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I am certainly flooding the blog with a deluge of similarly themed articles.

Following a number of articles (linked below), under which there have been some excellent comments, I thought I would furnish you with a few of them that stuck out on my most recent piece. The context is an ongoing debate with Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong in which he is arguing for a localised, regional flood from a broadly scientific point of view.

Hopefully, these will make sense:

Yay! I made an article. [Two from two. Result! – JP]

I just replied to someone on the original article and I’d like to expand on that a bit here. I’m sure JP has brought this up before, but how often does Dave say (paraphrasing here) “I don’t actually understand the science, I’m not actually making any claims, I’m just throwing out something that sounds similar to show that it’s possible. And by possible, I mean that’s the way it must have happened.” Then goes on to rant that we aren’t actually doing any scholarly research, then complain that nobody will discuss it with him.

So what would be interesting to hear from Dave is to set some specific conditions. How deep would the Biblical flood have to have been to have satisfied the story? Where might the Ark have landed How long did it rain? Once we have a few assumptions to start with, we can start calculating how large of an area would need to be flooded to attain that depth, the rate of rainfall, total water volume, etc.

All that aside, there are so many other problems:

-The source he sites is from Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. I know nothing about the journal, nor have I closely read the articles yet. First, with a name like that, are we dealing with an objective source with any kind of qualifications? Second, is the article actually trying to explain what a local flood would have looked like and how it would have fit the actual story or is it trying to describe various local phenomena? A brief glance through a couple articles strongly suggests the latter.

-He mentioned the Cumberland river rising almost 20 feet beyond flood stage. Would the Ark even have moved in that depth of water? Was the Ark actually smaller?

-I don’t know where the Ark started, but how did it end up in the mountains to the north? All the water was washing out towards the southeast, why didn’t the Ark end up in the gulf?

-The Mississippi flood killed an estimated 500 people, yet a similar flood killed off the entire local population and all animals?

-God gave Noah plenty of advance warning, enough time to build a large boat and gather all the animals. The floodplain is roughly 200 miles across. They would have had to move at most around 100 miles, I’m sure nomadic people did that all the time.

-The floodwaters in Mississippi remained for a year, but there were people who took refuge on higher ground. Yet Noah sent out birds who couldn’t find any sight of land. The fact that there was standing water doesn’t mean the entire land was completely submerged that whole time.

Anyway, I’m trying to do a bit of hydrological modeling of the two areas. They’re pretty large, so it might be a bit of work. Honestly, at first glance, they aren’t too dissimilar, but an important part of this is the underlying vegetation/geology. I’m sure I’ll be making a lot of assumptions on that.

And Sandy Plage (I’ve only just got that):

Which mountains were covered by the Mississippi flood, such that a massive boat could have come to rest on one?

If a local flood is surrounded by hills or mountains, what would prevent animals and people from escaping to the high grounds, or simply remaining on them, where many (including the wealthiest) would have settled to escape the periodic flooding? Which is what happened along the Mississippi River. My rough calculation based on Wikipedia is that only one in one thousand displaced people died in the event, and few species were exterminated. The displaced and the dead were predominantly the poorest of the general population, and mostly Black. Was God’s intent in the Noah event to kill the poor?

What good would a giant ark have done in Mississippi?

What was God’s intent anyway, if it was a local flood? Why didn’t God just have Noah move to the higher ground in the first place? Why use a boat at all?

What kind of promise did God make with the rainbow, if it was a local flood? Local floods are still common. Did God violate his promise with the Mississippi Flood? When rainbows appeared during and after the Mississippi Flood, why weren’t they a mockery of God’s promise?

Why did pretty much everyone believe the natural reading of Noah’s Flood as a global catastrophe until recently, if the Bible is generously provided to us as the absolute truth?

Tawreos adds:

If the flood happened then it should be easy to prove. When you have the sum total of all the knowledge on the planet held by 8 people you should see a bottle neck of technology and design for a while after the flood. All boats would b built to one design for awhile as new boats would be based on the ark design with modifications made for different uses, but the designs would be fairly similar. Pottery would be another thing, if they knew how to make it then all pottery would be off of the same design for awhile until cultures reasserted themselves to make changes.

You would also expect to see technologies dying out for awhile until they were rediscovered over time. 8 people might have diverse knowledge, but it would be a bit much to expect them to know everything or every step of the process for everything they would need. That we don’t see these bottle necks in any history that I have ever heard of seems to suggest that there was no flood.

Anri states:

Really, though, the “small, local” interpretation of biblical events could open up a whole new age in bible scholarship.

Passover? It wasn’t the firstborn child of every Egyptian family dying, it was small, local – the head stone cutter’s kid slipped and sprained his wrist.

The Red Sea crossing? Small, local – Moses stepped over a puddle but a pursuing chariot got its wheels wet.

The Resurrection? Small, local – Jesus’s toenail was still around after his execution.

Revelations? Small, local – there will be a bad fire in Terminal 3 of the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

I’m on board with this.

Luke Breuer adds this:

It’s pretty funny that Dave Armstrong is interpreting the flood according to a 21st century modern’s way of understanding things, when Catholics expressly reject sola scriptura. Maybe God made such passages obviously ridiculous by later standards of interpretation, to provoke us to try to put ourselves in the shoes of the original hearers. For example, John H. Walton contends that residents in the Ancient Near East simply were not obsessed with “explaining things” as we are, today. (The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate) They were principally trying to get by in the world. Survival of your clan was far from guaranteed in that day.

If you compare & contrast Noah’s Flood to the Gilgamesh epic, you find an interesting difference:

     Gilgamesh: the flood is because y’all are too noisy
Noah: the flood is because y’all are completely evil

These are not [necessarily] the same. The former can easily apply to slaves who are complaining about their slavery. (Exodus 2:23–25, anyone?) The latter depends entirely on how you construe ‘evil’:

YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)

Now, I have a lot of time for this one as I have written a little about this in my forthcoming book on the Exodus. This is a lot to do with intertextuality and allusion, but I will save that for a post explicitly on this. The basic point is that meaning comes not from the similarities but from the differences. The early Jews are here making a salient theological point.

My previous posts on this are worth reading:

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...