Beneath a Celestial Dome, A Land Unlike Any Other in the History of Earth. Questioning the Global Flood: Part I
Critics of the literal interpretation of the Bible have argued that the Genesis flood was a local flood. This interpretation has been vehemently opposed by Biblical literalists and fundamentalists, who maintain that the flood was global. But the skeptics have a point; at the very least, the proponents of a global flood have failed to come up with a convincing scientific explanation for a flood truly universal in extent. The theories that have been proposed, such as the vapor canopy theory and the hydroplate theory contradict known geological theories and facts. And while the flood could be explained by the intervention of a supernatural force or deity, such explanations are unscientific and are inadmissible in the empirical sciences.
There’s No Flood Like a Biblical Flood
Those who believe the Genesis flood was a local flood have reached a tentative consensus that it was caused by overflowing of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers following an unusually heavy rainstorm. But it is difficult to imagine, for instance, how the flooding of rivers could cause such widespread devastation. The magnitude and scale of the flood, which seemed to have been characterized as a singular event, is strikingly inconsistent with a river flood, which occurs repeatedly over time. Sufficient time has passed since the Genesis flood for even floods as rare as thousand-year floods to have recurred, and yet the Biblical flood is clearly described as a singular event.
What alternative causes of a local flood can account for the particular details of the Genesis flood, if river floods do not suffice? Extensive scientific research conducted over the last two decades has revealed that the Black Sea was once a much smaller freshwater lake that was isolated from the Mediterranean Sea until 5700 BC, when the Mediterranean burst through the Dardanelles, raising the level of the Black Sea by at least hundreds of feet.
Map of the Black Sea (Giorgi Balakhadze/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )
Robert Ballard, an underwater archaeologist and oceanographer who discovered the wreckage of the Titanic, believes that the Biblical flood was inspired by this very flood. This hypothesis, known as the Black Sea Deluge hypothesis, has gained acceptance among the scientific community and certainly qualifies as a local flood. In the remainder of this article, I shall present a somewhat circuitous argument in favor of the general hypothesis that the Biblical flood involved the flooding of some below sea level basin and the consequent formation of a sea, as opposed to arguing in favor of the Black Sea Deluge hypothesis in particular.
Black Sea today (light blue) and in 5600 BC (dark blue) according to the hypothesis. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The Creation of the World
To begin, I shall take the argument of the skeptics of a global flood even further and suppose that not only was the flood a local event, but that the creation preceding the flood was as well . The creation story of Genesis has been acknowledged to concern itself with the creation of the entire world—even by those who disbelieve in the narrative. Biblical scholars who interpret the Bible literally would oppose, but at least understand what is meant by those who claim that the Genesis flood was local in its extent. But the notion of a “local creation” seems to be utterly nonsensical at worst and confusing at best. After all, why would a creation narrative limit itself to a specific part of the earth rather than its entirety? One explanation is that people simply did not conceptualize that the world was as large as it actually is, and therefore limited the scope of the creation narrative to simply the part of the world that they were familiar with, out of ignorance.
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But why would a people who were fully aware of the true size of the earth construct a creation narrative concerning itself with only a part of the earth as opposed to its whole? The most plausible reason, in my view, is that there once was a land that was unlike all other lands of the earth in its history and mode of origin, and thus merited its own creation story.
Joseph Mallord William Turner - The Morning after the Deluge ( Public Domain )