yes we're open to debate but not to letting someone come in slam us and think we're just going to sit back and not answer you.

So please stay and ask your questions.Who knows maybe you'll convince those of us that believe the flood was local that we're wrong.

I guess since i know William Bell is against a global flood I'm in good company and it's probably because the Biblical case is against it :)

Stick around Jason.

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