The Black Sea Flood isn’t Noah’s Flood

Last week, a story popped up that scientists had discovered evidence of a significant flood in the Black Sea region:

Ballard believes melting glaciers contributing to a rise in sea level might have caused the flood. But it was a theory proposed by two Columbia University scientists that prompted him to take his team to the Black Sea, a 168,500-square-foot body of water bordered by Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. The scientists speculate the now salty sea was once a freshwater lake surrounded by farmland. They think a rising Mediterranean Sea flooded the area by cutting a channel through the Bosphorus.

Ballard and other scientists who have investigated the flood point to stories about similar events in several religions and cultures. To them, the multiple stories lend credibility to the probability of a flood event but do not offer evidence of biblical truth. Contrary to the scientific speculation, the Bible says in Genesis that God caused the flood by sending rain on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.

Of course, this story isn’t really new. The Black Sea has been the source of research and speculation regarding Noah’s flood for several years. The problem, of course, is that the Black Sea flood can’t possibly be the flood from Genesis for many reasons. Dr. Tas Walker explains in an article available here:

Now, in real life, claims need to be justified. We can’t even use a credit card until we prove who we are. Banks want our signature because its unique characteristics are easily recognised. They want to be sure they have identified us correctly.

So too, we need to be sure that Ballard, Ryan and Pitman have identified Noah’s Flood correctly. Of all the floods in the world, how would we recognise Noah’s Flood? We need to compare their signatures. And the Bible is the only place where the signature of Noah’s Flood is found. Unfortunately, when it comes to signatures, Ryan and Pitman have not carefully matched their characteristics with the Bible. Carelessly, they have given credit where it is not justified.

Ryan and Pitman thought the Black Sea flood was Noah’s Flood because it was very large, overwhelming some 100,000 km2 of land the size of Texas. But large as this was, it was still only a local flood in the Black Sea area, not the world-wide Flood described in the Bible (2 Pet. 3:6–7).

The biblical flood was so huge that it covered the then highest mountains (Gen. 7:19). But the Black Sea flood simply raised the local water level some 150 m to where it is now. Not even the ‘known’ world was submerged because there was still plenty of dry land left to live on in the area. Even to cover the nearby Krymskiye Gory mountains on the adjacent Crimean Peninsula, the water level would need to have risen a further 1,500 m. The Black Sea flood was not Noah’s Flood, because it did not cover the highest mountains.

And missing from the Black Sea flood is Noah’s Ark—that colossal ship described in the Bible, 140 m long, 23 m wide and 14 m high (Gen. 6:14–16). Ryan and Pitman, aware of this omission, suggest that there were hundreds of arks—thrown together in a few minutes by local farmers ripping their post huts apart to build puny boats to escape the rising waters! But why would they have needed boats at all? With waters rising each day at 15 cm, and creeping only a couple of kilometres across the land, they could have escaped at a leisurely stroll.

Because the waters rose so slowly, Ryan and Pitman say the people would have had plenty of warning. Once the farmers realised the water was not going to subside they would have built boats to escape. Wasn’t Noah warned about the Flood? Voilà, the Black Sea flood matches! Not at all. The Bible does not say Noah was warned by rising water levels. No, God warned Noah years before there was any sign of a flood (Gen. 6:13–14). Anyway, rising water levels would not have given sufficient time for Noah to build the huge Ark and load the animals. The warning that Ryan and Pitman make so much about does not match the warning in the Bible.

With a local flood there would have been no need to save the animals and birds as the Bible records (Gen. 6:19–21). The idea of birds being threatened by the Black Sea flood is ludicrous because they could easily have flown out of the way. As for the animals, most would have migrated out of the area as the waters slowly crept onto the land. Even if some animals drowned, no species would have been threatened with extinction because other individuals would have lived outside the inundated areas. The Black Sea flood was not Noah’s Flood, because it did not destroy all the animals and birds as the Bible describes.

Neither did the local Black Sea flood drown the people in the area—they were simply displaced from the land. Ryan and Pitman suggest that many of these displaced people migrated to Europe. But, the Bible clearly states that everyone outside the Ark perished, and ‘only Noah was left and those with him on the ark’ (Gen. 7:23). The Black Sea flood was not the Flood of the Bible, because the people were not destroyed.

Nor does the source of water match. For the Black Sea flood, the water gushed sideways through a localised channel, but for the biblical Flood the water came from the fountains of the great deep and the windows of heaven—below and above (Gen. 7:11–12).

The Black Sea flood does not match the record in the Bible. Not one characteristic agrees.

And the Black Sea flood did not go down—that is why there are plans to look for settlements under the water. But the biblical flood receded off the earth while the Ark and its cargo rested on the Mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:3–4). It was two months before Noah could see the nearby mountains emerge (Gen. 8:5) and another four months before the whole earth was dry enough to unload (Gen. 8:13–14). The Black Sea flood was not Noah’s Flood, because the flood waters have not receded.

So, the signature of the Black Sea flood does not match the record in the Bible. Not one characteristic agrees. The differences are so great that we wonder why the proposal has been entertained at all.

The reason why it matters is that these scientists know that the Black Sea flood doesn’t match the details for Noah’s flood, but they just don’t care:

Ryan and Pitman know that their link between their Black Sea flood and Noah’s Flood does not fit with the Bible. So, how do they justify their claim? Simple. They say that the Bible got it wrong. Their Black Sea flood was the real flood. The biblical record is a poorly assembled compilation of the flood legends that arose from their Black Sea flood. They claim it was their flood that was burned into the memories of surviving generations and recounted by word of mouth for thousands of years. After becoming more and more distorted, the stories were eventually written down. So by branding the biblical record a ‘myth’, they feel justified in disregarding all its details. They simply say that they do not read the Bible literally.

So their link with Noah’s Flood is totally arbitrary. They need a flood, so presto, pluck Noah’s Flood out of the air. It is a good flood to pick, because it sells lots of books. Furthermore, the scientists love it. By saying that Noah’s Flood was a local flood they think they can dismiss the implications of the real global Flood described in the Bible, viz. that God judges human sin.

So many in the scientific community are pleased with “evidence” that there might have been a flood, but certainly not a global one that killed all but eight people, and, sadly, a great many scholars and theologians are too.

An Atheist Evolutionist Asks a Good Question of Dr. Peter Enns

It seems that Young Earth Creationists are not the only ones who find BioLogos’ attempt to “reconcile science and faith” lacking. One atheist and evolutionist, Dr. Jerry Coyne, believes very strongly that evolution and Christianity are not at all compatible. In a recent article, Dr. Coyne challenges what he sees as BioLogos’ “sucking up to evangelical Christians, or giving them ludicrous ways to comport their faith with scientific truth—ways that are themselves unscientific (e.g., the historicity of Adam and Eve).”

First, Dr. Coyne reiterates his concern with BioLogos’ basic approach:

For a long time now BioLogos has ignored its initial mission of trying to convert evangelical Christians to evolution. It didn’t work—as I predicted—because those Christians know that if you buy Darwinian evolution, then you have to see much of the Bible as either fictional or at best metaphorical. And if you do that, then where does the metaphor stop? Was Jesus a metaphor for how we humans can save ourselves?

Evangelicals won’t buy that, nor do they like what they see as the other philosophical accoutrements of evolution: our status as mere evolved beasts like gibbons, the lack of a human soul, the absence of an external purpose or meaning to our lives, or of a God-imposed morality, and so on.

He goes on to quote from an article by Dr. Peter Enns on the subject of the Bible as metaphor where Dr. Enns attempts to show a similarity between Jesus’ parables and the “stories” in Genesis:

If this is how God chooses to communicate at the incarnation—the very climax and epicenter of his story—we should not be surprised to see God painting vivid portraits elsewhere in Scripture. This is especially true of Genesis and creation. Something so fundamental to God’s story may need to be told in a way that transcends the limitations of purely intellectual engagement. Genesis may be written more to show us—by grabbing us with its images than laying out a timeline of cause and effect events—that God is the central figure on the biblical drama.

Dr. Coyne isn’t buying it:

Most of us see the Bible as a total fiction. The great tragedy of Enns, and of accommodationists like him, is that he can’t buy that whole hog: because of childhood indoctrination or a desire to believe what is comforting, a Biblical scholar convinces himself that part of a fictional book really is fiction, though it teaches timeless truths, while other parts or non-negotiable fact. And he has no way, despite his Ph.D. in Biblical scholarship, to do that. Tell us, Dr. Enns: if Genesis was just a useful myth rather than truth, how do you know that Jesus was the Son of God and came back from the dead?

When Young Earth Creationists ask the question of where theistic evolutionists draw the line between reality and metaphor, they are ridiculed for over-reacting. Theistic evolutionists roll their eyes and say of course we believe that Jesus was actually resurrected. But notice again that the question keeps being raised and not just by the YEC crowd. If we can’t trust Genesis to be historical fact, then how can we trust that the Gospels are either?

Calvin on the Creation of Eve

In his commentary on Genesis, John Calvin answers objections to the manner in which Eve was created:

Although to profane persons this method of forming woman may seem ridiculous, and some of these may say that Moses is dealing in fables, yet to us the wonderful providence of God here shines forth; for, to the end that the conjunction of the human race might be the more sacred he purposed that both males and females should spring from one and the same origin. Therefore he created human nature in the person of Adam, and thence formed Eve, that the woman should be only a portion of the whole human race. This is the import of the words of Moses which we have had before, (Genesis 1:28,) “God created man… he made them male and female.” In this manner Adam was taught to recognize himself in his wife, as in a mirror; and Eve, in her turn, to submit herself willingly to her husband, as being taken out of him. But if the two sexes had proceeded from different sources, there would have been occasion either of mutual contempt, or envy, or contentions. And against what do perverse men here object? ‘The narration does not seem credible, since it is at variance with custom.’ As if, indeed, such an objection would have more color than one raised against the usual mode of the production of mankind, if the latter were not known by use and experience.

Are the Age of the Earth and Length of Creation Days “Modern” Questions?

I was told recently that my insistence on reading the creation account in Genesis as “literal history” was the result of naively importing modern questions into an ancient text. I decided to do some research into that. Did any of the early Church Fathers write about the age of the earth and the length of creation days? Or are these just modern questions? Here are some quotes that I found:

So let no one think that there is anything allegorical in the works of the six days. No one can rightly say that the things pertaining to these days were symbolic, nor can one say that they were meaningless names or that other things were symbolized for us by their names. Rather, let us know in just what manner heaven and earth were created in the beginning. They were truly heaven and earth. There was no other thing signified by the names “heaven” and “earth.” The rest of the works and things made that followed were not meaningless significations either, for the substances of their natures correspond to what their names signify. Ephrem the Syrian (AD 306-373)

Plato and many others of the philosophers, since they were ignorant of the origins of all things, and of the primal period at which the world was made, said that many thousands of ages had passed since this beautiful arrangement of the world was completed … . Therefore let the philosophers, who enumerate thousands of ages from the beginning of the world, know that the six thousandth year is not yet completed … . Lactantius (AD 250-325)

And the evening and the morning were one day. Why does Scripture say ‘one day the first day’? … it is from a wish to determine the measure of day and night, and to combine the time that they contain. Now twenty-four hours fill up the space of one day … . It is as though it said: twenty-four hours measure the space of a day. Basil (AD 329-379)

All quotes taken from Coming to Grips with Genesis.

10 Reasons to Believe in an Historical Adam

Kevin DeYoung has a great post today on why one should believe in an historical Adam. He gives ten reasons to support his argument for Adam as the literal first man. Here is an excerpt from his article:

1. The Bible does not put an artificial wedge between history and theology. Of course, Genesis is not a history textbook or a science textbook, but that is far from saying we ought to separate the theological wheat from the historical chaff. Such a division owes to the Enlightenment more than the Bible.

2. The biblical story of creation is meant to supplant other ancient creation stories more than imitate them. Moses wants to show God’s people “this is how things really happened.” The Pentateuch is full of warnings against compromise with the pagan culture. It would be surprising, then, for Genesis to start with one more mythical account of creation like the rest of the ANE.

3. The opening chapters of Genesis are stylized, but they show no signs of being poetry. Compare Genesis 1 with Psalm 104, for example, and you’ll see how different these texts are. It’s simply not accurate to call Genesis poetry. And even if it were, who says poetry has to be less historically accurate?

4. There is a seamless strand of history from Adam in Genesis 2 to Abraham in Genesis 12. You can’t set Genesis 1-11 aside as prehistory, not in the sense of being less than historically true as we normally understand those terms. Moses deliberately connects Abram with all the history that comes before him, all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden.

5. The genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3 treat Adam as historical.

6. Paul believed in a historical Adam (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45-49). Even some revisionists are honest enough to admit this; they simply maintain that Paul (and Luke) were wrong.

7. The weight of the history of interpretation points to the historicity of Adam. The literature of second temple Judaism affirmed an historical Adam. The history of the church’s interpretation also assumes it.

8. Without a common descent we lose any firm basis for believing that all people regardless of race or ethnicity have the same nature, the same inherent dignity, the same image of God, the same sin problem, and that despite our divisions we are all part of the same family coming from the same parents.

9. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of original sin and guilt does not hold together.

10. Without a historical Adam, Paul’s doctrine of the second Adam does not hold together.

You can read the full article here.

Genesis and the Ancient Near Eastern Texts

One of the common issues encountered in the study of Genesis 1-11 is the relationship of the Biblical account to Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) texts such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, Atrahasis, the Sumerian King List, and Enuma Elish. The apparent similarities are found in the creation and flood stories. Some commentators believe that the writer (or writers) of Genesis borrowed from these stories when composing or compiling Genesis 1-11. Others believe that all of these texts, including the Bible, were drawing on much older stories. I thought it would be interesting to look at a couple of these ANE texts to see how they compare to the Bible.

The Epic of Atrahasis is a Mesopotamian story of creation and a great flood. Here is a summary I found:

The story of the Flood is the final part of this epic, which starts with complaints by the Lesser Gods, who refuse to work any longer. Humankind is created, but men make so much noise, that the gods decide to wipe them out. The plan to send a Deluge, however, is betrayed by the god Enki, who sends a dream to Atrahasis.

Here are a couple of  short excerpts from the Epic of Atrahasis. The first excerpt is about creation: Continue reading

Keller: “Noah’s flood … was a regional flood”

One of the hot debates over how to interpret Genesis is what to make of Noah’s flood. Is it myth or history? Was is worldwide or local? Here is Tim Keller’s answer:

In order to be true to my own principle, I won’t bother you with information about the different views of the flood. Let me just lay out my own assumptions. I believe Noah’s flood happened, but that it was a regional flood, not a world-wide flood. On the one hand, those who insist on it being a world-wide flood seem to ignore too much the scientific evidence that there was no such thing. On the other hand, those who insist that it was a legend seem to ignore too much the trustworthiness of the Scripture. After Genesis 1, the rest of Genesis reads like historical narrative. If, it is asked, ‘what of the Biblical assertions that the flood covered every mountain over the whole earth (Gen.7:19,21), we should remember that the Bible often speaks of the ‘known world’ as the ‘whole world’ — compare Gen. 41:56,57; Acts 2:5,9-11; Col.1:23. (Tim Keller, Genesis: What Were We Put in the World to Do? [New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2006],81)

It is interesting to compare his answer to what Peter Enns wrote over at BioLogos:

However, a balanced interpretation of Scripture does not force the reader to believe that the Flood was a worldwide phenomenon. The scientific and historical evidence summarized below supports the idea that the flood was indeed catastrophic, but that it was local, recent and limited in scope.