Beyond Sound Hermeneutics, Part II:
Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford Deems Regional Flood Theory Frivolous
By Kurt M. Simmons
Tim has recruited a friend to help in his response and has double-teamed me; together they produced a twenty page answer. You can bury a lot under twenty pages! Here is what Tim has not proved:
1) That how one reads Genesis’s flood account determines his view of eschatology;
2) That belief in a universal flood is inconsistent with Preterism;
3) That belief in a global/universal flood may be traced to dispensationalism;
4) That Genesis is apocalyptic and its language is to be interpreted figuratively;
5) That the flood waters covered only part of the dry ground;
6) That more survived the flood than Noah and his family;
7) That the earth is materially older than the sum of generations from Adam to ourselves;
8) That God took more than six, 24 hour days to create the heavens and the earth.
We will deal with these in turn, but first it will be well to review the flood narrative and subsequent chapters of Genesis.
I. Examination of the Flood Narrative
Tim opens his argument for the regional flood by appeal to the Hebrew word “erets.”
“The Hebrew word translated as “earth” in this passage is “erets.” Many overlook the fact this word carries no inherent global, spherical connotation from the Hebrew. “Erets” is translated as “land” in the Old Testament over a thousand times. It is also repeatedly translated as “country” and “ground.””
While it is true that erets has no inherent global connotation, neither does it have an inherent local connotation either. This writer knows of no translation in print that renders erets in the flood account as “country” or “region.” Virtually every major translation in print uses “earth” in this place. If there were a single translation that rendered the flood in the local terminology Tim urges, the reader may be sure Tim would cite it. However, Tim is virtually alone in his translation in this place. We agree that the word can and is translated “land” in many places, but it is not so translated here. In fact, the best definition of the term is that given in Gen. 1:9, 10:
“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth (erets); and the gathering together of the waters called he seas: and God saw that it was good.”
This is the definition provided by Genesis entering into the flood narrative and is therefore the best definition available. The simple substitution of “dry land” for “earth” will allow the story to speak from its Biblical context without either expanding the breadth of the flood by connotations inherent in the English word “earth,” nor diminishing its scope by use of English terms “country” or “land.” That this is the correct definition of the term is corroborated by Josephus who said that God “turned the dry land into sea; and thus were all these men destroyed: but Noah alone was saved.” Unhappily for Tim, this simple exercise will show that the flood can in no way be deemed to have been merely local. We will now survey the narrative, with our comments following each section:
Apostasy of the Son of Faith
Gen. 6:1- 4 – And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became might men which were of old, men of renown.
These verses describe the apostasy by the faithful, often interpreted as the sons of Seth, by making marrying the unbelieving daughters of men. This occurred eleven generations from Adam. (Gen. 5:4-32) The time from Adam to the birth of Noah’s son was one thousand five hundred and fifty six years. The period from Abraham to Moses was four hundred thirty years. (Gal. 3:17) In the period from Abraham to Moses the Jews became over six hundred thousand men that were able to go out to war, excluding their wives, and younger children, and all those identified with the priests and Levites. (Num. 2:32) The period from Adam to Noah was about four times as long from Abraham to Moses and, given that men lived many times longer and therefore would have begotten more children in their lifetimes, the number of people inhabiting the earth at the time of events described could easily have been ten to twenty million, if not more.
How great a portion of earth’s face they inhabited is impossible to say. Some may have taken to ships and migrated vast distances from the place of man’s creation in Eden. For men to be living in area of Greece, Spain or Italy, or the furthest corners of Africa or India is very possible. Who is to say men did not migrate to the far north regions of Europe or the Americas? How far could you migrate if you lived 800-900 years? The North American continent had men dwelling in every area and on both coasts in a little more than 200 years. Hence, while men may not have been living in every part of the globe, there is no reason to assume mankind was confined within the small compass of a single region. To the contrary, the phrase “face of the earth” (face of the dry land) implies that man was spreading across earth’s surface. This is the context and condition in the world when the flood arose.
The Divine Perspective of the Flood
6:5-8 – And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and breast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
The next point we want to notice about the flood is that the narrative is told from a divine, not human, perspective. “And God saw...” Tim’s arguments that the flood narrative is told from a human perspective and therefore only “appeared” universal to Noah are without merit. God is telling this story, not Noah.
Next, we should notice that the circumstance that brought on the flood is common to all mankind: the imagination of man’s heart was only evil continually. Man has grown so evil that God repents he made man on the earth (dry land). There is nothing to suggest this passage speaks merely about the people of a particular region. Tim asserts that God’s purpose was to destroy only the descendants of Seth. But the sons of Seth were making affinity with unbelievers by marrying their daughters. Why would God want to destroy the sons of Seth, but not those who were leading them into apostasy? Why destroy the sons of faith and not the wicked with which they were marrying? The story here is like the case of the Moabite women who seduced the Israelites to worship idols and commit fornication. (Num. 25) God’s wrath was not limited to the Israelites then (Num. 31:1-20), nor by any means was it limited to the sons of Shem here. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” There is not the least suggestion that only the sons of Seth are in view. Tim argues that the Greek word used by Josephus (genos) specifies a particular clan or family. Says Tim, “genos (Strong’s #1085) means ‘kind,’ ‘clan,’ ‘family,’ or at most ‘countryman.’ In the New Testament, this word refers to a limited group of related people.” Tim cites three occurrences of genos in Acts, but omits Acts 17:28. In Acts 17:28, genos is used universally, saying that all mankind is the offspring of God. Thus, when Josephus uses the term it clearly has the import of destroying the whole race or kindred of mankind. Indeed, at that point, only eleven generations from Adam, the whole of humankind was a single family! Thus, Josephus is translated correctly and it is not the line of Seth he has in view at all. The thrust of the passage in Genesis and Josephus is that the whole race of mankind - all the sons of Adam - were filling the earth with wickedness and so God purposed to destroy them from the face of the ground. Noah alone found grace in God’s sight. (Cf. Gen. 7:1)
6:12-13 – And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold I will destroy them with the earth.
Again, there is nothing here to suggest this is confined to a small region or a particular people. “All flesh” was to be destroyed together with the earth (dry land). “All flesh” is a generic term and means every race and people, Jew and Gentile, just as it does in Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17. The breathing creatures too would be destroyed.
6:17-7:4 – For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth…And, behold, I, even, I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
Is this language suggesting a merely local flood? Is there even the remotest suggestion that only the sons of Seth are in view? To ask this question is to answer it. Everything under heaven – every thing on the dry ground - would die. It is the greatest violence to scripture to limit this passage to only the sons of Seth as Tim would have us do. Don’t you agree?
Universal Nature of the Destruction
And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. Gen. 7:18-22
These verses corroborate that in this context “earth” means “dry land” and not “country” or “region” as Tim would have it. Can anyone reading this language imagine that this is a merely local judgment? The literal reading of the text is that everything died, including every man other than Noah and his wife, and his sons and their wives. Anyone who says that other people survived the flood than Noah and his house is contradicting the plain language of scripture. Tim asserts that Josephus believed in a local flood. Josephus stated the God turned the dry land to seas. Seas are indicative of vast areas of earth’s surface; day land speaks to those parts of earth not covered by waters. In other words, Josephus is saying there was a reversal of the order created at creation. The waters that God divided and gathered into oceans were suffered to cover again earth’s surface. Josephus expressly states that the household of Noah “alone was saved.” Peter says “eight souls were saved.” (I Pet. 3:20) Tim searches for others and thinks he has found them in the nephelim. The nephelim did not survive the flood. They were merely men of great stature whose genetic codes were descended from Adam (who, having lived 900 years, may also have been a giant) and reappeared again in Noah’s descendants after the flood. The answer is just that simple. Tim notes that Adam had other sons and daughter and offers that maybe they or their descendants survived the flood. Maybe is not scripture. Doctrine is built on scripture, not conjecture. We require book, chapter and verse, not “maybe.” Genesis says “all flesh died…every man...all that was in the dry land, died. (Gen. 7:18-22) Why does Tim have such a hard time with this?
Perhaps this is as good a time to deal with this as any. I believe Tim’s methodology is thoroughly unsound. I believe it gives birth to all sorts of speculative notions. Tim’s assertion that the nephelim and Adam’s other children survived the flood are examples of what I mean and how he does not blush to contradict plain statements of the Bible. “All flesh, every man, all that was in the dry land, died.” What could be clearer? Another example of what I mean occurs when Tim asks “The text is also silent about how long Adam lived in Paradise. How does Kurt know that millions of years did not pass before the fall?” So, apparently now Tim wants to argue that Adam may have lived millions of years before the fall. I ask the reader if this is responsible use of scripture. The Bible states in black and white “all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred thirty years: and he died.” (Gen. 5:5) How Tim can argue Adam lived millions of years before the fall when the Bible declare he lived 930 years I do not know. But I believe it may be said without exaggeration that Tim will not take the Bible at its word, but is constantly building upon its silence and at war with its plain statements.
Tim says that Josephus believed others survived the flood. He cites Josephus:
“Now the sons of Noah were three – Shem, Japhet, and Ham, born one hundred years before the Deluge. These first of all descended from the mountains into the plains, and fixed their habitation there; and persuaded others who were greatly afraid of the lower grounds on account of the flood, and so were very loath to come down from the higher places, to venture to follow their examples.”
First, Josephus is not scripture. We do not build doctrine upon what Josephus says, which often is embellished with Jewish legend and lore. Second, the Bible says the waters covered all the high hills under heaven and the mountains. Every living thing that breathed died. Thus, the mountains here in view are the mountains of Ararat where the ark landed. The others who remained in the mountains are the descendants of Noah’s sons. These feared to come down lest they be destroyed in another flood. There is no reason to interpret this language as affirming others survived the flood than the eight expressly stated by Peter. To do so is to contradict the plain language of the Bible and violate the analogy of faith and scripture. Josephus cites some pagan historians who related their own nations’ flood traditions. These traditions vary from the flood account in many details, but preserve the basic truth of the universal flood. Where they deviate from scripture, which do we stand with? Scripture, of course! But Tim wants to go with the pagan traditions and asks us to believe them over Genesis. Did Josephus agree with these pagan historians when they said others survived the flood than Moses? Of course not. Josephus is already on record saying Noah alone was saved. Josephus cites these historians for proof of the flood; he nowhere credits pagan legends that depart from the scripture.
We hasten to add at this point that although literal and universal, it does not follow that the flood was necessarily global. We only know what the Bible tells us. We do not how much dry land existed at that time. Some believe the continents were still joined as suggested by Gen. 1:9. It is also possible that many of the continents we know today were still submerged beneath the oceans. In either case, the flood would have been universal without being global, overwhelming such dry land as existed. It is well to avoid use of the term “global” inasmuch as it adds to what is written, implying the flood went over all the globe when all Genesis states is that it covered the dry land. However, the term “universal” is consistent with the literal text, and neither adds nor detracts from its statement that every living thing was destroyed, together with all the dry land under the whole heaven. But in no event can a reading be sustained that would suggest anything less than a universal flood is here described. This is why virtually every translation in every language renders these verses in universal terms. None exists anywhere that translate the flood in local terms as Tim would have it.
The New Testament Confirms the Cosmos was Destroyed
If there were a question about the literalness of the Old Testament narrative or the definition of the words or phrases employed, the New Testament obviates the discussion by twice affirming that the cosmos was destroyed.
Heb. 11:7 – By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world (Grk. kosmos), and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
II Pet. 2:5 – And spared not the old world (kosmos), but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world (kosmos) of the ungodly.
In both of these verses the term used to describe the object destroyed by the flood is the Greek word “kosmos.” Cosmos is the opposite of chaos. Kosmos is defined as an orderly arrangement, viz., the universe, the world, and/or the inhabitants of the world. It is distinguished from 1) aion, an age, 2) ge, earth or land, and 3) oikoumene, the inhabited earth, viz., world or Roman empire. Kosmos is the most expansive word that could have been used; it is the word used to describe the orderly arrangement of the heavens and earth in the Greek translation (Septuagint) creation of account. (Cf. Jno. 1:10) If the flood was merely local, the New Testament writers would be expected to have used some less expansive term; to have used a term suggesting only a narrow area of the earth was involved. But as it is, they used the most expansive term they could. Thus, by the plain testimony of the New Testament, the entire ordered system of the antediluvian world was destroyed; the chaos that existed before God divided the earth from the sea resumed; the dry land was covered again by waters; the world and its inhabitants completely perished; Noah alone was saved with his house.
The Covenant of the Rainbow was Made with All Things Living,
Not a Particular Region or People
According to Tim, the flood was merely regional; others survived the flood than Noah. But how does this measure up to the covenant of which the rainbow is the reminder?
Gen. 9:8-16 - “And God speak unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass when I bring a cold over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creation of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
In this passage we learn that God set the rainbow in the clouds as a token that he would no more destroy all flesh or the dry land by a flood as he had done. The covenant of which the rainbow is the token was made with every living thing, not just a particular region of the earth. The rainbow is a universal phenomenon; there is nowhere it does not occur. If only a small region had suffered the deluge, by Tim’s reasoning the covenant of the rainbow should have been confined to that part of the earth. But the rainbow being universal, so was the flood. Local floods occur fairly commonly; the tsunami that killed an hundred thousand people in south-east Asia last year is a good example; another is the devastation wrought in New Orleans. If the flood was purely local, then the promise to cause no more local floods creates a problem. Has God forgotten his word? But if the flood was universal as Genesis relates, then these local floods do not violate the promise.
The Tower of Babel and the Origin of Nations
It is important to note the continuity of the history of mankind after the flood and how it is consistent with a universal deluge. The events recounted in the narrative of the tower of Babel occurred 101 years after the flood. This number is obtained by counting the number of years from Shem’s first born son, Arphaxad, born two years after the flood (Gen. 11:11), unto Peleg, born the hundred and first year after the flood. This man’s name signifies “divided” and it was in his days that the earth was divided after the flood. (Gen. 10:25) Thus, only 101 years from Noah and God was required to divinely intervene again to prevent a righteous seed from perishing in the earth. Mankind is living in one social and political unit in the plain of Shinar. The close association of the righteous and the wicked prompts God to confound man’s speech so that they cannot live together, but may be divided into separate peoples and nations, of which Abraham and the Jews become one. (Gen. 12:2) Notice the universal language:
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and the dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence aid the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. Gen. 11:1-9
This picture complements perfectly the flood narrative. There are no other men than these at this time; the universal deluge destroyed the race of man, save Noah and his sons. It is the fifth generation from Noah, and the earth is beginning to be repopulated; man is living in a single social unit with a common language. The narrative is very explicit that the “whole earth” was of one speech and the all the “people is one.” Where is there room for the mysterious others Tim asserts survived the flood? Can proponents of a local or regional flood name one nation that is not traceable to Babel? Can they name one people that survived the flood outside of Noah and his sons? Of course not. Tim asserts that the inhabitants of China, Mongolia, Japan, Australia and the Americas did not descend from Noah’s sons. Has he any Biblical proof? No, he simply imagines and conjectures that these people have an independent ancestry and for Tim that is all that proof required. But he cannot produce a “book, chapter, and verse” to substantiate his claim. Genesis is very clear that all nations derive their origin from Babel. The confusion of tongues existing between earth’s nations is proof. If they were not at Babel, their tongues would not be confused. This is proof Tim’s imaginary descendants of Adam living in the Americas, China, and Australia did not survive the flood. If they were not first at Babel they would have a common language. But as their languages are confused, Tim’s conjectures may be dismissed.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the condition of the World
We will end our survey with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham was called by God to leave his family and kindred so that God could make of him a separate nation. This was the purpose of confusing mankind’s speech at Babel, so that God could create a nation whose customs, laws, and institutions would be separate and not sink into the abyss of idolatry and paganism until the time when he would send Christ into the world and reunite all mankind in the Savior.
What we want to notice about the world condition at the time of the Jewish patriarchs is that vast regions are unpopulated. The earth consists of small city-states scattered hither and yon. Men can claim the land by simply going out and using it. Abraham sets up his tent and the land is his to dwell in. In Isaac’s day, there are contests over wells, but Isaac is able to move far enough that no man claims them.(Gen. 26:17-33) This situation has not changed much in Jacob’s day; most of the land is empty and unclaimed. By the time the Jews come out of Egypt four hundred years later, the population is denser and nations have risen which claim ownership of large areas, but the Jews are still able to traverse the land from Egypt to Canaan without trespassing upon the territory of other nations. Moses recites the names of every people and nation descended from the sons of Noah and they are known to the Jews. Jacob’s brother Esau has settled one area and a nation bears his name; the sons of Lot have settled another area and nations bear their names, and so forth. Every nation and their history are accounted for. None exist but that can be traced to Noah. In short, there is perfect continuity; the picture which emerges is what we would expect after a universal deluge. Never once is it stated or suggested other people survived the flood.
II. How the Regional Flood Theory Violates Hermeneutical Norms
and Presumes Upon the Silence of the Scripture
By now the reader should be aware that this discussion is about hermeneutics. The reader should also be familiar with Tim’s hermeneutical methods. Strangely, hermeneutics is the one issue Tim fails to deal with in his response. It is the key issue of this discussion, but Tim left it out. Our position is that the regional flood theory as espoused by Tim violates hermeneutical norms. In fact, Tim’s methods violate some of the most basic rules of hermeneutics.
Language is to be interpreted literally unless context demands otherwise.
This is the first rule of hermeneutics. We cannot know what a writing means except by what it says. What it says is to be understood by the words employed. We give words their normal and accepted meanings, unless context demands otherwise. It is not enough that the phraseology may be interpreted figuratively; all language may be interpreted figuratively. Before we depart from the normal meaning attached to words the author must intend and the context must require it be figuratively understood. In poetry, prophecy, and apocalyptics the opposite rule obtains. In dealing with those forms of literature we assume that the language is figurative unless the context demands otherwise. This assumption is based upon the intention of the author. The author intends we understand him to be using language hyperbolically.
The question thus becomes, does God intend us to understand the flood narrative figuratively? Is it his intention that we understand that only some of the dry ground was immersed and that others survived the flood than Noah? We would simply refer the reader to his or her own common sense. From cover to cover the flood is treated consistently; what Peter says about the flood is consistent with what Moses wrote; both agree that only eight souls survived; both confirm that the cosmos was destroyed. If God intended us to interpret the scope of the flood in less than universal terms, he has not provided us any hint of that intention, not in Genesis, nor anywhere else he speaks of it. The only reasonable conclusion based upon the normal and accepted meaning of the language is that God intended us to understand the flood was universal. This is the only conclusion supportable by sound hermeneutical principles.
Tim violates this first and most basic rule when he interprets the flood account figuratively. He constantly does this. He attempts to argue that the flood narrative is apocalyptic, that it is figurative, and that it is not literal in terms of its scope. Tim posits other word definitions, and points to non-literal speech habits in other passages of scripture. Tim does this because he is looking for ways to get around the universal language of the flood. But the context does not justify delimiting the normal meaning of the language. Nothing in the context of the flood narrative demands a figurative interpretation. The justification for interpreting the language figuratively is imposed externally by Tim, who does not want to believe the plain language of the text. Tim cannot point to one internal portion of the flood narrative that requires us to interpret its universal language figuratively or in local terms. Not one. Review his discussion of the narrative in the opening chapters of his book and you will see that all of his reasons are external to the text. Not one arises from within.
For example, Tim cites Matt. 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come.” Tim argues “We know this was fulfilled in the first century, but this does not mean the Christian gospel went to every part of the globe. It is another example of global language in our Bible which simply isn’t global in a scientifically precise, modern sense.” Based upon the occurrence of this phraseology in the Lord’s Olivet Discourse, Tim feels justified in treating the flood narrative in less than universal terms. Tim also cites Lk. 2:2 and Acts 11:28 to the same effect. There are several flaws in Tim’s reasoning. First, the Greek term chosen by the Holy Ghost in all these passages is oikoumene, it means the inhabited earth or Roman empire, not the globe as Tim suggests. Thus, Tim’s whole argument based upon this passage is faulty from the start. By its own terms, these passages are limited in application to the world of the Roman empire, not globe. However, the language of the flood narrative does not limit itself in this way. Its language is universal: all the dry ground was immersed; every high hill under heaven, the mountains also. Every thing in which was the breath of life died. If the word erets allows for a less than universal reading, certainly the context does not! And that is the fact Tim consistently ignores; he will not let the context of the passage speak for itself, but is constantly attempting to limit its scope based upon external factors of his own making. Second, the Lord’s Olivet Discourse is prophetic; it is foretelling future events and often employs hyperbolic speech. The flood narrative is historic; it is retelling past events and never employs hyperbolic speech. We simply cannot interpret the language of historic narrative by the same rules we interpret prophecy. This leads to our next rule of hermeneutics:
In interpreting a writing we must identify the class of literature to which it belongs.
We all recognize the fact that a poem cannot be interpreted the same as a history book. Poets employ various techniques to achieve a desired affect, including exaggerated speech, similes, and metaphors that are completely absent from a factual retelling of historic events. This is also true of the prophets; the prophets used literary styles and techniques unique to their genre and that are totally foreign to the books of history. Thus, when Tim attempts to interpret Genesis the same way we interpret Revelation he is failing to take into account this most basic rule of interpretation. Genesis is historical narrative, not apocalyptic prophecy; they simply cannot be interpreted the same. No reasonable person would assert they can. No one except Tim, that is. Tim argues that Genesis’s flood account contains apocalyptic language merely because its terminology is what, is symbolic, is metaphoric, is poetic? No, because it is universal! That’s right; because it uses universal speech, Tim argues it is apocalyptic! But by this definition, nearly every book of the Bible would be apocalyptic.
Dear reader, Genesis is not apocalyptic nor is it prophetic; it is historic narrative. The whole book is written in the past tense. “God said…God saw…the earth was filled…Noah built…the waters prevailed” and so forth. The first sixteen books of the Bible are historic narrative, written in the past tense. They retell the events of by-gone days. After the books of history, we come to the books of poetry and wisdom, including Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. These are a completely different type of literature than Genesis and the books of history. In them we find prophecy and poetic language that we understand must not be given literal effect. After the books of poetry and wisdom, we come to the major and minor prophets. Here we encounter a literary genre of its own, totally unlike anything elsewhere in the Bible. Consider this passage from Isaiah:
“And the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as aflalling fig from the fig tree…the streams thereof shall be turned to pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.” Isa. 34:4, 9
This is a prophecy about God’s judgment upon Edom. Notice that the future tense is now employed; rather than retelling the past, the prophet is foretelling the future; and he does so in language that on its face is hyperbolic. Context demands and the prophet intends that we understand him figuratively. Nothing like this occurs in the flood narrative. Nothing; yet Tim wants us to interpret them the same. But if we interpret the flood hyperbolically then the flood cannot have been a literal event. The prophets used imagery of fire and water as metaphors for things like famine, drought, and invading armies. Thus, if we grant Tim that the flood is couched in prophetic or apocalyptic language as he claims, it then must be interpreted as metaphor for something else. So either way, Tim looses. He looses if the account is literal, for then the flood was plainly universal. He looses if the narrative is apocalyptic, for then the flood is a metaphor for something else. Tim did not answer this in his response. It is easy to see why.
Tim argues that Genesis contains prophecy. He points to the protevangelium about the Promised Seed crushing the serpent’s head. He says, “Is this not prophecy?” Actually, no it is not. It is still historic narrative, told in the past tense. Moreover, it is promise, not prophetic. God is here promising to send the savior, not prophesying that event. Genesis does contain prophecy in its next to last chapter, where Jacob tells his sons about the future. But here too it is historic narrative and when we read it we know immediately that Jacobs words require interpretation; that they hold meaning not apparent upon their face, for they are cryptic and poetic, couched in metaphor and similes. The flood narrative holds none of these qualities. Tim errs when he attempts to interpret Genesis the same way we interpret prophetic books of the Bible.
Another error Tim makes in his interpretive methods involves the analogy of scripture, articulated in following principle of hermeneutics.
Difficult portions of scripture are to be interpreted in light of others that are plain; nothing should be inferred form an obscure passage that could not be proved by another that is more obvious or plain.
This is the very foundation stone of the Preterist movement. We give effect to Jesus’ words saying he would return in the life time of the apostles (Matt. 16:26, 27; Jno. 21:22); that he would return before they had evangelized the whole of Judea and Galilee (Matt. 10:23); that the generation of those living would not pass before all had taken place. (Matt. 24:34; Mk. 13:30; Lk. 21:32) We give effect to this language and then set about to interpret other more difficult books or passages so as to bring them into harmony with it. Dispensationalists take the opposite approach; they use obscure passages of prophecy or Revelation as their measuring stick and work to reconcile plain statements to them. The time statements of Jesus and the New Testament are completely ignored or explained away.
This is precisely what Tim does. Tim begins with obscure passages like the nephelim, or Adam’s other children, or Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, or II Peter 3, and then bends the flood narrative to coincide with his thesis derived from these texts. This is why he believes that it is impossible for one to be a Preterist and hold to a universal flood: Tim imposes external assumptions upon the text; viz., that because Jesus allegedly used universal language in a limited way, Moses also used universal language in a limited way. (Actually, as we have seen, Jesus did not use universal language when he used the term oikoumene; so Tim labors under a false premise from the very start.) Tim assumes that because the A.D. 70 eschaton was not universal, therefore the flood could not be universal. Tim thus sets about to reconcile Genesis with his hypothesis by ignoring the plain statements of scripture and building upon its silence. Does Genesis say that “all flesh, every man, and all that was on dry land, died”? Tim refuses to give effect to this language, choosing instead to ignore it or to explain it away because it doesn’t fit his paradigm. Rather than explain the nephelim in terms consistent with the language of universal flood, he explains away the universal flood by appeal to the nephelim. Tim employs the hermeneutic of Dispensationalism. He takes obscure and figurative passages and then wrests the plain language of historic narrative to conform to his notions about they way things should be. He overrules God in favor of Tim!
Tim’s methodology is fundamentally unsound. He violates the most basic rules of hermeneutics and employs the faulty hermeneutic approach of Dispensatonalists. If more were to employ his methods, the entire Preterist would be movement at risk of loosing the very hermeneutical principles that gave it birth. Further, we repeat the charge, that his approach of “speaking where the Bible is silent” gives rise to all sorts of speculative notions, like Adam lived millions of years before the fall, or Adam’s other children survived the flood, or God created other races of men than Adam from whom Cain took his wife. Does Tim believe that there are men who do not derive their descent from Adam? He seems to suggest this when he says “We must recognize that Scripture informs us that there were other people besides those listed in the genealogical material in Genesis (and by extension the rest of Scripture) from the very start.” Others people than those listed from the very start? Ultimately, whether Tim believes God created other men than Adam is not critical for purposes of this discussion; it is sufficient for present purposes that others using Tim’s hermeneutic methods have fallen into this trap. And that is the point: Once we begin building upon the silence of the scriptures and conjecturing about what it does not say, there is no limit to where we may end up. Tim has wandered away from the Bible in his theory about the regional flood; we hope the reader will be spared the same error.
III. Typological Ramifications of a Regional Flood
The New Testament holds out the universal flood as a type of the salvation in Christ. Peter evokes the flood waters as a type of baptism by which the believer saved from sin; as the flood bore up the ark and thus saved Noah, so baptism “doth now save us.”
When once the longsuffering of god waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us. I Pet. 3:20, 21.
The believer receives the remission of sins in baptism (Acts 2:38); his sins are washed away (Acts 22:16); and he is added to Christ and the church. (Act 2:41, 47; cf. Rom. 6:3; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27) Similarly, Noah built the ark to the saving of his house. (Heb. 11:7) In both cases, it is the response of faith that saves. All who fail to obey the gospel command to believe, repent, and be baptized will be lost, just as those that failed to believe Noah’s preaching perished in the deluge. The salvation offered by Christ is free to all. Christ died for all, salvation is freely available to all, and God wants all to be saved. But man must respond in faith, which is tied to his moral faculties. We choose not to believe and so are lost, left to die in our sins just as those who rejected Noah’s preaching died in their sins.
The typological teaching of the New Testament is destroyed by the regional flood theory. If others survived the flood than Noah, then this is all the same as saying others will be saved out of Christ. That is the point of Peter’s analogy. The Bible teaches “neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Men cannot be saved out of Christ. But Tim has men being saved out of the ark and out of Christ. This should persuade us of the seriousness of Tim’s error.
IV. There is no Substance to the Charge that Dispensationalism
Owes its Prevalence to Creation Science
The reader should understand that Tim believes Dispensational owes it prevalence to the creation science movement. Says Tim,
I hope to demonstrate a methodological, theological and historical correlation between the rise of Creation Science ideology and the prevalence of dispensational theology in America during the 20th century.
Tim tries to equivocate in his response and says that he only affirmed that “we refer to the rise of Creation Science during the prevalence of dispensational theology in America during the 20th century.” But his statement above is very clear that Dispensationalism owes its prevalence to creation science. And he even repeats it in his response:
We do believe the Creation Science system (which is anchored in a global reading of the Genesis flood account) has a methodological, theological, and historical correlation to the rise in popularity of dispensational eschatology in America during the 20th century
Tim is simply wrong in this belief. Dispensationalism does not owe its prevalence to creation science. Dispensationalism gained grass roots enthusiasm through the Bible Conference and Bible Institute movements. Beginning in the 1870s, various Bible conferences sprang up around the U.S. These conferences were not started to promote Dispensationalism, but proponents of this new theology promoted their program at the conferences. In time, conferences like the American Bible and Prophetic Conferences (1878—1914) would actively promote Dispensationalism. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, several Bible institutes were founded that taught Dispensational theology. These included The Nyack Bible Institute (1882), The Boston Missionary Training School (1889), and The Moody Bible Institute (1889), the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (1907), and the Philadelphia College of the Bible (1914). However, Dispensationalism received it greatest promotion by Cyrus Scofield. The publication of Scofield’s Reference Bible by Oxford University Press in 1909 was a wind fall for advocates of Dispensationalism. The Scofield Reference Bible became the leading Bible used by American Evangelicals and Fundamentalists for the next sixty years. Finally, following WWI, many dispensational Bible colleges were formed. Foremost of these was Dallas Theological Seminary (1924). Dispensationalism thus began to be taught in an academic setting, influencing generations of college students. In 1970, Hal Lindsey published his hugely successful best seller, The Late, Great Planet Earth, which took Dispensationalism to its present level. By Tim’s own admission, this was the year the Creation Science Institute opened its doors. It would be 10-15 years more before scarcely one person in a million had heard of the Creation Science Institute. Thus, Dispensationalism had broad grass roots support almost 100 years before creation science was ever heard of, the latter only coming on the scene in the last 15-20 years of the twentieth century. These are the stubborn facts that prove Tim’s thesis wrong again.
V. There is no Substance to the Charge that Belief in a Literal Flood
Is a Modern Phenomenon Stemming from Dispensationalism
Tim makes the charge that belief in a global or universal flood is a modern phenomenon, which grows out of Dispensationalism and Adventisim.
This proves that a modern, global reading of the flood account is a novel approach. Like the Creation Science system, it is a modernistic invention born from a plain-literal hermeneutic. It takes a dispensational plain-literal hermeneutic to arrive at global conclusions in both Genesis 6-9 and Josephus.
"Kurt’s interpretation of a global flood can be traced directly back to the visions of Ellen G. White–without any missing links."
“The careful reader will notice that Kurt has simply confounded his own interpretation of creation and flood – an interpretation which can be traced directly to Adventism…”
Tim is wrong. Belief in a global flood is as old as Genesis. Josephus is on record saying that God “turned the dry ground into seas,” that the “whole race of mankind” perished in the deluge, and that “Noah alone was saved.” A search of the Ante-Nicene Fathers will show many church fathers also believed in the universal flood. The following is an extract from a letter written in 1984 by Professor James Barr, who was at the time Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford. Professor Barr said,
"Probably, so far as l know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah's flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the 'days' of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know."
Thus, according to the Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, Tim is completely deceived in his wish to read Genesis figuratively. Let it be emphasized that according to professor Barr, virtually every professor at a world-class universities believes Gen. 1-11 are intended to convey the six 24 hour days creation and universality of Noah’s flood. And then he adds that those arguing as Tim does are “not even taken seriously!” In court, when a pleading or argument like Tim’s is not taken seriously it is are deemed frivolous. Sorry, Tim, case dismissed; you are out of court.
My personal Affection for Tim Remains Unchanged
In discussions like this, emotions can run high. I have been accused of saying Tim is dangerous and that he should be driven from the church. I never said those things. I did say that Tim’s that his method of “speaking where the bible is silent” is dangerous – and I still believe so - and that his teaching is irresponsible (like Adam lived millions yrs before the fall) and that it (not Tim) should be driven from the church. Tim’s co-editor wrote me and accused me of personally insulting John Evans. I did no such thing. I did say that John’s unwillingness to believe in the inerrancy and verbal inspiration of the word of God in accounts like Samson, Joshua, the longevity of Adam, and the universal flood invite others to reject the Biblical Jesus, his divinity and virgin birth. But that is not a personal insult and I am sure John did not take it that way. My respect for John remains untouched. I have great affection for Tim also, and this discussion has not changed that either.
Tim has worked hard and is devoted to what he believes and for this we must admire him. However, Tim’s methodology is fundamentally flawed and his conclusions totally without scriptural support. At every turn he is at odds with both fact and scripture. Discerning students of the Bible will reject the regional flood theory together with any theory of creation that departs from the six, 24 hour days set out in Genesis.
 Josephus, Antiquities, I, iii, 2; Whiston ed.
 Adam begat Seth when he was 130; Seth begat Enos when he was 105; Enos begat Cainan when he was 90; Cainan began Mahalaleel when he was 70; Mahalaleel begat Jared with he was 65; Jared begat Enoch when he was 162; Enoch begat Methuselah when he was 65; Methusalah begat Lamech when he was 187; Lamech begat Noah when he was 182; Noah lived 500 years and begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The sum of these years is one thousand five hundred fifty six. It is an interesting fact that although Noah’s father died five years before the flood, his grandfather, Methuselah, died the year of the flood, in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life.
 Josephus, Antiquities, I, iii, 2; Whiston ed.
 Tim repeatedly claims I believe in a global flood. I am sorry if I misled him. In writing my critique of his articles, I borrowed his terminology without necessarily embracing it. I feel that we should avoid use of the term global in favor of universal, for the simple reason we do not know that there was dry land in every region of the globe. I do believe the flood immersed all dry land that existed. After all, this is what the text states.
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