The event known as “Noah’s Flood” in Genesis 6 is one of the most mocked passages throughout academia. Even some Christian theologians have reduced the account to mere allegory or poetical gibberish. Secularists laugh at the notion of a flood that would cover the whole earth, and some Christians have made a number of well-intentioned arguments to try and reconcile the infallibility of Scripture while maintaining the status-quo of evolutionary geology. Did a global flood really happen as described in the Genesis account? The biblical support and scientific evidence may surprise you.
The Biblical Perspective
Scripture makes it clear that Noah’s Flood really happened. Paul wrote: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Genesis is written as literal history and its record of the Flood is no exception. Compromised interpretations by well-meaning Christians often have arose because of their belief that the physical evidence dismisses – and even counters – a Flood like the one depicted in Genesis 6. It becomes clear, then, that the Christian must make an authority decision before interpreting the biblical account – just like every other issue or event in Scripture. Essentially, it is a battle of two worldviews: God’s Word or Man’s.
As Christians, we should stand on God’s Word and defend its every claim. Since “all scripture is God-breathed”, we can trust that every passage is true – even seemingly difficult passages like Noah’s Flood. The question remains: Does the biblical account match up with the evidence?
The Existence of the Ark
Immediately upon any discussion of Noah’s Flood comes the necessity to figure out whether “Noah’s Ark” was real or not. The Bible gives very specific dimensions about the size of the ark. Genesis 6:15 says: “This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits.” A cubit is measured roughly as the distance between the forearm (elbow to fingertip). Using this approximate measurement, that makes the Ark as described in Genesis 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. These dimensions paint a much different picture than the one typically found in children’s books – the size of the ark would have been around the size of a cargo ship today! The notion that a “boat” this size could not be built by such ancient civilizations is not as farfetched as one may think. “In the Western world, wooden sailing ships never got much longer than about 330 feet (100 m), yet the ancient Greeks built vessels at least this size 2,000 years earlier." (1)
One of the most vocal criticisms of the Genesis 6 account is the simple question of: “How did Noah get all of the animals on the ark?” Verse 20 says: “Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you, to keep them alive”. Note how the verse claims that the animals will come to Noah – not the other way around. Because of this, we can infer that Noah did not have to travel very far to gather up the animals to put on the Ark. Of course, if such an assumption were true, it would have been a miraculous (and thus supernatural) event, though one finds similarities of such a massive “migration” on much smaller scales, such as the birds which migrate South every year. There is no limit to the impressive capabilities God has implemented on his Creation through intentional design.
Getting the animals (two of every kind) to Noah is one thing. But how did he get them all on the Ark? Comprehensive research on the subject has been conducted and published by creationist John Woodmorappe in his book “Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study”. In it, Woodmorappe says no more than 16,000 animals would have been needed to satisfy God’s instruction of carrying two of every kind on the Ark. This number has been reached by a number of factors.One of the most significant examples of this is that the number of special variety in existence today would have been much less at the time of Noah. Only parent “kinds” were required to bring onto the Ark. Two parent kinds of dogs alone could give rise to the genetic variability we see today. Also important to consider is the likelihood that Noah would have brought young animals with him on the ark in contrast to full grown adults. As such, the younger animals would require less space, food, etc. In fact, Woodmorappe’s study maintains that “less than half of the cumulative area of the Ark’s three decks need to have been occupied by the animals and their enclosures."(2)
Bring on the Rain
Genesis 7:11-12 implies that the water God used to flood the Earth came from above and below. The term “the great deep” refers explicitly to the ocean in Isaiah 51:10, and “the deep” commonly refers to oceans elsewhere in Scripture (Psalm 42:7; Ezekiel 26:19; Jonah 2:3) (3). The idea of there being water in the “fountains of the deep” beneath Earth’s crust is not a stretch of the imagination. In fact, scientists have recently discovered a large body of water within Earth’s deep mantle at least the volume of the Arctic Ocean under Asia (4). The fact that Genesis 7:11 describes a “breaking up” of the fountains of deep suggests catastrophic processes, perhaps by volcanoes or earthquakes. In fact, some scientists believe that the catastrophic movement of plate tectonics could trigger such a massive event as the Global Flood (5).
The Bible indicates that the waters decreased after 150 days (Genesis 8:3), but that leads to a seemingly perplexing question: What happened to all that water? Roughly 70% of Earth’s surface is covered with water and much of this is probably leftover from the Flood. Many geologists believe that at one point in Earth’s history there was a massive “supercontinent”. The split of this “supercontinent” into the separate continents we see today fit a catastrophic model of rapid plate tectonic movement more akin to continental “sprint” (as Dr. Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis prefers) than traditional continental “drift” explanations, all of which could have been brought about as a result of a global Flood.
Global or Local?
Many Christians argue that the Flood in Genesis 6 was local and not global. Such reasoning is no doubt due to the evolutionary influences on geology and the other physical sciences. It has been suggested, then, that the Flood would have simply “appeared” global to Noah, and that it would have taken place around where he lived – somewhere in Mesopotamia. When one considers the reasoning behind such a claim, however, it quickly begins to fall apart. A number of questions arise: Why build an Ark in the first place if Noah could have just fled to higher ground? When God said He was to bring about a great Flood to punish the sin of the people, wouldn’t a local flood “miss” judging those inhabitants living outside of Mesopotamia? If the Flood were local and not global, how could it cover all the mountain tops (Genesis 7:20)? Even more perplexing is the fact that if the Flood were not Global, God would be a liar, a quality that is directly contrary to His nature (Titus 1:2). After Noah, his family, and the animals were all back on dry land, God made a covenant with them marked by a rainbow in which He promised never to flood the whole earth again. Local floods happen constantly, contradicting the circumstantial evidence that the Flood depicted in Genesis was local.
Extra-Biblical Evidence for the Flood
A number of cultures have accounts of a global Flood sometime in the past. These flood traditions are surprisingly similar to the Genesis passage. Nozomi Osanai in her work “A comparative study of the flood accounts in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis” provides a telling example:
“…even people who live far from the sea or in mountainous areas have flood traditions which are similar to the Genesis account. For instance, the Pawnee tribe in Nebraska has the following tradition: the creator Ti-ra-wa destroyed the first people, who were giants, by water because of his indignation about their corruption and after that he created a man and a woman like present people, who became the Pawnees’ ancestors. In addition, the Miao tribe who resides in southwest China had a tradition which is like the Genesis account even before they met Christian missionaries.According to their tradition, when god destroyed the whole world by the flood because of wickedness of man, Nuah the righteous man and his wife Matriarch, their three sons, Lo Han, Lo Shen, and Jah-hu survived by building a very broad ship and embarked on it with pairs of animals." (6)
Dr. John D. Morris’s research has shown that a stunning 95% of over 200 global flood traditions share common features with the Genesis account (7). Many Native American tribes have legends of a “Great Flood” within their traditions as well (8).
Evidence from geology also supports the Global Flood described in Genesis. For instance, studies have shown that catastrophic influxes of water could have easily carved such wonders as the Grand Canyon – contrary to the evolutionary belief that small bodies of water such as the Colorado River could have gradually carved it out over millions of years. One of the greatest pieces of evidence to support this catastrophic model can be found in Washington State. The Burlingame Canyon, located near Walla Walla, formed in less than six days. Amazingly, this is no small rock split. The Canyon measures 1,500 feet in length and 120 feet deep. It truly is a miniature Grand Canyon! Dr. John Morris sums it up nicely:
“Yes, canyons can form rapidly. A good maxim to remember is, ‘It either takes a little water and a long time, or a lot of water and a short time.’ But then, we’ve never seen a canyon form slowly with just a little water. Whenever scientific observations are made, it’s a lot of water and a short time." (9)
By applying this understanding of catastrophic effects, Noah’s Flood would have rapidly changed Earth’s surface as a result of all that water. Though much speculation remains, there have been many theories proposed as to what precise effects the global event had.
View a Picture of the Burlingame Canyon here
So, if a global Flood like the one described in the Bible really did happen, what would we expect to find? As Answers in Genesis’ Ken Ham popularly and frequently answers, “Billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, scattered all over the Earth.” Upon study, that is exactly what we find. Fossils of creatures are found in surprising places, like fish fossils on high mountain tops. What can be more astonishing (and compelling confirmation for the catastrophic Flood) are how these creatures were fossilized. Traditional, secular understanding of fossil burial is similar to the geology of canyons – millions of years of gradual processes. After all, we don’t see animals just turning into fossils on our way to work every day. There are some fossils which directly defy this assumption, however. Consider the now infamous fossil of “fish eating fish”. How did that take millions of years to fossilize?
View a Picture of the "Fish Eating Fish" Fossil here
Fossils that imply rapid burial are not the exception. For instance, one of the most remarkable fossil discoveries was that two dinosaurs fighting in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. The battle to the death was between a Velociraptor and a Protoceratops when they were apparently met with a wave of sandy sediment, sending them to their fossilized grave. There are a number of possible explanations for the find, including a collapsing sand dune, a sandstorm, and even quicksand, but each share one common feature: rapid burial. The Flood itself could have buried these animals by Flood sediment of sand. A number of other dinosaur fossils in these astounding positions have been found in the same region. The evidence shows that fossils don’t need millions of years to fossilize – they just need a catastrophic agent, such as a Global Flood. (10)
Is it Important?
Noah’s Flood is a very important event for many reasons. First of all, if it wasn’t true, the notion that “all scripture is God-breathed” comes into question. More-so, it makes God a liar. As a result, if the Flood were proven not to be true, the entire authenticity of the Bible and the Christian Faith come into question. Fortunately, Christians don’t need to compromise in order to reconcile their Faith and the circumstantial and scientific evidence. The physical evidence for the Flood is both abundant and conclusive. The storybook version of the tale is not the real story. In fact, Noah’s Flood isn’t a story at all. It’s real history and proves that we can trust God’s Word in all of its claims, be it Creation, the Flood, the Cross, or Eternal Life through Jesus Christ.
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1) Ham, Ken & Lovett, Tim. “Was There Really a Noah’s Ark & Flood?” Answers in Genesis. 11 October 2007. Online. Accessed 7 Mar. 2011.
2) Woodmorappe, Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study. Cited from Source 1.
3) Osanai, Nozomi. “A comparative study of the flood accounts in the Gilgamesh Epic an..., Ch. 5. Answers in Genesis. Online. Accessed 8 Mar. 2011.
4) Than, Ker. “Huge ‘Ocean’ Discovered Inside Earth”. LiveScience. 28 Feb. 2007. Online. Accessed 8 Mar. 2011.
5) Snelling, Andrew. “Can Catastrophic Plate Tectonics Explain Flood Geology?” Answers in Genesis. 8 Nov. 2007. Online. Accessed 8 Mar. 2011.
6) Osanai, Nozomi. “A comparative study of the flood accounts in the Gilgamesh Epic an..., Ch. 7. Answers in Genesis. Online. Accessed 8 Mar. 2011.
7) Morris, John D., Ph.D. “Why Does Nearly Every Culture Have a Tradition of a Global Flood?” Institute for Creation Research. Online. Accessed 8 Mar. 2011.
8) Hodges, Mark. “The Global Existence of the Flood Story”. Notmanynoble Blog. 7 Dec. 2009. Online. Accessed 8 Mar. 2011.
9) Morris, John D., Ph.D. “A canyon in six days!” Answers in Genesis. Sept. 2002. Online. Accessed 8 Mar. 2011.
10) Hodge, Bodie & Davis, Buddy. “Two Fighting Dinosaurs?” Answers in Genesis. 2 May 2006. Online. Accessed 8 Mar. 2011.
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