Although we think about the flood as a staple Sunday school tale, it is rather gruesome. We have not a cute progression of animals trekking to safety two by two, but a tale of utter destruction – of the undoing of creation as related in Genesis 1-5. Who would put a picture like the one to the right on wall of their nursery? But we concentrate on cute animals, gloss over the details, and marvel and the merciful covenant established by God signified by the beautiful rainbow.
In reality, there are few passages in Genesis, or indeed in all of Scripture, that raise as many questions as the story of the flood in Genesis 6-8.
Who were the sons of God who “took wives for themselves of all that they chose?”
And how about the Nephilim … “the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown?”
What are we to make of the statement that “the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart?”
Noah was the only one righteous among thousands and thousands?
Where did all the water come from?
How did the animals get to the ark?
How did they fit, including food for all?
How did they handle the waste?
Where did the animals get food after landfall? (Both herbivores and carnivores would have problems finding food.)
And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
The folks at Answers in Genesis have answers for all of these. The construction of The Ark Encounter, opening later this summer has forced them to address the questions. But frankly the answers are not consistent. Interestingly, one of the answers involves populating the Ark with “kinds” from which our current diversity of animals descended, with modification by natural selection … but don’t call it “evolution.” A cat kind, a dog kind, an elephant kind. This would require a rate of change in both genetic sequence and phenotype over only a thousand years or less that boggles the mind.
There is absolutely no evidence for a global flood covering the earth, or for a bottleneck in human and animal populations a mere four thousand three hundred and sixty three years ago. Human culture itself is far older, continuous, and dispersed around the globe. As just one example, John Walton notes in his Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary on Genesis that “no convincing archaeological evidence of anything approaching the size of the biblical flood has been uncovered.” Although there is abundant evidence for floods in Mesopotamia, the traces in different places have different dates. And “other cities whose occupation spans this time period (such as Jericho, continuously occupied from 7000 B.C.) contain no flood deposits whatsoever.” (p. 50)
But if we focus on the problems we will miss the intent of the original author/editor. The story of Noah and The Flood is included in the text of scripture for a reason. If we take scripture seriously we need to focus first on the message conveyed by the story.