Next to the creation account in Genesis 1–2, the section of scripture most often attacked by skeptics is the flood account in Genesis 6–8. The story of Noah and the ark is a favorite children’s story. The usual telling of the story is that the flood covered the whole world including the highest mountains. All life on earth, both human and animal, was destroyed except for the occupants of the ark. If we examine this account critically a number of questions arise. For example,
- How was Noah able to collect animals from every part of the globe?
- How would they all fit on the ark and how could he care for them all?
- What about animals that require a specific environment?
- Where did the tremendous amount of water come from?
- Where did it go after the flood?
- Since the flood would have mixed the waters, why are there still freshwater lakes?
- How did freshwater fish survive in salt water?
- How were the animals on the ark able to re-populate the whole earth after the flood?
- What did carnivores eat when they got off the ark?
- Why did some animals like kangaroos only end up in one area?
While I’m sure that God could produce a world-wide flood in a way that answered all these questions, I would like to explore if there is a simpler explanation. I have no doubt that this was a miraculous event, but does the Bible really say that the flood was world-wide? I will attempt to show that a local view of the flood is a legitimate interpretation of the Genesis flood account. I am not trying to convince those who hold a world-wide flood view to abandon that view, but I would like to show that there is evidence in both science and scripture, that seems to support a local flood view. Clearly, a local flood view would make the answering of the questions raised above much easier.
I will begin by presenting some background information that will help us understand the extent of the flood. I first discuss God's purpose for the flood and how this might limit the extent. I then discuss how words like ‘all’ and ‘every’ are often used in the Bible in a non literal way, i.e., they don't necessarily represent totality. This is important since these words are widely used in the flood narrative.
I next look at some language issues. If you read the flood narrative in an English translation, it is hard to imagine anything but a global deluge. However, we must remember that this narrative was originally written in an ancient Hebrew language that is very different from English and was written to a people whose way of thinking is much different than ours. Ancient Hebrew had about 1% the number of words as present-day English. Thus, most Hebrew words had multiple meanings and could be translated into multiple English words. The correct translation usually depends on context, and the Ancient Hebrews lived in a world much different than ours. I will attempt to show that many of the Hebrew words used in the flood narrative can be legitimately translated into English words that are consistent with a local flood.
We will next look at other biblical passages outside Genesis that seem to point to a local flood. At the end I will present a small sample of the Scientific evidence that argues against a global flood.
There is a Table of Contents for this paper (labeled Contents) on the top bar. To view or download a copy of this paper in Adobe Acrobat format you need to click on the link Genesis Flood (PDF).