Was Noah's  Flood Local or Global?

By Darrick Dean

On one side, skeptics point to the "global flood" of Noah as a reason not to trust the Bible.  No consistent evidences exist for such a flood.  In fact, the evidence is against such a flood.

Many Christians interpret the flood account as being "global" as in the waters covering the entire surface of the planet.  Often they scoff at the idea of the "local" flood interpretation thinking it's some aberrant theory. But what if it can be shown that a local flood is the more consistent and literal interpretation?  The following brief article will attempt to show that it is.

First, it's important to note that the global flood viewpoint didn't reach current popularity until the 1940s. This came after much popularization by George McCready Price whom was out to disprove evolution. He believed he could explain geologic formations by a global flood. He was also intent on keeping with the teachings and "visions" of Seventh Day Adventist "prophetess" Ellen G. White whom preached a global flood and 24 hour creation days. Henry Morris brought Price's ideas into the mainstream with his book The Genesis Flood  in the 1960s.

Prior to this, a local flood and the day-age theory had been dominant in Christianity. It's now becoming dominant again as Christians realize that old-age and geology do nothing to help naturalism.

In fact, "Deluge Science" is largely, if not entirely, a "knee-jerk" response to naturalism (also known as Darwinism).  The geologic column, or layers, are often used by naturalists as a picture of Darwinian evolution.   That approach fails as much as that of young-earth creationists trying to explain away geology with the global flood.   More details are outside the scope of this article, but the bottom line is:  Old age of the universe does not help or support Darwinian evolution in any shape or form. 

But doesn't the Bible clearly teach a global flood? No, let's look at thirteen reasons why it doesn't:

1. Gen 7:11-12 and Gen 8 clearly show where the water came from (earthly sources including the atmosphere) and where it returned (into Earth). The water content on Earth today, even considering water vapor loss to space, is no where near the amount needed for a global flood. 

2. In Gen. 7:19-20 we see that all "the high mountains...were covered." The Hebrew for "high mountains" can be literally translated as hills or hill country. The words for "covered" can be translated as falling upon, running over or residing upon.

3. The flood account also refers to "the earth." This can also be literally translated to refer to regions. Humanity was limited to Mesopotamia, so a local flood would still be "universal." Other examples of similar usage are found in Gen. 41:56-57 and 1 Kings 10:24.

4. The ark didn't land on Mt. Ararat as most think (see Gen. 8:4).

5. A comparison of the pre-flood Genesis chapters to the post-flood chapters, do not show the massive geological changes that a global flood would have caused (i.e. the landscape hasn't changed at all. Noah didn't seem lost).

6. Materials created from dead organisms (oil, coal, limestone, kerogen, marble, topsoil) are far greater in quantity than a global flood could produce. Global proponents claim the flood created these items in order to avoid the accepted view that they took millions of years to form. But by no stretch of the imagination was there enough life on Earth, dead or alive, at Noah's time to create all of those materials. Petroleum products were available before the flood (Gen. 6:14).

7. Evidence for a major flood can be found in the Middle East, but no consistent evidences for a global flood.

8. The Hebrew is particular in the limited types of animals that were brought on the ark.

9. All the species in the world couldn't have come from those on the ark without invoking rapid, macroevolution.

10. How does a raging, global flood produce distinct layers? These distinct layers show signs of being made by different methods (big floods, slow deposits, oceans, etc.). We don't find all life-forms mixed together as a global flood requires. No where do we find human remains with dinosaurs and other long-dead creatures.

11. Young-earth creationists  (YECs) use limited examples of "trees in coal beds," etc., as absolute proof of a global flood. If such a flood was global, we would have clear, consistent and a great deal of such evidence. Not spotty, localized evidences.

12. YECs rally around Mt. St. Helens citing it as proof that formations can be formed fast. The fact is geology never denied this. We see evidence of fast and slow processes. YECs downplay slow processes and highlight fast ones and claim this as "proof." Such selective evidence hardly constitutes proof of anything.

13. Sure, some canyons are created by flooding. Some YECs try to say the Grand Canyon is one of these canyons (in spite of geologic evidence) and try to fit this into deluge theories (partly to try to "prove" the canyon is "young"). How could a flood carve out a meandering canyon?  How does one explain its distinct rock layers?

It seems that the most literal and consistent interpretation of the flood account is that of the local flood. It seems that a global flood has been "fit" on the Bible simply to support certain young-earth beliefs. However, as seen, a global flood fails on many common sense issues and inconsistencies.

(Author's Note: For a more detailed look at this subject,  check out the book The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis by Dr. Hugh Ross.  The  2nd expanded edition was printed in August 2001 by Navpress.)

© 2002 Darrick Dean

Darrick Dean operates the Christianity and Science Resource Center website and  is a volunteer apologist for Reasons to Believe. He has had articles published in Ad Astra, Space Times, Spaceviews and formerly penned the "Critical Thinking" column for the New Castle News. I
n 1998,  Dean was awarded the Arthur L.Williston Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for the paper "The Benefits and Necessity of Manned Exploration of Frontiers as Compared to Unmanned Efforts." He is a graduate of Geneva College where he earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering. 

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