You are hereBeyond Creation Science: How Preterism Refutes a Global Flood and Impacts the Genesis Debate – Part 6

Beyond Creation Science: How Preterism Refutes a Global Flood and Impacts the Genesis Debate – Part 6

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By MiddleKnowledge - Posted on 04 February 2006

by Timothy P. Martin
The common debates over the scope of the flood have yielded some oft-repeated objections to a local flood. Many would consider a local flood view except for what they perceive as insurmountable objections to anything other than a global reading. This chapter deals with the most common objections to a local flood in Genesis. Though it does not interact with every objection in Creation Science literature, the main arguments are addressed – some from a preterist perspective. The common debates over the scope of the flood have yielded some oft-repeated objections to a local flood. Many would consider a local flood view except for what they perceive as insurmountable objections to anything other than a global reading. This chapter deals with the most common objections to a local flood in Genesis. Though it does not interact with every objection in Creation Science literature, the main arguments are addressed – some from a preterist perspective. Question 1:

If we reject the worldwide flood, we might as well reject the rest of the Bible. Isn’t this local flood view just a liberal doctrine formulated by skeptical theologians?

It should be clear from this discussion a denial of the global scope of the flood does not deny the historicity of the event God reveals in Genesis 6-9. Some Christians confronted with these arguments will make the simplistic assumption that the flood must be global to be historical. The choice presented will go like this. “We must choose between a physical, historical worldwide flood or reduce the account of Genesis 6-9 to symbolic allegory or myth.” This is a false dilemma. Why must the flood be global in order to be historical?

This approach resembles how futurists respond to preterist arguments regarding the Olivet Discourse, 2 Peter 3, and the book of Revelation. Futurists cry “foul” if they are not interpreted globally because they, at least, are consistent. Henry Morris explains why the flood must be global on exactly these terms:

Therefore, we conclude that the argument based upon a limited usage of universal terms must be rejected... It fails to cope with physical phenomena described in those chapters... [emphasis mine][1]

The language in Genesis 7 is essentially the same as that of the Olivet discourse and the book of Revelation. If we interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, comparing Scripture with Scripture, on what biblical basis are the events in Genesis 6-9 global? Preterists need to deal honestly with these implications.

Another thing to consider is that modern liberal theologians teach that Jesus and the apostles did in fact believe the end of the world was near. Liberals use this clear fact of the New Testament to try to disprove the claims Jesus made about himself, and attack the credibility of his followers as well as Scripture. Preterists also teach Jesus and the apostles saw the eschatological end spoken of in the New Testament as imminent and immediate – about to happen. This surface agreement between liberals and preterists regarding the clear intent of Jesus’ and the apostle’s eschatological teaching has led some Christian futurists to charge preterism as nothing more than a new strain of liberalism. Why? Merely because on this point preterists and liberals agree on the surface!

If liberals had invented preterism some concern might be warranted. Having a surface agreement with liberals about what Jesus and the apostles taught in the New Testament impugns nothing about preterism. Neither does having a surface agreement with some liberals that the flood in Genesis did not cover the entire globe.[2]

Question 2:

Why would God have Noah spend 120 years building a huge boat when, in a year, he and his family could simply have hiked out of the region with some supplies and camped out until the flood was over? This view makes nonsense of the story.

One bad habit Creation Science nurtures is turning speculation about the flood of Noah into assumed biblical fact. Repeated over and over enough times, people accept the speculative theories about the flood as the very words of God. Nowhere does the text tell us how long it took to build the ark. Genesis 6:3 mentions a period of 120 years, but says nothing to indicate Noah spent this amount of time to construct the ark. The flood occurred when Noah was 600 years old.[3] According to the biblical text, Noah’s sons weren’t born until he was 500,[4] but when God told him to build an ark, it was for the purpose of saving his household, including his sons’ wives.[5] This would seem to imply that Noah’s sons were grown adults and married when they began to build, but it is impossible to know how long it took to build the ark from the text. The time has come to separate what our traditions tell us about the flood from what the Bible actually teaches.

The substance of this question seems to hold some merit on the surface. It is very popular in Creation Science literature. Why would God need to tell Noah to build an ark when Noah could have walked out of the region affected by the flood? Rather than presenting a problem for the regional flood view, this question exposes how Creation Science’s plain literal priority in reading the account entirely misses the biblical emphasis of the account . God planned the events to picture salvation by grace through faith. There is a spiritual need for the ark, because the ark is a picture of Christ in the midst of God’s judgment. What Creation Scientists often miss in their zeal to defend a plain literal reading is the story of Noah’s ark is not about the geological history of planet earth. It is about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In God’s plan it was important, as a picture of Christ, that Noah enter the ark as an “incarnation” of the gospel, resting in Jesus Christ for salvation. Noah was figuratively “in Christ” while he was “in the ark.” God has a plan whenever he gives his servant a mission, whether it is Noah, Abraham, Ezekiel, or Hosea. Any speculation that wanders from the redemptive purposes of God has lost touch with the biblical emphasis. Once we understand the redemptive purpose God has revealed, the answer to this question is clear. To tell Noah to hike over there where he would be safe from God’s judgment is to teach that man must get up and save himself by his own two feet. We ought to focus on the example of faithful obedience Noah sets rather than speculate on how God would have acted if the flood had been a localized event.

Question 2 also hinges on the escapism and retreatism so prominent in many forms of futurism. Noah did not need to escape from the evil culture of his day by some sort of proto-rapture scheme – beating a quick retreat. By faith, he was protected in the midst of a wicked civilization which reaped God’s judgment. Noah ultimately inherited the land through covenant faithfulness. The flood took the wicked away. Dispensational futurists will not appreciate this point, because they tend to be retreatists. Preterists committed to the first century victory of Christ over His enemies will recognize the escapism inherent in this objection to a regional flood which says that if the flood was not global God would have just had them walk out of the affected area.

There may be a physical need for the ark as well, even within a regional flood view. The flood was a long-term event spanning many months. Boats were used in biblical times, not only for travel, but also for transportation of bulky cargos. Is it possible to carry everything on a camping trip that will last many months? Could Noah and his family carry with them all that they and the animals would need for many months? On the ark, however, is plenty of cargo room for the things needed for Noah’s family and the animals for the duration of the flood. Question 2 is a very weak objection to a regional flood once the theological design and historical context of the flood are understood.

Question 3.

Doesn’t Scripture explicitly state that Noah and his family were the only survivors? If the flood was regional and didn’t affect other people as you imply, then you contradict what the Bible teaches regarding no other survivors except Noah and his family. The flood had to be global for this reason alone.

Another common dilemma proposed by advocates of the global flood idea is clear statements in the New Testament declaring that all perished except those in the ark.[6] This dilemma seems to pit a local flood view against the express statement of Scripture. In other words, if the flood was confined to a particular region of the world, then not “all” men would have perished in the waters of the flood.

This objection cannot prove a global flood. Some advocate a local flood that killed all men besides Noah and his family. They argue the flood took place while all mankind lived in the same region of the globe. Notable advocates of this local, yet anthropologically universal flood include Dr. Hugh Ross[7] and Arthur Custance.[8] The distinguished preterist theologian, Milton Terry, taught an anthropologically universal flood that cannot be used deny the ancient age of the earth.[9]

The problem with this local, yet anthropologically universal view is that recent anthropological research shows humans have lived in various parts of the globe for many thousands of years, at the same general time biblical chronology places the flood. By the middle of the third millennium B.C., human populations can be documented in China, the Americas, Africa, and Australia. The only way this view can deal with the anthropological evidence is to push Noah’s flood into the pre-historic past. This would seem to violate the biblical chronology of the flood a few hundred years before Abraham. It also places the flood before the rise of metallurgy, musical instruments, and writing which seem to be assumed by the time of Noah in the Genesis account.

A better way to handle this argument is to simply point out how it relies on global futurist hermeneutic assumptions. The question presents a false dilemma. Why must the “all” indicate an unlimited, global sense? The context must first be determined before we apply the universal statements. Within the regional context of the account, Noah’s entire civilization was wiped out. There is no need to state categorically that every civilization and every human on the globe had to be wiped out in light of these biblical statements. That is a preconceived assumption brought to those texts. Bernard Ramm states it this way, “The universality of the flood simply means the universality of the experience of the man who reported it.”[10] Preterists, at least, state very much the same thing when it comes to the universal global language of end-times prophecy.

Jesus gives a good example of why the global assumption of this argument is fatally flawed. Speaking of the coming of the Kingdom of God and His parousia, he says:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Luke 17:26-29.

The obvious parallelism in this passage sometimes escapes advocates of a global flood. Surely the “all” of Lot’s day should not be understood globally. It relates to the context of the event. So, too, does the “all” of Noah’s day. This objection assumes what first must be proved – that the context of the Genesis flood was global.

Question 4:

Even if the “all” statements of Scripture are defined by the context of the account, the regional flood view still has an impossible problem regarding Christology. If the flood didn’t destroy all other humans besides Noah and his family, then doesn’t the flood teach heresy: salvation can come to man apart from Christ? Scripture does not stand if the flood was not global.

This objection has two fundamental problems. The first problem is it begs the question. The flood is God’s judgment. To argue that salvation would come to those outside the ark simply assumes the flood covered the entire globe. This would be a valid objection to anyone who claimed the flood was global and there were survivors. Those who argue for a local flood do not destroy the type of Christ, since all those in the immediate region of Noah, where the flood actually occurred, were destroyed. Put another way, the flood is a true picture of Christ without being a globally comprehensive picture of Christ.

Consider the Passover. Only those who had the blood of the lamb on the doorpost were “passed over” by the angel of death. Does this mean the firstborn, both man and beast, was slain in every household on planet earth which did not have blood on the doorpost? No, the Passover picture of Christ is true, even though it is limited to the Egyptian context.

The second problem with this objection is much more serious. The argument rests on the premise that a type must be physically perfect in a scientifically precise and comprehensive way before it is true. What would this requirement mean for all the other pictures and types of Christ?

Consider the picture of Christ when Abraham offers Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Isaac didn’t die in a physical, scientifically precise way. Does this lead to the heretical notion Jesus didn’t really die on the cross? Do types have to be comprehensive in a scientifically precise way to be true?

David is also a type of Christ. We read about the sin David committed (2 Samuel 11). Using the assumption of the argument in question, that types must be scientifically complete to be true, we would arrive at the heretical view that Jesus was a sinner, also.

Then there is the problem of types and pictures in regard to Jesus Christ himself. Does the fact Jesus was circumcised teach he was in need of the removal of sin? Or does His observance of Passover teach he needed a blood-guilt offering before God? Do you see the error of requiring types and pictures of Christ to be complete in a scientifically precise way to be true?

Many present arguments similar to question 4 as a scare tactic to ward off open inquiry into the scope of the flood. It is much easier to scare someone by saying any local reading of the flood ruins biblical Christology. But the demand of question 4 is a precision of biblical types that is plainly absurd. The nature of communication in the Bible follows a general metaphorical rather than a scientific precisionist method. Metaphors are not based on precision. They function by analogy. Pictures of Christ in the Bible are not syllogisms from which to formulate the doctrine of Christ. Pictures and types are true without being comprehensive in every detail. According to the logic of this rationalistic argument against a regional flood, every type or picture of Christ would teach heresy. After all, Noah and his sons built the ark with their own hands, it did not come down out of heaven.

Question 5:

What about the high mountains referenced in Genesis 7:19? Since the ark landed on top of Mt. Ararat, a high mountain, doesn’t that prove the flood waters to be many thousand feet higher than a regional flood view allows?

Again, Creation Scientist literature often fails to distinguish between what the text of Scripture actually says and traditional speculation. Over time, speculation is often accepted as equivalent to Scripture. Ideas like a pre-flood water vapor canopy around the earth,[11] pole shift initiation of the flood event, and the belief the ark landed on top of Mt. Ararat are all wild speculation repeated over and over in Creation Science material. The Bible says nothing of these bizarre theories. It also says nothing about the particular mountain we know as Mt. Ararat.

All the Bible says is that the ark rested on the “mountains (plural) of Ararat.” If you compare the Hebrew of Genesis 8:4 with Jeremiah 51:27 and 2 Kings 19:37, it is clear this is an immense region which borders biblical Mesopotamia and roughly corresponds to modern Armenia.[12] The statement that Noah’s ark landed on Mt. Ararat is a “cherished biblical myth.”[13]

Consider the implication of this question. If the ark landed on top of Mt. Ararat, then the dove Noah sent out flew down to the base, plucked an olive leaf and flew all the way back to the top of the 17,000 ft mountain where the ark rested. Is that implied by the account? Can doves fly at elevations approaching 17,000 feet?

The substance of question 5 relies on the same simplistic method of interpreting the flood account merely by a plain literal meaning the words convey in modern English. In Hebrew, the word translated as “mountains” in English is “har.”[14] What many do not realize is that the word has no inherent implication of snow-covered peaks. It is commonly translated throughout the Old Testament as “hills” in English as well. The Psalms speak of Mount Zion which is God’s “holy hill.” “Har” is also used in a famous example where there is, geographically speaking, no mountain in existence. [The word “Armageddon” is derived from two Hebrew words, “har-Meggido” – “har” means hill or mountain, “Meggido” is a wide plain in Palestine where Israel was granted victory over her enemies.]

Though we are familiar with snowcapped “high mountains” of 14,000 feet on up to Mt. Everest, it is far from evident, if not absurd, to claim the writer’s intent was to communicate these kinds of mountains in the flood account. Creation Scientists often smuggle modern, preconceived definitions into the Hebrew text. This inevitably results in a severe distortion of the writer’s intent in the flood account.

Question 6.

If the flood was limited to Noah’s region of the world, then why would he need to take animals onto the ark? The account is clear that the animals on the ark, as well as Noah and his family, are the stock which replenishes planet earth. Genesis 8:15-17 (NKJV) says, “Then God spoke to Noah, saying, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’” This proves all animals and people on the earth descend from Noah and the ark.

There are a few unexamined assumptions in this objection to a local flood. First, it’s important to note that Genesis 8:15-17 uses the Hebrew word “erets” for “earth.” This, by itself, cannot prove the context of the account is “planet earth” or the globe as we think of it. This objection assumes what first must be proved.

Another thing to consider is the theological implications of the common worldwide flood view. What the common view implies is that Noah is literally a new “Adam” on planet earth. What this means is that, biblically speaking, there are three “Adams” in the Bible. They would be Adam, Noah, and Christ. However, the Bible does not treat Noah as an Adam.” The theology of Scripture is that there are two Adams – the first Adam and Jesus Christ.[15] The Bible makes no reference to a “trinity” of Adams. This implication of the worldwide flood view, by itself, should raise a red flag about the common worldwide flood view since the Bible does not include Noah in the Adamic parallels. The global flood view obfuscates those parallels.

One other problem is that the common global view of the flood creates tremendous difficulty in understanding how all the animals we know on planet earth could descend from the limited contents of the ark. Certainly, if the account declared a “recreation” of all the animals as we see in the creation account, or if the text spoke of miraculous placement of animals around planet earth into their natural habitats then it would be merely a matter of faith. The text, however, does not multiply miracles in the account for care of the animals through such means as unnatural hibernation or nullifying the practical need for special foods the wide spectrum of animals on the ark would require.

The account says specifically in Genesis 6:21 that Noah was to gather the food needed for all the animals. Many animals require special diets unique to their location, such as the Koala bear which lives exclusively on eucalyptus leaves. Would Noah be traveling the world to gather literally every kind of food the great variety of all breath-based animals would need? Or did the Koala bear not exist as we know it now? Some Creation Science advocates claim it has evolved into what we know it as today since the flood?[16] Or consider the overwhelming volume of animal feed Noah would need to feed large mammals such as elephants, rhinos, etc. for many months, even if those animals were young when they boarded the ark.[17] The feasibility of the traditional interpretation is a real issue.

All of these problems vanish when we understand there is a limited context to the account. The “earth” [erets] is literally the “land” of Noah’s experience. Noah would gather food for the animals he knew of in his own experience. For a look at the scientific and logistical problems the common view creates, see Ralph Woodrow’s book, Noah’s Flood, Joshua’s Long Day, and Lucifer’s Fall: What Really Happened?[18] These issues alone have caused many reasonable problems for those who think carefully about a global interpretation of the Genesis flood.

When placed in the wider covenant context of Scripture, it is not difficult to see why animals are intimately involved in the account. Animals are always involved in how God deals with man: both in judgment and salvation. When Israel was in Egypt and Pharaoh’s disobedience brought the plagues on the land, the plagues affected both man and beast.[19] Also, when God delivered Israel from Egypt he delivered Israel’s animals as well. In fact, this was a bone of contention between Moses and Pharaoh.[20] The Sabbath prohibited work for both man and animals.[21] We see another connection between man and animals at the conquest of Canaan. Israel was told not only to utterly destroy the human population of the Canaanites, but their animals as well.[22] When we get to the prophets we find that God cares not only for man, but his animals, too.[23]

The easy answer to question 6 is that God’s judgments and salvation always involve animals throughout redemptive history. All through the Bible it is as if animals are, in a very real sense, part of man’s household. Those who live in a modern, urban setting often miss the connection between animals and human life because we are far removed from the agricultural context of the Bible. Perhaps the closest modern experience to help us understand Noah’s situation with the animals would be our relationship to our pets. If we experienced a raging house fire, we would not only want our family saved, but our pets saved, too.

It would have been distinctly out of character for God to save Noah and his family without including the animals that surrounded him. To argue that Noah took animals on the ark merely for the purpose of replenishing planet earth after the flood misses the wholistic character of God’s judgment and salvation. It also misses the fact that some animals from the ark were sacrificed to God after the flood.[24]

Question 7:

What about the promise God gave to Noah in Genesis 9:11 that never again will all life be cut off by waters of a flood and never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth? If the flood was a local event, then God’s promise is broken because we witness floods every year! A local flood in Genesis makes God out to be a liar every time we experience a local flood.

Those who are dogmatically committed to a global flood view often oversimplify the choices available in our understanding of the flood event. It is often implied that if the flood was not a global event, then it must have been a tiny, local event essentially no different than the common floods we experience. One candidate for Noah’s flood is a vast inundation of Mesopotamia which occurred around 6000 years ago. Geographically, a sizeable chunk of western Asia bordering the Armenian mountains forms a natural saucer that could hold a small sea, and it was underwater in the not-too-distant past. The surface area covered if this natural depression were filled would exceed 100,000 sq. miles.[25] This is no ordinary local flood.

A more recent and intriguing discovery was publicized by the famous maritime explorer Bob Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic wreckage in the North Atlantic. His underwater exploration has documented the Black Sea had a previous shoreline hundreds of feet below the current shoreline of the Black Sea. Ballard also found proof the Black Sea was at one time a freshwater body of water until it was inundated and transformed by the Mediterranean Sea. What’s more he documents remnants of human structures in the area. His theory is this transformation of the Black Sea corresponds historically with Noah’s flood.[26]

Even if these candidates of colossal flood events were disproved as the biblical flood, the question at hand could still be handled well in light of the covenant context of the account. Rather than focusing on the physical extent of the flood (as if that is the point of God’s promise) we should apply that promise within the covenant context of Scripture.

God’s promise in Genesis 9:11 says, “never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood.” That promise could be understood well in the context of Israel’s history. Though God’s covenant judgments in Israel’s history are spectacular, there is a subtheme in all of them which highlights God’s grace consistent with His promise to Noah. When God sent judgment on Israel, there was always a remnant. He did not destroy His covenant people en masse, save one man and his family as we see in Genesis. The theological significance of God’s promise to Noah, borne out in Scripture, is that He always preserves a remnant in judgment.

This remnant forms a recurring theme in the Old Testament, especially throughout the prophets.[27] The judgment on Judah is termed in global language,[28] yet there was a remnant preserved in God’s grace – the exiles in Babylon. Covenantally speaking, this fulfilled God’s promise in the Noaic covenant. The remnant theme is picked up by the Apostle Paul and applied to believing Christians during the first century[29] on the brink of another covenantal catastrophe. That is another example of a covenant judgment described in global terms in which God did not cut off all flesh, but preserved His remnant, Jewish Christians along with Gentiles from “every tribe and tongue.”

This objection based on Genesis 9:11 is often cited only on universal terms. It is also important to note the qualification in the text. God’s promise is to not cut of all life by waters of a flood. A quick look at the history of God’s covenant people will show that God has kept this promise regardless of the scope of the Genesis flood. Israel was judged by famine and disease. A generation fell in the wilderness wandering. God also judged his people by the sword at various points in biblical history. Is it not a testimony to God’s promise that God’s people never again experienced judgment “by waters of a flood?” In fact, God’s people were saved by water (baptism) when the waters destroyed the Egyptians at the Red Sea crossing.

Noah’s flood may have been a unique flood event in human history but not worldwide in scope. God’s promise to Noah can also be understood in the covenant context of the succeeding history of Israel when God’s promise to Noah was fulfilled every time the remnant was chosen and preserved by grace. God never again judged the covenant people by waters of a flood. Question 7 does not imply a global flood.

Question 8:

How can a local flood make sense of God’s prohibition of murder? If the flood only impacted a portion of planet earth, physically, how could the terms of the covenant regarding murder be applied universally for all men? Genesis 9:6 says “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” A local flood interpretation implies a local covenant with local laws against murder that wouldn’t apply beyond Noah’s “earth.” If the spiritual lessons are universal, then the flood must have been universal, too.

The first thing to point out is that murder was wrong before the flood took place. Genesis 6:11 connects the wickedness of the people with violence by saying, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.” The violence of the land implies murder. It may be that the people of the account were aware of the record of Cain and Abel, a story which explicitly condemns violent murder. Cain’s fear and Lamech’s boast earlier in Genesis implies that the people knew those who committed murder deserved death at the hand of man.

If the law against murder was given “new” in the Noahic covenant, then how could God judge that world by a flood? Would God destroy these people if they were completely ignorant of God’s standard of righteousness? How could they be guilty without law? This, by itself, strongly indicates a covenant context for the account.

This objection misses the Biblical pattern of how God works in redemptive history. The pattern we see throughout Scripture is that God introduces his universal righteous standard to his covenant people within their historical setting and context. Though the physical events are local they involve spiritual implications which have universal application.

Consider another time of covenant transition: the Exodus. The time of the Exodus was a time filled with physical events from the plagues on Egypt to the giving of the law at Sinai to the miracles of the wilderness journey. While these physical events were limited in scope, the spiritual dimensions were universal. From the giving of the law at Sinai until the close of that age, all men everywhere who wished to live in covenant with Jehovah did so in terms of the Mosaic system. Though the events of the Exodus were physically limited, the spiritual realities were universal. God even promised Israel that the wisdom and righteousness of His law would be evident to all the nations who heard about them.[30] The spiritual influence of the law went beyond the physical locality of events during the Exodus.

The same takes place in the covenant transition witnessed in the New Testament. The ministry of Christ, death, burial, resurrection, and coming to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70 all involved local physical events. At the same time, the covenant change from old to new led to universal application. After the transition from old to new the only way to relate to Jehovah in covenant union and communion is through Jesus Christ. The local events lead to universal spiritual realities.

Don K. Preston captures the issue well by saying:

Does an event have to be of universal scope, to be universally significant? In other words, does an event have to be geographically widespread, and widely known about, to be truly important?... You see, the geographical size, or even the scope of the knowledge of an event has no bearing on whether it is universally, spiritually significant. Fewer people knew of the death of Jesus than knew of the destruction of Jerusalem! The destruction of Jerusalem would have had a far, far wider impact, socially, economically, militarily, than the death of Jesus! Should we then argue that the fall of Jerusalem was more important than his death? Surely not. Should we likewise depreciate the significance of the end of the Old Covenant age because folks in South America did not know it was taking place? Surely not. [31]

The same is true of the Genesis flood. Given the pattern of covenant transition we see throughout redemptive history, it would seem strange if there is anything different about the flood and covenant of Noah’s day. The global flood view implies that covenant transition in Noah’s day was different than every other covenant transition period of Scripture, at least for preterists. Yet as we have seen throughout this book, the flood is paralled to another great transition in covenant history. Milton Terry highlights the similarity:

The judgment of the flood marked the end or consummation of an age, and is a notable type of every similar crisis in human affairs which the prophets are wont to call ‘the great and terrible day of the Lord”… [It] was not only the signal end of an old world, but it also ushered in a new era in the history of man. The family of Noah… were a chosen remnant destined to open a new age, receive new commandments, and enter into covenant relations with God. In all these facts we recognize a type of the consummation of another and more historic age, when a wicked and adulterous generation were visited with overwhelming judgment, and their city and sanctuary were destroyed as with a flood (Matt. xxiv, 15-22; comp. Dan. ix, 26, 27).[32]

God always deals with man and accomplishes his plan of salvation within the local historical context of his people. This objection to a local flood is refuted by the biblical pattern of all other covenant transitions recorded in Scripture.

Question 9:

Flood myths are universal in all cultures. We know the flood was worldwide because all cultures worldwide have some form of flood myths as a result of Noah’s flood. This proves that all human cultures come from Noah’s family.

While it is true that many civilizations have flood myths, it is not universally true. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible says this about issue:

At one time this widespread distribution of a flood tradition was considered proof of the historicity of the [global] biblical account, which with some expected modification had spread throughout the world as people migrated from their original homeland in the Near East. This notion has necessarily been given up. We know, e.g., that numerous peoples have no flood legends in their literature. Flood stories are almost entirely lacking in Africa, occur only occasionally in Europe, and are absent in many parts of Asia. They are widespread in America, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific… Many do not know a world-wide flood at all, but only a local inundation… Often the heroes save themselves in boats or by scaling mountains, without intervening by the gods. Further, only a few of the flood stories give the wickedness of man as the cause of the flood… Facts of this kind disprove the claim that the biblical account is the parent of all flood stories.[33]

That still leaves us with the question of where these flood legends actually come from. How would flood myths originate in many cultural settings with their various details?

One explanation could be mere geography. Most population centers, especially ancient ones, are centered near rivers. How many large cities in America are strategically located near rivers and river junctions? It is not hard to understand why. Concerns for drinking water, bathing, transportation could all be resolved by locating near reliable water sources. This puts population centers at risk for devastating floods which could wipe out entire villages and cities in ancient settings.

A brief look at a modern example of a native flood myth shows a concrete example of how geography impacts native flood myths. After the tsunami of 2004, reports came out about how a primitive band of nomadic people in Burma and Thailand escaped the tsunami virtually without casualty. They are known as the Moken people; they are sometimes called the sea-gypsies because their life is spent around the ocean shore or traveling on fishing boats.

How did this primitive people escape harm when the tsunami hit? The CBS News TV magazine 60 Minutes did an extensive report on their experience. Their interview found this:

Why does Kalathalay think the tsunami happened? "The wave is created by the spirit of the sea," says Kalathalay. "The Big Wave had not eaten anyone for a long time, and it wanted to taste them again." Do the Moken consider themselves unlucky because their village was destroyed, or lucky because they survived? "I think they just take it as a matter of fact," says Dr. Narumon Hinshiranan, an anthropologist, and one of the very few experts who speak the Moken language. How did the Moken know that the tsunami was coming? "The water receded very fast and one wave, one small wave, came so they recognized that this is not ordinary," says Hinshiranan. "And then they have this kind of legend that passed from generations to generations about seven waves." It’s a legend recited around campfires, bearing an astonishing resemblance to what actually happened on Dec. 26, 2004. They call it the Laboon, the "wave that eats people," and it’s brought on by the angry spirits of the ancestors. Before it comes, the sea recedes. Then the waters flood the earth, destroy it, and make it clean again. "So basically, the tsunami myth is that the world is reborn after it is covered with water," says Simon."[34]

It’s not hard to see how the flood myth of the Moken is born from historical experience in their particular geographical location. They have “seven waves” which flood the earth. Clearly, this legend bears striking resemblance to their experience in their locale; it does not come from the biblical account at all. Notice also they do not associate their flood legend with a worldwide catastrophe, because they fled the seashore for higher ground and were saved.

Other high-profile natural disasters in 2005, with a little imagination, show how locale could naturally spawn flood myths. Hurricane Katrina and Rita both brought a devastating storm surge which inundated the coast for miles in some cases (not just in the city of New Orleans). Imagine how similar hurricanes of hundreds or thousands of years ago would impact Native American peoples living in the area. Without the modern ability to forecast or predict a coming hurricane, these people could be decimated by a big storm. Survivors might end up secluded miles apart after the storm giving the logical impression that each individual, family or groups were the only survivors.

It is likely that flood myths originate in historical experience. This does not mean the widespread existence of flood myths in primitive cultures in any way proves the occurrence of a global flood. In fact, their differences point to the different experiences of unique locations. While many contrasting flood myths exist in different cultures, it does not follow that they somehow prove a global flood in Genesis. This argument for a global flood is a non sequitur.

To be continued…

Copyright 2005 by Timothy P. Martin. All rights reserved. Reprinted by Permission

[Beyond Creation Science (2nd Edition) will be available at the Planetpreterist bookstore]

[1]John C. Whitcomb, Jr. & Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood, p. 62.

[2]It must be remembered that many liberals claim the stories in Genesis are pure myth and have no historical basis. These liberals would actually reject the view presented here.

[3]Genesis 7:11.

[4]Genesis 5:32.

[5]Genesis 6:14-18.

[6]See Matthew 24:39; Luke 17:26; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5.

[7] (2005).

[8] (2005).

[9]Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, [1898] 1988), compare p. 64 with page 40, 43.

[10]Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, p. 164.

[11]Some Creation Scientists have begun to abandon the water vapor canopy theory advanced for decades in Creation Science literature. Others continue to defend it vigorously. See this link, www. (2005) for a full list of the many scientific arguments some Creation Scientists have now abandoned. Cumulatively, they point to a scientific theory in crisis.

[12]There is some question about this identification. Some Bible maps of the era name the hill country between Syria and Iraq as the Ararat Mountains. Syrian Christians also refer to the region as Ararat.

[13]Gary DeMar, You’ve Heard it Said: 15 Biblical Misconceptions That Render Christians Powerless (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991) p. 4.

[14]Strong’s Concordance, number 2022.

[15]See 1 Cor. 15:20-22, 45-49.

[16]I discuss the radical evolution required by Creation Science catastrophism in chapter 6.

[17]Two elephants would require at least 1000 pounds of hay and 50 gallons of water per day.


[19]See Ex. 8:18; 9:1-4, 19; 11:5; 12:12, 29.

[20]See Ex. 10:24-26; 12:31-32.

[21]See Ex. 20:10.

[22]See Josh. 6:21.

[23]See Jonah 4:11.

[24] See Gen. 8:20.

[25]Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture, pp. 162f.

[26]See (2005). This flood might be too early to be accepted as Noah’s flood. It appears to pre-date technological indicators in Genesis as metallurgy, musical instruments and the invention of writing. Another candidate may be the more recent Shuruppak flood which dates a few hundred years before Abraham.

[27]E.g. Ezra 9:5-15; Ezekiel 11:13-25.

[28]See Zephaniah 1.

[29]See Acts 15:17, Romans 9 and Romans 11.

[30]See Deut. 4:5-8.

[31]Don K. Preston, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat: A Study of 2 Peter 3 (Ardmore, OK: JaDon ProductionsLLC, 2006), pp. 236-237.

[32]Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, [1898] 1988), pp. 65-66.

[33]Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol 2 (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), p. 280.


vento's picture

Hi Tim,

I received a copy of your book several months ago, from JL. I found it very interesting and thought provoking. I've not come to a conclusion on it for myself yet, as I've not put enough study into it. I'm curious to know if you've received any serious written responses by any of the "leading" preterist teachers (e.g. Don P, Sam, David Green, Ed etc.) or even DeMar, in opposition to what you've concluded?

Thank you for your time. I appreciate your work, and I always appreciate your gracious tone.


MiddleKnowledge's picture


Gracious tone? That may be the best compliment I've received in months.

JL's explanation pretty much sums it up. There have been some acrimonious accusations regarding my work, but they are few and far between.

I am not at liberty to discuss in detail what some of the people you reference have mentioned to me about my book and the overall approach to the Genesis debate. Let's just say there have been productive conversations on the matter.

I am currently in the revision process and the new book will be quite different than the book you have now. I have a new co-author, and I am looking for a big name preterist to write a forward. If you have any suggestions or could pull any strings let me know.

Tim Martin

vento's picture


Yeah, gracious. You know, different than JL!!! :)

Just kidding, JL.

Top secret Black Op's stuff, I guess! Can you confirm or deny conversations with any of the names mentioned? I have wiretapping authority.;)

We have some "players" that come to our house every Sunday, however I am not at liberty to tell you who they are!

Seriously, I know you, and JL as well, have done a ton of study on this. Even as Preterists, we sometimes want to dismiss things we don't like without doing the research. I hope your work gets a fair reading from us all.

Thanks for answering.


MiddleKnowledge's picture


Now that you qualify your gracious comment "different than JL" I'm bummed. That's not saying much. JL is the only guy I've ever met that honestly claims he doesn't find Gary North's books abrasive!!!!

Seriously, whether we get a fair hearing or not, we've seen the results over the last 5 years. I've been amazed. The responses have been tremendously positive. The poll on this site over the issue matches my experience when talking with preterists who've read the book. The negatives have been a small minority.

What is going to be very different about the next edition is that we've incorporate those already convinced of a local flood as an audience. To them we are arguing for preterism just as we argue for a local flood to preterists. Needless to say, that adds a whole new dimension to the book. Plus we plan to have it professionally published: nice color cover and all.

The new book goes both ways, and we think we might even be able to get a few thinking global futurists (Creation Scientists) with our presentation. The old book was limited to a preterist audience. The old book is now obsolete.

I had a nationally known old-earth creationist (who does know a little about preterism) tell me he loved my book. Thought it solved lots of problems he struggled with. His only problem? He couldn't give the book to anyone he knew because no one he know had a clue about preterism. I told him we'd fix that.

We also found in other conversations that local flood, old-earth creationists have been set up to become preterists because of their local interpretation of the Genesis flood. Wait till we show them what New Testament prophecy looks like on their own hermeneutic assumptions. Oh the possibilities! OEC is a new frontier for preterist apologetics. They aren't going to know what hit'em.

Up till now, no preterists have ever thought to approach them in terms they can recognize. In a sense, we'll be doing what Virgil's trying. Building bridges. Then preterism can be introduced in wider groups than just among the "eschatology geeks." We think it is only a matter of time. Eschatology impacts the Genesis debate. Doesn't matter if people get upset about it.


Tim Martin

JL's picture

Yes Scott, you know it's true. You know that I didn't even think Nate was abrasive. Wrong yes, passionate yes, even funny in a strange way, but not abrasive. Heck, I even let my daughters take him on, remember?



JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

JL's picture


The short answer is no.

However Tim got an email from one of Ed's associates. Ed's against the whole idea and did a tape series to refute Tim's work.

I have the tapes. Ed never read Tim's book, never refuted a single one of Tim's arguments, and spouted 2 1/2 hours of a mix of Jim Jordan and 1970's standard YEC-dispy ICR stuff. Clearly Ed has not bothered to read AiG's list of arguments YECs should not use or read any new YEC-dispy arguments. Nor has he thought of the preterism concerns inherent in the issue.

Ed never once mentioned preterism in the tapes, and in fact, effectively denied some specifics of the preterism that he holds. Pure dispensationalism.

Tim got a regrets letter from RC Sproul who had a stroke and can't read, plus two high praises and two "you're going to burn in hell you heretic" from big name old-earth creationists.

Don P. references Tim in a footnote. It's not opposition. Does that count as a favorable?



JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

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