Thursday, January 15, 2015

Need proof Noah existed and the Flood was real?

I posted something on Facebook yesterday that caused such a stir, I thought I'd better put it on ShBlog and develop it a little further.

Is the biblical story of Noah and the great Flood a myth?

Illustration courtesy
Many people assume it must be. "How could that be possible, scientifically?" they ask. They have all sorts of "sophisticated" objections. They may even laugh, and mock.

So I say, in response: Let's ask Jesus what HE thinks.

Matthew, chapter 24 ...
"37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."
JESUS believed in Noah and the Flood as a historical event. Either He was misinformed, or seeking to deceive us, or else His validation of Noah and the biblical account of the Flood means it really happened.

This is quite similar to C. S. Lewis' "Jesus: Liar, Lord or Lunatic?" trilemma. Jesus treated Noah and the flood as if it was real, historical fact. There really are no other options. Either He was deceived, or He was trying to deceive us, or He was right.

One of my Facebook friends asked:
"Does the fact that Jesus referenced the story of Noah necessarily prove he thought it was a historical event? My former pastor once effectively illustrated a sermon with the story of the three little pigs. I doubt he actually believed the piggy story was a literal account of real events."
This was a good question. In what appears to be a validation by Jesus in Matthew 24, could He have been, in reality, making reference to a fable?

I'd say that was possible (and even then, not even probable) only if all of His hearers clearly understood the account as a fable. But this couldn't have been so, because it wasn't presented in the Torah as fable, it was presented as history. And it's clear the Jews of the day understood it as such. In fact, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (who was born several years after Christ's crucifixion) clearly understood the Flood account as history. (See the Complete Works of Josephus.)

Jesus was very good at clear and accurate communication. When he gave parables, He typically prefaced his teaching with this caveat. (See Matthew 3:10;13;34-35, among many other places.)

I told my friend that I rather suspect his pastor (whom I trust less than Jesus) understood that his tale of talking pigs and huffing wolves would have been clearly understood by all his listeners. Or else he would most likely have prefaced it as a fable at the beginning of his talk.

Another friend asked:
If the Flood was a real event, surely there would be evidence in the fossil record?
Another great question. The good news is, There is evidence in the fossil record. Not all experts interpret it this way, of course, but the truth is that the fossil record is apparently open to widely varying interpretations of what is says about history.

There are some great sources of information out there, scientists who believe the fossil record does indeed support the idea of a global cataclysmic flood. (Simply Google "evidence for flood in the fossil record" and a number of good hits will come up. One of my favorites is the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas, Texas, which has done a lot of good work on this topic. For instance.)

Naturally they are heavily maligned by atheists ... but what did you expect? Simply think through some of the foundational things related to what we know about the fossil record and it will raise some fundamental questions. For instance, it's clear that a fossil (by nature) isn't created by an "ordinary" death of a wild animal, laying down in the grass somewhere and dying. No, fossils can only be created in a cataclysmic manner, when a sudden avalanche of mud or rock entombs the animal alive (or nearly so), in a manner that minerals from the material can replace the animal's tissues fairly quickly. Hence, a fossil. And then consider the fact that large numbers of fossils of all different types of animals are frequently found clustered together in the same strata.

But, isn't the Bible full of fairy tales?

One of the things I appreciate about the detailed records created by the apostles of Jesus' life and ministry is that His words frequently do validate stories that might otherwise be considered fantastical in the Old Testament.

For instance, the story of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish. Many consider this a fable, but not Jesus. In Matt. 12:40 he said: "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." The second part of that was pretty literal, so the first part must have been too. Validation. But many people still brush off the Jonah story as a fable.

And just as he used Jonah's story to illustrate His very literal three days in the grave, guess what? He also uses the Noah/Flood story to illustrate the fact that HE'S COMING BACK again. Literally! He says that, in the days of Noah, people were carrying about business-as-usual ... eating, drinking, marrying, etc. ... up until the very moment Noah climbed up into the Ark (and God sealed the door behind him). Then, in the flash of an eye (or rather, the clip of a lightning-strike), everything changed.

In chapter 3 of Peter's second epistle, he writes:
3Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
So, scoffers, all of your pseudo-scientific sophistry will someday be burned away, won't it? Deal with it!

What About the "Noah" Movie?

Finally another friend asked my opinion of the recent "Noah" movie, directed by Darren Aronofsky. This gives me a great opportunity to cross-link to my earlier blog post on the subject.

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