3 things to keep in mind if you don’t want to screw up the Noah story

Posted by PeteEnns on August 23, 2016 in Bible and science Old Testament 51 Comments

ken-ham-2There’s been quite a lot of kerfuffle online this summer in the wild and wacky, never boring, but yet always so, world of reading the Bible far, far, too literally.

I should put in my two cents—be ready for a shock—that I don’t think much of the recent construction of a life-size but totally non-functional replication of Noah’s ark by Ken Ham and his massive following at Answers in Genesis.

For one thing, I’m not sure what is accomplished, other than, “See, we did it!”—though I assume that, being a business, AiG will realize much gain through it, financial or otherwise. All press is good press, as they say—even if it’s for building an ark (for heaven’s sake).

As is well known, Ham and his organization tirelessly insist that, since the Bible is God’s word, it must be taken literally. This is simply bizarre logic that quickly dissolves once you study the Bible rather than exploit it.

So with that in mind, here are 3 things to keep in front of us if we want to understand the Noah story.

1.The story of the flood seems to be rooted in history. Many biblical scholars relying on geological findings believe that a great deluge in southeastern Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (present-day Iraq) around 2900 BCE was the trigger for the many flood stories that circulated in the ancient world, some already two thousand years old by the time King David came on the scene around 1000 BCE.

These ancient stories were attempts to explain why this happened, and the cause was fixed in divine wrath/retribution.

2. The story of Noah and the flood, though rooted in history, is also rooted in the stories told among other ancient people living in or near Mesopotamia. Israel’s version of the story is not the oldest one, and its existence certainly cannot be divorced from these older versions (like the Atrahasis epic and Gilgamesh epic).

Whether or not the author/s of the biblical version was/were aware of any of these older stories or consciously worked off of them is impossible to know and immaterial (though the similarities between the biblical account and the Atrahasis epic raises questions of dependence of the former on the latter, namely the sequence: creation—population growth—an unforeseen problem—devestating flood.)

Understanding the impact of these first two points will lead to the third:

3. The story does not depict an “accurate” account of history, but the ancient Israelites’ understanding of that long-past event that survived in cultural memory.  Reading the flood story in Genesis does not tell us “what happened,” but it does tell us something of what the Israelites believed about their God.

In other words, it is a statement of theology, not history (despite the historical trigger mentioned above).

Just what that theology is isn’t laid out for us in black and white. You have to read between the lines a bit. But the story is certainly connected to two others in the Bible: creation and the exodus from Egypt.

In the creation story (Genesis 1), God fixes a dome-like “firmament” to hold back the waters of chaos, which creates habitableCosmos space beneath, first the sky and then dry land. In the flood story, the “windows” of the firmament open up letting the waters of chaos crash back down onto the habitable space, thus returning the created order back into its original state of chaos.

The flood, as God’s retribution, is an undoing of creation which leads to a re-creation, as it were, with a new Adam: Noah.

The reason given in Genesis for this need to start over is human wickedness. Now, this raises (and has raised for a long time) all sorts of problems, namely why God goes so over-the-top. We’re only in the 6th chapter of the Bible. Couldn’t God think of another solution or was drowning the only option?

But this may be asking the wrong question. Rather than trying to explain why God would do such and such, it is more fruitful to ponder what this story tells us about Israel’s understanding of God.

The reason the gods flood the earth in the Atrahasis epic is because humans, who were created for slave labor, were making too much noise. The Israelites, on the other hand, had something else to say about the character of their God and the obligation of humanity to God as creatures created in God’s image.

They had a different theology.

The flood story also connects to the exodus story. In both stories, those not “on God’s side” drown (Noah’s “wicked generation” and the Egyptian army) when the waters held apart come crashing down.

Likewise, Noah and his family are saved in an “ark” waterproofed with pitch. The Hebrew word for ark is tevah (TAY-vah), and its only other use in the Bible is in the story of Moses, where, as an infant, he is placed in a “basket” (tevah) lined with pitch to escape Pharaoh’s edict to kill the Israelite male children. Both Noah and Moses are brought safely through a watery threat.

The flood story is not intended to be read in isolation. It is part of a big theological statement that spans Genesis and Exodus. That message can be put in different ways with different emphases, but here is my way:

Yahweh the creator is also Yahweh the deliverer. And when he delivers his people it is an act of creating them anew.

The creation of the people of God (first with Noah and then with the Israelites out of Egypt) was by the same means that God created the cosmos—by controlling water. The mighty God of creation is still present with Israel in her hour of need. The creator is the redeemer.

There’s a lot more to it than that—and we’ll leave to the side for now how this theme is continued elsewhere in the Bible, namely in the New Testament—for example, to be redeemed in Christ is to be a “new creation” for Paul (or a “new birth” for John).

This theology can be explored and played with, to be sure. But my only point is that reading the flood story as an ancient story packed with theology (in the context of other such ancient stories) is far more interesting and less stressful than fixating on and fretting over whether it happened—and building a life-size replica to try and prove it.

***I talk more about the interpretation of the Flood story in The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014), Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005/2015)***

  • https://nextcreation.wordpress.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

    We have finally proved the veracity of the biblical account – that Noah’s ark is entirely historically viable as long as we have modern construction equipment and it doesn’t actually have to float or contain fresh water.

  • Gary

    Three things to keep in mind if you don’t want to screw up relationships with those who screw up the Noah story:

    1. Grin.
    2. Nod.
    3. Tithe.

    • Gary

      Incidentally, it just got real. My one cousin today posted a pic with her family at Ham’s Ark.

      Maybe I add #4, Say Nothing.

      One of the ironic fascinations I have about Evangelicalism is this. From the inside, believers are looking for opportunity to witness. From the outside, we avoid a lot of conversations. When I was on the inside, I think I mapped it to some sort of rebellion, hardness of heart, or conviction of the Holy Spirit working in peoples lives.

      Now, from the outside, it seems the principle thing is politeness. It would be so easy to say something, nearly anything, that would come across as ridicule of beliefs, that would hurt feelings, that would harm relationships.

      Maybe it’s “more fruitful to ponder what this story tells us about Israel’s understanding of God.” But honestly, that can feel a bit out there and archaic when contrasted with the real world of friends and family who are believers. Their beliefs overlaid on these stories tell us about their understanding of God.

      Never mind fixating and fretting over stories. That’s the easy part. Meaningfully engaging with the fundie-leaning Evangelicals in one’s life? That’s the hard part.

      Is the only solution just kind of moving on and gawking at what they do from afar?

      • charlesburchfield

        Addiction is addiction is addiction in it’s many forms whether substance or behavior or both have a common problem of the impossibility of true intimacy. one is very lonely in the midst of a community of addicts IMHO. Move on by all means!

      • Gary

        Absolutely fascinating… After 48 hours, eighty some likes and a dozen comments.

        None of the comments hint at meaningful dialogue. Is not this a controversial topic?

        It appears #4 Say Nothing pervades. Nobody says anything. At least not among friends.

        Perhaps it’s politeness like I suggest? Perhaps everybody knows these matters simply can not be discussed civilly in public.

        Maybe gawking young earth creationism and those who otherwise screw up the Noah story is common.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    I don’t think much of Ham’s ark either, but I think of it much (a lot). What a waste of money to promote such a misguided idea! There has been a great deal of publicity, but I understand the expectation of the number of visitors in the first week were disappointing. However, I imagine it will impress many people and greatly encourage and validate those who believe in Young Earth Creationism.

    Thanks so much for this clarifying counter measure.

  • James

    About 60 years ago when I was 8 I built a replica of Elijah’s altar for Sunday School. It had mud, 12 shapely stones, wood, trench and lots of water. Then I built a messy altar of Baal with no water (or bull). I would have been impressed no doubt by a replication of Noah’s ark to scale. I would have asked a lot of questions as I did about my own project. Why was Elijah ordered to kill 450 prophets of Baal down at the Wadi Kishon? How could he run so fast, loins girt notwithstanding, “in front of” Ahab and chariot to Jezreel, “rushing rain” nipping at wheel and heel? I’m sure the experience of Ken Ham’s ark also would have stuck with me for 60 years.

  • Hill Roberts

    If only they’d used early bronze age tooling (c. 3000 BC) !!! Oh, then AIG would have failed miserably, at least in any reasonable time frame. And from the AIG version, apparently Noah had some pretty incredible wood planes. Oh, and from looking at the inside bracing in their pictures, we can say for sure this ridiculous charade would fold up under it’s own weight, much less under the battering the Genesis story describes was going on. It is supposed to be a BOAT, not a house. Such requires very different structural design that apparently AIG didn’t worry too much about. Building an immense sea worthy ship of WOOD is no small feat – ask the Portuguese, Spaniards, English, even the early American ship builders who all sent many smaller, better designed, and better built ships to the bottom when faced with one good storm. A good finite element computer model would put the lie to the whole thing. Oh, but I forget — anything a-physical in the story is easily papered over by saying “Oh well, God provided to prevent such.” Hard to trump miracles on demand.

  • ChurchBreak

    Can someone explain the detailed dimensions to me? I understand that the story isn’t an accurate historical account, but why did the writer(s) give so much mundane detail? Was that just part of the storytelling process at the time?

    • Pete E.

      Think “precise dimensions of the Temple” a la priestly author.

  • Berdache in another life

    Liked this illustration of the Ark.

  • John T. Noble

    Can you help with the primary/secondary sources for the 2900 BCE Mesopotamian flood?

  • Pete E.

    The only problem with this, Paul, is that Clines (former evangelical who famously catalogued his way toward postmodernism) doesn’t make the (in my view) vital distinction between “God” and “how God is portrayed.” The flood story tells me much more about how ancient Israelites thought than what God is like. He’s right about how the violence is ignored, whitewashed, or worse used an an excuse for human violence, but I’d like see more here about how this story is a culturally shaped depiction of God (which is already a point of discussion in the OT).

  • newenglandsun

    I’ve pondered this for a while. I would state I sway toward the young earth creationist principle of reading the scriptures though there’s a lot more I don’t know. Further, the length of the days is unknown. Some church fathers thought they were 1,000 years long, St Augustine thought they were unknown, St Basil and other church fathers said they were 24 hour periods, etc. I think simply stating “this is the ancient Israelites theological account of the flood narratives” though is a simplification. St Augustine heavily criticizes the other ancient accounts of history and argues that the scriptures provide the true account of human history (most of the fathers dated the creation of man to the year 5,509 BC (Byzantine liturgical calendar is in the year 7,525 right now coming upon 7,526). There is clearly a lot of complications. For instance, if we assume the Israelites were aware of the other flood myths, were they simply attacking the theology or were they also attacking the history?

    St Augustine maintains the allegorical meaning–the theological or spiritual meaning. That there is a clear theological meaning should be unquestioned. But St Augustine criticizes both those who simply see the narrative as historical and those who simply see the narrative as theological. There is theology in the history and history in the theology. It seems viewing the story this way creates and gives us a narrative where God is moving the history. But I don’t know. I could be wrong. But I have no reason to object to the historical account of the narrative either so I see no reason to debate whether it is historical or not. Neither do I think that there is no theology in it. To say there is no theology in it would be like saying that the birth of Samuel did not somehow also foreshadow the birth of Jesus or that St Hannah the Mother of Samuel does not foreshadow the St Hannah mother of Mary.

  • charlesburchfield

    One may ask:
    “Couldn’t God think of another solution or was drowning the only option?”
    & I agree:
    ….”this may be asking the wrong question. Rather than trying to explain why God would do such and such, it is more fruitful”…
    IMHO
    useful, helpful, worthwhile to investigate the kind of tribe that embraced this story & claims it as their history &, as such, foundational to tribe identity. I think individual inclusion & survival of in this group is mythically & mystically bound to an agreement with a hidden agenda that not only must one accept as literal fact: that a tiny select family & their “pets” survive a catastrophic world event triggered & arranged by a pissed off diety, one must suffer oppression of being held hostage in a situation that defines and assigns one’s role for the convienience of community such that the “us/them” boundary enforcement, based on whose family dynasty gets to select interpretations of what the accepible code of behavior is for everyone is the most significant factor which influence one’s status & opportunities to posper within that community.

    “to ponder what this story tells us about Israel’s understanding of God.”…is useful in that one may contemplate the behavior & predict what a contemporary cult might be into when it
    asks the wrong questions & act out the wrong answer. (“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”is a quotation from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, spoken in the movie by Strother Martin as the Captain, a prison warden) gets a cult of personaliy going in a direction to suport grandiose public buildings schemes of excess such as this absurd hideous arc structure.
    As you say:
    “An ancient story packed with theology (in the context of other such ancient stories) is far more interesting and less stressful than fixating on and fretting over whether it happened—and building a life-size replica to try and prove it.”

    to be honest, i think it’s deadly with complex disquieting concerns one shudders to open to.

  • Bill Heroman

    Hi, Pete. On the whole I don’t disagree at all but I have an ancillary challenge to a minor point here:

    “…the Atrahasis epic raises questions of dependence of the former on the latter, namely the sequence: creation—population growth—an unforeseen problem—devestating flood.”

    How could anyone imagine those four points in a different sequence?

    FD: My research on narrative has focused on the relationship between content and sequence. Basically, content often dictates its own logical sequence. Point: I think you might consider that the parallel is more directly about content. The question of dependence cannot be related to sequence.

    Anyone who imagined creation and a flood would have a hard time failing to generate the same two intermediate plot points.

  • Derek

    The “historical trigger” that forms the basis of these stories seems to be more than just a massive deluge. The stories share surprising similarities: a) the flood was “worldwide” b) a certain family was spared c) the survivors had been forewarned d) survival was by means of a boat of some sort e) animals were also saved f) the flood was due to the wickedness of man g) and the survivors ended up on a mountain. The core narrative seems to be relatively similar across the globe – how can there be such similar content across the globe? Coincidence or historical reality that had accumulated different cultural trappings?

    • Pete E.

      Maybe, Derek. On the other hand, I can’t imagine stories of WORLD WIDE floods NOT including SURVIVAL IN A BOAT. Someone had to survive to tell the story!

      Calling it a core narraitve implies that is one originating narrative, that would have to be defended somehow, which would include defending a lteral world wide flood–which we keep hearing is sciecntific nonsense.

    • Hill Roberts

      Pretty much those elements are associated with all floods regardless of scope. a) the current LA floods covered their world with devastation, b) some folks survived (or no story), c) there’s nearly always advance warning, d) weather reports warning of inclement weather for south LA, e) animals have the good sense to flee, f) humanity always sees the face of judgment in such events (post 9-11 sermons on fault of our own sins), g) high ground is always where it’s dry or dry first. No real surprises in any of these. Worldwide floods? Yes, all the time. Worldwide flood? No.

    • Hill Roberts

      Pretty much those elements are associated with all floods regardless of scope. a) the current LA floods covered their world with devastation, b) some folks survived (or no story), c) there’s nearly always advance warning – weather reports warning of inclement weather for south LA, d) boats, things that float kind of a given in such events, e) animals have the good sense to flee, f) humanity always sees the face of judgment in such events (post 9-11 sermons on fault of our own sins), g) high ground is always where it’s dry or dry first. No real surprises in any of these. Worldwide floods? Yes, all the time. Worldwide flood? No.

    • Paul D.

      Not everyone has flood myths. The Egyptians didn’t, because the Nile flooded naturally each year instead of causing rare catastrophic floods.

  • Pete E.

    I agree. The question of redeemability pf the story remains–unless we simply say that “holiness” of the people is the theological core of the story, told in an unfortunately horrible way. Truth be told, I wonder how the ancient Israelites felt about it. Maybe they wanted people to freak out a bit at reading this and interrogate it rather than simpyl accepting it. But at the end of the day, who knows….

  • Pete E.

    That doesn’y help. Actually, making this part of God’s plan IS the problem.

    • newenglandsun

      I’m not really certain how the teaching of the Church that everything happens according to the will of God “doesn’t help”. Could you expound on that? Or perhaps propose an alternative theological teaching to the Noachich flood that the Church somehow “missed out on”? You cannot possibly be smarter than the Church can you?

      • Scott Jorgenson

        There is a portion of the Church that considers it to make sense to attribute evil and suffering to God’s will (in at least some ultimate sense if not always a direct sense), and perhaps even finds comfort and solace in that.

        And then there is a portion that does not. This discussion is for that portion. Doubling-down with that portion instead, and telling them that they’re wrong for thinking and feeling the way they do, doesn’t work. They’ve heard it all before and declined. Their train has already left the station.

        • newenglandsun

          “There is a portion of the Church that considers it to make sense to attribute evil and suffering to God’s will…then there is a portion that does not. This discussion is for that portion. Doubling-down with that portion instead, and telling them that they’re wrong for thinking and feeling the way they do, doesn’t work.”
          Thanks for explaining the portion of the discussion. Yes, it is a theodicy issue and yes, there is a portion that does not think finding everything in God’s will works. I have amended and apologised after realising the issue is in theodicy. I had presumed (mistakenly) that it was one in hermeneutics of scriptures–that is, “what the text tells about God”. As we can see, since the issue is in theodicy, I would side with the position that says it does not work for them and that it causes more problems. In a hermeneutical position, the statement that the text shows all things happening according to the will of God is the only orthodox position that can be taken due to God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and his participation in the redemption of creation. Please also read my other comment made.

    • newenglandsun

      Wanted to apologise for my last comment to you–what I was trying to say is that neither you nor I are infallible interpreters of the sacred scriptures. The Church is but we are not an island that exists apart from the Church. Rather we are called to be one as the Church.

      I think I see what you mean when you say that saying “making this part of God’s plan IS the problem” and correct me if I’m wrong–it seems the statement is one of theodicy. Theodicy is something that theologians have had difficulties with for a while. We know everything happens in accordance with the will of God and that he is omnipotent and omniscient but some things we cannot understand.

      There is, in OT revelation, not much given. Moses comes down from Sinai with a veil–why? The Israelites cannot handle the revelation.

      The texts are difficult perhaps because we can’t handle the revelation…perhaps we find ourselves trying also to look at it from the perspective of the wicked as well. Perhaps even approaching from Noah or from Lot, we still cannot understand why the others were destroyed. This is why we still need faith and hope though for now we see through a glass dimly, faith and hope will be no longer needed and we can rely solely on love.

  • Pete E.

    I do it in everything I write :-)

    • Gary

      Must be a sixth sense.

  • charlesburchfield

    No such a thang! They just wait & you wait for motivation to be connected to life
    on life’s terms. IMHO that happens when the addiction stops working. Might take time.

  • charlesburchfield

    No. Head cheese.`€=-)

  • James Snapp, Jr.

    I suggest some different points to consider:
    (1) The story of the flood is rooted in history, but the core-event, instead of being “a great deluge in southeastern Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.” may be the inundation of the Black Sea Basin covered by Ryan & Pitman, in the 5000s B.C. (although details about the extent of that event are still somewhat up in the air).

    (2) The problem that the flood of Noah was intended to solve was not human sinfulness or depravity, but rather the effects of the fall of the Watchers as related in the opening verses of Genesis 6, and (in much more detail) in the Enochic tradition.

    (3) Taking into account literary features such as hyperbole and phenomenological language, there’s not much, if any, of the contents of Genesis’ account of the flood that cannot be regarded as an account of “what happened.” For example, “all the mountains were covered” need not mean more than that all the mountains in the vicinity, viewable from the perspective of the characters in the story, were covered.

  • Tim Helble

    The only negative (less than 5 star) reviewer we got so far for “The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth (Subtitle: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon) made an interesting statement that I’d like to get readers here to comment on. He stated:

    “From the reviews, I had looked forward to reading an honest book. However, already from page 15, this book is so full of straw men, black and white alternatives, and outright lies, that it is very hard to navigate. I first started noticing this on page 26 where it refers to “The problem of oil” that is “pitch” used by Noah in Genesis 6:14 to line the ark. A false reference to non-existent hebrew (sic) words is used to underline this “truth”, which is in fact an outright lie.”

    My question is, what is the Hebrew word for “pitch” in Genesis 6:14? I’m sort of at a loss as to what he meant by saying that pitch was a non-existent Hebrew word.

    For anyone interested, the reviews for the book are at: https://www.amazon.com/Grand-Canyon-Monument-Ancient-Earth/product-reviews/0825444217/ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_summary?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=helpful

  • Paul D.

    I’m quite sure 1 Peter 3:18-22 is actually a reference to 1 Enoch (whose themes can be found throughout 1 & 2 Peter and Jude). The “spirits in prison” are the fallen angels that, according to 1 Enoch and Jubilees (i.e. widespread Jewish belief), were imprisoned in the netherworld dungeon of Tartaros (cf. 2 Peter 2:4) for leading men astray, and were to be judged at the eschaton. As the story goes, Enoch served as an intermediary between God and the imprisoned angels; 1 Peter 3:18 is either using the Enochic archetype for Christ or actually refers to Enoch. (Restoring a single missing letter causes the Greek text to say “it was in the spirit that Enoch preached to the spirits in prison”.)

    In either case, the flood story is serving as a sort of metaphor for baptism and salvation in 1 Peter. But that’s beside the point, because Christian reinterpretation many centuries later tells us little or nothing about the actual context of the Genesis story as originally written.

    • newenglandsun

      “Christian reinterpretation many centuries later tells us little or nothing about the actual context of the Genesis story as originally written.”
      This is definitely more of a modernistic stance that I reject. Mostly because I’m not more knowledgable about God than the Church throughout the ages (neither are you nor any one attempting to read scriptures apart from the Church–only the Holy Church can guide our interpretation of scriptures as Christians). My rule of thumb is that if I see a commentary on the scriptures that rejects flatly a teaching of the Church’s, I reject that commentary as unreliable. It is a good rule of thumb to follow. Scriptures are divinely inspired and given to us by God via the Church.

      That said, is what I presented “Christian reinterpretation”? Let’s investigate–God came down and founded a Church (Matt. 16:16-19). He gave that Church authority to interpret the scriptures. There really isn’t such a thing as “Christian reinterpretation” since Jesus testifies himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) and that all scripture testifies about him (John 5:39). In fact, scriptures were meant entirely to be interpreted in such a Messianic context which is why the followers of Jesus (the Church) were able to give such interpretations of the Old Testament that may not have been able to have been seen on their own. They were illuminated because they had the incarnation. Far from “Christian reinterpretation” what we witness in the Church is actually the genuine understanding of the way that scriptures were meant to be read. Many Jewish leaders tried to isolate the Old Testament away from Christ whom it pointed to. The New Testament and patristic exegesis rejects this model and goes straight to the divine Word (John 1:1).

      Perhaps 1 Pet. 3:18 is also referencing 1 Enoch but this does not mean it is not also referencing the flood narrative. So what the flood narrative of Genesis 6 tells us is accurately given us by the Church, the divine body of Christ and pillar and ground of Truth (1 Tim. 3:15-16).

      I want to make another point–I am not saying the flood narrative is a “metaphor” to baptism (well it can be but it’s not just a metaphor). It most certainly is a type of baptism as well.

      • Pete E.

        Gee, newengland un, you are starting to sound awfully irascibly fundy. Have you learned nothing by sitting at my feet the past few years?

        • Pete E.

          In case anyone would even have the slightest suspicion that my comment above is meant to be anything other than lighthearted, please know that I do not think of any of you as actually sitting at my feet . Please let following emoji confirm these words. 😀

      • Paul D.

        “Let’s investigate–God came down and founded a Church (Matt. 16:16-19). He gave that Church authority to interpret the scriptures.”

        These are all claims made by the church itself, so such an approach is circular to begin with. (And yes, Matthew is a book written, preserved and canonized by the church.) And when you look at the vast range of views held by the early church — including those that would later be deemed heretical and suppressed — I find that the whole enterprise of church dogma is on even shakier ground than I ever expected.

        Old Testament scholars who actually devote their lives to studying and publishing this stuff don’t have the luxury of declaring “the church said it, I believe it, that settles it.” A text must be understood on its own terms before you start grinding it up to make theological sausage — it that is one’s intention. (I don’t care about theology at all. I just want to know what the Bible means and where it came from.)

        • newenglandsun

          “These are all claims made by the church itself, so such an approach is circular to begin with.”
          The claims may be made by the Church but they are no less factual.

          “when you look at the vast range of views held by the early church”
          Are you honestly saying that views within Gnosticism and Sabellianism and Montanism were actually making the Church a “vast range of views” resemblant more of the present state of TEC? Even though they were immediately, instantaneously condemned? And what of 1 and 2 Corinthians where St Paul calls the Church of Corinth to be “one mind” in Christ? Are you saying that the Apostles would have tolerated such alleged “vast range of views”? I have read many of the church fathers and they are quite consistent in the dogmas they condemn. The problem is that all of the heresies are basically either re-hashed of old views that had been condemned (Manicheanism rehashed Gnosticism) or went out of existent for so many years that it can easily be demonstrated that the Church never held those views in the first place (Arianism dies prior to the 10th century and is only extant in barbarian groups and then does not show up again until the Reformation, Sabellianism dies and stays dead even longer).

          “I find that the whole enterprise of church dogma is on even shakier ground than I ever expected.”
          I suppose if my understanding of church history was as bereft as yours, I’d say the same thing.

          “Old Testament scholars who actually devote their lives to studying and publishing this stuff don’t have the luxury of declaring “the church said it, I believe it, that settles it.””
          Old Testament scholars who aren’t apart of the Church I assume? Like all the OT scholars denying that Jesus came in the flesh?

          “A text must be understood on its own terms before you start grinding it up to make theological sausage — it that is one’s intention.”
          The Church’s approach to the scriptures largely approaches the scripture on its own terms. The difference is that a modernist OT scholar as the ones you describe assume the text to be something entirely different than what it is whereas the Church approaches it accordingly to its divine inspiration in the context pointing to Jesus as the Christ. (John 5:39 and 14:6 are key to remember–all scripture points to Christ and because of this, the Church cannot grind up the text into sausage otherwise, it is guilty of not approaching scripture on its own terms of divine inspiration.)

          “(I don’t care about theology at all. I just want to know what the Bible means and where it came from.)”
          I am not certain how you can claim to not care about theology and then claim you want to know what the Bible means and where it came from. The Bible is, whether you like it or not, a gift from God given to us by the Church. The scriptural source could not be more theological than that. It is probably because you don’t care about the prayer life of the Church that you seek to make scriptures what you want them to be.

          • Pete E.

            Cam down NES. Your rhetoric is a getting belligerent.

  • newenglandsun

    “the matter of Noah coating the Ark with pitch is a sticky problem (pun intended) for creationists”
    God can create a world, make all the stars in the Heaven, descend from Heaven into a virgin, be born of a virgin, become an infant then man, die, resurrect himself, ascend into heaven, and overthrow the powers of evil (not to mention as a man turn water into wine, walk on water, heal lepers, make blind men see, make the lame walk, and through prophets and as incarnate man, raise the dead, part a sea, etc.) but he cannot somehow use a series of miracles within the flood narrative? God is not limited. Scientific studies are really not sufficient in this discussion to prove/disprove the historicity regardless the position you hold.

  • James M

    One small niggle, if I may: “Athahais” looks like a typo for “Atra-hasis” (the hyphen is optional), which in Akkadian (the Semitic language of Babylonia and Assyria) means “exceedingly wise”. The Atrahasis poem is related to, though not the same as, the Flood narrative in Tablet 11 of the Akkadian Gilgamesh epic. The oldest Mesopotamian Flood narrative is a Sumerian poem, probably originally 200 lines long, of which only 39 lines, in fragments, remain. All three have been translated into English, though a translation of the the Atra-hasis poem seems not to be on the Net; translations of the other two are. It is fascinating to compare the ideas in the three Mesopotamian poems with those in Gen. 6.5-8.22.

    FWIW, the Sodom story in Gen.19.1-29, and that in vv. 29-38, have some remarkable similarities both to the Flood narrative, and to the stories in Gen.6.1-4 and 9.18-27. The literary genius of the authors and editors of the book is immensely impressive.

    • Pete E.

      Good catch, James. I fixed the typo. Thanks!

  • Pete E.

    Thanks for dumping us into the middle of a site where we have to go rooting for things :-)

    Did you catch the first sentence of that site? “The stories below are flood stories from the world’s folklore. I have included stories here if (1) they are stories; (2) they are folklore, not historical accounts or fiction by a known author; and (3) they involve a flood.”

  • Pete E.

    See my earlier comment. This was addressed. You are assuming only one event accounts for this. And as I said, you now need to account for the COMPLETE lack of geological evidence (and physical impossibility) for a global flood.

    • Derek

      I guess the possibility of our post-flood world not being the same as the pre-flood world might have something to do with it. If the operating assumption is ‘the present is the key to the past’, then all evidence will be interpreted through those lenses. As Christian’s, however, we can challenge the wholly naturalistic, secular presuppositions with ‘God’s revelation is the key to understanding the past’. This lens might yield significantly different interpretations of the physical evidence.

      • Pete E.

        You’re representing your position well, Derek, all of which is based on an implicit genre decision re: the flood story–and so one needs to hypothesize a parallel universe to make it work.

  • Me
    • Pete E.

      I read it. It’s very silly.

  • newenglandsun

    It does not say the reverse either about miracles.

  • john8

    1) please don’t misrepresent others, AIG doesn’t believe all the Bible ‘must be taken literally’. There has a Bible command about that kind of thing, if you take it literally.
    2) There is no way anyone can prove which flood story is the oldest. Evidence (numerous similar details across most all of the stories around the world) would seem to indicate that one of them is the original (be it all true, half truth, or myth) and the others are knock-offs/perversions of that original. If Noah’s flood is an historical, worldwide event the other stories make sense as the account was passed down through generations as people spread around the world and some of the details became changed. You may not believe that’s what happened, but it is a reasonable and logical possibility.
    3) It’s not either/or, rather both/and. It’s historical narrative (as any regular person would naturally take from reading it) and it teaches theology. Which is far more fruitful to ponder than merely Israel’s understanding of God, which would only be helpful to ancient history buffs. Besides, how is perceived ‘fruitfulness’ of an event any help in determining if an event actually happened or not?
    4) One other problem with the anti-historical view is that it is that Noah’s flood is treated as history by Peter (“and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished”) and Jesus (“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man”). They use them to warn about literal future events that will happen ‘just as’ Noah’s flood did. Which if Noah’s flood is figurative myth then the coming Day of the Lord and judgment of God as warned of by Peter and Jesus becomes figurative. Then we are merely left to consider Peter’s understanding of God and Jesus’ understanding of God, because his judgements will not be played out in any historical sense any more than the myth of Noah’s flood actually happened, and hence God had nothing to do with judgment some men just made it up.