Should The Biblical Flood Story Be Taken Literally?

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WinePusher

Should The Biblical Flood Story Be Taken Literally?

Post #1

Post by WinePusher »

As otseng suggested, I am creating a thread to further discuss the topic of the Biblical Flood story. Both otseng and I are Christians, however I do not think that the flood story should be interpreted literally. So, in this debate, I will affirm the negative, that the flood story in the Bible is not literally.

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Post #2

Post by WinePusher »

First, let me preface all this by saying I am not a liberal Christian, and I oppose many aspects of liberal christianity. I accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God, I accept the Bible as my primary source of Dogma and truth, and I accept the Bible as a God-Inspired document.

However, I do not accept the fundamentalist biblical interpretation that every single story in the Bible is meant to be taken literally. So, here's my opening argument:

Argument A:
It is highly unlikely that ancient peoples knew the earth was a round planet, they probably adhered to the train of thought that it was essentially a large, flat surface. Now, taking into account of the ancient Hebrew conception of the Universe,

Image

I think it is far more plausible that the biblical writer was referring to a large localized flood that would have been the result of heavy rainfall combined with the flooding of the Nile, Euphrates or Tigris river. Thus, a large local flood is a better explanation for the biblical flood story.

Argument B:

Taking the flood story literally assumes that Noah was an actual, historical character. This is begging the question, many biblical scholars that adhere to the documentary hypothesis realize that major parts of Genesis were probably written in the Southern Kingdom (Judah) where Jewish tradition and culture was beginning to develop. The character Noah and the flood story is likely a part of Jewish mythology, partly borrowed from the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Argument C:

The science simply doesn't support a global flood for 40 days and 40 nights. Flood Geology, and Walter Brown are considered fringe sources who engage in pseudoscience. If there was compelling scientific evidence for a global flood, I would expect many members of the mainstream scientific community to accept this theory.

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Post #3

Post by otseng »

WinePusher wrote: Argument A:
It is highly unlikely that ancient peoples knew the earth was a round planet, they probably adhered to the train of thought that it was essentially a large, flat surface. Now, taking into account of the ancient Hebrew conception of the Universe,
Even if true, I don't see how this argues for a local flood.
I think it is far more plausible that the biblical writer was referring to a large localized flood that would have been the result of heavy rainfall combined with the flooding of the Nile, Euphrates or Tigris river. Thus, a large local flood is a better explanation for the biblical flood story.
However, if you believe the following verses, it indicates that all land life died.

Gen 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Gen 7:20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

Gen 7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

Gen 7:22 All in whose nostrils [was] the breath of life, of all that [was] in the dry [land], died.

Gen 7:23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained [alive], and they that [were] with him in the ark.

Also, if it was a localized flood, why spend so much time and energy to build an ark when it would be much simpler to just walk to where it would not be flooded?
Argument B:

Taking the flood story literally assumes that Noah was an actual, historical character. This is begging the question, many biblical scholars that adhere to the documentary hypothesis realize that major parts of Genesis were probably written in the Southern Kingdom (Judah) where Jewish tradition and culture was beginning to develop.
I don't think it's begging the question. It's simply the most natural reading of the text.
The character Noah and the flood story is likely a part of Jewish mythology, partly borrowed from the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Why would they need to "borrow" the flood story from other cultures?
Argument C:

The science simply doesn't support a global flood for 40 days and 40 nights. Flood Geology, and Walter Brown are considered fringe sources who engage in pseudoscience. If there was compelling scientific evidence for a global flood, I would expect many members of the mainstream scientific community to accept this theory.
I think in due time, more will. O:)

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Post #4

Post by otseng »

WinePusher wrote: However, I do not accept the fundamentalist biblical interpretation that every single story in the Bible is meant to be taken literally.
How exactly do you interpret the flood narrative? Do you believe that the flood was local? Do you believe that Noah actually existed? Or do you believe the entire story was made-up?

WinePusher

Post #5

Post by WinePusher »

WinePusher wrote:Argument A:
It is highly unlikely that ancient peoples knew the earth was a round planet, they probably adhered to the train of thought that it was essentially a large, flat surface. Now, taking into account of the ancient Hebrew conception of the Universe,
otseng wrote:Even if true, I don't see how this argues for a local flood.
Well, if the biblical writer was unaware of a round planet, and witnessed a large flood that covered the land as far as the eye can see, he would have immediatly thought the entire planet was covered because he was only aware of a flat earth.

So the ignorance of a round earth on the part of the biblical writer indicates it was more likely a local flood.
WinePusher wrote:I think it is far more plausible that the biblical writer was referring to a large localized flood that would have been the result of heavy rainfall combined with the flooding of the Nile, Euphrates or Tigris river. Thus, a large local flood is a better explanation for the biblical flood story.
otseng wrote:However, if you believe the following verses, it indicates that all land life died.

Gen 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Gen 7:20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

Gen 7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

Gen 7:22 All in whose nostrils [was] the breath of life, of all that [was] in the dry [land], died.

Gen 7:23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained [alive], and they that [were] with him in the ark.

Also, if it was a localized flood, why spend so much time and energy to build an ark when it would be much simpler to just walk to where it would not be flooded?
1) The author probably thought the entire earth was flooded because he saw water covering the entire ladn around him. But the difference is that his conception of the world would have been drastically different then ours, he would have viewed it as a flat surface while we would view it as round planet.

2) I would ask you to provide some answers for the following:

-When did the flood actually occur?
-Do you believe in evolution? If you don't, how would you account for the species that we have today that did not exist in Noah's time?
-How would Noah and his family had gotten food? If they only had two types of each species of land animal, they couldn't have eaten them if they wanted to re-populate the earth. And most plants would have probably died out.
WinePusher wrote:Argument B:

Taking the flood story literally assumes that Noah was an actual, historical character. This is begging the question, many biblical scholars that adhere to the documentary hypothesis realize that major parts of Genesis were probably written in the Southern Kingdom (Judah) where Jewish tradition and culture was beginning to develop.
otseng wrote:I don't think it's begging the question. It's simply the most natural reading of the text.
Well, I don't think its wise to read the text "naturally" and "literally." Just because it makes reference to a man named "Noah" doesn't actually mean he existed, unless there are independent, extra-biblical sources that can back up that assertion.
WinePusher wrote:The character Noah and the flood story is likely a part of Jewish mythology, partly borrowed from the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
otseng wrote:Why would they need to "borrow" the flood story from other cultures?
I don't know this, I'm simply going off of what the scholars are saying. It's likely they borrowed from other cultures because of the correlation and similarities that we observe in reading the texts.
WinePusher wrote:Argument C:

The science simply doesn't support a global flood for 40 days and 40 nights. Flood Geology, and Walter Brown are considered fringe sources who engage in pseudoscience. If there was compelling scientific evidence for a global flood, I would expect many members of the mainstream scientific community to accept this theory.
otseng wrote:I think in due time, more will. O:)
I don't think so, I think that Young Earth Creationism, for the most part, is hurting Christianity. Would you agree that many parts of the Bible were written as allegorical pieces, meant to convey a message rather then relay history?

WinePusher

Post #6

Post by WinePusher »

otseng wrote:
WinePusher wrote: However, I do not accept the fundamentalist biblical interpretation that every single story in the Bible is meant to be taken literally.
How exactly do you interpret the flood narrative? Do you believe that the flood was local? Do you believe that Noah actually existed? Or do you believe the entire story was made-up?
Well, I believe that the flood narrative is partly fiction and partly true. This being my personal opinion, I think that there was a large local flood that was carried on by the Israelites through an oral tradition. It was then penned down on paper in Judah, and was reinforced during the Babylonian exile, where Jews were struggling to maintain their culture.

I think its a key aspect to the Bible, and believe that the more profound message is that God rewards Just people from damnation. But I think this message in diluted if we interpret it literally.

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Post #7

Post by otseng »

WinePusher wrote:
WinePusher wrote:Argument A:
It is highly unlikely that ancient peoples knew the earth was a round planet, they probably adhered to the train of thought that it was essentially a large, flat surface. Now, taking into account of the ancient Hebrew conception of the Universe,
otseng wrote:Even if true, I don't see how this argues for a local flood.
Well, if the biblical writer was unaware of a round planet, and witnessed a large flood that covered the land as far as the eye can see, he would have immediatly thought the entire planet was covered because he was only aware of a flat earth.
I don't think the perception of the shape of the Earth would matter much. The point rather is did the flood cover the entire Earth, whether it was flat or spherical. And according to the text, it would fit a global flood better.

But, even if it was a flood that covered as far as the eye can see that lasted for over a year, that would be quite a spectacular flood. How can you explain how such a flood can occur?
So the ignorance of a round earth on the part of the biblical writer indicates it was more likely a local flood.
Who would have been the flood eyewitness?
1) The author probably thought the entire earth was flooded because he saw water covering the entire ladn around him.
Who was the author?
But the difference is that his conception of the world would have been drastically different then ours, he would have viewed it as a flat surface while we would view it as round planet.
I would not necessarily agree with that since nowhere is it explicitly stated in the Bible that the world is flat.

But, though man might have a limited view of the Earth, God would not. So, why would God have stated in Gen 6:7 to destroy things that He "created from the face of the earth"? This would indicate that all the world would've been flooded and not just part of the world.
-When did the flood actually occur?
I only claim it was on the order of tens of thousands of years ago. I do not claim any exact date.
-Do you believe in evolution? If you don't, how would you account for the species that we have today that did not exist in Noah's time?
I believe in microevolution. But I do not believe in macroevolution.

Species variations after the time of the flood was through microevolution. For instance, all dogs came from some canine ancestor.
-How would Noah and his family had gotten food?
Do you mean while on the ark or after the flood?
Just because it makes reference to a man named "Noah" doesn't actually mean he existed, unless there are independent, extra-biblical sources that can back up that assertion.
Do you believe that Noah existed or not?
I don't know this, I'm simply going off of what the scholars are saying. It's likely they borrowed from other cultures because of the correlation and similarities that we observe in reading the texts.
Just because scholars say it doesn't mean it's the truth. Whatever they say needs to be backed up by logic and evidence.

If it cannot be explained why the Israelites would borrow the flood narrative (esp if it is fictional) from other cultures, then it would not be a very persuasive point.
think so, I think that Young Earth Creationism, for the most part, is hurting Christianity.
There is one aspect of YEC that I think should change. They should not be so insistent that the Earth is 6000 years old. I think if they would relax their stance and just say it's on the order of tens of thousands, then it would improve their position.
Would you agree that many parts of the Bible were written as allegorical pieces, meant to convey a message rather then relay history?
Yes, I would agree with that. And actually, I believe that the flood is both. It is both factual and symbolic.

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Post #8

Post by otseng »

WinePusher wrote:
otseng wrote:
WinePusher wrote: However, I do not accept the fundamentalist biblical interpretation that every single story in the Bible is meant to be taken literally.
How exactly do you interpret the flood narrative? Do you believe that the flood was local? Do you believe that Noah actually existed? Or do you believe the entire story was made-up?
Well, I believe that the flood narrative is partly fiction and partly true.
Exactly what parts would be true and what parts would be fiction? How did you decide what is true or false?

WinePusher

Post #9

Post by WinePusher »

WinePusher wrote:Well, if the biblical writer was unaware of a round planet, and witnessed a large flood that covered the land as far as the eye can see, he would have immediatly thought the entire planet was covered because he was only aware of a flat earth.
otseng wrote:I don't think the perception of the shape of the Earth would matter much. The point rather is did the flood cover the entire Earth, whether it was flat or spherical. And according to the text, it would fit a global flood better.
That is the point. For the purposes of discussion, lets say Noah did exist and survived the flood. He then wrote down all these occurences after the water subsided, if there was a huge local flood then he would assume it was global because his sense of "global" is not the same as ours. For you to say that it was an actual global flood assumes that the author knew that the earth was round. And there's simply no evidence of that.
otseng wrote:But, even if it was a flood that covered as far as the eye can see that lasted for over a year, that would be quite a spectacular flood. How can you explain how such a flood can occur?
I'm afraid I can't address the meterological aspects of that question. I'm simply saying that we have a "global flood" story, and there are several explanations for this:

1) A global flood did occur, the story is literal
2) It wasn't a global flood, but rather a large local flood
3) The entire story is a myth

And I think that choice two is more historically plausible then choice one.
WinePusher wrote:So the ignorance of a round earth on the part of the biblical writer indicates it was more likely a local flood.
otseng wrote:Who would have been the flood eyewitness?
Assuming a local flood occured, people who survived it would have carried it out by oral tradition until it was written down. There was no single eyewitness.

Assuming a global flood occured, would you ssay that Noah wrote it? Or that God reveled it to Moses?
1) The author probably thought the entire earth was flooded because he saw water covering the entire ladn around him.
otseng wrote:Who was the author?
The Jawist source.
WinePusher wrote:But the difference is that his conception of the world would have been drastically different then ours, he would have viewed it as a flat surface while we would view it as round planet.
otseng wrote:I would not necessarily agree with that since nowhere is it explicitly stated in the Bible that the world is flat.
Well, that mutually hurts both our points. No where is it explicitly stated that the earth was round.
otseng wrote:But, though man might have a limited view of the Earth, God would not. So, why would God have stated in Gen 6:7 to destroy things that He "created from the face of the earth"? This would indicate that all the world would've been flooded and not just part of the world.
That is very true, but we are arguing in secular terms. This is similar to when to the "God Did It" explanation, I certainly believe that God could cast a global flood down on the earth if he wished, but that is the fundamentalist drug of biblical studies. When faced with a historical problem, the fundamentalist appeals to revelation and scriptural authority, and the inquiry stops.
WinePusher wrote:-When did the flood actually occur?
otseng wrote:I only claim it was on the order of tens of thousands of years ago. I do not claim any exact date.
So you would also agree that the flood tale (if one actually occured) would have to be carried on orally since the only written history we have goes back as far as 3500BC.
WinePusher wrote:-Do you believe in evolution? If you don't, how would you account for the species that we have today that did not exist in Noah's time?
otseng wrote:I believe in microevolution. But I do not believe in macroevolution.

Species variations after the time of the flood was through microevolution. For instance, all dogs came from some canine ancestor.
Ok, no disagreements here.
WinePusher wrote:-How would Noah and his family had gotten food?
otseng wrote:Do you mean while on the ark or after the flood?
Both.
WinePusher wrote:Just because it makes reference to a man named "Noah" doesn't actually mean he existed, unless there are independent, extra-biblical sources that can back up that assertion.
otseng wrote:Do you believe that Noah existed or not?
No, I don't believe he existed. Do you believe that he existed?
WinePusher wrote:I don't know this, I'm simply going off of what the scholars are saying. It's likely they borrowed from other cultures because of the correlation and similarities that we observe in reading the texts.
otseng wrote:Just because scholars say it doesn't mean it's the truth. Whatever they say needs to be backed up by logic and evidence.

If it cannot be explained why the Israelites would borrow the flood narrative (esp if it is fictional) from other cultures, then it would not be a very persuasive point.
There are huge similarities between the two stories, as noted in this Christian Website. Let me say that I agree with their conclusion.

WinePusher

Post #10

Post by WinePusher »

otseng wrote:
WinePusher wrote:
otseng wrote:
WinePusher wrote: However, I do not accept the fundamentalist biblical interpretation that every single story in the Bible is meant to be taken literally.
How exactly do you interpret the flood narrative? Do you believe that the flood was local? Do you believe that Noah actually existed? Or do you believe the entire story was made-up?
Well, I believe that the flood narrative is partly fiction and partly true.
Exactly what parts would be true and what parts would be fiction? How did you decide what is true or false?
-The extraordinary measure of the claim/story. If the story is very extraordinary, then it is probably metaphorical.
-The weight it holds on the Christian Faith. For example, the resurrection is just as extraordinary a claim as the global flood story, but Christianity is based on the resurrection story and not the global flood story. The resurrection holds more wieght and meaning.
-If the story can be attested to with some outside reference and objective evidence. Jesus' life, and his resurrection can. The global flood story, for the most part, cannot. The only extra-biblical references to teh flood is the Gilgamesh Epic, which is also considered mythical.

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