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The Flood

The Holy Spirit's New Testament witness to the Genesis 6

Flood is through three persons:

(1)The Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 24:38-39; Luke 17:27).

(2)The apostle Peter (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:5).

(3)The writer of Hebrews (Heb. 11:7).

Two general principles run through these passages-principles which are important to underline in our own times (i) the faith of the righteous is rewarded by God,

(ii)the lack of faith of the unrighteous leads to punishment by God.

Commencing with the Hebrews reference: the faith of Noah is set in striking contrast against the dark background of the faithless degeneration of the rest of the ancient world. His faith was daunted neither by the extent of the impending judgement of God on the unrighteous nor by the size of the task allotted to him, to save alive in one boat the only breathing creatures that would be left in the earth; in this respect the importance of Gen. 6:17 and 7:22 cannot be too much emphasized. Lesser mortals would have staggered at the construction of a ship the size of QE2, to be stocked with food for a whole year, with the prospect of weathering a flood of the size that God revealed in advance. It is this kind of faith which God rewards equally in A.D. 1973 as in B.C. 2418/17, the Bible date of the Flood.

Looking next at Peter's first letter: the Flood is illustrative of the longsuffering of God, giving men every chance before He brought down His judgement. He waited while Noah constructed his huge graft, far greater than anything that had been conceived in his day; waited so that Methuselah ("when he is dead it shall be sent") became the oldest man on record. Side by side with this illustration in the same verse is a very different one: that the Flood is a type of baptism. Just as the earth was completely enveloped in water, so today the Christian who seeks to carry out God's will must comply with the command to be baptized in water.

The second chapter of Peter's second letter throws fresh light on God's waiting: in that period he used Noah as a preacher of righteousness so that his unrighteous contemporaries could have no excuse when God's judgement fell. However, the main issue in the passage is that God brings His faithful ones safely through the punishment reserved for the unbelieving. Like Noah and his family, Christians today rest assuredly on God's ability to do this.

The third chapter of Peter's second letter warns sceptics and scoffers that the uniformity which they think they detect in past history is no security against the reality of God's sudden judgement. This little understood passage needs careful analysis, but one thing is quite evident: the pre-Flood heavens are distinguished from the present heavens, the pre-Flood earth from the present earth, just as much as the pre-Flood world of people from its present inhabitants. The less evident revelation is that it was the pre-Flood heavens and earth which were the cause of the rise in the level of the waters which drowned the ancient inhabitants. Weymouth's translation makes this plain:

"For they are wilfully blind to the fact that there were heavens which existed of old and an earth, the latter arising out of water and extending continuously through water, by the command of God, and that by means of these (margin: i.e. the heavens and earth) the then existing race of men was overwhelmed with water and perished. But the present heavens and the present earth are, by the command of the same God, kept stared up, reserved for fire in preparation for a day of judgement and of destruction for the ungodly".

Though the climate of current scientific opinion favours only local Mesopotamian flooding in association with the considerable layers of water-laid clay at such excavations as Ur, Kish and Shuruppak (Fara), there are acknowledged facts which are irreconcilable with such a limited view. Some of these facts have come into prominence with the change that has occurred since Woolley's time (1929) in the date assigned to the layers and their immediately adjacent strata. Mallowan looks to Early Dynastic II as the period of the Genesis 6 Flood, based chiefly on the Gilgamesh epic and the Sumerian King list (1,7,10). Mallowan's tentative date for Early Dynastic II is B.C. 2700 (7). Radiocarbon dating far the same period is B.C. 2184 (2) but this is known to be too near an assignment, as indicated below. Note that the Bible date falls between these two. Again, at Kish, the major flood layer surmounted the "Y" stratum, for which the following dates have been offered in the stated year:

1930PeakeB.C.3400 (3)

1934WatelinB.C.3000 (4)

1972Mallowan, MooreyB.C.2700 (1,2,7)

It is interesting to note that these are approaching the Bible date of B.C. 2418/17.

In this context, H. W. Catley's report (6) is significant: "We have to infer a serious calamity in Cyprus in the middle of the third millennium B.C.... It was accompanied by the wholesale desertion of settlements throughout the island: the almost total disappearance of the distinctive features of the Chalcolithic I material culture from the centuries that followed".

Moving to higher ground in Israel, the excavations of caves in Mount Carmel by the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and the American School of Prehistoric Research (8) have revealed successive layers of deposits, now quite well known. Level B at El Tabun, below the Bronze Age level, was distinguished from all lower layers by the following features:

(i)it consisted of red, alluvial, lime-free earth, which it was agreed, could only have been washed in from above, whereas lower layers consisted of brown loam containing lime and conformable with the natural rock of the area.

(ii)the deposit contained a mixture of animal and human bones and weapons which were distributed "with an unusual regularity throughout the layer", whereas lower layers contained deliberately buried skeletons.

(iii)no traces of hearths were visible or other signs of human occupation, which were features of lower layers.

(iv)the weapons showed no change in human industries associated with the immediately lower or higher strata.

(v)there was clear evidence of an abrupt faunal change to the modern type, whereas lower layers had shown a wider variety of species.

In respect of the last feature, the report states that the abrupt faunal break to present-day species has been recognized in many deposits in Europe, North Africa and East Africa. "This seems to suggest it may have been contemporary over a very wide area". Hopwaad (9) has confirmed this in Africa and also India and states "that some major geological event must have so affected the general conditions over a far wider area than Europe, that the greater part of the faunas became extinct, leaving an impoverished remnant behind". He shows that these extinctions were accompanied by widespread earth movements, including mountain formation "very late in the Pleistocene period". By inference Bate (8) associates this period with level B at El Tabun.

A study has been made of bone and alluvial deposits in caves and fissures in many parts of the world at the same geological horizon, and the evidence is overwhelmingly great that they represent the remains of animals - and humans - drowned in a flood of vast dimensions. Bones are not eroded; they are well-preserved, whereas those of many diverse species, predatory and otherwise, are all mixed pell mell together.

So much for earth movements and their consequences; but what of movements in the heavens, of which Peter spoke? The anomalous radiocarbon dating in the middle of the third millennium B.C., noted above in relation to the second early Dynastic period, has been attributed by Mallowan (7) to "a major disturbance, which changed the balance of C 14 in the atmosphere". An attractive mechanism, that of the loss of a vapour canopy, has been suggested by several to account for the change, because this would cause a sudden influx of cosmic rays from space and have the effect noted above by an "overshoot" mechanism. Dates nearer to the present than the major disturbance would appear to be falsely nearer still, and dates farther from the present than the disturbance would appear falsely more distant, and this is exactly the problem which archaeologists are faced with.

Clearly no one of the above pieces of evidence alone would carry convincing weight, but the patient seeker after truth finds them in agreement with the evidence relative to tree ring dating, population statistics, frozen mammoth deposits in Siberia and Alaska and other equally diverse fields of investigation. However, the words of the Lord Jesus form a fitting conclusion to this brief survey of New Testament references to the Genesis 6 Flood. He used the Deluge as a type of His judgement of the world at His coming as Son of Man. He said that Flood "took them all away" (Matt. 24:39), "destroyed them all" (Luke 17:27). Such all-embracing statements, completely in accord with the Old Testament record, cannot lightly be set aside or ignored.

REFERENCES

1M.E.L. MallowanIraq. Vol.26 (1964), 62.

2P.R.S. MooreyIraq. Vol.28 (1966), 40.

3H. PeakeThe Flood (1930).

4L. Ch. WatelinExcavations at Kish. IV. 1934.

5L. WoolleyUr of the Chaldees. Penguin. 1937.

6H.W. CatleyCambridge Ancient History. Vol.1. Chap. IX c.

19.

7M.E.L. MallowanCambridge Ancient History. Vol.1. Chap. XVI.

BD.A.E. GarrodThe Stone Age of Mount Carmel. Vol. I.

D.M.A. BateOxford. 1937.

9A.T. HopwoodGeological Mag. (London). Vol.73.185.

10T. JacobsonThe Sumerian King List.