Monday, October 27, 2008

The Biblical Deluge


[Noah's Ark]

This week, Jews will read in the synagogue the story of the Deluge, Genesis 6 to 8. This story describes how God wished to destroy all of mankind except for one righteous family. To do this, He caused water to pour out of the sky and from within the earth and to cover the entire globe for a period of several months. In the meantime, Noah and his family took refuge within a boat Noah had built. A sample of every land animal and bird likewise took refuge in the ark. The water then disappeared and Noah, his family and the animals were able to disembark from the ark and repopulate the earth. According to Talmudic tradition, the Deluge occurred in 2106 BCE.

Questions often asked about the Deluge are: Where did all the water come from? Where did it all go? How did the animals find the ark? How did they, together with their food, all fit into the ark? How did they return to their original habitats afterwards? How did plants survive? Of course, the Deluge was a miraculous event which can only be explained by divine intervention. Therefore there may be no geological evidence of the Biblical Deluge. No one would necessarily expect to find  scorch marks on Mount Sinai even though the Ten Commandments were given there.

There is, however, some independent evidence of this ancient global cataclysm.

First of all, the Deluge is recorded in the oral histories of most ancient nations. Considering the fact that natural floods are never extensive enough to leave the survivors believing that they are the only humans remaining alive, apparently these Deluge legends are based on a miraculous global flood. (Bruce Masse, an environmental archaeologist at the Los Alamo National Laboratory, believes that a global flood did indeed happen in historic times. He believes, however that it occurred in 2807 BCE, killed 80% of mankind and was caused by a comet strike.)

Additionally, there is evidence of a global catastrophe at about the time of  the Deluge. Archeologists have found evidence of a 4.2 kiloyear BP aridification event, which was one of the most severe climatic events in the past 12,000 years in terms of impact on cultural upheaval. Starting in ≈2200 BC, it probably lasted the entire 22nd century BC. It is very likely to have caused the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt as well as the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. Perhaps this event was actually the Deluge and/or some after effect of it.

The Indus Valley Civilization, the only other civilization in existence at that time, is believed to have ended approximately 1700 BCE, however I am uncertain how precise that date is. We have no written records from that civilization. Seemingly uncalibrated radiocarbon dating from that era could be inaccurate by several hundred years. Problems within that range are found in Egyptian archeology.

34 comments:

Garnel Ironheart said...

Interestingly enough, Rav Hirsch uses his entymological skills to show that "mabul" doesn't necessarily have to mean flood so he translated it "destruction". This is interesting because it solves the problem of the lack of any hard record of a world wide flood, or even a large one in the MiddleEast.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the geologists are having a hard time explaining the origin of the Grand Canyon. The Kaibab Plateau is higher than the headwaters of the Colorado River. And Orogeny doesn't provide a complete answer because the upstream end of the river is older than the downstream part. Also there is considerable evidence of catastrophic flooding in the Northwestern USA.

Anonymous said...

There evidence that the Black Sea is the result of massive catastrophic flooding that occured
recently.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Unfortunately the Black Sea evidence is several thousand years off of the date the Bible gives, nor could the levels it implies have meant a worldwide flood. Given the historical patterns of ice ages and global warming, widespread flooding could have occured in many places in the world repeatedly without any of them being "the flood"

DrJ said...

Lets forget the "miracle" during the flood itself for a moment.

Logically, how in only 4000 years since the flood, did the entire world repopulate, with several millions of different species? There are 350,000 known species of just beetles. Were all of them on board with Noach? That would been one hell of a cruise. Or were there fewer species then, and new ones EVOLVED since then??(bad word).

Your answer "a miracle" is reminiscent of the Christian's "mystery" answers to logical impossibilities and contradictions that arise in their dogma like with immaculate conception, etc. A miracle can legitimately be argued to explain a supernatural event, but not a logically impossible one.

Leaving aside the fantastical and logically impossible claims of the bible regarding the details of the flood, any reader is left with a burning question:

What does the story say about God? This supposed omniscient and all-good Being, realizes that He created vulnerable and culpable people, "regrets" his mistake, and decides to murder everybody, and in the process killing all the animals as well. In so doing, he repopulates the earth with the same mortals who are destined to be evil and sin, but promises not to lose his temper again. Did the flood teach anybody a lesson? Does anybody say, "gee, we got a flood last time we did such and such, lets not do that again!!"

I wouldn't go around bragging that this is the god you believe in.

The numerous stories reflected in various tradition may document some actual flood events, but nothing that covered the whole earth and certainly not one that wiped everybody out.

jewish philosopher said...

If God exists, why can't He decide to suspend the "laws" of nature, which are not laws at all but just His wishes in the first place?

About the moral of the story, it's the same as the moral of pretty much every story in the Hebrew Bible - listen to God or get zapped.

DrJ said...

>If God exists, why can't He decide to suspend the "laws" of nature, which are not laws at all but just His wishes in the first place?

Let's say he can suspend the laws of nature. But, He is still bound by logic-- he cannot create a mountain so heavy that he cannot lift it. This is a logical contradiction. The story of the flood as told and the subsequent history is self-contradictory and a logical impossibility.

>About the moral of the story, it's the same as the moral of pretty much every story in the Hebrew Bible - listen to God or get zapped.

Indeed.
As I said, not something to go around bragging about, especially when the god in question regrets, make mistakes, has a bad temper and tends to murder people when he gets upset over picayune things.

If I had a boss like that I'd find another job.

jewish philosopher said...

What is self contradictory about the flood? A sample of all life was saved in a boat and then came back out. Surely not more miraculous than the creation of life to begin with.

I understand that people don't like being told what to do. Tough.

How about this for example? The Mishna at the end of Bameh Madlikin (Shabbat chap 2) states for 3 reasons to women die at the time of childbirth: because they are not careful about
Niddah, Chalah, and Hadlakat Haner (lighting Shabbat Candles).

Anonymous said...

GI:

Yes, the dates are off, but then dating is always a tricky thing. There is evidence that humasn lived on the shores of the old Balck sea, and their settlements are now underwater. Its not proof that the flood happened, but a reponse to the objection people raise that there is no evidence for a flood. Maybe there is. And I do recall reading that flood sediments nine feet thick were found in Mesopotamia of approximately the right age.

Anonymous said...

>If God exists, why can't He decide to suspend the "laws" of nature, which are not laws at all but just His wishes in the first place?

"Let's say he can suspend the laws of nature. But, He is still bound by logic-- he cannot create a mountain so heavy that he cannot lift it. This is a logical contradiction. The story of the flood as told and the subsequent history is self-contradictory and a logical impossibility."

Didn't Godel prove that every system of logic is imcomplete, which means it can be self-contradictory? So what's the problem with the Mabul being self-contradictory?

DrJ said...

>What is self contradictory about the flood?
Building an ark with specific and defined physical dimensions then stating that all of the worlds known species fit into it and survived, then repopulate the world to its current numbers. The Torah makes no mention of Divine cloning.

>How about this for example? The Mishna at the end of Bameh Madlikin (Shabbat chap 2) states for 3 reasons to women die at the time of childbirth: because they are not careful about
Niddah, Chalah, and Hadlakat Haner (lighting Shabbat Candles).

An excellent example of Talmudic "science" and religious morality.

This statement takes an honorable place among the theories of scientologists and Mormons.

Anyway, we know that the Rabbis often spoke in exagerated pontification, in order to emphasize their point, and it probably wasn't meant to be taken literally.

>I understand that people don't like being told what to do. Tough.

Quite the opposite. Humans like to be led and guided, and need to have rules. But they generally reject (if they can) rulers who are cruel, sadistic,unpredictable, almost never satisfied and whose rules are impossible to follow. The God of the Bible is such a ruler, if he exists.

jewish philosopher said...

An omnipotent God can easily make a lot of big things fit in a small space.

About God being impossible to satisfy, how hard have you tried?

frumheretic said...

drj, re your question about 350,000 species of beetles, you'll notice that Jacob can't answer such questions rationally so he ignores them. All he can fall back on is the standard line "it was a miracle". This is fine except he is also trying to pretend that he is approaching things from a rational point of view (and obviously utterly fails.) The sad thing is that he truly believes that only the literal fundamentalist approach is valid. What a fool!

jewish philosopher said...

The fools are the ones arguing "There cannot be a God because the Torah includes the Deluge narrative. And the Deluge narrative must be a myth because there is no God."

torahtrue said...

I have always wondered about the dove. He left and was never heard from again, so how was he able to reproduce? But the Torah says that there were seven pairs of each clean animal. Oh well, another atheist proof down the drain.

David said...

"the only civilizations in existence in 2106 BCE were Egypt, Sumer and the Indus Valley Civilization"

I see. Never heard of China or India, huh?

jewish philosopher said...

Ever checked out when those civilizations started?

torahtrue said...

You see how the atheists resort to beetles and such. The Talmud clearly shows that most insects and vermin are born of filth, sweat or mud, not of sexual reproduction. There would be no reason to take a species on the ark if it could reproduce in this manner.

Also, the Hopi Indians have always claimed to be migrants who populated North America after what they call the "Great Ending", a terrible time of disaster where the world was in ruin. They claim to be the original and only true ancestors of modern American Indians. Hopi tended to be priests in every other tribe, as they were the source of wisdom. According to their tradition, the original Hopi came to America from the "Great Mountain in the West", about 4300 years ago. When they arrived in America, they found empty cities and villages, without one stone on another. They travelled from the North all the way to South America and found not a single sign of human life nor any land animal. There were only birds and fish which they lived on.
"Ancient Traditions of the Hopi" by Dr. Ron Wyatt (Dr. Wyatt also claims to have seen the the Taivah and argues compellingly.)

shmuel said...

"The Talmud clearly shows that most insects and vermin are born of filth, sweat or mud, not of sexual reproduction."
Checked your brain at the door too, huh? It "clearly shows" it. Really. How, besides saying it, and being mistaken?

Anonymous said...

"There is no geological evidence of the Biblical Deluge"
o The "world" was flooded for only one year
o "geological records" are usually due to sedimentation / running water. In the flood it was just rain + water coming up from the ground --> no sediment layer.

That said, I have a problem with the story. There are continuous records from civilizations before and after the "world-wide" flood. You yourself mentioned this in Egypt Old Kingdom, which is followed IMMEDIATELY by the next monarch. Yet, supposedly, Noach's descendents stayed in Babel for years (to make the tower) before being dispersed around the world. So how did people get to South America? Why are there so many sub-species of humans (Oriental / Caucasian / Negroid) and so many people as well in a short period of time. It could not have been world-wide.

jewish philosopher said...

"You yourself mentioned this in Egypt Old Kingdom, which is followed IMMEDIATELY by the next monarch."

How do we know that there was no gap of a few hundred years? I suspect that the Egyptians wished to believe themselves to be heirs of the pyramid builders similar to the way that Europeans wished to consider themselves heirs to the Romans.

"So how did people get to South America?"

Probably sailing close to the Pacific coast, around Asia, Siberia, Alaska and Canada. How did people get to Hawaii?

"Why are there so many sub-species of humans (Oriental / Caucasian / Negroid) and so many people as well in a short period of time."

For one thing, the children of Ham were cursed with black skin.

jewish philosopher said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_Ham#Early_Jewish_interpretations

bob said...

If the flood mentioned i genisi was litrally a flood why do we not see a radiation of animals coming from the point were the ark landed (mount arrat)?

Why are there no Kangaroos found outside of Australia or Lemurs outside of Madagascar ect.?

How did they all get to their respective islands and how come NOT ONE of them stayed and multiplied outside of them?

Anonymous said...

Most ancient nations didn't survive time to leave any such records, those that did were *civilizations* - which mostly sprung up in RIVER VALLEYS which, oddly enough are prone to flooding, with an occasional epic flood being memorable....a much better explanation for how these stories come to exist. Many peoples in Africa and Asia had no such accounts, and while it IS true that the record of Egyptian civilization IS punctuated, it STILL evidences no such destruction, no claims of having traveled from Ararat, etc, etc (you really REALLY should not have to appeal to butchered accounts of Hopis to make such a claim), the record DOES indicate cultural continuity from before the proposed global flood *and after*; how is this possible if mankind was destroyed and egypt "resettled" somehow? You should read "Noah; The Person and The Story In History and Tradition" and accept that your literal reading of the Mabul-as-literal-flood narrative does not account for all the evidence available to your God-given mind.

jewish philosopher said...

There has never been a recorded case of a flood so devastating that the survivors imagined that all of mankind had perished except for one family. The idea is absurd. So why would precisely such a story be one of mankind's most common myths?

Anonymous said...

why stop at asking for such an account being a flood? why not note this illogical thinking in Lot and his daughters? No groups had a consciousness of "all mankind" until nations like Greece and Rome, et al, started taking over and networking peoples. and even you say we are talking about MYTHS here - not pashut history. Thank being said, people combine and symbolize actual events unrelentingly. When people account epic destruction IN THEIR PAST, when such stories change, how else to account for the accounts themselves other than to say OBVIOUSLY ones group is descended from that family? Why start with one family?; most peoples claims account for all humanity beginning with a male and female "obviously" a siman for Adam and Chava!!...well...no, because two people, male and female, are the beginnings of every family - and hence all species NOT JUST HUMANS; why is it absurd to leave that which is so obviousness unexplained?

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think I get it.

Undercover Kofer said...

"Seemingly uncalibrated radiocarbon dating from that era could be inaccurate by several hundred years. Problems within that range are found in Egyptian archeology."

You quoted the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_dating#Calibration

It also mentions there:

The 2004 version of the calibration curve extends back quite accurately to 26,000 years BP. Any errors in the calibration curve do not contribute more than ±16 years to the measurement error during the historic and late prehistoric periods (0–6,000 yrs BP) and no more than ±163 years over the entire 26,000 years of the curve, although its shape can reduce the accuracy as mentioned above.

So between 0 and 6000 years ago the variation is only ±16 years and not hundreds of years, as you claimed.

Which makes me wonder how selective you read your sources once again.

This link is not working by the way: http://www.knhcentre.manchester.ac.uk/research/radiocarbondating/

jewish philosopher said...

This 1999 article seems to indicate numerous problems with Egyptian C14 dating.

http://www.archaeology.org/9909/abstracts/pyramids.html

This 2010 article seems to indicate ongoing controversy 

http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/54897

In any case C14 apparently is very complex and it is not simply a clear timestamp on anything. It seems to be more a vague possibility.

Undercover Kofer said...

JP: Did you read the first article? The whole problem in dating was not the dating method and its accuracy after callibration but the assumptions as to whether the samples were around already for some time (old wood problem).

I am not commenting on your second link since that it merely a newspaper article.

The Wikipedia error margin of 16 years therefore still stands.

jewish philosopher said...

The point is that leading archeologists are finding major difficulties in using C14 in Egyptian archeology. Therefore how firm is 1700 BCE date for the end of the Indus Valley civilization? Could it really have been 2100 BCE? I don't know.

Undercover Kofer said...

In the end the archaeologists were pretty accurate in Egypt and your thinking sounds an awful lot like wishful thinking.

Another flaw in the reasoning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_Valley_Civilization#Late_Harappan mentions:

"Around 1800 BCE, signs of a gradual decline began to emerge, and by around 1700 BCE, most of the cities were abandoned."

This would definitely not fit with a sudden flood.

jewish philosopher said...

According to the Biblical record and rabbinical tradition Adam was created in 3762 BCE. The Deluge wiped out humanity in 2106 BCE.

According archeologists, the Indus Valley Civilization existed from about 3400 BCE until about 1900 BCE and then mysteriously disappeared without a trace.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_script

I don't think that's much of a contradiction. If the ratio of C14 to C12 in the atmosphere in that area 4,000 years ago was a little different than what scientists currently estimate, that would throw off the dating.

jewish philosopher said...

This article is interesting.

http://www.c14dating.com/corr.html