Global Flood, or Localised?
Damien F. Mackey
This series will challenge the ‘Creationist’ global Flood model as being both un-biblical, un-scientific and, hence, lacking in common sense.
- Introductory Section
For a long time my view of Noah’s Flood was shaped by books like The Genesis Flood, that classic by Whitcomb and Morris, and by other like-minded writings on the subject. When the full implications of these writings hit me – of our terrestrial globe being entirely overflown by water, with a massive boat astride it all keeping safe the last eight humans, plus pairs of every known species of animal – I was like a man in a daze: overwhelmed. What an incredible image! Nothing in human experience seemed comparable to it. Later also I became intensely interested in the search for Noah’s Ark, and was quite convinced that a boat-shaped object that had been found on so-called ‘Mount Ararat’, or Agri Dagh (Ağri Daği) in (south) eastern Turkey, was indeed Noah’s Ark. In those days I was often in touch with one of the key Ark-eologists (as they have been called), Dr. Allen Roberts, who was then making news with his visits to the Agri Dagh site and his colourful adventures there (allegedly being taken captive by bandits on one occasion). Dr. Roberts and I customarily exchanged phone calls and also articles. I even used to tell enthusiastic school children in Scripture classes that I was taking in Sydney (Australia) that Noah’s Ark had now been discovered on Mount Ararat; and we hopefully imagined that one day we might hire a helicopter and go visit the site.
At this particular time I probably fully fitted the image of the Ark tragic whom Professor Ian Plimer has described in his book, Telling Lies for God. Reason vs Creationism (Random House, Australia, 1997), chapter 4, “The great flood of absurdities”. I give firstly Plimer’s provocative description of an Ark-eologist – bearing in mind that he has a certain extreme type of Flood/Ark seeker in mind – followed by that of the latter’s naïve disciple [p. 97]:
To be an ark-eologist is not easy because one has to abandon logic, abandon history, forget geography, abandon interpretation of the Bible, abandon knowledge, abandon modern science and have a blind unreasoning faith that a mythical stupendous maritime wooden vessel sits atop a mountain in eastern Turkey.
Plimer continues [pp. 97-98]:
One can only admire those, who against all odds, go looking for wooden boats on mountain tops. There are those, notwithstanding, who sit at home waiting patiently for their favourite ark-eologist to return with tales of horrors, dangers, divine guidance and supreme success from yet another unsuccessful expedition to eastern Turkey. These devotees already know that Noah’s ark rests on Mt Ararat, have been reassured by the unconvincing ‘evidence’ and acquiesce to supplementary purse-opening ark-eology ceremonies.
Yes, I could once identify with most of this.
But, over time, ever so slowly, I came to question: (a) this ‘global’ scenario for the Flood, and (b) the so-called Ark on the mountain – and, more recently (c) “Mount Ararat” as being the actual mountain of the Ark’s landing, or even of its ever having been submerged beneath the Flood (for more on this last, see IV. (c)) – since various lines of research I was pursuing, and methodologies, generally biblical, seemed to be conspiring against the possibility of such a scenario and were indeed pointing in the direction of a different model – indeed a far less vast one.
I refer to a combination of:
- looking to read the Scriptures (in this case, Genesis) more and more as ancient, not modern, texts, along the lines of P.J. Wiseman.
- [See also Excursus A];
- a developing geography of early Genesis that seemed to make apparent that the pre-Flood world could not have had its geographico-hydrological contours entirely erased, as ‘global’ Flood proponents would tend to argue; and, correspondingly,
- an apparent archaeologically-attested cultural continuity in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) from the pre-Flood Cain-ites (descendants of Cain) to the post-Flood (early Dynastic) inhabitants. Moreover, there were
- those manifold scientific arguments against a ‘global’ Flood, and lastly, but definitely not least,
- common sense.These i-v will be my points of reference in the course of my arguments below – though I am now having reason to re-assess further point (iii).
- So, whether or not K. Ham, J. Sarfati and C. Wieland of “Answers in Genesis” [AIG] were correct when they wrote on p. 137 of The Answers Book (Expanded and Updated) (Tribune Press, Brisbane, 2002) that: “People generally want a local flood because they have accepted the widely believed evolutionary history of the Earth, which interprets the fossils under our feet as the history of the sequential appearance of life over eons of time …”, that generalization of theirs certainly does not apply to me, since I am not an evolutionist. And that, for the following two cogent reasons amongst others:
- Regarding the supposed evolutionary progression of the Geological Ages, those polystrate trees alone are enough for me, rendering obsolete – seemingly in one blow – this presumed geological progression and thereby demanding a searching revision of the Geological Ages. The polystrate tree should be adopted as an emblem by anti-evolutionists and worn as their logo;
- as far as the fossil record goes, the words of G.K. Chesterton still, to this day, hold good: “The evolutionists seem to know everything about the missing link except the fact that it is missing.”
A Comment on each of these 2 points:
- The evolutionists’ treatment of polystrate trees I find to be very disappointing; and it seems to be clearly in this case, for instance, that the ‘Creationists’ have the better grasp of the scientific data and its implications. One of the first things I went looking for in Plimer’s book, Telling Lies for God, was his tackling, if at all, of the matter of polystrates. Plimer, as it turns out, simply dismisses this devastating, as I see it, evidence, merely by writing [p. 82]: “A spurious argument used by creationists refers to polystrate trees. These are fossil trees which, not unexpectedly, are found at a number of different sediment levels. It is interesting to note that such objects are of little interest to science, creationists have invented both the data and the terminology …”.
Unsatisfied by this, I popped into the Department of Geology at the University of Sydney one day and asked a geologist there if I could pose him a question. It was: How to reconcile the standard interpretation of the Geological Ages with the evidence of polystrate trees? Whilst he kindly obliged, he had never in fact heard of polystrate trees. When I, a scientific layman, tried to explain the phenomenon accurately to him, he completely missed the point of the multi-strata and its implications for his science. Plimer is perhaps right then in saying that “… such objects are of little interest to science”.
- Chesterton’s comment about the missing link is still most relevant. The cover story of the August 15, 2005 issue of TIME (Australia), “Evolution Wars”, has Darwinists like British biologist Richard Dawkins admitting to gaps in the fossil record; though still clinging to Darwinism with an unshakable ‘faith’ and not wanting even to entertain any debate with proponents of Intelligent Design (genuine scientists like e.g. Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University). The hilarious Chesterton’s other pithy comment, that the most notable thing about the missing link is that it is “still missing”, probably sums up Darwinian evolution better than anything else, before or since.
Moreover, I am all for shortening conventional time scales. However, I do not personally believe that there is any intrinsic geological connection between the biblical Flood and the age of the earth, be it young or old, despite the ‘Creationist’ insistence that there is. My initial doubts about the validity of the ‘global’ model arose, then, not as a result of the sort of scientific criticism by people like Ian Plimer, Professor of Earth Sciences (or Geology) at the University of Melbourne, but from a scrutiny of the biblical data itself, especially in regard to the location of Paradise, and from what I was then considering to be (but now will perhaps need to reconsider) the pre- and post- Flood Mesopotamian archaeology (the latter to be discussed in III. and IV.). It was indeed this biblico-archaeological foundation that then made me receptive to both the kind of scientific arguments that I would have in earlier days entirely rejected, and to the common sense that seemed to go hand in hand with many of these. All in all, I am now firmly convinced that the Genesis Flood could not have been ‘global’ in our sense of the term; though it was indeed a ‘universal’ Flood in the sense of its having ‘affected all’ [persons alive at the time]. Thus I do not challenge the testimonies of the Old and New Testament that only 8 persons survived it (cf. Genesis 6:9 and I Peter 3:20) – though this number must be understood, I believe, as representing the eight ancestral people, or four ancestral couples, from whom all humanity subsequently arose (Genesis 9:19); a view that may now be being verified also by genetics, according to the following article (from which I shall quote several sections in IV. (d)):
In Search of Our “Biblical Common Ancestor” by Patrick Young, Ph.D.
Indeed I must say at this point – and I do not mean this to be in the least bit demeaning, as I greatly admire the efforts of ‘Creationists’ and ‘global’ Flood modellers to verify the Bible historically – I now find the type of model pioneered by Whitcomb and Morris, and still fervently promoted by ‘Creationist’ groups (though with various modifications and refinements), to be totally unrealistic and unscientific.
Admittedly, there are certain common sense counterpoints (from a biblical standpoint) that one must immediately expect from the ‘Creationists’ when espousing the view of a more localised type of Flood.
Ham et al. (op. cit.), for instance, have listed some of these on pp. 138-141, preceded by the phrase:
“If the Flood were local, why … [followed by]
- did Noah have to build an Ark? He could have walked to the other side of the mountains and escaped ….
- was the Ark big enough to hold all the different kinds of land vertebrate animals to reproduce those kinds …?
- did God send the animals to the Ark to escape death? There would have been other animals to reproduce those kinds ….
- would birds have been sent on board? These could simply have winged across to far-distant higher ground….
- people who did not happen to be living in the vicinity would not have been affected by it. They would have escaped God’s judgment on sin. ….
- How could the waters rise to 15 cubits (8 metres) above the mountains (Gen. 7:20)? Proposed answers to all these questions will be provided in the course of this series.
- “If there was indeed a ‘Great Flood’, then …:
- Conversely, non ‘Creationist’ scientists urge a common sense selection of their own against the notion of a ‘global’ Flood. Points of this type abound in Plimer’s book for example. Let me preface some of Professor Plimer’s points with his own question [op. cit., p. 75]:
- – God would have repeatedly broken His promise never to send such a Flood again. There have been huge ‘local’ floods in recent times ….”
- how come we still have ravens, if one of the pair was sent off by Noah and never returned? [I think Plimer may mean here ‘one of the pair of doves’. Genesis 8:13].
- from where did the dove get the branch if the whole earth was overlayed by miles of sediment?”
- Or this series of questions [ibid., pp. 74, 105]:
- Could an ark be built to accommodate all the organisms?
- Did Noah really have the mathematical skills to solve the differential equations necessary to understand the bending moment, torque and shear stress associated with the roll, pitch, yaw and slamming expected in the turbulent globe-enveloping flood?
- What shipboard problems would exist on an ark of this size?
- How did the organisms travel from the beached ark to their current locations?”Plimer will also, despite his off-handed treatment of the polystrate fossils, employ many scientific arguments (especially geological); for example, if the Flood were ‘global’, then [ibid., p. 75]:
- every oil well, every coal mine, every drill hole in sedimentary rocks and every cliff profile would show a gradation from basal conglomerate to sand to uppermost siltstones, mudstones and claystones. …[but they don’t, Plimer maintains].
- in the record of rocks, we see evidence that some sedimentary rocks (and fossils therein) are formed in freshwater environments whereas other sedimentary rocks are formed in saline marine water. This presents a slight insuperable problem as the fictitious flood fluids were either fresh or saline but unquestionably could not be both”.Points of this nature will also be re-visited in sections II.-IV. of this series. I am well aware that there has been plenty of debate between Plimer and AIG specifically over some of these points, as well as over many other issues.Anyway, for what it is worth, I shall now present my arguments against the ‘global’ Flood concept of the ‘Creationists’. Arguments Against a Global Flood … there sometimes occurs the ironical – even humorous – situation whereby agnostic scientists will occasionally call for a more enlightened exegetical approach to Genesis than do the upholders of the biblical tradition; whereas the latter will at times arrive at a more accurate interpretation of the scientific data than do their scientific opponents. For what it is worth, I shall now present my arguments against the ‘global’ Flood concept of the ‘Creationists’.
- Certain Lines of Argument
- Part Two:
Against a ‘Global’ Flood
Whilst a superficial reading of the Flood narratives of Genesis 6-9 might seem to suggest, according at least to a modern mentality (point i), that the Genesis Flood encompassed the entire globe, covering even the world’s highest mountains, such a ‘total’ view I now urge is to impose upon the ancient Genesis texts (not to mention upon poor old Noah and his family) an unrealistic burden that they are quite incapable of supporting. This last is an exegesis that scriptural scholars well versed in ancient practices warn must be avoided. Ironically, it is even an exegetical method against which the agnostic/sceptic Ian Plimer advises (ref. back to Part One – e.g. Plimer, ibid., pp. 73f.). In fact there sometimes occurs the ironical – even humorous – situation whereby agnostic scientists will occasionally call for a more enlightened exegetical approach to Genesis than do the upholders of the biblical tradition; whereas the latter will at times arrive at a more accurate interpretation of the scientific data than do their scientific opponents.
‘Tabula Rasa’ Effect
According to the most extreme ‘global’ Flood view, held even by some useful revisionist scholars – like Drs. D. Courville, The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications, V. II, 1971 [pp. 153f.] and J. Osgood, see below – the Genesis Flood was so immense and powerful that it must completely have swept away all features of the antediluvian world, so that no trace whatsoever of that primeval world would remain today. It was, they argue, a total tabula rasa effect, wiping the slate clean. Proponents of this view consider it to be a complete waste of time now, for instance, to go searching for the ancient site of Paradise; though this is exactly what I have done in my article,
The Location of Paradise (Genesis 2:10-2:14). Part One.
and hence I would maintain against the proponents of tabula rasa that the concept of a Flood that removed all previous contours is un-biblical.
When I wrote previous versions of this series, I had been under the impression that the archaeology of Jericho and Mesopotamia, for instance, had straddled the Noachic Flood, these having (i) antediluvian, (ii) Flood (at least in Mesopotamia), and (iii) post-diluvian phases. And so I wrote:
Moreover, this tabula rasa approach turns out to be rather disastrous in terms of:
- a necessary revision of the Stone Ages, and
- archaeologically identifying some major early post-Flood events, all related, such as the era of Nimrod, the Tower of Babel incident and the consequent Dispersion (the last, a mass movement of people away from Mesopotamia, eminently lending itself to archaeological identification). I shall elaborate on these points in the main part of this article (sections II.-IV.).Dr. Osgood’s ViewsWhilst some of this will now need to be modified, considerably in certain cases, I still stand by more former claim that the Genesis Flood did not eradicate all traces of the antediluvian world – the hydrological contours of Paradise for instance. [End of quote]Having said that, I do not think that I would have been able to have made any sense of the era of Abram (Abraham) in a revised archaeological context, had it not been for the research of Dr. Osgood and his revision of the late Stone Ages. Thus I had previously written: …. I fully accept, at least, Dr. Osgood’s compelling Abram/En-gedi-Chalcolithic/ (Ghassul IV) synchronization, and I am also inclined to believe that Abram was contemporaneous with the mighty Ur III dynasty in Mesopotamia. [I have since written various series of articles on all of this]. The implication here is that a highly advanced civilization flourishing in one place, the Mesopotamian city of Ur, can co-exist with a Stone Age scenario, Palestinian En-gedi, not geographically all too far away. Osgood has also argued for Jericho Neolithic to have been contemporaneous with the above-mentioned Ghassul-Chalcolithic phase, “… Stone Age”, p. 95]. But, whilst I believe that Dr. Osgood was quite correct in his proposing of the need for a drastic time reduction for the Stone Ages, I think he nevertheless needed to credit these Stone Ages with yet a further 1656 years – that being the usually accepted time span from Adam to the Flood (see e.g. P. Mauro’s The Wonders of Bible Chronology, Reiner, 1965, Ch. III). Now, however, I am disinclined to accept either of these former views. The following is what I had previously written, to which I shall now make the relevant comments in the light of necessary modifications:Thus the revised ages model outlined below (to be filled out in sections II.-IV.) for the antediluvian-postdiluvian sequence, interrupted by the Great Flood, will allow – differently from Osgood’s – for there to be an entire archaeology/palaeontology (that is, including the Stone Ages) even for the millennium and a half long antediluvian era:
- I now accept that “Shinar” corresponds approximately to what we now call the Sinjar province in NE Syria. That, in turn, will greatly affect the interpretation – in relation to the Bible – of the archaeology of Sumer.
- Where in the World Is the Tower of Babel?
- Based on Anne Habermehl’s ground-breaking article:
- When I wrote the section that follows this, I was convinced – as are most – that southern Mesopotamia, ancient “Sumer”, was biblical “Shinar”. And I also favoured the view, then, as do many who propose that the biblical Flood was local, that the archaeology of Sumer exhibited those (i) antediluvian, (ii) Flood, and (iii) post-diluvian phases.
- [End of quote]
- As I wrote earlier, I am all for shortening conventional time spans.
- Thus Osgood will try to squeeze the entire Stone Ages (estimated at over 2 million years) into the approximately half millennium between the end of the Flood (his c. 2300 B.C.) and the early days of Abram in Palestine (dated by Osgood to c. 1870 BC). And he will synthesize the latter (c. 1870 BC) with Palestine’s (specifically En-Gedi’s) Chalcolithic so-called Stone Age era (“The Times of Abraham”, EN Tech. J., Vol. 2, 1986, pp. 79-82).
- In order to arrive at a terminus for the so-called stone age against the biblical narrative a number of new details must be taken into consideration. Firstly, there should be the fact that the biblical chronology inserts a catastrophic world-wide flood of momentous proportions that was so devastating that it is unlikely that any artifacts of the world before that flood would be likely to be found on the surface of the earth today. … Therefore, the assumption must be made that all the surface artifacts of civilization with which the archaeologist deals must relate to mankind’s history after the great Flood of Noah which has been dated by this writer to be circ. 2,300 B.C.
- Dr. John Osgood of Creation Ex Nihilo (now Creation Ministries International), who has cleverly synthesised Palestinian stratigraphy and pentateuchal history/and the Book of Joshua (notably in regard to the eras of Abram and the Conquest), and who has bravely attempted even a stratigraphical revision of the so-called Stone Ages (Palaeolithic to Chalcolithic), has nonetheless, in my view, made it completely impossible to bring this latter valiant effort of his to any worthwhile fruition owing to his tabula rasa ‘global’ Flood preconception. I give here Dr. Osgood’s point of departure for his revision of the Stone Ages, and I am going to argue that he has immediately taken a wrong and fateful step with his major assumption (“A Better Model for the Stone Age”, EN Tech. J., Vol. 2, 1986, p. 90):
- So, what I then wrote about Dr. Osgood’s supposed global Flood effect still applies:
- the terminus post quem of the Stone Age (i.e. the beginnings of the Palaeolithic age above bedrock) is to be dated back about 1656 years before the Flood (see above) – 1656 years being the full duration of the antediluvian age – to the beginning of man;
- likewise the eventual cultural evolution (beyond Palaeolithic) from Mesolithic to Neolithic must not be confined entirely to post-diluvian times, as Osgood had thought, but must be recognized as having its origins at least in antediluvian times, primarily with Cain, likely the first city builder (Genesis 4:17) – hence Neolithic? – and with Cain’s descendants, in places like NE Syria and southern Mesopotamia [sic], who became more and more ‘civilized’, technologically speaking (Chalcolithic),
- all this ‘progress’ culminating in the vibrant Chalcolithic mid-late ‘Ubaid period (still antediluvian), at Eridu, Uruk and Ur … and southern Mesopotamia, that absorbed the Hassuna, Samarra and Halaf cultures in the north, and beyond Iraq – this archaeological phase perhaps corresponding with the likes of the highly ‘civilized’, polygamous Lamech and his sons before the Flood (Neolithic/ Chalcolithic?).Comment: More recently, I have gone right away from this view, proposing now that the ‘Ubaid culture may have been basically Chaldean (not antediluvian):Lost Culture of the Chaldeanshttps://www.academia.edu/16610609/Lost_Culture_of_the_Chaldeansand the Halaf culture, Akkjadian:Akkadians Separated From Their Culture by Some Three Millenniahttps://www.academia.edu/16610792/Akkadians_Separated_From_Their_Culture_by_Some_Three_MillenniaNow, continuing with the above:
- That this period of flourishing civilization, confined approximately to the area of the Fertile Crescent, was then interrupted by the Great Flood.
- But that, soon afterwards, NE Syrian and Mesopotamian [sic] civilization in particular (cf. Genesis 11:2) was resumed, most notably, according to Rohl (op. cit., Ch. 5), by the Ham-ites such as the adventurous Cush; but especially by Nimrod, the empire builder (ibid., Ch. 4).
- For Nimrod as Sargon of Akkad, see important article, http://www.academia.edu/2184113/_2013_Identifying
- That finally, after Babel, there occurred the Dispersion to all parts, leading to the Early Bronze Age/Early Dynastic phase. [Whilst I intend to enlarge upon these points of palaeontology/archaeology in sections II. and III., obviously it will require a future series of articles to deal adequately with them]. If Courville has correctly identified the relatively brief Jemdet Nasr transitional phase, leading to the Early Bronze Era/Early Dynastic phase, with the post-Babel Dispersion, then I believe he has achieved this somewhat miraculously, given his dubious starting point that the Flood had completely separated Palaeolithic man from Mesolithic man, between whom “not a single link has been found” (op. cit., cf. pp. 144f. and 153). Less fortuitous, I believe, was Osgood, who, having the Stone Ages commencing not much before the time I estimate that the postdiluvian Nimrod would already have started his expansion, consequently had to move the Jemdet Nasr phase down the time line by many centuries (thus away from the actual Dispersion era), and was thus forced to look for evidence of the postdiluvian Dispersion in a period that is in fact reasonably early antediluvian.Comment: Osgood’s location of the Jemdat Nasr phase to the time of Abram and the four kings as narrated in Genesis 14 now seems to me to be eminently reasonable. Osgood wrote, for instance (http://creation.com/the-times-of-abraham): “Archaeology in Iran. in the plain of Susiana, has demonstrated a resurgent Elamite culture contemporary with Jemdat Nasr in Mesopotamia,9 and this fits the biblical suggestion of a dominant Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14)”.No ‘Tabula Rasa’ Effect——————————————————-——————————————————–But there are other biblically-minded writers who, as I noted in “The Location of Paradise”, consider that Genesis 2 does indeed preserve a definite geographico-hydrological link between the pre- and post- Flood worlds. We saw that the four rivers referred to in the antediluvian Adamic toledôt are actually named by the postdiluvian Moses as real rivers, running alongside (or around) real geographical locations. Moreover, Moses uses the very same 3rd person masculine singular Hebrew pronoun hu (אוּה – comprising the Hebrew letters, he waw aleph), meaning ‘he’ or ‘himself’ (itself), in every one of the four cases, thereby directly connecting Adam’s four rivers with four known rivers of Moses’ time. For more on this, see my:Editor Moses Added Vital Geographical Clues for the Genesis Flood and Sodomhttps://www.academia.edu/12639429/Editor_Moses_Added_Vital_Geographical_Clues_for_the_Genesis_Flood_and_SodomBut even though the Bible seems to be interpreting itself for us here, I have found that ‘Creationists’, whilst willingly accepting the view that Moses was, in the case of Genesis 14:3, pointing to the very same geographical region that was intended in the Abra[ha]mic history (though now with considerable topographical alteration), will strenuously deny any geographical connection whatsoever in Genesis 2 between the pre-Flood hydrography and that later connected there by editor Moses with the pronoun hu. Nor can the CMI co-authors so easily dismiss the two other rivers, Pishon and Gihon, by simply stating (ibid.): “The Pishon is not mentioned post-Flood and Gihon is used of the locality of a spring near Jerusalem in the times of Kings David, Solomon and Hezekiah”. For I referred to Sirach’s testimony, in “The Location of Paradise”, that the Pishon and Gihon were, with the Tigris and Euphrates, still (in the C2nd BC) abundant, active rivers. So again I would emphasise the point (and this is pitched mostly at those who tend to operate according to the principle, sola scriptura), that to hold to a view of no geographical link whatsoever between the pre- and post- Flood worlds is to be un-biblical. [A geographical note: This case of the 4 rivers and their associated lands, referred to in Genesis 2, seems to be the only occasion in Adam’s toledôt where editor Moses has obliged us with his geographical indicators connected by the Hebrew pronoun hu. There does not appear to have been any such editorial intervention for instance for the purpose of later specifying the location of “the land of Nod” (Genesis 4:16), where the fratricide Cain settled after his becoming a fugitive; its general location “east of Eden” probably being a verse already embedded in the pre-Mosaïc original. That leaves us with the necessary task later of having to identify “the land of Nod” on a modern map in order then to build up an accurate archaeological picture of the whereabouts of the Cain-ite pre-Flood ‘civilization’.]. According to my view, we must discard the notion of tabula rasa in regard to the Flood. Dr. David Livingston is somewhat more realistic here I presume than Drs. Courville and Osgood, and the CMI group, in his statement that: “Pentateuchal geography is very interesting in that pre-Flood geographic and geologic features must have been altered to some degree by the great Flood” (“Historical Geography of the Pentateuch”, www.ancientdays.net/histgeopenta.htm). Yes, indeed, “to some degree” as Livingston has well written, and thus apparently not to the extent as to be unidentifiable.
- I shall let Carol Hill tell why [though, note, I do not share her reliance upon the conventional dating, e.g. of the ‘Ubaid period, nor her views of:
- If my argument in “The Location of Paradise” is correct, that the four antediluvian rivers were still active and discernible in Moses’ day (and indeed even much later than that) – [and I noted therein that this view was shared by others, and I must now also add to this list Carol A. Hill and her, “The Garden of Eden: A Modern Landscape” (Science in Christian Perspective): www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2000/PSCF3_00Hill.html] – then this premise in fact yields a scientific ‘king-hit’ to ‘Creationist’ Flood science, so-called!
- A Geological Blow to the ‘Global’ Flood Model?
- Pentateuchal geography moreover, Livingston further notes, is entirely different from modern geography (point i): “The ancients did not have a notion of massive seas and continents as we do today”.
- This, I find though, to be a typically modern ‘surface’ reading of an ancient text, without coming to grips in any way with the realities of the ancient document; with, for instance (a) the fact that commentators consider the elaboration of the four rivers to be an editorial addition to the original text, (b) coupled with the use of the Hebrew pronoun hu, specifically linking the pre- and post-Flood rivers, as it indeed links geographical locations between the Abra[ha]mic history and the era of Moses.
- Someone may ask, ‘Then why do we have a Tigris and Euphrates today?’ Answer: the same reason there is a Liverpool and Newcastle in Australia; and London, Oxford and Cambridge in North America, although they were originally place names in England. Features in the post-Flood world were given names familiar to those which survived the Flood.
- Now Creation Ministries International [CMI] (some of whose editorial staff at least I know to have been keen on the Wiseman toledôt theory in regard to Mosaïc editing of the Genesis texts) co-authors (Ham et. al.) also have argued against any sort of geographical connection before and after the Genesis Flood, in their section: “Answers to objections to a global Flood” (op. cit., p. 144, “Objection 2: The post-Flood geography is the same as the pre-Flood”). Here is how these co-authors tackle the tricky (in their context) matter of the Tigris and Euphrates:
- Now, this hu is again the exact same Hebrew pronoun that editor Moses would use in his geographical modification of Abra[ha]m’s history, where, in that famous case of Genesis 14:3 he advises his people that the site that was in Abram’s day “the Valley of Siddim” had now become the Dead Sea. Thus Moses: “Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea)”; the Heb. pronoun hu here being translated quite appropriately into English as, “that is”.
- If my argument in “The Location of Paradise” – and also the view of others … – is correct, that the four antediluvian rivers were still active and discernible in Moses’ day, then this premise in fact yields a scientific ‘king-hit’ to ‘Creationist’ Flood science, so-called!
- the location of the ancient Paradise in Mesopotamia, nor
- the location of the land of Cush in western Iran. However:
- Hill and others (see e.g. S. Caesar’s “Lost River of Eden Discovered By Satellite”, www.creationism.org/index.htm) may actually have come up with a better (recently satellite detected) identification for the ancient river “Pishon” (now a dried up fossil river) than the one proposed by Professor Yahuda that I had previously followed (for more see II. (B)].
Hill writes (op. cit.):
Implications for Flood Geology
So far in this paper, I have argued that the Bible locates the Garden of Eden at the confluence of the four rivers of ancient Mesopotamia [sic]. The Bible correctly identifies the Pishon River as draining the land of Havilah (Arabia), from whence came gold, bdellium, and onyx stone.
The Bible also correctly identifies the Euphrates and Tigris, both of which are modern rivers which drain approximately the same area of Mesopotamia as they did in ancient times.
The Gihon, while not positively identified, is probably the Karun (and/or Karkheh), which “encompasses” (winds around) the whole land of Cush (western Iran) [sic]. Thus, the Bible locates the Garden of Eden as somewhere near where the head of the Persian Gulf may have existed some 6000 years ago– that is, on a modern landscape similar to that which exists in southern Iraq today.
Six Miles of Sedimentary Rock Below Eden
This interpretation of the Garden of Eden as existing on a modern landscape presents a major conflict between what the Bible says and what flood geologists say.67 The reason is this: there are six miles of sedimentary rock beneath the Garden of Eden/Persian Gulf. How could Eden, which existed in pre-flood times, be located over six miles of sedimentary rock supposedly deposited during Noah’s flood? What flood geologists are implying is that the Garden of Eden existed on a Precambrian crystalline basement and then Noah’s flood came and covered up the Garden of Eden with six miles of sedimentary rock. But this is not what the Bible says. It says that Eden was located where the four rivers confluenced on a modern landscape. It says that the Garden of Eden was located on top of six miles of sedimentary rock, and thus this sedimentary rock must have existed in pre-flood times.
[The Bible] says that the Garden of Eden was located on top of six miles of sedimentary rock, and thus this sedimentary rock must have existed in pre-flood times.
The fact that six miles of sedimentary rock exist beneath the Persian Gulf area is well known by geologists, since this area has been extensively drilled for oil, down to the Precambrian basement. The fact that the Persian Gulf is located in an area of oil recovery is equally as evident to the layperson who, in 1991, witnessed on television the numerous oil fires set off in Kuwait during the Gulf War. The six miles of sedimentary rock below the Garden of Eden area include Tertiary, Cretaceous, Jurassic, Triassic, and Paleozoic rock up to a depth of about 32,000 feet before the Precambrian basement is encountered.68….
Pitch for the Ark
If the above were not evidence enough, there is another Bible passage which confirms a pre-flood Mesopotamian world on a modern landscape. The Bible records that Noah used pitch in construction of the ark: “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” (Gen. 6:14). Pitch is a thick, tarry, oil product composed of a mixture of hydrocarbons of variable color, hardness, and volatility. Bitumen mixed with two or three parts of mineral and/or vegetable matter makes asphalt or pitch, a crude but versatile adhesive. Bitumen is a natural petroleum product derived from kerogen. It can be encountered by oil drillers in the subsurface, or it can move up cracks and faults and make its way naturally to the surface in the form of bitumen seepages.
Many bitumen seeps exist in the Middle East.69 Bitumen was used extensively by the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia for every type of adhesive-construction need, including the waterproofing of boats and mortar for buildings (e.g., “slime” for mortar; Gen. 11:3). The center of bitumen production in Mesopotamia was (and still is) at Hit, located along the Euphrates River …. The Hit bitumen occurs in “lakes” where lines of hot springs are welling up along deep faults.70 This water is sometimes accompanied by so much gas that the latter will burn. In the water, “snakes” of asphalt collect together, and the Iraqis consolidate them into lumps. It is likely that bitumen was collected in this same manner in ancient times, because similar lumps of asphalt have been found at Ur in levels dating from about 3000 B.C.71 Sir Leonard Woolley’s famous expedition to Ur found a lump of bitumen just above his “flood layer” which had an imprint of a reed basket on it. Even today, bitumen is packaged into reed baskets and floated down the Euphrates in boats. The bitumen from Hit has been utilized by the people of southern Mesopotamia for thousands of years, as recorded at numerous archaeological sites. The earliest evidence of bitumen use is at al’Ubaid (5000-4000 B.C.) [sic], where reed matting plastered with a mixture of earth and bitumen was found during the excavations of Woolley.73
Later in the Ubaid Period … bitumen-covered headdresses of clay figurine goddesses were made at Ur. However, while some bitumen has been found at very early sites such as these, the bitumen industry …had its beginnings between 3500-3000 B.C.74 … The essential point of the above discussion on bitumen now becomes evident. How could Noah have obtained bitumen from sedimentary rock for building his ark, if (as claimed by flood geologists) no sedimentary rock existed on earth? One cannot have it both ways. ….
[End of quote].
[Hit in Mesopotamia was not the only source of bitumen in the Fertile Crescent. Another notable place, for instance, was the “Valley of Siddim”, which was, according to Genesis 14:10 “full of bitumen pits”; these pits becoming death traps for “some” of the fleeing army of Sodom and Gomorrah upon their defeat by the Mesopotamian coalition of four kings].
Carol Hill’s argument above, and its scientific conclusions, would of course be music to the ears of a Professor Plimer. But I believe that it is indeed also hard scientific (geological) fact, and at the same time perfectly in accord with the geography of Genesis.
Were the worldwide layers of sediment all to be regarded as an effect of the Great Flood, causing wicked humans to have perished on so vast a scale, then why don’t the oil geologists, when drilling down miles into this sediment, encounter masses of human bones?
CMI’s Ham et. al. (op. cit., p. 32) have rightly claimed that evolution is contrary to the Scriptures, because it would mean that “the garden were sitting on a fossil record of dead things millions of years old” (contrary to Romans 8:19-22) – and they illustrate this with a marvellous cartoon of the Garden and Adam and Eve atop a huge pile of bones (p. 33) – but how do they account for the lack of human bones in the deep sedimentary layers? And why aren’t human fossils found contemporaneously with the fossils of dinosaurs? Plimer has tossed up this very issue in his “Footprints to Fantasy” (op. cit., p. 226f.). Ham et. al., (op. cit., p. 179f.) have, for their part, devoted an entire chapter (Ch. 15) towards settling this awkward matter. But my response to the title of their Chapter 15: “Where are all the human fossils?”, must be: Well, where are they?
Two important Conclusions to be drawn from Carol Hill’s article:
- Both the Genesis geography (point ii) and modern geology (point iv) conspire to make nonsense of the ‘Creationist’ model of the Flood.
- A new model must urgently be developed; one that is fully in conformity with both (a) the biblical texts, as reasonably interpreted (a sound exegesis) (point i), and (b) a genuine science (point iv).
Being no expert on matters such as these, I should be happy to receive any expert comment by geologists on the above.
Part Three: World Before the Flood
The antediluvian ‘world’ known to Noah – “… the world [Gk. kosmos] that then was, [that] being flooded by water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6; cf. 2:5) – was essentially what today we might call ‘the Fertile Crescent’, ranging approximately from Mesopotamia (Iraq) to Egypt/Ethiopia.
In my previous versions of this series I had introduced this next section as follows:
That brings me to the main part of this Flood article (sections II.-IV.), but fully based on what has already been written in I. The Flood model that I shall be proposing in sections II.-IV. will be (as indeed was section I.), firstly, entirely dependent upon the major premise that I defended in “The Location of Paradise”, of a geographical link between the pre- and post- Flood worlds; but now to be coupled with the geological evidence just referred to, that the antediluvian civilization already sat above six miles of sedimentary rock – the latter in turn layered above a Precambrian basement.
As a further support to this, the geologico-palaeontological development from bedrock of a realistic new Flood model, I shall be bringing in a basic archaeological model.
My entire model hopefully to be suffused by a healthy dose of common sense.
But, as noted earlier, I have since had to revise some of my thinking about my archaeological model.
- “The World That Then Was” (2 Peter 3:6)
… my model of an antediluvian micro-world of human existence within our great globe will be my basis for answering AIG’s common sense (from a biblical standpoint) challenge about the veracity of God’s promise to Noah.
Noah’s Weltanschauung (‘World View’)
(A) in General
My threefold argument here will be that:
- the antediluvian ‘world’ known to Noah – what the Apostle Peter called “…the world [Gk. kosmos] that then was, [that] being flooded by water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6; cf. 2:5) – was essentially what today some scholars of the ancient Near East might call ‘the Fertile Crescent’, ranging approximately (at least from East to West) from Mesopotamia (Iraq) to Egypt/Ethiopia; human habitation established along the riverine system described in Genesis 2 (a hydrological system that I detailed in “The Location of Paradise”); and, consequently, that
- for the Flood to have been ‘universal’, to have destroyed all human beings save Noah’s family, it need not to have covered the entire globe as we now know it, nor all of its highest mountains. Noah’s micro-world is, I believe, still largely retrievable by archaeology; though, obviously, with some difficulty.
- Nor was it necessary for Noah to have collected whatever birds and animals (including dinosaurs?) lived beyond his very small (by our standards) ‘world’.Now my model of an antediluvian micro-world of human existence within our great globe will be my basis for answering AIG’s common sense (from a biblical standpoint) challenge about the veracity of God’s promise. This model does not however, of itself alone, answer those other questions regarding why Noah would need to have built an immense Ark, nor indeed any sort of vessel at all. These and related questions will obviously require more complex answers, pertaining to the singular structure/topography of Noah’s ‘kosmos’ (see B. below) and to the distinctive Flood mechanisms (see IV. (a)).
- My antediluvian-to-Flood model will obviously be far less vast in scope than are any of the proposed ‘global’ Flood models; these generally, I should think, presupposing an Eden that has since been completely submerged beneath the sea, or at least beneath layers of sediment.
- But my model will at the same time be significantly more vast in scope – and certainly more universal – than are those proposed models localized to just one ancient country or region, usually Mesopotamia (e.g. Rohl, The Lost Testament, Ch. 3; Plimer, op. cit., pp. 94-95); Mesopotamia generally being also the preferred location for Eden (e.g. Hill, op. cit.; Rohl, op. cit. Ch. 1). It will also allow for a degree of contemporaneous upheaval or catastrophism in various other, uninhabited (by humans), parts of the globe (and therefore not affecting any human beings).
- In terms of geographical extent only, my model will be far closer to that of Rohl and Plimer than it is to what I consider to be the entirely unrealistic ‘global’ Flood models. The basically two opposing Flood models as outlined above (the ‘local’ and ‘global’) enable for their protagonists to arrive at two quite different estimations, respectively, of the person of Noah himself.——————————————————————————————————————————Previously I had written:Whilst the Flood model of, to use Professor Plimer’s words “a local, but great Flood” (op. cit., p. 94) – a description that can be entirely accommodated to my own model – would limit Noah and his ancestors to specific, known archaeological periods (contemporaneous with e.g. the Eridu, Ur, Ubaid and Halaf, Hassuna, Samarra phases in Mesopotamia), whose architecture, pottery, building methods, measurements and technology in general are now quite well known, the open-ended model (at its most extreme) of a ‘global’ Flood, that entirely erased all trace of the bygone world, allows for one imaginatively to reconstruct a ‘Noah’ who can be a superman, a physical and technological giant the like of whom we have never seen. However, as said, the archaeological aspect will need to be reconsidered.There were of course belligerent giants in post-Flood times as well (e.g. Numbers 13:33). According to a fascinating TV documentary, “In the Footsteps of Goliath” (Lost Worlds), the giants whose bones have been dug up in Palestine were no more than 2 metres tall. Whilst that conclusion might be disappointing for we who have grown up with tales like “Jack and the Beanstalk”, it was nevertheless extremely tall by the height standards of the day. The documentary explained that even the imposing Goliath himself was only approximately 2 metres tall, as verified by the more ancient Dead Sea Scrolls texts about the famous giant (replacing the previous view – based on later translations – that Goliath stood as high as 3 metres). It was even suggested that Goliath may have suffered from a form of gigantism that causes large features, a big tongue and a booming voice, tunnel vision (hence David’s advantage in speedy movement); though the down side of this would be the unlikely symptom that the giant might have been unstable in walking and shaky on his feet. And having to wear heavy armour would only have exacerbated such a condition.Anyway, the Bible nowhere says or implies that the long-lived Noah was a gigantic man, and it would be most unlikely, given the perverse Nephilim of his day, that he was. [Even the haughty and rebellious Nimrod, who was – according to Josephus – “a bold man, and of great strength of hand” (Antiquities, Bk. I, iv:2), was unlikely an actual giant. We may have representations of the historical Nimrod as Sargon of Akkad, who looks like an ordinary human being, though probably physically powerful]. Some propose a supposed hugeness for Noah and his sons in order to account for the fact, as they see it, that so few as 4 men had built an Ark so immense. For, according to Ham et. al. (op. cit., p. 172), Noah’s Ark had “the equivalent volume of 522 standard railroad stock cars, each of which can hold 240 sheep”. Or, as one Baptist minister seriously told me: “… it [the Ark] was the length of the Melbourne Cricket Ground” (this ground has just recently held some 91,000 plus persons for a Grand Final). [The longevity of Noah and his sons is yet another factor sometimes argued in favour of gigantism].However, I think that such an imagined vessel was never built in the first place; and that the answer to Plimer’s question, stated earlier: “Did Noah really have the mathematical skills to solve the differential equations necessary to understand the bending moment, torque … associated with the roll, pitch, yaw and slamming expected in the turbulent globe-enveloping flood?”, has to be an emphatic No! I shall be returning to this controversial matter of Noah’s Ark in more detail also in IV.Ancient and Semitic Ways of Thinking————————————————————————————————I wrote in “The Location of Paradise” that Canaan was the hub of the ancient world even down to the time of Alexander the Great (C4th BC). Indeed for Jesus and his fellow Jews it was, as I am going to suggest, still the point of reference as late as the C1st AD. And the mediaeval Crusaders considered Jerusalem to be the centre of the world in their day. ‘Creationists’ though, making much of the fact that the Genesis Flood narratives use language that they say unequivocally indicates totality and universality – and indeed they surely do when read at face value, from a modern (western) point of view – are forced to situate Noah and his family in the same sort of vast global environment, virtually, as now inhabited by 3rd millennium man. Ham et al. (op. cit., pp. 141-143), for instance take such Hebrew phrases from the Flood narrative translated as e.g. “all flesh”, “all the earth”, “every living thing”, “under the whole heaven”, etc., as clearly implying a global Flood. Though they do note (ibid., p. 143), at least in regard to the word ‘all’ (Hebrew kol), here, that:Some have argued that since ‘all’ does not always mean ‘each and every’ (e.g. Mark 1:5) the use of ‘all’ in the Flood account does not necessarily mean the Flood was universal. That is, they claim that this use of ‘all’ allows for a local flood.Again, the co-authors are adhering to a true literary principle – applicable to both ancient and modern writings – when they insist that the meaning of any word (such as ‘all’) needs to be determined according to its [geographical] context; that: “From the context of ‘all’ in Luke 2:1, for example, we can see that ‘all the world’ meant all the Roman Empire”. D. Hochner (op. cit.), though, having also considered these same sorts of ‘total’ Hebrew phrases in the Flood narrative, concludes that the Flood was not global. Here is what Hochner has to say, for instance, about the key word “earth”/“land” (Heb: eretz/erets):
- If one is going to talk about biblical context: namely, in this case, the proper context for the geography of the Flood narratives … the particular geographical context could only be that of Genesis 2 …..
- No one would be more surprised than Noah and his sons to learn of what stupendous mathematical and technological skills have been attributed to them by some moderns! The problem may be in the figures that have come down to us. The size of the Ark, like the alleged size of Goliath, has perhaps grown some substantial extra dimensions with the passing of time. (See also my Excursus B on Biblical Numbers in IV. (b)).
- The fact that a boat of such alleged proportions was never even remotely matched by shipbuilders after the Flood, e.g. by Ham’s son, Cush, the seafaring colonizer of Ethiopia (if Rohl is correct, op. cit., Ch. 5), or his empire loving, God-defying hunter son Nimrod, nor even by the world-conquering Romans (millennia later than Nimrod) – whose technological skills astound even today – would be easily explained of course by ‘global’ Floodists: the technology and know-how, they would say, was all totally lost in the upheaval of the Flood.
- Scripture tells us that there were in fact giants in Noah’s day, the Nephilim, perhaps perverse fruit of the union between the once-godly Seth-ites and the ‘fair’ Cain-ite women (Genesis 6:4). These ‘Titans’ were amongst those destroyed in the Flood, whose cause the wise king Solomon discerningly attributed right back to Cain himself (Wisdom 10:3-4).
- … the open-ended model (at its most extreme) of a ‘global’ Flood, that entirely erased all trace of the bygone world, allows for one imaginatively to reconstruct a ‘Noah’ who can be a superman, a physical and technological giant the like of whom we have never seen.
Erets (#776 in Strong’s), the Hebrew word that [is] translated “earth” throughout the flood account and it does not require a world-wide meaning. This word translated “country” (140 times) and “land” (1,476 times!) in the Bible. Many of them are often of limited land areas.
Hochner then proceeds to produce a list of Old and New Testament usages of this word, eretz, to show that its meaning is often localized, and certainly never globalized in our modern sense. To give just one of his examples (his point e):
… Acts 11:28 speaks of a similar famine throughout all the world, yet it is not likely it really meant over the whole globe including the New World.
One encounters again, later in the Old Testament, a phrase very reminiscent of the Flood narrative, namely, ‘spread over the face of the earth’ (Numbers 22:5,11): ‘A people has come out of Egypt; they have spread over the face of the earth’, complains the Moabite king, Balak, of the Israelites on their way to cross the River Jordan. But how far ‘spread over the face of the earth’ were the Israelites at this particular point in time? A few verses earlier (22:1) we are told just how far: “The Israelites …camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho”. Not very far at all according to a global context!
Thus, certain Semitic geographical phrases that would seem to us to imply ‘total’, or ‘global’, do not necessarily mean that!
Given the nature of Semitic thinking or reasoning though, as I am now going to discuss in the following brief Excursus A, lifted largely from Professor Stalker’s The Life of Jesus – contrasting the Oriental (Semitic) with the western way of human thinking – even ‘context’ may not always be as obvious as we westerners might like it to be.
Excursus A: Two Different Intellectual Emphases
Whilst the mind is a faculty (of the spiritual soul) that is an integral part of each human being, the mode of intellectual emphasis amongst human beings can differ significantly.
So this little Excursus will be entirely a matter of mental emphasis, not a challenge to the Aristotelico-Thomistic epistemology.
Professor Stalker, in The Life of Jesus, has well and poetically explained how this applies, for instance, in the comparison between the oriental (more contemplative) cast of mind and the western (discursive, analytical) one (p. 65. I lack the full bibliographical details for this document):
“Our [western] thinking and speaking when at their best are fluent, expansive, closely reasoned. The kind of discourse which we admire is one which takes up an important subject, divides it out into different branches, treats it fully under each of the heads, closely articulates part to part …”.
By contrast, the oriental or Jewish mind, Professor Stalker goes on to say (ibid.):
“… loves to brood long on a single point, to turn it round and round, to gather up all the truth about it into a focus, and pour it forth in a few pointed and memorable words. It is concise, epigrammatic, oracular”.
Whereas a western speaker’s discourse, he continues (ibid.): “… is a systematic structure, or like a chain in which link is firmly knit to link, an Oriental’s is like the sky at night, full of innumerable burning points shining forth from a dark background”.
A fortiori should Professor Stalker’s enlightening contrast here between the eastern (Oriental/Semitic) and western mind-sets be applicable to the difference between the ancient (especially, for our purposes, Semitic), and the modern western, mind-sets. It is the kind of contrast of which one should always be well aware when approaching the ancient biblical texts.
Returning to ancient geography, then, I ask: How, for instance, are we meant to place in any proper geographical context Jesus Christ’s statement about “the queen of the south” as coming “from the ends of the earth” (Matthew 12:42), when Jesus himself gives no such specific context?
For an update on this, see my:
The Queen of (Beer) Sheba
[For I accept both (i) Josephus’s testimony that the biblical queen was historically the queen of Egypt/Ethiopia and (ii) Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky’s (in Ages in Chaos I, 1952) specific identification of her with Queen (later Pharaoh) Hatshepsut of Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty at Thebes].
Clearly, the ancients did not always oblige us with the sort of obvious geographical context that we might expect a contemporary to give.
Now I think that, just as in the case of “the queen of the south”, so in the case of Noah, does one need to ‘search the Scriptures’ for the intended geographical orientation.
[Noah, who was certainly most ancient, cannot strictly be classified as a ‘Semite’ of course. It was in fact Noah’s most blessed son, Sem (or Shem), the great Melchizedek, who was the eponymous father of the Semitic races. Shem had at least a third part involvement in the Flood account, the toledôt history of Noah’s 3 sons (Genesis 6:9b-10:1), and Shem was in fact one of the very few (eight) actual surviving eye-witnesses of the Flood. And indeed the next toledôt series, “the generations of Shem” (10:2-11:10a), belonged entirely to Shem and was most likely also written by him – perhaps after he had become separated from his 2 brothers due to the Dispersion subsequent to the Babel incident].
If one is going to talk about biblical context: namely, in this case, the proper context for the geography of the Flood narratives, with their frequent references to “the earth” (Hebrew eretz) – and several times to “all the earth” (e.g. Genesis 7:3; 8:9) – I suggest that the geographical context could only be that of Genesis 2: namely, that portion of the earth associated with the primeval riverine system.
[As with the first book of the Bible (Genesis), so with the last (Revelation) is there made the same sort of linguistic overstatement, where one turns the Greek tês gês, “the whole land” (i.e. the land of Palestine, or eretz Israel) into “the whole earth”, meaning the global world. K. Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation”, Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Zondervan 1998, pp. 48, 73), however, has properly understood the (geographical) context, showing that the length of “the land” so often referred to in Revelation is clearly that of Palestine as a Roman province:
…John actually focuses on all the tribes of “the land” (Gk. tês gês), the well-known Promised Land in which the Jews lived. (We should probably translate the Greek word hê gê as “the land” rather than “the earth” in the great majority of cases where this word occurs in Revelation). ….
… “They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia” (14:20).
For compelling reasons “the city” here appears to be Jerusalem: (1) John defines “the city” earlier as Jerusalem (11:8); (2) the “harvest” is in the earth/land (Gk. hê gê; 14:15-19); (3) this judgment falls on the place where Jesus was crucified: “outside the city” (John 19:20; cf. Heb. 13:11-13); and (4) the Son of Man “on the cloud” (Rev. 14:14-15) rehearses Revelation’s theme regarding Israel (1:7). The distance of the blood flow is 1600 stadia, which is roughly the length of the land as a Roman province: The Itinerarium of Antoninus of Piacenza records Palestine’s length as 1664 stadia. This prophecy refers to the enormous blood flow in Israel during the Jewish war.
[End of quote].
Moreover, the Temple is yet still standing and the Sabbath restrictions are still in place, necessitating a scenario and date of composition pre-70 AD. If one is to talk about the literal level of meaning, then – substantially speaking – the Book of Revelation was literally fulfilled with the Jewish war against Rome (69-70 AD), culminating in the destruction of the Temple of Yahweh in 70AD. Despite all this, many extrapolate Revelation, literally, to a modern global scene. And they have done the very same, geographically – and with even less justification – with the most ancient Flood narratives].
[Further comment: I am not denying of course that the Holy Spirit has also endowed this extraordinary book (Revelation) with other levels of meaning, supra-literal, that make it spiritually applicable to all generations. Also, one seems to encounter in Revelation certain stunning parallels between St. John’s era and our times, and even certain intriguing details: e.g. St. John’s reference to “wormwood”, 8:11, and the fact that the Ukrainian name ‘Chernobyl’ also apparently translates as “wormwood”, as pointed out in J. Foley’s gripping current article, “The Strange Association Between Fatima and the Number 13”, Immaculate Heart Messenger, July-September, 2005, p. 9].
So let us be wary of imposing our modern ways of thinking upon these ancient texts!
Examples from the New Testament, of how differently the ancients viewed the world (common sense should tell us that anyhow), are many. Here are just two such examples:
- As earlier mentioned, Jesus recalled the “queen of the south” as having come “from the ends of the earth” to hear the wisdom of Solomon (Matthew 12:42). In modern terms, the biblical queen must have come from somewhere deep in our southern hemisphere: e.g. from New Zealand, or from South America, or from my homeland island of Tasmania.
According to the common view though (but not mine, as I have noted above), the biblical queen was no further away from Jerusalem than Yemen (Sheba) in southern Arabia. And I am sure that ‘Creationists’ generally would take Jesus’s description in a similar sort of localized, rather than ‘global’, context.
- To top it all off, consider how, at Pentecost, there were living in Jerusalem – and here is one of those ‘total’ sorts of biblical phrases: “… devout Jews from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). From where did these various Jews hail? From each of the 5 continents? No, from ancient lands that were either right within the geographical sphere of Noah’s micro-kosmos, or closely adjacent to it:
‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome … Cretans and Arabs …?’ (vv. 7,8-10,11).
So, all of this strange modern interpretation of their ancient toledôt documents would have been startling news to old Noah and to his three sons, and even also to St. John (Revelation) – but especially to the former. If Jesus, in his own day could use so broad a geographical phrase as “the ends of the earth” in connection with what any sensible person today would accept as intending quite a localized context, and if the inspired author of Acts 2 could use so global-like a phrase as “from every nation under heaven” merely to designate Jews from largely the region of the ‘Fertile Crescent’ and its environs, then a fortiori must Noah and his sons (about two and a half millennia earlier) have meant something local by our standards. The ‘world’ known by those 8 survivors of the universal Flood must have been one considerably more compact even than the world of the Roman empire known to St. Peter, who referred to Noah’s kosmos as “the world that then was”. Not St. Peter’s relatively large world; and certainly not our global one.
Whose Flood testimony then are we to believe:
The Answers Book of Sarfati, Ham and Wieland, or the
eye-witness toledôt history of Shem, Ham & Japheth (Genesis 10:1)?
[Sorry, I could not resist the recurrence of the name ‘Ham’ here!].
As noted at the start, I have no intention at all of ridiculing good people who are sincerely trying to seek out the meaning of the Bible. The Answers Book of Ham et. al. has much excellent and genuinely scientific material between its two covers. It is a superb reference book on Genesis related issues. Moreover I, too, was for a long time a global Floodist. But, looking at it all now from a different perspective, one that hopefully (from my point of view) is truly biblically-based, then I cannot help but exclaim:
No wonder many scientists, and moderns in general, resist the Scriptures!
And it could well be that some of these, perhaps ready to be persuaded, have nonetheless been turned away by a Fundamentalistic insistence upon wildly overstated biblical meanings that the former find to be incompatible with their scientific expertise (not to mention with common sense).
Who would want to follow an unreasonable God like that, they might be led to conclude? But it is not God’s fault. He inspired a marvellous book, full of wisdom. It is we who in our folly read into this Bible meanings that are ridiculous and unscientific and entirely anachronistic. And a primary reason for this is, as I am reiterating here, because we have that fatal tendency to read the Scriptures largely with a modern mentality – be it the first book of the Bible, Genesis, or the last book, Revelation – and, thereby, hopelessly to miss the point and the context intended by the original writers.
More on World of Noah
Some who imagine that the antediluvian kosmos has been completely lost to us can take the same sort of liberties with reconstructing Adam’s pristine world as they do with reinventing Noah. They idealise it in a way that may not be realistic – in this case, as a perfect world. For instance, one might not perhaps expect in an imagined perfect world any desert.
(B) Noah’s World in More Detail
(Topographical and Palaeontological)
A General Introductory Comment
Here I shall begin to construct a basic scenario that, coupled with the proposed Flood mechanisms in IV. (a), will enable for me to attempt an answer to those so far unanswered ‘Creationist’ questions pertaining to why, if the Flood were not ‘global’, did Noah need to have built an Ark in the first place? And why did he not simply move elsewhere to escape the Flood? And what about God’s promise to Noah signed with rainbow colours? Basically my answer to these questions will be that, owing to the peculiar structure of Noah’s world, and the manner in which this world was eventually hemmed in by water on all sides, before finally being completely overrun by water, there was actually nowhere for Noah and his family to go but into the Ark, to escape the Flood. That those who did not have recourse to the safety of the Ark were then bound to perish.
[Please note that this is a new scenario for me, one that I hope to develop in future articles. It is therefore to be regarded at this early stage as merely a work in progress, rather than as a fully mature thesis. A significant amount of fine tuning should be expected later on].
A Singular ‘World’: Adam’s and Noah’s
The ancient ‘world’ (or kosmos) at which we are looking in terms of Adam’s era, but especially Noah’s, the ‘Fertile Crescent’, is geographically singular insofar as it lies at the meeting place of 3 continents. M. van de Mieroop describes its unique structure and position (A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC, Blackwell, 2004, p. 7):
The Near East is a vast landmass situated at the intersection of three continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. Three tectonic plates meet there and their movements determine the geology of the region. The Arabian plate presses to the north underneath the Iranian plate, pushing it upwards, and is itself forced down. Where the two plates meet, there is a long depression stretching from the Mediterranean sea to the Persian Gulf in which the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow, turning a desert into highly fertile land wherever their waters reach.
The African and Arabian plates meet at the western edge of the Near East and are separated by the Great Rift, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast and creates a narrow valley lined by the Amanus and Lebanon mountains. There is little room for coastal settlement except in the south, where the plain widens.
The north and the east of the Near East are also dominated by high mountain ranges, the Taurus and the Zagros, which contain the sources of all rivers in the region. The south of the region is a huge flat landmass, containing the Syrian and Arabian deserts. These become more mountainous the further south one goes and are almost entirely deprived of water.
Geological phenomena, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, as well as the effects of wind, rain, and water have created a highly diverse area. ….
Here van de Mieroop lays out quite a useful, generalised picture of the region under our investigation; it being a somewhat enclosed region, the meeting place of 3 continents, and hence subject to tectonic activity – the last being a factor that commentators who take seriously the early Genesis narratives consider to have been one of the mechanisms for unleashing the Flood. The region is hemmed in, in most directions, by either mountains, deserts, or seas. Since, however, van de Mieroop wrote his book largely from a Mesopotamian perspective, he mentions in the above description only 2 of the 4 major (named) rivers of Genesis 2: namely, the Mesopotamian ones, “Tigris” and “Euphrates”. The same approximate eastern region, G. Roux has described as “a triangle covering an area of about 240,000 square kilometers, limited by arbitrary lines drawn between Aleppo, Lake Urmiah and the mouth of the Shatt-el-‘Arab” (Ancient Iraq, Penguin, 1980, p. 2). Thus the vast land of Ethiopia, or Nubia (region of the “Gihon” river), and the gold-bearing Arabian land of “Havilah”, a bit further to the east (region of the “Pishon” river) largely miss out and need to be added to this geographical picture, to complete it.
Of the four rivers, the “Pishon” has been the hardest to identify. So what follows is only one possibility:
Hill (op. cit.) on the “Pishon”: “In his article, “The River Runs Dry [BAR, July/August 1996],” James Sauer describes how satellite images have detected an underground riverbed along the Wadi al Batin ….4 Sauer identified this river as the Pishon River of the Bible, a river which flowed at a time when the climate was wetter than it is today. The Wadi al Batin/Wadi Rimah system drains some 43,400 square miles of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The now dry Wadi al Batin enters the Persian Gulf at Umm Qasr in Kuwait … but in the past the Pishon entered the Gulf north of Umm Qasr, in the Euphrates-Tigris river basin. The evidence for this is a triangular, fan-shaped, delta.
From the Persian Gulf at Umm Qasr, the now dry Wadi al Batin can be followed to the southwest, upstream past the borders of Kuwait, and into Saudi Arabia, where it is incised into a Tertiary limestone- sandstone sedimentary rock terrain.10 Then, just past Al Hatifah, the dry riverbed is engulfed by immense sand dunes and disappears ….
This is where the satellite photos come in.
These photos indicate that the Wadi al Batin continues to the SW, beneath the sand, and emerges as the Wadi Rimah (that is, both wadis were part of the same river system in the past, before being covered by sand dunes). About eighty miles further in the upstream direction, the Wadi Rimah bifurcates into the Wadi Qahd [NW], and the Wadi al Jarir [SW] ….
The Wadi al Jarir continues up gradient to the area of the Mahd adh Dhahab gold mine exactly as the Bible says: “The River Pishon encompasses the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold” (Gen. 2:11). Sauer remarked in his article: “This implies extraordinary memory on the part of the biblical authors, since the river dried up between about 3500 and 2000 B.C.” [sic].11
Interestingly, Sauer began his article with these words: “I speak as a former skeptic …. Now I am recanting” (ibid., p. 64).
We find, in van de Mieroop’s geographical description above, some of the basic elements that we are going to need to build up our picture of Noah’s ancient world; the latter being not entirely, however, the pristine world of Adam before the Fall, as I am now going to discuss as a lead in to Noah and the Flood.
The Primeval World’s Devolution
A Palaeontological Overview
[A note: Though the conventional scholars (especially when influenced by evolutionary time scales) often tend to line up the Geological Ages and Stone Ages and Archaeological Ages and Dynasties in a linear (or “Indian file”) fashion – with fatal results for chronology – the reality is not simply like that. Already in this Flood article I have given the example of the contemporaneity of the advanced Ur III dynasty with the late Stone Age, or Chalcolithic period, and I shall soon give other such similar examples. See also my “Comparing a One Dimensional Biblico-Stratigraphical Model with a Multi-Dimensional One”, https://www.academia.edu/12806108/Comparing_a_One_Dimensional_Biblico-Stratigraphical_Model_with_a_Multi-Dimensional_One re the extremely complex stratigraphical issue of the most ancient city of Jericho, famous for its fallen walls toppled to the ground during the Joshuan Conquest].
So the progression through the Stone Ages (Palaeolithic to Chalcolithic), that I am now going to outline, with regard to the antediluvians – to be filled out archaeologically in III. – is meant to be only a very simple guide. Moreover that very same sequence, Palaeolithic to Chalcolithic, would most likely have recurred after the Flood, due to necessity, with that handful of survivors progressing from the simplest of life-styles at first, to ever increasing cultural sophistication; though a much abbreviated sequence presumably this time with far more rapid technological progress now, based on foreknowledge. And it may not always be easy to distinguish between these two separate sequences.
- Adam (Palaeolithic)Palaeolithic, the text books tell us, entirely fills the geological period called Pleistocene (part of the Quaternary period of the Palaeozoic era). Some who imagine that the antediluvian kosmos has been completely lost to us can take the same sort of liberties with reconstructing Adam’s pristine world as they do with reinventing Noah. They idealise it in a way that may not be realistic – in this case, as a perfect world. For instance, one might not perhaps expect in an imagined perfect world any desert. Yet the fact that both Adam and red earth (desert?) have the same Hebrew root in the Book of Genesis, namely, adam[ah], coupled with the mention of “dust” (Genesis 2:7), would seem to indicate that Adam was made (bodily) from desert dust – at least that is Professor A. Yahuda’s interpretation of it – and was then placed in the oasis, or Garden (The Language of the Pentateuch in its Relation to Egyptian, Oxford U.P. 1933, p. 146):We thus have in [adamah] a close adaptation to the Egyptian dšr.t [= ‘desert’], and now the connexion of [adam] ‘red land’ becomes perfectly clear. That the author of this creation-narrative actually conceived [adamah] as desert-land is obvious from Gen. 3, 23, where the statement that Adam was expelled ‘from the Garden to till the [adamah]’ implicitly suggests that the ‘red land’ was desolate country in contrast to the Garden of Eden. Our interpretation of [adam] also explains why in the second chapter of Genesis the creation of man is effected from red earth. It was intentional to let the first man be produced from ordinary unhallowed soil in order to obviate any possibility of the first man being deified in polytheistic fashion. The whole idea of the first man being created from red land, and placed on the same level as the animals, made likewise from ‘red land’ (2, 19), was moreover, to lead up to the fall, and to indicate that the earthly origin of man made him from the beginning in comparison with God, a mean and frail creature. Hence, the fact of his formation from ‘red land’ is particularly stressed after his falling into sin (3, 19). Thus there were even in those pristine times, just as there are now, both desert land and fertile land. God could have made a better universe, and a better world, had He wanted to, just as He could have made man more perfect than He did. But what He chose to make sufficed for his far-seeing purposes, and thus it was all “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Some of the potentially hazardous (e.g. vast tracts of barren desert), or even catastrophic (e.g. volcanic eruptions, earthquakes) features that van de Mieroop has attributed to the region may not have been present/active before the Fall.
- Nor have I ever read any mention of dinosaurs in this particular region of the world; though there may have been.
- The simple fruit picking, soil tilling (presumably with stone implements) lifestyle of Adam and Eve, and of their children, in the earliest times, would probably now be interpreted according to a Palaeolithic framework; even though early Homo Sapiens was far from being the brainless brute (Chesterton’s ironical “simius insipiens”) palaeontology might imagine him to have been.
- Throughout most of the Pleistocene period both the western desert and the foothill region of Iraq were grassy steppes and uplands benefiting from a comparatively temperate and uniform climate and offering highly favourable conditions to the existence of prehistoric [sic] men.
- Climatic conditions in this region were presumably as eminently favourable for man as Roux writes was the case during the Pleistocene age (op. cit., p. 36):
- Adam’s ‘world’ must, as I am arguing, have been confined entirely to the riverine system of Genesis 2.
- According to Dr. John Osgood, however, the Late Pleistocene phase, is post-Flood http://creation.com/a-better-model-for-the-stone-age
* I think that dinosaurs may be overrated anyway. There seems to be an almost total lack of evidence for the intermediary stage that is presumed to have separated the smaller dinosaurs from the later, larger ones, and that gave rise to the latter. Probably far fewer dinosaurs inhabited the earth than are generally estimated.
Moreover, seas – those entities that, in biblical metaphor, sometimes indicate restlessness and danger to man – were probably not on Adam’s close horizon. The latter part of the Book of Revelation, which seems to project a symbolical return to an Eden-like environment, tells of the “sea [being] no more” (21:1). Interestingly, the Mediterranean and Red Seas, now so prominent in the region, apparently have not always been there. There was a time when, according to C. Pellegrino: “The Red Sea did not exist as yet” (Return to Sodom and Gomorrah, Avon, 1994, p. 46). W. Ryan and W. Pitman have discussed what they consider to have been the comings and goings of the Mediterranean Sea (in Noah’s Flood, Touchstone, 2000, pp. 71-92). Thus, most likely, the “little room for coastal settlement” (the confining Mediterranean corridor) of which van de Mieroop has written may not have been a factor in Adam’s day, nor even during most of the millennia and a half long antediluvian times (but perhaps only towards the Flood, and ever since). The same sort of marine fluctuations may also have applied to other seas in the approximate region. For example, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea have certainly undergone major fluctuations over time (S. Lloyd, The Archaeology of Mesopotamia, Thames and Hudson, 1984, p. 23), and the same applies to the Persian Gulf, for which “Pleistocene and Holocene [our age] changes in world climate …were … responsible for wide fluctuations in the level of the Gulf waters …” (Roux, op. cit., p. 4).
[Some further comments on, respectively, the once ‘non-existence of the Red Sea’ and the ‘fluctuations of the Black Sea’:
- Pellegrino’s testimony above that the Red Sea did not once exist may now provide us with an ideal opportunity for reconciling Professor Yahuda’s identification of the land of “Havilah” encompassed by the Pishon (op. cit., p. 184f.): “…. The gold mines of the so-called ‘Arabian desert’ on the Egyptian side, south-east of upper Egypt, between Assuan, Koptos (the present Kuft), and the Red Sea”, with the view of Hill, et. al., that “Havilah” (meaning “sandy”) was Saudi Arabia with its famous “Cradle of Gold”, Mahd adh Dhahab; these two legendary gold-bearing regions now being separated by the Red Sea.
- [The Bible in fact records two “Havilah’s” (cf. Genesis 10:7, 29)].
- The now celebrated ‘Black Sea Flood’ of Ryan and Pitman (op. cit.), dated to c. 7000 BC, I shall be chronologically realigning with/ incorporating into, the Great Genesis Flood (c. 2300 BC), as being an integral part of the latter. Thus, the stupendous geophysical mechanisms that unleashed the ‘Black Sea Flood’ will be found to be common also to the Great Genesis Flood. See IV. (a).The geographical picture that has emerged here would explain Dr. Livingston’s words: “The ancients did not have a notion of massive seas and continents as we do today”. This great cleft is highly significant in connection with man’s primitive history. It is a geographical ‘line’, through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, to the Olduvai Gorge, near Lake Victoria, and on to the Transvaal, where the earliest examples of man are considered to have been found (e.g. ‘Lucy’; the ‘First Family of Man’; ‘Koobi Fora Skull’; ‘The Boy’; ‘Zinjanthropus’; ‘Homo Habilis’; ‘Australopithecus’); be they truly human or otherwise. Indeed, it would not be at all surprising if early man (though not necessarily antediluvian) were to be found in regions not far from the Nubian Nile (primeval “Gihon”), at Lake Victoria (modern source of the Nile), and the environs of the “Pishon”. One might expect traces of both pre- and post- Flood man along the great Rift Valley, and these would be living in a most basic fashion, out of necessity, given their distance from the cultural centre. After the Fall (which my timetable allows to have occurred well after the creation of Adam), a harsher environment may have set in as the result of glaciation (an Ice Age). That the ice though did not penetrate as far as our Near Eastern area under discussion is apparent from Roux (op. cit., p.36): “Although there is some evidence of cyclic glaciation in the Taurus and Zagros mountains, the great ice-sheets never reached as far south as the Near East”. But with the glaciation reaching as far south as the Caspian Sea, as it did, it must have had a significant climatological/sociological effect upon our central region, serving to dry up waterways and forcing migrations. Even the perennial Jericho spring dried up in Mesolithic times, necessitating a long-time abandonment of that ancient site.
- Possibly, then, that pious legend to which I referred in “The Location of Paradise”, that the un-named Paradise river had dried up as a result of the Fall, might also have a climatological explanation. There may even be a connection between that Paradise river and the Jericho spring, given the common origin of both in the Judaean mountains. We recall that the Paradise river had formerly been the source of the four named rivers: the “Tigris” and “Euphrates” (in the east), the “Gihon” and “Pishon” (in the west). Did all 4 antediluvian rivers once debouch together in the very same region near the Persian Gulf?
- But man did not originate there in Africa as the palaeontologists imagine.
- I have already discussed how the fertile Valley of Siddim sank and became the Dead Sea; but only as late as the time of Abra[ha]m. Though there may perhaps have been an earlier initial sinking of this once fertile valley as a result of the explosive tectonic activity (“folding of the earth’s crust”) unleashed prior to, and helping to cause, the Flood.
- The two mountain ranges, Transjordanian and Palestinian, are the continuations respectively of the Antilebanon and Lebanon ranges of Syria. Originally one, these ranges were cleft in two from N to S by the folding of the earth’s crust; in the Palestine area this cleft took the form of the great Rift Valley (Arabic: Ghor) through which the Jordan River now flows from above the Huleh Basin in the N to the Dead Sea in the S. This great cleft in the earth, which descends to 1300 ft. below sea level at the Dead Sea, continues S of the sea as the barren valley of the Arabah that opens into the Gulf of Aqabah. (The cleft has left its mark right down into Africa, visible if one follows the line from the Red Sea to lake Nyassa and the Victoria Falls …).
- The amazing Rift Valley likewise probably did not exist in Adam’s day. Here is a description of this incredible geological feature by R. North (“Biblical Geography”, Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, 73:33. Emphasis added):
- Cain and Abel (Mesolithic to Neolithic)By the time that Adam’s sons had reached maturity, there were likely features of human living that a palaeontologist might perhaps associate with Mesolithic (or Epipalaeolithic) man. I refer to the basic cultivation of crops, cultic religion and simple animal husbandry. But still largely a hunting-gathering culture. Though, from a wisdom (or Divine) perspective, the line to follow is that of the Seth-ites, especially through the holy patriarch, Enoch, Noah’s great grandfather (Genesis 5:21-28), and on to Noah himself. In III. I shall also give my guesstimate as to where the Seth-ites may have dwelt.It should be quite apparent by now that the most common geographical expression used in the first 4 chapters of Genesis (so devoid of specific geographical indicators) is that general word/phrase, “[the] east”. Thus the Lord plants “a garden in Eden, in the east” (2:8). And “…east of the garden He placed the cherubim” (3:24). And Cain “settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (4:16). (This eastern orientation is taken up again in Ezekiel 47:8). W. Albright though contended most interestingly that Hebrew miqeddem means “in primeval times” and not “from or in the east” (W. Albright 1968:97, as cited by Dr. Livingston, op. cit.). That would certainly make the more sense for me, at least in regard to the usage of this phrase in Genesis 2:8; for it would remove a geographical complication (by actually taking the geography right out of it) that I had encountered in “The Location of Paradise”, when trying to situate the Garden “in Eden, in the east” (instead of, perhaps, “in Eden, in primeval times”). This may, in fact, be the very origin of the name of that place: So they took Jesus; and carrying the Cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him … (John 19:17, 18).
- Presumably the Garden of Eden still remained the primary point of reference or orientation for exiled man and woman: their prototypal holy place. Just as Jerusalem would later be for the Israelites/Jews even during their various exiles (Assyria, Babylon). Based on the testimony of Jesus as I have interpreted it, what became the site of Jerusalem was the very site where Abel the Priest was slain by his envious brother, Cain, when the former was bringing his acceptable offering unto the holy mountain (Genesis 4:4-8). Wherever Adam and Eve may have dwelt subsequent to the Fall, the Garden of Eden presumably continued to be the ‘altar’ to where Adam seasonally would bring his offerings. Perhaps pious tradition can fill in at least one gap by telling us that Adam (his head, at least) was buried at this sacred site (Jerusalem). Thus R. Graves (The Greek Myths, 146:2): “… according to Ambrose (Epistle vii. 2), Adam’s head was buried at Golgotha, to protect Jerusalem from the north”.
- Whilst I cannot at this stage, due to a dearth of biblical evidence, specify where exactly “east of the garden of Eden” (3:24) Adam and Eve dwelt after the Fall, presuming that they did in fact dwell east of it, I am considerably more optimistic about being able to determine the location of Cain (and the Cain-ites) “east of Eden” (see III.). That is because the Bible actually names the city that Cain built: “Cain built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch” (4:17).
- “In the East”
- In a previous version of this series I had written hopefully about the land of Cain’s settlement after the fratricide:
- It was almost certainly this same Cain, ‘surveyor and determiner of property boundary lines’ (ibid., p. 315), who built the world’s very first town, or city, which he called after his oldest son, Enoch (Genesis 4:17). And this is where things start to become more interesting, at least from a palaeontologico-archaeological perspective.
- The Futile Aspiration to Make ‘Man the Measure of All Things’
- Human ‘civilization’, as we now tend to think of it, really begins with Cain, and that after his act of fratricide. But it is a kind of cultural ‘progress’ that the Bible never endorses (see I. Kikawada’s and A. Quinn’s excellent treatment of this in Before Abraham Was, Ignatius Press, 1985, Chs. II and III). T. Lahaye, in his fascinating (fictional) account of the Flood and the Ark (The Secret on Ararat, 2004, p. 316), quotes Josephus, who wrote that “Cain was the father of weights and measures and cunning craftiness”. Cain was seemingly, therefore, the prototypal ‘sophist’ – like the later Protagoras of Thrace (and, in the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci) – for whom man became ‘the measure of all things’. For a more philosophical discussion of this, see my:
- …based on considerable substantive evidence, much of it collected only in the last two decades, Harris did not believe this was the case. For him the data showed that “agriculture originated independently only very rarely – possibly only twice – in the history of Eurasia” (first in the Near East and later in China). The earliest event had taken place in the late tenth millennium B.C. [sic] in what Harris called “rift-valley oases”. He placed its location on the western side of the Fertile Crescent at a place such as Jericho, not far from the Dead Sea. In a thousand years the so-called founder crops spread northward to Anatolia and eastward to Iraq and Iran. Domesticated sheep and goats (the caprines) came a few hundred years later out of the Taurus and Zagros mountains of Anatolia and Persia.
- My model would necessitate that agriculture must firstly have arisen in what we now call Palestine, in the region of Jerusalem; an estimation actually borne out by the study of agriculture. Ryan and Pitman tell of the discovery of D. Harris, director of the Institute of Archaeology of the University of London, who has arrived at a view different from the standard notion of “centers of origin” for the agricultural revolution (op. cit., p. 171):
The Divine plan of salvation has this perfect symmetry about it:
the New Adam redeemed humankind, died, was buried and rose, precisely where the Old Adam had caused humankind’s Fall, and was ultimately buried.
- Cain’s Descendants (Neolithic to Chalcolithic)With the biblical testimony of Cain’s building of a town, we now move into what would be the palaeontologists’ realm of Neolithic man, no longer strictly hunting-gathering. Whereas prior to the Cain-ite Lamech, the descendants of Adam and Eve (at least the very few in connection with whom a spouse is mentioned) were monogamous, Lamech was the first recorded to have been polygamous, having “two wives”, Adah and Zillah (Genesis 4:19). Lamech’s three named sons became highly skilled and successful men (vv.20-22): thus Jabal ‘progressed’ to being, not a mere herdsmen, but a cattle baron, also having male and female slaves (see Kikawada and Quinn on this, op. cit., pp. 56-57); Jubal was an accomplished instrument maker/musician; and Tubalcain was the inventor of “all kinds of bronze and iron tools”.[Apparently the latter was later deified; for the Romans knew Tubalcain as the smith-god, Vulcan. Our word ‘volcano’ comes from this Roman name].With Lamech’s skilled progeny, we find ourselves squarely in Chalcolithic times. Some of the natural boundaries M. van de Mieroop will refer to were only able to be overcome by human beings, albeit still with difficulty, as late as the neo-Assyrian era (say, a good millennium and a half after Noah), whose technology would have been far superior to any known to Noah and his sons.
- Part Five: Natural Barriers
- The name Enoch was common to both the Seth-ites and Cain-ites (as were also it seems the names Methuselah/Methushael; Lamech/Lamech; Yered/Irad. Cf. Genesis 4 and 5). This commonality would suggest, as I shall discuss in III., that the two families lived in close proximity. The Genesis text referring to Cain’s town, also goes on to name Cain’s grandson (4:17, 18): “Cain had intercourse with his wife, she conceived and gave birth to Enoch. He became builder of a town, and he gave the town the name of his son Enoch. Enoch had a son Irad …”. I shall also consider in III. the crucial matter of where the city of “Enoch” likely was – and also what city, if any, was called after Cain’s grandson “Irad”. [I wrote this before I had cause to change my mind about some of the earlier archaeological views].
- Noah’s ‘World’ (Chalcolithic)Now, I shall begin to answer those questions, in a local Flood context, related to why Noah had to build an Ark, and why he did not just take his family elsewhere. I shall be taking a deeper look at some of the geographical, climatological and other factors that I think may have limited Noah’s and his family’s movements.
- Some of these factors were already in effect, at least potentially, in Adam’s time, as I have discussed in regard to the singular geography of the region. Generally we are talking natural boundaries here (but also other factors, including dangerous animals and hostile humans):
- Beyond the riverine system and its attendant oases was desert. Desert, which I suggested may even have been a factor prior to the Fall, later increased in extent due to adverse climatological factors and would definitely have constituted one form of inhospitable boundary limiting human expansion.
- Wild animals (massive dinosaurs?) would have been another factor.
- Bandits in desert regions were always also a factor. Moreover, Genesis 6:11 records the ubiquitous human “violence” that “filled” the earth.
- Mountains, and especially ice, were assuredly other limiting factors. It is possible that the antediluvian period corresponded with an Ice Age throughout most of the globe, but apparently not in the Fertile Crescent, and that ice sheets – and especially icy mountain ranges – were another formidable barrier. Certainly Ryan/Pitman attribute the Flood, in part, to a change in global sea levels due to a massive melting of ice after a cold period (op. cit., pp. 107ff.); the latter caused, according to Rohl, by a catastrophic volcano in the Aleutian islands (op. cit., p. 50). Any such climatological change would of course have affected a vaster region of the world than merely the ‘Fertile Crescent’; but it is only what happened to the latter approximate region, I am arguing, that would have affected humankind.
- Climate. An extremely arid climate might have made certain formerly inhabitable areas unliveable.
- Seas or oceans would have been a further mighty barrier to ancient man. And their size would only have increased as the ices melted. The ancients had a cosmology of a pristine world ringed by the Ocean (Oceanus). This may perhaps reflect the antediluvian world that perished. (Scientists and marine biologists should eventually be able largely to reconstruct this world).
- Nor did Noah and his contemporaries have the maritime expertise to travel the vast and ever-enlarging seas to safety. Van de Mieroop (op. cit., p. 9) has also raised this issue of boundaries for the region, preceding his discussion with mention of “long periods of drought …a drying of the climate which made rainfed agriculture impossible in zones usually relying on it, and which lowered the rivers to such an extent that irrigated areas were substantially reduced”. Some of the natural boundaries van de Mieroop will now refer to were only able to be overcome by human beings, albeit still with difficulty, as late as the neo-Assyrian era (say, a good millennium and a half after Noah), whose technology would have been far superior to any known to Noah and his sons:A second important characteristic of the geography of the Near East involves the question of boundaries. These are created by mountains, seas, and deserts, which could all be crossed, although in limited places and with special technology only. The Zagros and Taurus mountains were massive barriers to the states of Mesopotamia, and could only be entered through the river valleys. Military expansion was thus always restricted there, even by such mighty powers as Assyria. ….Mountains were also the habitat of many uncontrollable groups …. [So apparently were the deserts, ibid., p. 10]. To the dwellers of the plains, the mountains must have presented a fearful and inhospitable sight. Factors limiting human expansion beyond this world may have been continental merging (tectonic activity); deserts; ice and mountains; wild animals; bandits (“uncontrollable groups”); universal “violence”; and seas. Moreover, seas, rivers, lakes, marshes, swamps, would have greatly increased in size just prior to the Flood (see III. and IV. (a)). The possibility of escaping from this world to one that was not going to be severely affected by the Flood probably, then, never even occurred to Noah. OceanusMoreover, this ancient kosmos may have been ringed by an Ocean – as according to some legends – such as the Tethys Ocean, supposedly many of millions of years ago. It is most interesting to note that, whilst palaeontology and archaeology would generally point to a steady evolution from lower to ever higher ‘civilizations’, the Book of Genesis on the other hand would rather reflect a cultural devolution, a plummeting downwards, from simplicity and a pristine friendship with God, to the Fall; then the steady decline of the Cain-ite line (from the murderer Cain to the vengeful, polygamous Lamech), the wicked and violent Cain-ites in turn corrupting the once-godly Seth-ite line. And then came the catastrophic Flood.
- The supposedly extremely slow cultural progression from Palaeolithic man to Chalcolithic man that the evolutionary-minded palaeontologists have read into the march towards human civilization of Homo Sapiens will need to be reduced from over 2 million years to a figure in the low thousands. However, it is a progression towards ‘civilization’, so-called, that may to some degree reflect the early Genesis saga, albeit briefly recorded. Thus: from a ‘civilization’ perspective, man (Adam) began in naked simplicity, fruit picking (roughly corresponding to Palaeolithic), progressed to working the soil (Abel) and herding (Cain) (roughly corresponding to Mesolithic). Man proceeded to build houses and cities (Cain after his flight to “the land of Nod”) (roughly corresponding to Neolithic), and also went on to develop technology and sophisticated arts (Cain’s descendants and Noah and his family) (i.e. Chalcolithic).
- Conclusion to A Palaeontological Overview
- If so, then this would have been an impassable barrier for ancient man.
- All in all, I believe that the antediluvian world was a fairly well circumscribed one and was built around the riverine system that appears to be the stand-out feature of our only reliable description of it: namely, Genesis 2.
- Seas form a very different kind of boundary, the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf being the most important [i.e., from a Mesopotamian perspective]. They do create a border, but once crossed [presuming one has the appropriate maritime skills to do so], they provide access to regions at great distances. ….