There is no doubt about it. The last several centuries have been an adjustment for Bible believers. Beginning with the realization that the unanimous view of geocentrism was wrong, the switch to a heliocentric model of the universe was difficult for many Christians. They saw the new science as a betrayal of the literal and clear teaching of Scripture by godless scientists. Reading the comments of men like Luther and Calvin in response to Copernicus is a lot like listening to Ken Ham and Kent Hovind rail against Darwin.
One of the new sciences which began during this period was geology. It was established by Christian scientists in the mid-seventeenth century and for two hundred years its expressed goal was to demonstrate that through both mathematical and scientific grounds the earth itself could give us evidence of a global Flood thus confirming the Bible against skeptics.
By the end of this period it was the Christian geologists themselves who admitted that there is no evidence in the geological record for a global Deluge and “Flood Geology” collapsed as it became clear that the earth was not thousands but tens of millions of years old. This idea has been revived in the early 20th century by the Seventh Day Adventist amateur geologist George Macready Price and, in the 1960s, by Morris and Whitcomb. Unfortunately, it still suffers from the same lack of evidence which killed the hypothesis in the first place.
It is a shame that these men did not follow the wisdom of Blessed Augustine who in his commentary on Genesis wrote, “We must be on guard against giving interpretations of Scripture that are far-fetched or opposed to science, and so exposing the Word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers.”
Before giving the evidence opposed to a global Flood and in favor of a local one let me say, as a Christian, that I fully accept the inspiration of Scripture- including Genesis 6-9. On the Divine side, it is given by inspiration from God to teach us important theological truths about God’s justice and mercy as well as human responsibility before Him. I do not believe the Flood to be an event that never happened and I am not sure that Scripture allows us to write it off as “just a story.” The Apostle Peter said as much in his second epistle, “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:3-6).
Having said that, the Bible is also thoroughly influenced by its human authorship. Forgetting this fact is the main reason there is such a conflict in the minds of believers and non-believers between science and religion. The Bible is a product of its human authors’ times and cultures and reflects Bronze Age literary forms and worldviews unashamedly. We do not need to be ashamed or confused by it either. The Flood story closely mirrors other Flood stories that we know preceded its writing by a millennium or more. Yet it transcends those stories and becomes something greater than them that has been able to speak to every generation that has lived since. Let’s not be afraid to fully embrace both the Divine and human authorship of Scripture.
So why does it make since to believe there never was a global Flood? Why does it make sense to accept a local catastrophic Deluge that inspired the Biblical story? Let’s take a look:
LINES OF EVIDENCE AGAINST A GLOBAL FLOOD*:
1. Geological- From 9000 B.C. to the present, the only rocks in northern Mesopotamia which were made by rivers or oceans are along the river banks. This indicates that the only flooding which has affected northern Mesopotamia in the last 11,000 years is from the overflow of rivers.
2. Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 Ice Core- The very close agreement of three independent, seasonally based, non-radiometric indicators of annual layers makes the age of the ice sheet on Greenland indisputably 11,000 years old, and the agreement of two of those indicators adds another 100,000 years. Close examination shows that the ice core is composed of fresh water from top to bottom. There is not a single layer of ice in it or in the ground under it composed of seawater nor any silt deposits such as a flood would leave. Not a single layer gives evidence of having melted and refrozen. This means no ocean water has ever stood over it or under it. Consequently, this ice core falsifies the idea that there was a global flood in the time of Noah.
3. Archaeology- The short answer is that the only evidence of serious flooding in the Near East during that time period is from riverine floods.
When tells in the Near East which date from 5000 to the time of Abraham are examined, no evidence of a global flood is found. In fact, overlapping layers of occupation, one on top
of the other, often with the remains of mud-brick houses in place, are found intact spanning the entire period. No matter what specific date one might
put on the flood after 5000 B.C., there were sites in the Near East at that date where people lived and remained undisturbed by any serious flood. In other words, not only is there no evidence of a flood that covered the Near East, there is archaeological evidence that no flood covered the Near East between 5000 and the time of Abraham. In fact there are continuous cultural sequences which overlap each other from 9500 to 3000 B.C. and down into the times of the patriarchs and later.
CONCLUSION- The empirical data of geology, glaciology, and archaeology, as interpreted by virtually all scientists qualified in these areas of study, clearly testify that no flood covered the entire globe or even the entire Near East at any time in the last 11,000 years.
*Curated and edited from this post.
LINES OF EVIDENCE FOR A LOCAL FLOOD:
The only serious contender we have for a massive catastrophic Flood that could fit the Noahic account is a local Flood that covered SE Mesopotamia around 2900 BC. For them this Flood would have seemed global, it destroyed their world, they would not have seen the hills around about due to the curvature of the earth, this region see
ms to be where the Flood stories most similar to the Biblical account originated. For more on this line of thought see here.
The first Flood narrative we have a record of originated around a century after this great Flood comes from the The Sumerians who had a flood myth in which the god Enki decides t
o destroy mankind, but warns Ziusudra and tells him to build a large boat. Sound familiar?
Later, we have the Epic of Gilgamesh in which the god Enlil decides to destroy mankind, but warns Utnapishtim and tells him to build an ark. Sound familiar?
Then there’s the Akkadian (who came after t
he Sumerians) story of Atrahasis, in which Enki decides to destroy the world in a flood, but warns the hero Atrahasis to build a large boat. Sound familiar?
The Hebrew Flood story, involving Noah, is dated to approximately 500BC, long, long after the Sumerian and Akkadian stories.
You can compare many of the s
imilarities between the Mesopotamian and Hebrew Flood accounts in this chart (will open in a new window).
Given the geological, archaeological and literary evidence, the Biblical account is most likely a parabolic legend, based loosely on a real historical event, but adapted for didactic purposes by at least two different authors (P and J) and later combined by the Editor (Ezra? Baruch?) into the single incredible narrative we have in Genesis today as Prof. Lamoureux lays out quite clearly here.