An important event in early humanity is the flood of Noah. There has been much debate on this topic. Debate on whether the flood was literal or allegorical, debate on whether the flood was local or global, debate on where the flood took place if it was local, debate on where the ark landed, debate on whether the "Nephilim" killed in the flood were really giants or if they were merely fallen men. I will be starting with the premise that the flood is a literal event of some kind, as I feel a degree of biblical literalism is a basic element of Christianity, and that the text very obviously reads as a recollection of a real event with real people, not as a poem.
Local Or Global? Looking At The Science
Many scientifically literate people have realized that a flood that covers all land on earth is implausible. For starters, the number of species of terrestrial plants and animals is far too high for them to be saved aboard an ark.
There are an estimated 10,000 bird species on earth, The bible says Noah took seven pairs of each kind of bird on the ark, giving us a minimum of 140,000 birds. Some of which are predatory birds, and some of which are large, like ostriches, emus, cassowaries, etc. Hebrews considered bats to be birds so this would also include the 1,240 estimated species of bat. Bringing the total to over 150,000.
There are also an estimated 5,416 mammal species on earth and the bible says Noah took two of each kind of mammal on the ark. However, it also says he took seven pairs of the kinds they would eat. It's notable that it says he took seven pairs of the "clean" kinds of animal, but Levitical law was not yet in place, so "clean" would be much broader for Noah then it was for the Hebrews. The number of mammals on the ark would then be anywhere from 10,832 to 75,824 depending on the how many animals were "clean" for Noah.
The Bible does not specify whether reptiles, insects and arachnids were on the ark or not, but if the flood were to be global, there would be no option but to take them on the ark, otherwise where do modern reptiles, insects and arachnids come from?
There are roughly 10,000 known reptile species, 100,000 known arachnid species and six to ten million insect species. We do not know how many of each Noah would have taken, but a minimum of two would be required to reproduce. The total would then be 20,000 reptiles, 200,000 arachnids and twelve to twenty million insects.
In fact, thus the end number of species would be even higher, as during a global flood, salinity levels would mix, and species of aquatic animals (Fish, amphibians, mollusks, jellyfish, etc.) with specialized salinity requirements would die off. I guess Noah had an aquarium on the Ark.
Another thing to take into account is the fact that various "kinds" exist *within* certain species. This is particularly prevalent in mammals. For example, there are a number of physically distinct subspecies of tiger. I seriously doubt God would let these creatures go extinct.
Plants would certainly need to be taken aboard the ark, as many species of plant cannot survive being submerged for a year. Nearly all plant species would be destroyed by the global flood itself, especially a global flood capable of rearranging the geological column as young-earth creationists require.
Within an Ark of the dimensions the bible describes, this number of creatures is impossible, if not spatially, then certainly in terms of caring for the plants and animals.
Global-Flood believers make claims to rationalize these scientific problems. They claim that mats of plant matter pooled on the flood-waters and insects could float on them to survive, thus they didn't have to be taken on the ark. But in a flood of global proportions, these mats would quickly be ripped apart and destroyed. Even in a supposed "tranquil flood", the mats would be repentantly submerged and resurfaced. It's also notable that most kinds of vegetation could not survive in this manner. They require minerals from the earth, and as such, they must remain rooted.
They also make appeals to what is effectively magic. They claim Noah only took two of each genus or family on the ark, and they somehow magically split into the modern species and subspecies in a period of just thousands of years. They claim fish species magically adapted to changing salinity before they died.
These claims are completely scientifically illiterate and could only be fulfilled through Ad Hoc appeals to miracles. However, the bible describes the flood occurring like a natural one, with the waters being dried by wind and arriving via natural sources. The bible says God instructed Noah to save the animals, not that God used miracles to regenerate the earth after the flood. Scientifically, the global flood model is inconsistent and easily falls apart under scrutiny.
Local Or Global? Looking At The Bible
What does the bible say about the extent of the flood? One example of a chapter that gives young-earth creationists pause is Pslam 104. Which almost every biblical scholar would agree is referring to the original creation.
Pslam 104 "You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth."
Here, Pslams (Like Genesis) states that early pre-human earth was covered in water, and after the formation of landmasses, says the waters will never again cover the entire earth. Therefore, logically and inescapably, the waters of Noah's flood did not cover the entire earth.
Another biblical hint at a local flood is found in Genesis 7
Genesis 7:20 "The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep."
So, a cubit is equivalent to about 1.5 feet, meaning they were covered approximately 22.5 feet. Now, if the word "har" for "mountain" (Which can be used for anything from a small hillock to a Himalayan mountains) refers to actual high mountains here, why is 22.5 feet significant? It seems to imply the "mountains" around Noah were all within a foot or two of eachother's height. There is no mountain range on earth where this is remotely possible. Therefore, the use of "har" here is more likely to mean "hills". As many rolling plains have hillocks that are all about the same height.
Now, a young-earth creationist answer to this is that the pre-flood world had no true mountains, or had mountains that were all the same height. The problem is that mountain formation happens on the timescale of tens or hundreds of millions of years. The majority of biblical scholars would agree it is not reasonable to push a date of millions of years ago for the flood of Noah. And any method to speed tectonic activity up enough for this to happen on the timescale of just thousands of years would force movement of landmasses so rapid its energy release would destroy the entire surface of the earth, including Noah on the ark.
Another problem with young-earth creationists is the idea that rapid formation of canyons, mountains, valleys, etc. would create a very unstable and inhospitable earth. They actually tend to agree with me, and say the post-global flood world was very unstable and inhospitable. What they fail to realize is how unbiblical this theory is. The bible describes the Earth being very calm after the flood, and Noah going right back to his work with no real change. The bible gives no indication the post-flood world was unstable/hostile, whatsoever.
Furthermore, it is extremely clear from the language used in the Genesis 11 account of the Tower Of Babel that humanity was localized to one region of the earth, despite God's insistence that humans disperse (Genesis 1:28, Genesis 9:1, Genesis 11:8-9) . Eventually God has to force humanity apart to get them to migrate. The fact that after the flood, God reiterates his command to Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth to Noah, indicates that prior to that point, humanity had failed to fulfill the command, and thus humanity was all together in one region.
Now, if humanity was localized, a global flood would have been needless and cruel to the animals that lived in uninhabited areas (Like south america, antarctica, australia, indonesia, etc.) thus, a local flood is far more biblically sound then a global flood. To see more read: "Answering Objections To A Local Model For Noah's Flood"
Who Were The Nephilim?
Many theories have been produced regarding the "Giants" of Genesis 6. The Hebrew word here is "Nephilim", which does literally mean "Giants". The majority of biblical scholars attest to this. Attempts have been made to redefine the word to mean "fallen ones", and although the words are similar, they are not identical. This view is not very convincing to me.
Here is what the bible has to say on the pre-flood giants:
Genesis 6:2 "The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose."
Genesis 6:4-5 "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown."
The term "Sons Of God" is only ever used in the old testament to refer to angelic beings, never to humans or animals, and daughters of men could only possibly refer to human women in general (taking into account that saying "daughters of men" is equivalent to saying "daughters of Adam" in hebrew).
Now, some Christians do not like the idea of mythical giants in the bible and have tried to create a distinction between the descendants of Seth and the descendants of Cain, and saying this interbreeding occurred between those two groups, and the resulting offspring were "fallen ones". But again, if this was the case you would not see the word for "Giants" used, and you would see "daughters of Cain" used in place of "daughters of men/Adam", and would see "sons of Seth" used in place of "Sons Of God" .
Proponents of this theory argue that the descendants of Seth were "Godly" where the descendants of Cain were "Earthly". Not only is this an absurd logic loophole, it isn't even grammatically correct. Again, the term "Sons Of God" is never used in the old testament to refer to anything other than angelic beings. This would have to denote the first ever use of "Sons Of God" in the old testament to refer to Godly men.
It is true the term "Sons Of God" is used in the new testament to refer to saved Christians, but this is specifically used to show how we are reborn as higher beings in Christ.
Luke 20:36 "for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection."
It is clear what's happening here, certain angelic beings departed from God and gave into sinful lust to produce offspring with human women, creating offspring that were larger than standard humans.
Given the fact that the giants are referenced in Genesis 6, which is mainly distinguishing Noah from the other peoples in the land at that time, the fact that no giants were taken on the ark, and the fact that when the Nephilim reappear in Canaan thousands of years later, God orders the ancient israelites to wipe them out completely (Every man, woman, and child), it very much seems that God does not approve of this activity, as such the angels described in Genesis 6 must be fallen angels (As they are acting against the will of God). Some have objected to this on the grounds that fallen angels are not "Godly" as such, but think of it this way, if a man were to turn on and attack his mother, and run off to fulfill a depraved and wicked life, he would still be her son. Similarly, fallen angels are still angelic beings and are direct creations of God.
It seems likely these giants were a major part of why God sent the flood, and the genetic pollution by the fallen angels could explain why pre-flood humanity was so depraved (Genesis 6:5-8). Whereas Noah was pure in his generations, having no taint from the fallen angels, and being 100% human (Genesis 6:9). I think it is a strong possibility that the Flood of Noah was intended to wipe out the genetic pollution caused by the fallen angels.
Where Was The Flood?
Okay, we have determined the flood was local, limited to a hilly plain of some sort, and that the Nephilim were in fact giants that were the offspring of fallen angels and early humans. But where did the flood take place exactly?
I believe the flood occurred in the southern mesopotamian plain and the northern persian gulf oasis (or possibly all of the persian gulf oasis). Alternate views suffer from severe difficulty, for example:
Some place the flood in Jerusalem for symbolic reasons, but that idea has severe physical difficulty as the region is extremely mountainous and not very prone to the kind of large-scale flooding Genesis describes.
Many have proposed the black sea, caspian sea, and red sea as possible flood locations. Regarding how they filled up suddenly at the end of the last ice age as "glacial burst floods". All three of these theories suffer from the same two main difficulties. One of which being the fact that the waters from these floods are still there. The waters never receded as Noah's flood was said to in Genesis. The other problem is that the flooding of these regions occurred at the end of the last ice age. ~12,000 years ago, well after the spread of humans around the world ~45,000-200,000 years ago (depending on what you call a "human").
Another idea is that Noah's flood was the rapid formation of the mediterranean sea ~5,000,000 years ago. This is well before any reasonable date for the appearance of modern humans. This theory also suffers from the issue of the waters never receding, and remaining flooded permanently.
I purpose we currently have no available direct evidence for the actual event of Noah's flood (outside of scripture, which is all we need), apparently not surprising as unless the flood involved a permanent settlement of water in an area, we seem to lack the capability to measure floods that occurred more than a few thousand years ago.
The biblical text gives us some hints at the location of the flood. Clearly, it killed all of humanity at the time (based on the universality of the language used), so all areas we know humans had settled must have been covered. As discussed in part one of our early humanity trilogy, Adam and Eve settled in the land of Eden, which was in the northern Persian Gulf oasis (The land that was exposed prior to the filling of the Persian Gulf). Cain's descendants settled in the Land Of Nod, east of the land of Eden, probably in what is now the Khuzestan Province of Iran (Part of the southern mesopotamian plain).
Although not concrete, many scholars think Noah lived in the upper part of the southern mesopotamian plain. The bible says the ark landed on the "Mountains of Ararat", in the context of the time it was written, this would refer to the region of the Zagros Mountains in Iran. (Which as you can see from the map below, is only possible if the ark landed in the upper part of the southern mesopotamian plain)
What Caused The Flood?
The question of how the flood occurred is an important one. As for this model to be correct, we have to demonstrate it is physically possible for a flood of this magnitude to occur in this area.
For reference, the bible says the flood covered "all the hills under the whole sky", indicative that Noah could see only water from horizon to horizon, meaning Noah built the ark somewhere near the middle of the valley. But still, in order for a flood that large to occur and match the bible's description that the flood waters rose to a depth of 22.5 feet (15 cubits) above to tops of the hills (In Noah's region at any rate, probably not universal for the entire flood region), and given the topography of the region, the flood waters needed to reach a depth of between 50-70 feet.
Furthermore, the geographical extent of the flood is approximately 140,000-200,000 square miles in my model (362,598 - 517,998 square kilometers). Is this extent and depth really plausible?
In August 2013, a massive flood inundated much of Siberia, having an extent of ~1,000,000 square kilometers (~386,000 Square Miles) and reaching a depth of (in some places) over 20 feet (6 meters). In terms of extent, this flood dwarfs my model for Noah's flood. With a sizeable depth as well. Forcing the evacuation of over 100,000 people.
In January/February 1937, another massive flood occurred ranging from parts of Pennsylvania to Illinois, but not only did this flood have a sizeable extent, but it had a very extreme depth, rivers rose (in some places) to a depth of nearly 80 feet (24 meters), again, well dwarfing my model for Noah's flood.
So, there is nothing unscientific or implausible about the extent and depth I propose for Noah's flood. But could a massive flood occur in that region?
The southern Mesopotamian plain is highly prone to flooding, even in modern times, so much so that many refer to it as a "floodplain". This is due to the two very large rivers that flow through it, the Tigris and Euphrates, which have a strong tendency to overflow their banks and flood parts of the plain during rainstorms. During the last ice age, this effect would be greatly amplified by increased snow on the mountains that act as the source of the rivers. As well as extra water from the Karun and Wadi rivers.
If you look on the chart below, you will see that during an ice age, there are many spikes in global temperature/sea level. During these spikes, the floods in that area (and any other floodplain) would be far more extreme than anything we experience today.
As for the source of the waters, the bible describes two main sources of the water (which act in addition to the glacial melt occurring during temperature spikes in the last ice age).
Genesis 7:11 "On the seventeenth day of the second month, when Noah was 600 years old, all the springs of the great deep burst open, the floodgates of the heavens were opened,"
So, here the bible describes "springs of the great deep" which seems to describe aquifers, and "the floodgates of the heavens" which we can assume is referring to a large rainstorm.
The former is easiest to address, the Mesopotamian plain is situated on a large aquifer which you can see plainly on the map below. A large tectonic event (like an earthquake) could easily prompt this aquifer to release some of its water.
What About The Animals?
Considering the flood was local, Noah would not have taken animals that were not native to the flooded region. Thus dropping the number of species/subspecies taken on the ark by a large number. Also, Noah would not have needed to take insects, arachnids, or amphibians, as they tend to do a very good job of surviving local floods. Which would explain why the bible doesn't mention Noah taking them (this is a problem young-earth creationists fail to deal with).
From what I can tell about the region, most of the animals taken on the ark would have been birds. There are surprisingly few mammals in the area, see here: "List Of Mammals In Iraq" "List Of Birds In Iraq"
Notice most of the birds are small herbivorous birds that would not need separate sections of the ark, and could co-exist in a large aviary wing of the ark. Most of the mammals are rodents and bats, which similarly don't take up much space and are relatively easy to take care of (though presumably Noah needed to keep them from multiplying on the ark, so he needed to keep the males and females separate).
During the flood, all the Nephilim were wiped out, all the humans outside the ark were wiped out, and all the mammals/birds of the region that were outside the ark were wiped out.
Some young-earth creationists have questioned the local flood theory by stating that the humans and animals could simply have left the region. However, during floods of this nature (fed by overflowing rivers, aquifers,and rainstorms simultaneously), the waters inundate the flat terrain extremely quickly, and since nobody besides Noah saw the flood coming, they would have no time to evacuate beforehand.
The people would have settled mostly near the rivers, far from the edge of the flood-zone, the ones who weren't instantly wiped out by flash flooding would have had no time to escape the flood-zone during torrential rains and through extremely muddy land. Not to mention there is not a single shred of evidence that pre-flood peoples used animals for transportation, though I highly doubt that would help, given the conditions.
As for the birds, you will find most birds are incapable of flight during heavy rain, especially the long distance flying it would take to get outside the flood-zone. And they are certainly too slow to make it out of the flood-zone in time.
Furthermore, on the sloping land at the edges of the flood-zone there would be massive rushes of water flowing into the valley that would prevent any escape. The only way for a human, Nephilim, mammal, or bird to survive this flood is to be saved by Noah's ark, just as the bible describes.
So, in summary, the Nephilim really were giants that were the offspring of fallen angels and human women. Noah's flood was local geographically but wiped out *all* humans outside the ark. Humankind was localized to one region prior to the flood. The flood encompassed the southern Mesopotamian plain and the northern Persian Gulf Oasis. And a flood of this magnitude is entirely scientifically plausible.
In the third and final part of this trilogy on early humanity, I will address the Tower Of Babel, The Hominids, and Chronology. Stay tuned.
1. Early Humanity Part One: http://objectivechristianworldview.weebly.com/blog-posts/early-humanity-i-the-location-of-the-garden-of-eden
2. Insects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insect
3. Reptiles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reptile
4. Arachnids: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arachnid
8. Mountain Formation:
9. Fresh Vs. Saltwater Animals:
10. Answering Objections To A Local Flood:
11. Southern Mesopotamian Plain:
12. Wildlife Of Iraq:
13. Historic Temperatures:
14. California Megaflood:
15. Siberian Megaflood:
16. Bangladesh Megaflood:
17. Ohio River Megaflood: