The Genesis Flood

            In an article, How Should We Interpret the Genesis Flood Account?, on the BioLogos webpage, the following comment is made concerning the Scriptural account of the Genesis Flood:

The scientific and historical evidence is now clear: there has never been a global flood that covered the whole earth, nor do all modern animals and humans descend from the passengers of a single vessel.[1]

Derek Kidner, whom we quoted before concerning the creation, wrote in his commentary on Genesis similar thoughts about the Noahic flood:

As it is, the various geological data that have been thought to favour a strictly universal flood have been successively found wanting, in the opinion of most experts, and little reasonable doubt remains (although some would dispute this) that the events of Genesis 6-8 have taken place within a limited though indeed a vast area, covering not the entire globe but the scene of the human story of the previous chapters. Some opinions would confine this to Mesopotamia, others envisage a larger tract; there is certainly room for further investigation[2]

In one sense, it should not be surprising that BioLogos and Derek Kidner reached such conclusions. That has been the presuppositional view of liberal and progressive theologians for a number of years. Long before the supposed latest scientific and historical evidence spoke so authoritatively against the Scripture’s account of the flood, that same argument was made by liberal theologians. The presupposition of these various theologians, whether liberal or progressive or quasi-conservative, is that the Scripture is a fallible book, in part at least, because it was written by fallible humans. Thus, their conclusions become exactly what their presuppositions were. They presupposed the Genesis flood was not world-wide and they concluded the same.

To be fair, I have certain presuppositions also—as does everyone. Concerning the Scripture, my presupposition is that all Scripture is God-breathed, infallible, and inerrant. There are certain reasons for that presupposition. Scripture claims to be God-breathed and infallible in 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:25; and, 2 Peter 1:20, 21, as well as in other places. Jesus said, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). I can see no way to interpret the account of the Genesis flood as simply a local flood without breaking the Scripture, both in Genesis and other parts of the Scripture.

Is BioLogos, Kidner, and many others correct when they assert there has never been a world-wide flood? Instead of resorting to the latest scientific ‘opinions’, let us go directly to the Scripture. Genesis 7:11 says: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.” The flood came for 40 days and “the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered” (Genesis 7:19). The water level, according to Genesis, was 15 cubits or approximately 22 feet higher than the tops of the highest mountains all over the world. Now, the elevation of Mount Ararat is approximately 16,854 feet above sea level. There are a few taller mountains in the world. Mount Everest, for one, is 29,032 feet above sea level—5.49 miles above sea level. Most commercial airplanes fly about 35,000 feet above sea level. That gives some perspective on the amount of water that covered the earth.

Here is another fact. Water seeks its own level. That is the law of physics called hydrostatics that deals with the characteristics of fluids at rest. The Genesis flood could not have covered Mount Ararat and remained a localized flood—particularly not for a year. Water, according to hydrostatics and general observation, will flow downhill until it reaches another body of water and it will then raise the level of that body of water evenly. I live near the sea and my neighborhood is only ten feet above sea level. If it rains more than fifteen inches in a day (which is rare), there are parts of the neighborhood that are subject to flooding. My house, thankfully, is one of about ten homes in the neighborhood that are high enough that the water never floods us. We are several feet higher than the other parts of the neighborhood which makes all the difference. But what about the 16,854 feet in elevation of Mount Ararat? For water to cover that mountain or mountain range, there would necessarily be a lot of water covering every other part of the land below. Scripture says, “The water prevailed upon earth one hundred and fifty days” (Genesis 7:24). After 150 days, the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, but the tops of the mountains were not yet visible. It was a full year after the flood began before the water had dried up from the earth. According to Scripture, that was one huge flood. It covered the tops of the mountains of Ararat and all the mountains on the face of the earth. Nonetheless, there are people like those at BioLogos and many others who tell us that the flood in Noah’s day was just a local flood. Genesis 7:23 says, “Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.”

If the Noahic flood was not a universal flood; if that flood did not cover the tops of all the mountains on earth; if all life of animals, creeping things, birds, and humans was not wiped out, except for those who were in the ark with Noah; if the flood did not last for a full year and a week; and, if Noah and his family were not the only survivors; then, the account of the Noahic flood in Genesis is wrong and the whole book of Genesis is impeached for giving false testimony. Yet, it gets worse than that. There are other books of the Bible that are also impeached because they uphold the testimony of Genesis concerning the flood.

The Genesis flood is mentioned in Isaiah 54:9, “For this is like the days of Noah to Me, when I swore that the waters of Noah would not flood the earth again; so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, nor will I rebuke you.” At the end of the world, the earth and its works will be burned up by fervent heat—but not by water. The universal flood of Noah’s days will never happen again. That is the promise of God.

Both Matthew and Luke referred to the flood during Noah’s days. Luke 17:26, 27 says, “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will also be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating, they were drinking, they were being given in marriage, until the days that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” The point of connection between the flood in Noah’s days and the coming of the Son of Man is the universality of both. The whole world was surprised by the flood in Noah’s days. All mankind will suddenly be panic stricken when the Son of Man returns for judgment. Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:37-42 makes the same point about the Second Coming.  

Noah’s building of the ark to save his family from the flood is mentioned in Hebrews 11:7 as an act of faith “by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of righteousness which is according to faith.” Neither the author of Hebrews (whom I consider to be Paul), nor any other writer of Scripture who mentions the Noahic flood ever takes issue with the account given by Moses in Genesis. The details mentioned in Genesis are unchallenged and, therefore, assumed to be true.

Peter also mentions the Genesis flood in both of his epistles. 1 Peter 3:20 says: “the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, in which a few, that is eight persons, were brought safely through the waters.” Peter particularly pointed out the number of those who alone were given safe passage through that flood—there were only eight people. Those eight people were Noah and his wife, their three sons, and their son’s wives. From those eight people the world was repopulated. If that interpretation of the clear statements in Genesis 6-8 is not true, then Peter and other writers of Scripture missed their opportunity to correct it. In 2 Peter 3:3-13, Peter compares the flood that destroyed the ancient world with what will happen when the world is destroyed with fervent heat before the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 2 Peter 3:3, 4 says: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the creation of the world, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” Now, if the Noahic flood was not universal, then the ancient world was not destroyed by water and, indeed, the world continues just as it was from the beginning of creation. In that case, Peter made a mistake when he wrote that the ancient world was destroyed by water and that the world does not continue as it was from creation. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote concerning these verses:

You notice here his whole case is based upon the acceptance of the facts. If we do not accept the fact of the Flood, then Peter’s argument collapses. His whole argument is based upon these facts. And there again, speaking for myself, I find myself in exactly the same position. Miracles are not meant to be understood, they are meant to be believed. There are things I cannot understand in the Old Testament but as I find them to be an integral part of biblical history, I believe them.[3]      

And that is the whole problem with the Genesis account of the flood during Noah’s days. There are many people, Peter calls them ‘scoffers’, who simply refuse to believe what God has told us happened. It is a matter of unbelief for those people, even if they are theologians, commentators, ministers, or pew warmers. It is a matter of faith for us who believe it. More than that, if the Noahic flood did not destroy the whole world, then it is not just Moses who got it wrong. If Genesis is impeached for giving false testimony, then Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter also have given false testimony. Once again, we see how the Scripture hangs together or falls together. The Scripture cannot be broken in one place without doing irreparable damage to the whole of Scripture because other books of the Bible confirm the teaching found in the disputed places.

Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL If you would like to donate to Vanguard Presbytery, please mail your contribution to: PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540.  All donations are used to help start new churches or for travel expenses with the exception of the small stipends paid to the stated clerk and those men who are working as evangelists for the presbytery.  

[1] Accessed on April 25, 2022 at 10:19 AM CDT.

[2] Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), 94.

[3] D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Expository Sermons on 2 Peter (Edinburgh, Scotland and Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 171-2.  

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