Answers in Genesis

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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23 Responses

  1. The Noah Story strikes me as just another Hebrew myth, but the interesting thing about it is that you can find similar stories in the mythos of other civilizations in the Middle East/Mesopotamia, most of which predate the Bible’s version.

    Obviously, something happened in the long ago past that led to this story being handed down and embellished uponReport

  2. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    The Bible, as the Word of God, is without error, which is quite a statement considering the sad cultural decline into ideological deformation. That given, the faithful are always fortified by the idea that the Bible, the Word of God, is the revealed scripture designed to prompt consciousness to become luminous in itself as the site of the divine-human encounter, and therefore works to differentiate the historical process…it functions then on a myriad of pneumatic levels determined by the psyche of the reader in his/her consciousness where in both the noetic and pneumatic strcuture it acts to reveal the symbols of truth in the process of history. As such the Bible has, as mentioned, a number of functions, among which is to initiate the theophanic process.
    Can I get an Amen?Report

  3. Avatar Keljeck says:

    I don’t see how it matters. Assuming they found a boat on the mountain, they’ve only proven there was a boat on the mountain. Perhaps by a large flood. Or maybe the water level was really high at one point. Unless we find a ton of random animal bones and hebrew graffiti saying, “Noah Was Here” it doesn’t validate the Biblical account. Assuming we do find random animal bones and hebrew graffiti, so what? Is that enough to convince unbelievers to accept the Lordship of Christ? It all goes to show how myopic some of these Genesis people are.

    Step 1. Prove random Genesis myths to be literal historical truth.
    Step 2. ???
    Step 3. Mass conversion!Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Keljeck says:

      @Keljeck,

      Actually, if any of the specifically miraculous parts of Genesis were proven, I would have little choice but to convert, or at the very least to accept Judaism as the one true religion. But frankly, the story of the Flood is just so preposterous that I can’t imagine it being proven. Did Noah really gather all the animals? Do you have any idea how long that would take, from all the different parts of the globe, given ancient transportation methods? All the different bugs in the Amazon? And that species of giant lizard just discovered in the Philippines last week? And all the amazing creatures of the Galapagos? What did they all eat? How did they get enough fresh meat for all the predators? And the enormous amounts of grass and vegetable matter for the herbivores? And then after the flood, how exactly did Noah disperse them again, each one to its rightful place (which apparently wasn’t much harmed by the flood, because they had no trouble surviving to the present day!).

      It’s so crazy when you think about it that the only remotely intelligible reading is the allegorical one.Report

      • Avatar BCChase in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @Jason Kuznicki, I generally combine your last sentence with the sentiments of Doug above. There is a common thread of flood stories through ancient cultures of the time, enough to convince me that there was a huge flood at some point in early history that every culture had to deal with. Perhaps God made his providence known to the early Jews in that event, though it’s doubtful he did it in that specific way. The outlandish details of the story may be possible, but more likely serve to establish the moral lessons.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @Jason Kuznicki, not to give Genesis particular weight on this topic but there was a study that said that mitochondrial dna tells us that all dogs descend from three wolves in China. He wouldn’t need…

        Yeah. I couldn’t finish the paragraph.

        But still!Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    so how would this discovery of Noah’s Ark be different from the many other times people have found it? This isn’t the first time its been found, yet proof never seems to work out.

    FWIW Geologists have proven the Black Sea flooded in a short period of time about 5600 bc. It is conjecture, but certainly possible the experience of the flood in distant cultural memory led to the Gilgamesh and then Noah.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_theoryReport

  5. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I don’t know how literalist believers square these things, but my (Catholic) parents taught us when we were kids that most of those stories shouldn’t be taken literally- that they’re basically old folk tales. So, you ask my father why he’s a Catholic and he says, “I don’t care about burning bushes. I believe in the Word given by Jesus Christ who I believe was the son of God.” But, as for the truth of the flood story, he was pretty much indifferent.Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Rufus F. says:

      @Rufus F., Which begs the question: How do Christians distinguish between allegory and the timeless, unadulterated Word of God? Back when I first started blogging, I tried to tease this out in a post on Young Earth Creationists. John Schwenkler had an interesting response in the comments section:

      http://bestelectionever.wordpress.com/2008/09/20/biblical-literalism-faith-and-sarah-palin/

      I’d call this shameless self promotion, but I was a pretty bad blogger back then. But Schwenkler’s comments are pretty interesting.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Will says:

        @Will, That’s a pretty interesting point. I can ask a priest friend about his tomorrow. I did have one Catholic basically say to me that when we say one of Grimm’s fairy tales is “true” we’re talking about the moral and not worrying about if foxes can talk.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

          @Rufus F., Actually, I’ve always been interested in the Medieval fourfold reading of Scripture (the quadrium), in which every passage and word was read for four meanings: the literal sense, the allegorical sense, the tropological (moral) sense, and the anagogical (mystical) sense. I’ve always wondered, if the passage turned out to be inaccurate, could you just skip over the literal sense.Report

      • Avatar BCChase in reply to Will says:

        @Will, for me, I never understood why God’s divine word couldn’t be given in the form of allegory. The early book of Genesis to me is like the parables of Jesus. They are non-literal stories meant to establish the relationships between man and God. That doesn’t mean they aren’t divinely inspired, just that they shouldn’t be taken literally. The problem is that at some point Genesis transitions into early Jewish history – I generally found Genesis believable as history starting with Abraham, and not before. But I couldn’t point you to anything but my own logic and reading to justify this.Report

        • Avatar Will in reply to BCChase says:

          @BCChase, I don’t mean to suggest allegory can’t be divinely inspired. It’s just that stories allow for a bit more interpretive leeway than “here are God’s commandments; obey or be punished.” And if certain parts of the Bible are allegorical or otherwise open to interpretation, how do theologians distinguish between timeless commandments and things that are up for debate? At least, that’s what I was trying to get at in my old post.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will says:

            @Will, when one has a personal relationship with the Creator, He lets you know.

            Sadly, this manifests identically to someone feeling pretty good about themselves while screaming that other people need to change and saying that they’re just passing along what God said.Report

          • Avatar BCChase in reply to Will says:

            @Will, I think this is where humility and doubt become important in faith. I find there are few things in the Bible I can outright state are the commandments of God – a few straight statements from Jesus, basically. Everything else needs to be constantly thought about and reconsidered, in light of everything a person has learned or experienced, and searched for the deep meanings. That process never ends. I think this is well seen in discussions of slavery, something that was tacitly accepted in the culture of the time, but we have since come to understand is against the spirit and law of those few concrete statements. I think within the next 50 years homosexuality will go the same way. So I don’t have a lot of patience for those Christians who are so certain about every injunction that they can thunder condemnation. I doubt a proper Christian can say they have a better understanding of the exact right way to live than any other person, just that they have a different source of ethics to interpret into their lives.Report

  6. Avatar Ryan Davidson says:

    I’m not sure I have the citations to support my position, but I’m under the impression that my tradition–the Reformed tradition, for what it’s worth–takes the view that the events prior to Abraham actually happened, but that the details are so sketchy that it’s impossible to come up with a “literal” reading. The Literalists who come up with full-fledged descriptions of what Creation and the Flood actually looked like are reading a ton into the story that we just don’t have. Did God create the world in six days? Sure did. Does this mean that it took 144 hours total? The text doesn’t actually require that. It’s pretty obviously a poem, the point of which is that God made the world, God made the whole world, and that God made man different from the animals. Beyond that, we’re surprisingly short on actual details.

    A faithful reading of the Flood account would seem to require one to believe that there was some a catastrophic flood of some sort in Middle Eastern history which wiped out most of at least one human civilization, but that God saved one family by instructing them to build an ark and stock it with animals. That’s pretty much it.

    Did the water actually submerge all of the dry land on the earth? Well, certainly as far as the eye could see, which is pretty impressive, but one needn’t believe that, say, Everest was covered to believe that what’s being taught is true. Did Noah actually have a pair of every single animal on the face of the planet? Well, he had a bunch of them anyways. Certainly of all in the vicinity. We say that Alexander the Great and the Romans ruled “the whole world,” but we know quite well that we don’t mean that they ruled every square foot of the globe.

    In general, the analysis comes down to whether or not a particular interpretation is required for the larger narrative of Scripture to work. As Paul says, if Jesus didn’t really, actually, rise from the dead, then the whole thing’s nonsense. If there was not a person such as Noah who survived a flood event, then yeah, the narrative of Genesis falls apart. But ancient Near Eastern writers didn’t tell stories the way we tell stories–much of Jacob’s life is communicated out of chronological order–because they had thematic and covenantal messages to communicate.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    One more thought about the story of Noah: rainbows apparently didn’t come into existence until after the Flood. Is that because, before that, light didn’t refract?Report

  8. Avatar Craig2 says:

    Two words “evangelical” and “99.9%”. It’s nice you are enthusiastic about your field trip — now let’s see what you found. Not that I dis the flood story. I’m convinced there were several floods, locally Biblical in proportion, in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.Report

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