Noah’s Flood, A Biblical Myth

I recently had the pleasure (lol) of watching a dated Christian “documentary” about a group of gentlemen with too much time and money looking for Noah’s Ark.  They started looking high on Mt. Ararat (in eastern Turkey) and then moved to hills of western Iran.  They needn’t have bothered looking where they were looking, there is not enough water in the Earth’s hydrologic system to get a large boat anywhere close to the elevations they were searching at.

According to a recent post by Brook Wilensky-Lanford on religiondispatches.org:

I hate to break it to you, but Noah’s Flood is not a real thing.  As geologist David Mongomery wrote in his recent history, The Rocks Don’t Lie, . . . science knows better.

Let me state for the record:  many archaelogists and geologists have discovered evidence for many different floods, some of them large, or sudden, or both.  But they all have end points, high water marks if you will.  They certainly did not cover the entire earth.  (Sorry, creationists.)

Genesis is not literal history folks.  Deal with it!

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14 Responses to Noah’s Flood, A Biblical Myth

  1. Allen says:

    From another viewpoint, the ancient Hebrews didn’t have the world-view that we have. Their communications and travel were very slow compared to today when satellites circle the earth in 90 minutes, and we can text people in Australia in fractions of a second. Within the context of the ancient Hebrews, an event that covered the earth was an event that covered the world that they knew, that is a localized flood.

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    I suppose it could have been a local flood, but there are still issues with the biblical timing. There are also issues related to God’s deciding to destroy all the people on Earth except those on the Ark. This belief causes some conservative Christians (including many LDS) to wonder if recent earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, floods, etc. are the wrath of God. A belief that causes me a great deal of heartburn. Also, to be looking for the remains of an Ark on Mt. Ararat or at any other high elevation is just plain silly. It seems better to just deemphsize the Book of Genesis.

  3. shematwater says:

    Allen

    The problem is that this was not an event witnessed by the Hebrews. It occured at a time when all the land was in one place and the descendents of Adam had spread over most of that mass. To use the perspective of the Hebrews as an explanation doesn’t work.
    Also, they had the same world view that we do at the time of the Flood, and for many generations afterwards. Abraham understood the heavens greater than modern scientists, as did Noah and the ancient Patriarchs. The limited world view came after apostacy, primarily after the time of Joshua.
    So, your reasoning doesn’t stand.

    Now, to the whole subject, the mountains they were searching were not always as high as they are now. In the days of Peleg the land was divided, and the shifting of continents would have created great upheaval, likely creating mountains that did not exist previously, as well as raising some that had.

    On a final note, who cares what a bunch of scientists say. They are men with a limited understanding. God is the only one who had declare what actually happened, and he does so through his appointed leaders. Should we ignore the word of God because men tell us to?

  4. Allen says:

    “Also, they had the same world view that we do at the time of the Flood, and for many generations afterwards. Abraham understood the heavens greater than modern scientists, as did Noah and the ancient Patriarchs. The limited world view came after apostacy, primarily after the time of Joshua.”

    The reading I’ve done indicates the Hebrews did not have our world view. Their view was a stationary earth. Above the earth was a firmament in which the sun and stars moved. Below the earth was the waters. The creation story of Genesis fits very well with this view, The creation story from Genesis does not fit at all with our view. This view of a stationary, flat earth was still accepted by people during the dark ages. The Bible tells us there was a flood on the earth, but it doesn’t clearly define what kind of a flood occurred. We are left to our own interpretation about the nature of the flood. I think it is reasonable to assume the Hebrews spoke of the earth as being their view of the earth, a view which historians tell us was a limited view of the earth, a stationary earth with the sun and stars moving above the earth in the firmament. The Bible also speaks of the four corners of the earth, and it is obvious that that description is not a description of how the earth really is.

    “On a final note, who cares what a bunch of scientists say”

    I do. Our general authorities have said that their mission is the spiritual salvation of people through Jesus Christ and that we should leave science to the scientists. I look to scientists to tell me about the earth, and I look to the scriptures and modern prophets to tell me about Jesus Christ.

  5. shematwater says:

    Allen

    Modern prophets have told us that the flood was a global flood, and that it was the baptism of the Earth. This deals directly with Salvation. To ignore their words on this point makes no sense, unless you advocate a picking and choosing of words, which basically nullifies their position as prophets.
    When they said to leave science to the scientists they were not implying that one should take the words of mortal men over the words of God. They were saying that one should not restrict their learning to the words of church leaders, and should not expect those leaders to teach them things that can be learned through the study of science. However, I think every one of them would tell you that once God has declared something to be true no scientist can prove it false.

    The Bible is actually very clear in stating that all flesh was destroyed and that the entire earth was covered in water. The Creation story in Genesis does not support the description of the world you give, nor do I believe that true believers in Christ ever thought this was what the world was like. The prophets in the Book of Mormon knew that the earth revolved around the sun, so why is it that those who lived before them didn’t?

    Your conclusion as to all this is still only based in the words of men, and so you have put mortal learning and wisdom above the learning and wisdom of God. Such is so contrary to the very core of the gospel that it becomes difficult to reconcile it.

    Roger

    So, you are tossing the words of God, a perfect and immortal being, out the window in favor of the words of fallible, mortal men?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      The word of God comes in many forms. It’s not all history, some of it comes as metaphors, parables, myths, allegories, etc. So the answer to your question about Noah is YES.

      I doubt you can find one scientist at BYU that believes in a universal flood like the one described in Genesis. In fact, several have written about their concerns with taking the Noah story too literally. If the LDS Church is going to move into the modern era, it will need to confront issues like OT literalism. Better sooner than later.

  6. Allen says:

    shematwater,

    “Modern prophets have told us that the flood was a global flood, and that it was the baptism of the Earth. This deals directly with Salvation. To ignore their words on this point makes no sense, unless you advocate a picking and choosing of words, which basically nullifies their position as prophets.”

    You have a good point, if you believe our leaders are infallible and that all things they say are the word of God.

    “The Bible is actually very clear in stating that all flesh was destroyed and that the entire earth was covered in water.”

    Keep in mind that that is your interpretation of the Bible. Without interpretation, the Bible is just strange symbols on paper. My interpretation is that the Hebrews were referring to the world as they knew it when they spoke of all the world. Roger’s interpretation, if I understand him, is that Genesis was written as a metaphore about God and is not literal history, whether world-wide as we think of the world or regional as I think of the Hebrew view. An example of his view is the scriptural reference to the four corners of the earth.

    ” The Creation story in Genesis does not support the description of the world you give”

    Neither you nor I were alive when the ancient manuscripts were written, so all we can do is go by what historians say, and historians are in common agreement that the Hebrews believed in a flat earth with a firmament above it in which the sun and stars moved. You believe the creation story from Genesis agrees with our understanding of the cosmos. I guess you understand Genesis better than I do, because I think the creation story in Genesis does not agree with our concept of the cosmos at all but does agree with the concept of the cosmos that historians say was common among the historians.

    In my blog on sciencemormonism.blogspot.com, I’ve discussed whether our leaders are infallible or not and whether the flood was world-wide or regional. People who are interested in this topic can go there to find a clearer understanding of my view. Thanks for sharing your views with us.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      According to Steven L. Peck–an evolutionary ecologist at BYU: “I don’t take literally the idea that at one point in history there was a world-wide flood and that an ark loaded with a sampling of at least one pair from each species sailed upon it. . . . For me, the story isn’t about physical geology and biodiversity, but a metaphor for the deep concern the Lord has for what are often called the “lesser things of Earth.”

      Three BYU professors have formally discussed the many reasons why the Ark and flood are an impossibility.

      In the 1960s, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote an embarassing anti-evolution book titled “Man: His Origin and Destiny.” That book has been totally discreditted. It is best if religious leaders, with no background in science, stay out of issues related to geology, archeology, anthropology, etc. This point was made frequently by President Eyring’s father (who was a world-class physicist).

  7. shematwater says:

    It is best that we let God declare what he did and how he did it, rather than saying men have more understanding than God.
    I realize that you want to say that it isn’t God, but just other men without formal training, but in doing so you have really destroyed their position as Prophet. You have declared in your mind that God will not, or cannot, reveal scientific principles to his chosen Prophets, and thus you have denied a good portion of the scriptures.
    God knows all truth, and has the power to reveal it. To ignore those revelations in favor of mortal science is a mockery of God. I don’t really care how many scientists believe something to be true, if God has declared it to be false than it is false.

    Let me ask you this: Do you believe in the millions of years time line that scientists give us, or do you believe the scriptures that tell us that the entire mortal existence of this earth is only six thousand years? This is not from Genesis, but from Joseph Smith (D&C 77) and is the literal interpetation of the symbols in the book of Revelation.
    What of the person of Abraham? If Genesis is all a metaphor did he actually exist? Joseph Smith has stated that Adam was the first flesh on the Earth and is the great patriarch of the human race. How does this fit in with your science?

    There are so many things in the scriptures that science tries to deny. If you are going to side with the scientists, what portion of the scriptures will you ever accept?

    Allen

    “Neither you nor I were alive when the ancient manuscripts were written, so all we can do is go by what historians say”
    And there is your mistake. We do not only have fallible men as our source. We have God, and he has promised to reveal all things to those who seek. I do not agree with historians because they disagree with God. It is as simple as that. Abraham did not believe in the Earth that you describe, and neither did Moses. They both were shown the creation of the world in vision, and wrote their visions for us. Moses was shown many worlds that God created. In none of this do we read of a flat world.
    As I said, it was known to the Nephites that the earth revolves around the sun. If God revealed that to them, why would he not reveal it to ancient Israel.

    • Allen says:

      Keep in mind that only the President of the church can reveal new doctrine and give official interpretations of scripture to the church. Members of the 12 are prophets, but they can’t give us new doctrine. None of the presidents have interpreted the creation of Genesis other than to say that we are the sons (and daughters) of God, that God created man. This means that we can disregard statements and interpretations of Orson Hyde, the Pratt brothers, and other General Authorities who were not president when they made their statements. For example, Joseph Fielding Smith was president, but he was not president when he wrote his book about the origin of man. He submitted his book to the First Presidency and they decline to approve it as church doctrine. Thus, that book is the opinion, and only that, of Joseph Fielding Smith. General Authorities have disagreed over the creation of the earth, humanoids before Adam, and evolution. Who are we to believe? I believe the president of the church, and none of them have said anything about the creation story except to say that man (and woman) was created by God. I accept statements from scientists as the best that they can do at the present time, and I recognize that their “learning of man” will change as they learn more about the earth and cosmos.

      In Section 77, Joseph Smith said the earth was created in 7 days. What did he mean by that statement? He didn’t say, and we are left to speculate about it. General Authorities have given their opinion that a day in the creation was an undefined period of time. But, those authorities are not the president and can not give interpretations of scripture to the church. Of course, many LDS take everything said by a general authority as the word of God. In doing so, they consider those men as infallible in their statements as apostles and prophets.

      I have a favor to ask. You have said several times that the Nephites knew the earth rotated about the sun. I apparently have missed that in my reading of the Book of Mormon. Would you please give me chapter and verses about the Nephites believing the cosmos is as we understand it today so I can study those verses? Thanks in advance.

  8. shematwater says:

    Allen

    It never states in section 77 that the earth was created in seven days. It says six days, and the Lord rested on the Seventh, just as the accounts of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham all record.

    Helaman 12: 13-15
    “Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move—it is moved.
    Yea, if he say unto the earth—Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours—it is done;
    And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun.”

    The Nephites understood the motions of the heavens.

    Now, if you are only going to take the words of the President then you must feel free to reject all the epistles written by Paul, as he was never the President. You must also feel free to reject the four gospels, as none of them were written by the President. In fact, you must feel free to reject the entire New Testament, with the exception of the two epistles of Peter, as those are the only ones written by the President. Then, of course, we can also reject much of the Old Testament on the same principle. We can also reject sections 135 and 136 in the Doctrine and Covenants, as they were not written by the President either.
    Tell me, do you feel comfortable rejecting the portions of scripture that were not written by the president?

    No, the apostles do not have the authority to introduce new doctrine, but they do have the authority to expound the scriptures and clarify doctrine that has already been revealed. So, unless the President corrects them in what they say it is as good as doctrine anyway. Such is the case with the Flood. It is a revealed doctrine and so any of the apostles has the authority to expound and clarify it.
    Regardless of this, both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young have declared it to be a planet wide flood. Brigham Young taught that it was the time of the Earth’s baptism by water, and that the baptism of fire will come when Christ returns. This was also taught by John Taylor while he was president (Journal of Discourse 26: 74-75).
    So, do you accept the Presidents of the church as declaring the truth from God?

    • Allen says:

      You’re right. Six days not seven days. Thanks for that correction. My point is that the translators of the KJV used the word “day”. Some people say the creation was 6 24-hour days. Other people say the creation was 6 1000-year days. Other people say the creation was 6 undefined periods of time. It’s all a matter of how one interprets that word “day”.

      Historians do say that the Hebrews believed in a stationary earth and that the sun moved through the firmament above the earth. You seem to not believe that historians say that. The verse from the OT about the sun standing still fits in very well with this stationary earth belief. The verse from Helaman clarifies that the earth moved backward, canceling out the forward movement of the sun, thus making it seem like the earth stood still. That statement from Helaman doesn’t fit at all with our belief of the rotation around its own axis. If the sun were to seem to stop, the earth would have to stop its rotation about its own axis, and that would cause horrendous winds at the surface of the earth. The air and all objects on the surface of the earth (including you and me) are moving through space at about 1000 miles per hour, and if the earth stopped its rotation, the air and all objects on the earth would experience winds of 1000 miles per hour, for the air and objects on the surface of the earth would continue to move even though the earth had stopped (Newton’s 1st Law). So, the statement from Helaman fits with the belief of the Hebrews of a fixed earth and movement of the sun in the firmament, but it doesn’t fit with our knowledge today that the earth rotates about its own axis.

      I don’t reject the epistles of Paul, sections 136 and 137 of the D&C, and the Old and New Testaments, because those documents have been canonized and the church accepts that canonization. As the Article of Faith says, we accept the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. Speculation by church leaders has not been canonized. Even statements by the President of the church, such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, may be their opinions and not revealed to them by God. The best example of this that I can think of is the Adam God theory taught by Brigham Young and introduced into the St. George Temple ceremony. That theory was discounted by later Presidents of the church. People say, well BY wasn’t really teaching that Adam was our God, but historical records, such as journals of people who heard BY speak, make it clear that BY was teaching that Adam was our God.

      When JS and BY and later church authorities taught that the flood was a global flood that covered the whole earth as we know the earth to be today, I believe they were speaking for themselves and not as prophets of the Lord. You seem to take all statements from church authorities as the word of God. This means that you apparently think the church leaders are infallible in their conduct as Priesthood holders. Is this what you really believe?

      ” I do not agree with historians because they disagree with God.”

      Actually, you do not agree with historians because they disagree with what you think God says, with your interpretation of scripture. I accept statements from historians and scientists, because I think their statements are the best that man has to offer at this time. I recognize that historians and scientists don’t know everything, and I look forward to their revisions of their statements to reflect new knowledge gained through new research. Except for speculation during the early days of the church, our church leaders have refused to say specific things about our physical earth. Instead, they leave that to the scientists. The First Presidency refused to approve Joseph Fielding Smith’s book on the origin of man. The First Presidency refused to approve or discount the concepts of evolution. Elder Nelson, a member of the 12, did attack evolution in his conference talk this past year, and that is one of the few attacks on evolution in recent times by a General Authority. His comments have not been approved or disapproved by the First Presidency, and they stand as only his views

      You’ve explained your beliefs and I’ve explained mine. I think it is time to close this discussion. We can agree to disagree.

      • shematwater says:

        No, I think a few things still need to be said.

        Helaman does not fit with the idea of a stationary earth, as it specifically says that it is the Earth that is moving, and not the sun. Clearly they did not believe in what Historians claim, but knew the truth. When they say the earth goes back that is perfectly in line with a rotating earth, in that the rotation of the earth is turned back, giving the appearance of the sun standing still. Your rationalization on this point ignores the very words of the scriptures.

        Now, you asked if I thought that the leaders of the church were infallible. No, I do not. But the spirit of God is, and when the leaders speak in General Conference they are being guided by that spirit. On occasion they speak their opinion, but usually state it as such.

        Now, I know what historians think about the ancient Hebrews, and I have never denied they think this. I have simply stated that they are wrong because they are. I also agree that they are the best men have to offer, which is why I am grateful that we have God guiding us and revealing to us and our leaders the truth of things, including the truth of what he had revealed to previous generations. Historians do not have this benefit, and thus are just men trying to sort things out.

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