The Flood: Not Global, Barely Local, Mostly Theological, Pt 1
Part One: Noah’s Flood was not global
Data from various scientific disciplines provides a clear indication that Noah’s Flood did not cover the globe of the earth. Before considering that data, however, we must first determine a rough earliest probable date for the Flood. If the Flood is an actual historical event, it must touch down in the empirical data of history somewhere. We can make a rough approximation of its date from the two genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11. At one end is Adam, whose culture is Neolithic and therefore can be dated no earlier than around 9,000 or 10,000 B.C. At the other end is Abraham who can be dated to approximately 2000 B.C. In both genealogies the Flood occurs in the middle of these two ends, and therefore roughly at 5500 or 6000 B.C. An even clearer indication of the Flood’s date is implied by the statement that shortly after the Flood, Noah planted a vineyard. This implies the growing of domesticated grapes, which do not show up in the archaeological record until c. 4000 B.C.1 The biblical Flood is therefore probably not earlier than 4000 or maybe 5000 B.C.2
What evidence is there then that there was no global Flood at any time since 5000 B.C.?
The first piece of evidence is geological. Christian geologists have given various scientific reasons why the Flood was not global.3 I will mention just one. From 9000 B.C. to the present, the only rocks in northern Mesopotamia which were made by rivers or oceans are along the river banks. This indicates that the only flooding which has affected northern Mesopotamia in the last 11,000 years is from the overflow of rivers.4
The second line of evidence is from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 ice core. The very close agreement of three independent, seasonally based, non-radiometric indicators of annual layers makes the age of the ice sheet on Greenland indisputably 11,000 years old, and the agreement of two of those indicators adds another 100,000 years. Close examination shows that the ice core is composed of fresh water from top to bottom. There is not a single layer of ice in it or in the ground under it composed of seawater nor any silt deposits such as a flood would leave. Not a single layer gives evidence of having melted and refrozen. This means no ocean water has ever stood over it or under it. Consequently, this ice core falsifies the idea that there was a global flood in the time of Noah.5
We can also consult archaeology. Before we do, however, we must briefly point out that carbon-14 dating has been fundamentally validated by comparison with other known dates. It fundamentally agrees with the tree ring record of American bristlecone pine going back to 6400 B.C. and with the tree ring record of European oak going back to 8480 B.C.6 The carbon-14 dates on these two different sequences rise as the number of tree rings rise and are in such very close agreement with each other that they convinced Gerald Aardsma, Ph.D. specializing in carbon dating, and a teacher at the Institute for Creation Research for 6 years, that Carbon-14 dating is reliable back to c. 9300 B.C.7
With the validity of C-14 dating established back to at least c. 9000 B.C., we can now ask, "Is there any archaeological evidence for a Flood in the Near East subsequent to 4000 or 5000 B.C.?" The short answer is that the only evidence of serious flooding in the Near East during that time period is from riverine floods.
When tells in the Near East which date from 5000 to the time of Abraham are examined, no evidence of a global flood is found. In fact, overlapping layers of occupation, one on top of the other, often with the remains of mud-brick houses in place, are found intact spanning the entire period. No matter what specific date one might put on the flood after 5000 B.C., there were sites in the Near East at that date where people lived and remained undisturbed by any serious flood. In other words, not only is there no evidence of a flood that covered the Near East, there is archaeological evidence that no flood covered the Near East between 5000 and the time of Abraham.
In fact there are continuous cultural sequences which overlap each other from 9500 to 3000 B.C. and down into the times of the patriarchs and later.8
The empirical data of geology, glaciology, and archaeology, as interpreted by virtually all scientists qualified in these areas of study, clearly testify that no flood covered the entire globe or even the entire Near East at any time in the last 11,000 years.
The biblical flood story is likely based on more local events, which we will explore in my next post.
1. Jane M. Renfrew, “Vegetables in the Ancient Near East Diet,” CANE 1:192; Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World (2d ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 134
2. For more details see Paul H. Seely, “Noah’s Flood: Its Date, Extent, and Divine Accommodation,” Westminster Theological Journal 66 (2004) 291-293.
3. Glenn Morton, “Why the Flood was not Global,” http://home.entouch.net/dmd/gflood.htm; Donald C. Boardman, “Did Noah’s Flood Cover the entire World, No,” in Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., The Genesis Debate: Persistent Questions about Creation and the Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990) 210-229. Wayne Ault, "Flood," Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976) 2:556-563; Davis Young, Creation and the Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977) 176-210.
4. Personal communication from Glenn Morton verified by geological maps.
5. Paul H. Seely, “The GISP2 Ice Core: Ultimate Proof that Noah’s Flood was not Global,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 55 (2003) 252-60, available at http://www.asa3.org/aSA/PSCF/2003/PSCF12-03Seely.pdf.
6. M. Spurk, M. Friedrich, J. Hofmann, S. Remmele, B.Frenzel, H. H. Leuschner, and B. Kromer, "Revisions and Extension of the Hohenheim Oak and Pine Chronologies: New Evidence About the Timing of the Younger Dryas/Preboreal Transition," Radiocarbon 40 (1998) 1107- 1116.
7. Gerald Aardsma, "Radiocarbon, Dendrochronology and the Date of the Flood," in Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism (ed. Robert E. Walsh and Chris L. Brooks; Pittsburgh, PA: The Fellowship, 1990) 1-10; Gerald Aardsma, "Tree-ring dating and multiple ring growth per year," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 29 (March 1993) 184-189.
8. The two sites, Abu-Hureyra in Syria and Mehrgarh in Pakistan, by themselves, show continuous overlapping occupation from 9500 to 3000 B.C. Andres M. T. Moore, G. C. Hillman, and A. J. Legge, Village on the Euphrates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 491-93; Frank R. Allchin and Bridget Allchin, “Prehistory and the Harrapan Era,” The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India (ed. Francis Robinson; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 71; Dilip K. Chakrabarti, India: An Archaeological History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 126-36.
Paul Seely is likely well known to serious students of the intersection of the OT and the ANE. He has written numerous pieces in several venues, including Westminster Theological Journal and Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (formerly Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation). He has also delivered numerous papers at the annual meetings of the American Scientific Affiliation. His lifelong area of focus is Genesis 1-11. The book Inerrant Wisdom was published in 1989 through the non-profit organization he founded, Evangelical Reform, Inc.