Saturday, February 21, 2009

Global flood

I'm reading along in a commentary, and I was struck by Genesis 6:11: "So the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.""

Another verse repeats the same idea, but perhaps more forcefully: Genesis 6:17 "For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die."

There are several "global" terms here. "Erets" translated "earth", "all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven", "Everything that is on the earth" (erets). While "erets" can be more limited in its meaning, the context here seems to clearly indicate its global nature.

"Land" in 6:11 tranlates the word "adamah" which is usually much more limited than "erets/earth". If all we had was the statement in 6:11, "global flood" advocates would be on shaky ground, but "local flood" advocates must account for the repetive global references in 6:17. The use of "adamah" does not force a local flood, particularly when other contextual factors expand the meaning. The term is also abstract in that it doesn't necessarily refer to a specific plot of land. Adam was made of the dust of "adamah". The term there is referring to ground in an abstract way. God was not referring to a portion of ground that could be found via longitue and lattitude.

The following question was posted in a comment a while ago: If it is as Scripture and Paleontology seem to suggest that the pre-flood people remained within the Mesopotamian area. What need would God have of wiping out entire animal kingdoms which have never had contact with sinful man?

Genesis 6:12 "And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth."

It is possible that "all flesh" only refers to humans, but that is interpretive. Whether or not it is limited to humans or includes animal, the point is that God saw that earth and it was corrupt. Man was corrupt, yes, but so was the earth.

Another question: Is the global flood theology born out of exegetical necessity or out of the need to explain the millions of fossil records we see today?

Yes, out of exegetical necessity. What exegetical evidence is there for a local flood that outweighs the texts above (not fossil record). The belief in a global flood was held long before the fossil record was known. Justin Martyr, Theophilus (c. 115-185), Tertullian (A.D. 115-222), Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 329-389), and Augustine (4th century) are all on record as holding to a world-wide flood. That is only in the period of the Church Fathers (and that's not to say they were the only ones of their time that held this belief).