A Blessed Event - A Doomed People. Questioning the Creation of the World: Part II
The famously disastrous Genesis flood was merely a local flood, argue critics of the literal interpretation of the Bible. Fundamentalists contest that the flood was indeed global. What is the truth of the flood stories? Could ancient sources have been misinterpreted?
If one interprets the word raqiya to mean a terrestrial expanse of land rather than a celestial structure, Genesis 1:7 reads as follows: “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse [of land, namely the Caribbean archipelago raised entirely above sea level] in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters [Atlantic Ocean’s waters] from the waters [Caribbean Sea’s waters]” (ESV). Then, in Genesis 1:8, God called the expanse Heaven, and in in Genesis 1:9, God said “Let the waters under the heavens [the expanse of land] be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.”This passage in Genesis parallels how the Caribbean Sea would have evaporated away were it to have become isolated and landlocked - the seawater under the expanse would have indeed gathered into the lowest reaches of the Caribbean Basin, and dry land would have appeared in its place, just as the Bible says.
A Whole New World
Later on, God calls the dry land Earth, and says, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” This passage has hitherto been interpreted as the ex nihilo creation of seeds, fruits, and vegetation for the first time, but seen from the new perspective of a seabed of a landlocked sea transforming into a dry and habitable land as the sea evaporates away, it can be reinterpreted as the colonization of a newly formed land by already existing flora. The same argument applies to the “creation” of animals, birds, fish, and humans. The Genesis creation story isn’t referring to their creation in a literal sense from inanimate matter, but rather their mass migration to this newly formed land that was initially lifeless, having a short time ago been seafloor.
Landscape with Noah's Thank Offering (painting circa 1803 by Joseph Anton Koch) ( Public Domain )
Darkness is Met with Light
The very beginning of Genesis is also consistent with the notion that the creation story refers to the transformation of a sea into a dry and habitable basin. In the beginning, there was no day and night, but perpetual darkness, as described by Genesis 1:2: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep” (ESV). Indeed, before the sea had become landlocked and evaporated away, the land that would later become dry and habitable would have still been at the bottom of a sea under perpetual darkness.
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And once the sea had evaporated away, a land previously subject to continuous darkness would have “seen light” for the first time, and Genesis 1:3 says as much: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Seen in this light, the “creation” of light is not referring to the creation of light as an entity in and of itself for the first time, as has been the traditional interpretation, but rather to the beginning of the day-night cycle for that specific part of the earth that transformed from a seabed to a dry and habitable land.
The advantages of interpreting the creation myth as being “local” in nature, and concerned solely with the transformation of a specific part of the Earth’s surface from seafloor to dry land below sea level are many. First, the Flood no longer requires a deus ex machina , or the intervention of a Supreme Deity. A dry, below-sea-level basin is inherently an unstable geological structure and can be only maintained by the continued existence of the “firmament”; that is, the lands above sea level surrounding the basin that prevent the waters from pouring into the basin.
Thomas Cole – The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge – 1829 ( Public Domain )
The collapse of the “firmament”, in the long run, may be regarded as inevitable, as the tremendous weight of the world’s oceans bearing down upon this giant earthen dam, compounded with the natural weaknesses in any landform and the effect of earthquakes, erosion due to rainfall, and innumerable other forces that could weaken its integrity would eventually cause it to fail at one or several points. Hence, a cataclysmic flood, which would inevitably result from the collapse of this said firmament, would likewise be inevitable as well - the flood has changed from an unexplainable cataclysm requiring the intervention of a Deity to an essentially inevitable one by supposing a “local creation,” and a terrestrial rather than celestial firmament.
Water pours down over a rocky ledge and into valley basin below. (Atramentum Art/ CC BY-ND 2.0 )
A New Look at an Old Story
The second advantage of interpreting the creation as being local in nature, and concerning the transformation of a marginal sea into a basin lying below sea level lies in the elegance that this interpretation imparts to the narrative structure of Genesis: The Flood, which occurs at the end of Genesis, is the exact reverse process of the Creation, which occurs at the beginning, both geologically and metaphorically speaking.
The third advantage is that this interpretation of Creation and the Flood does not contradict the basic principles of geology: the creation of a below-sea-level basin and its destruction via flood is a geological process that has happened in the past and will happen again. Extensive scientific research by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, geologists at Columbia University, as well as their colleagues, has conclusively demonstrated that the Black Sea basin was dry and habitable prior to 5600 BC, when it was cataclysmically flooded. In addition, the Mediterranean Sea has undergone not merely one, but several of these cycles of drying and flooding that I have mentioned, and other seas such as the Caribbean may have a similar geological history. Other flood theories such as the vapor canopy theory and the hydroplate theory, require a fundamental revision in long-established geological theories.
Forty Days and Nights
Finally, the specific details of the Biblical flood are also consistent with the flooding of a below sea level basin if the “heavens” are brought down to earth. As was stated earlier, in Genesis 1:8, God called the expanse, or firmament, Heaven, meaning that they are one and the same thing and thus interchangeable in meaning. Taking the expanse, firmament, and Heaven to refer to the same thing—a terrestrial landform surrounding the ‘below’ sea level and preventing its flooding for the time being, the “opening” of the “windows of heaven” (Genesis 7:11, ESV) may be interpreted as a metaphor for the collapse of this firmament; this collapse consequently permitting the ocean to pour into the basin through the “window” created in the firmament, or heavens. As the waters poured into the basin and began to form the sea, spreading outward across the low-lying basin, the sudden influx of water into an area that was previously dry land would add vast quantities of moisture into the air, causing massive storms and rainfall.
The Deluge, by John Martin, 1834 ( Public Domain )
In this interpretation, the forty days and forty nights of rainfall on the earth (Genesis 7:12, ESV) wasn’t the cause of the flood, but a consequence of it. As the waters from the ocean continued to pour into the basin, the level of water in the basin would progressively rise, thus the ark would be born up and rise high above the earth, floating on the face of the waters (Genesis 7:18, ESV). And when Noah says “the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep (Genesis 7:20-21, ESV). Having established that the “heaven” refers to the lands encircling the basin whose breaching caused the flood, the “high mountains under the whole heaven” must refer to the mountains within the basin, that is, mountains whose roots lie deep within a below sea level basin, so that even though they may have risen high in terms of their topographic prominence, their low base meant that their peaks would nevertheless have been below sea level. Thus the flood, which would have continued until the waters in the basin rose to equal the level of the ocean, would have covered these mountains, their peaks being below sea level. We can therefore see that the Genesis Flood is in fact consistent with a below-sea-level basin being flooded.
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If early man had indeed witnessed the formation of a vast below-sea-level basin, they would have seen a majestic process unfold before their eyes, over many generations. A barren land, scattered with the remains of dead sea creatures trapped by the evaporating seawater, would have at first presented a grim sight. But illuminated by the rays of the sunlight for the first time, and fertilized with the carcasses of these sea creatures, seeds blown from the surrounding lands would have taken root in this virgin land. Creatures from the neighboring lands would have followed, and in time, our ancestors, their curiosity and wonder aroused by the new land having come into existence seemingly out of nowhere, would have been inspired to express the beauty of what they had seen through the language of metaphor and myth. Our ancestors then settled this land, lived out their lives there for innumerable generations until one fateful day, the firmament that had held the waters from engulfing the basin they inhabited since time immemorial collapsed, and the ocean reclaimed what was its own...
(CC BY-NC 2.0 /Deriv)
Brad Yoon is a software engineer and writer. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and a minor in anthropology at UCLA. He researches and writes about lost civilizations and other ancient mysteries.
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Top Image: Creation of Adam and deluge (Public Domain/Deriv).
By Brad Yoon