Monday, October 27, 2008
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.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:03 AM