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Does Genesis Teach a Worldwide Flood


cinepro

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In a few weeks, we will be studying Noah's flood in Gospel Doctrine class. Back in 1998, the Ensign published an article by Donald Parry, an expert in Biblical Hebrew, in which he argued for a global flood.

Can anyone provide some references that would indicate a local flood in Genesis (i.e. a flood that was limited to Noah's local region and didn't cover the entire planet, thus leaving animals and humans in other parts of the world untouched)?

Here is the pertinent section from Brother Parry's article, where he presents his reading of the Genesis account:

Scriptural Evidence for a Worldwide Flood

Moses may have received his information about Noah through direct revelation, or perhaps he used ancient records that were written by one of the eyewitnesses to the Flood, such as Noah himself or one of his sons. Such records, presuming they once existed, are now lost to the world. In the book of Genesis, Moses clearly states that a flood occurred, and the terminology definitely refers to a worldwide flood, as opposed to a localized flood. The Joseph Smith Translation backs up the Genesis account, modifying the wording only slightly.

Said the Lord,

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Given that the cosmology of the account is entirely different from the current scientifically accepted cosmology, I don't know that it is much of a meaningful question to ask whether it teaches a "global flood" because the very concept of "globe" itself isn't equivalent.

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So, what did he leave out? In what way do local-flood believers read Genesis to understand it as telling the story of a local flood? In what way might an understanding of Biblical Hebrew inform us in a way that eluded Brother Parry?

Did Noah know the metes and bounds of the Earth? If he didn't, which I think is a safe assumption, then phrases such as "all the high hills" etc., must refer to the extent of the Earth as Noah knew it - i.e., a localized area. It still has problems, but they are much less significant than the complete and utter lack of any geological evidence of a global flood.

The real problems with the local flood theory arise when you start throwing in all the stuff JS added in the BOM, D&C, and PoGP. The extreme mental gymnastics required for this feat are almost the same as the mental gymnastics required to accept a global flood.

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If you take the Bible as literal, then you believe in a global flood.

I don't take the Bible as being literal and don't understand how anyone can.

That something happened is a pretty sure bet, most cultures have some kind of flood myth. What exactly happened is to me at least a limited thing. I lean toward a comet or asteroid strike myself.

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Did Noah know the metes and bounds of the Earth? If he didn't, which I think is a safe assumption, then phrases such as "all the high hills" etc., must refer to the extent of the Earth as Noah knew it - i.e., a localized area.

The "Limited Perspective" theory is interesting, but I'm not sure we can assume an Old Testament prophet was so limited when it appears God may give them special knowledge...

Moses 1

27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.

28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.

29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.

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So, what did he leave out?

The possibility that to those who experienced and came immediately after, it might have been world-wide in perception, but not reality. In addition, he does have a small point on usage likely being universal elsewhere, but that doesn't absolutely force the usage to be universal here. I also think there is a good chance he's reading the English translation and not the Hebrew at all.

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By a river over thousands and thousands of years

Not according to the most recent scientific theories of its formation. Ironically enough, the hypothesis of a catastrophic formation (via flood waters) of the Grand Canyon has been, for many years, a common feature of creationist literature. It was, of course, widely ridiculed and summarily dismissed. But the new generation of canyon geologists has begun to embrace the catastrophic flood explanation. In fact, the History Channel recently featured these new findings in its How the Earth Was Made series.

My point is that the "millions of years" theory of the formation of the Grand Canyon has represented "conventional wisdom" for the past century. Now it is falling into disfavor in preference to a theory that argues for a rapid formation of the canyon via a catastrophic flood occasioned by a natural dam break, which then released the contents of a vast ancient lake onto the Colorado Plateau.

Scientific explanations for the natural world change, often in ways diametrically opposed to whatever was believed previously.

I have always seen evidence for catastrophic flood in the formations of the Colorado Plateau. I'm glad to see that mainstream science is finally coming around to my points of view. :P

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So, what did he leave out? In what way do local-flood believers read Genesis to understand it as telling the story of a local flood? In what way might an understanding of Biblical Hebrew inform us in a way that eluded Brother Parry?

The Hebrew supports a global flood. Whether or not it was intended to be understood literally is the most important question, and that cannot be answered on the same philological grounds. There is clearly more than one tradition at work in the pericope as it has been preserved, and there are a number of parallels to cognate Near Eastern flood traditions that present the flood as a local one (the Gilgamesh epic, for instance). As with the Gilgamesh epic, I believe a later tradition attempted to universalize the flood.

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Hello,

My point of view is this:

I think you have to read the Bible in the context. If you believe in the literally of the Bible. Well, then there is there no problem. Because it isn't the story of Noah, it is the story about the Lord, who looked to the human. And what He saw, was that the wickedness was big in the harts of the human. All over the earth. The story of Noah begin in vers 9. :P

If there was a local flood, than there was no need, that the animals had to go into the boat. The key sentence is I think vs 7

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repents me that I have made them.

The Hebreew view is this: The earth is full of violance, and corrupt.vs 11 (see translation from the Rav. Leeser) It is not only the human. But it is all over the world.

n vs 12-1312 And God looked on the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way on the earth.

13 And God said to 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.

The word all, is in Hebrew the word Kol what mean whole and everything. No exception. The meaning of the Lord with the flood in Gen 6 is that the Lord start again.

vs17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters on 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.

When you believe in the Bible literally than I think you can believe in the flood all over the world.

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The "Limited Perspective" theory is interesting, but I'm not sure we can assume an Old Testament prophet was so limited when it appears God may give them special knowledge...

But this presupposes that the account is a Mosaic autograph. The account has clearly been redacted and I don't think Mosaic authorship is particularly evident.

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Does it matter? In general must LDS interpretation of scripture conform to what current scholarship claims is the most "correct" interpretation. Isn't it the job of the apostles and prophets to provide authoritative interpretations of scripture? Should they defer to biblical scholars when teaching what scripture means? Personally this relates to one of my personal sources of frustration regarding defining what is or is not doctrine. Frequently when asked to define doctrine when interacting with a given religious individual they will point to scripture and claim their doctrine is contained therein. A Jehovah's witness a Catholic and a Seven day Adventist could all hold up the same bible and claim in unison that here is where their doctrine lies. LDS when asked what their doctrine is will frequently point to the standard works as that which contains doctrine.

The problem of course is that this is an almost useless response when answering the question "what is your doctrine?". It would be fantastic if I could hold the scriptures up to my forehead and receive doctrine as dew from the heavens. The reality is just about every passage of scripture has multiple interpretations and many have multiple reasonable interpretations. This is why a JW and a Baptist can both hold up the same Bible and claim with 100% accuracy this is where their doctrine lies.

Without some means to determine what is or is not the "correct" interpretation claiming doctrine is defined in the scriptures is not at all helpful. So to make a long story short what does it matter what the biblical Hebrew says? So what if it so happens a local/global flood are equally supported by biblical scholarship? When it comes to defining what is doctrine what is important is what the apostles/prophets teach scripture means. At least this is my understanding of how LDS doctrine is determined.

2 Peter 1:20:

"But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one

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But this presupposes that the account is a Mosaic autograph. The account has clearly been redacted and I don't think Mosaic authorship is particularly evident.

Hi Maklelan,

In the end how is this important in determining what LDS doctorine is? (I am sincerely asking) Suppose Moses did not in fact write Moses chapter one. Should/would this change LDS doctrine? i.e.(how the Book of Moses is interpreted) What role should modern scholarship play in determining how scripture is interpreted in the LDS church? Does modern scholarship trump prophetic interpretation or is it the other way around?

All the Best,

Uncertain

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The word all, is in Hebrew the word Kol what mean whole and everything. No exception. The meaning of the Lord with the flood in Gen 6 is that the Lord start again.

But some parts of the Hebrew Bible may indicate ??? can be used rhetorically. In Ruth 1:19, for instance, when Naomi returns to Bethlehem the texts says "the whole town (???????) was stirred up because of them, and they said (???????), 'Is this Naomi?'" The interesting part is that the verb for "and they said" is third feminine plural (???????). There's no indication of any subject change. Is "the whole town" exclusively feminine, or does "the whole town" really just mean all the women in the town? Something to consider.

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Hi Maklelan,

In the end how is this important in determining what LDS doctorine is? (I am sincerely asking) Suppose Moses did not in fact write Moses chapter one. Should/would this change LDS doctrine? i.e.(how the Book of Moses is interpreted) What role should modern scholarship play in determining how scripture is interpreted in the LDS church? Does modern scholarship trump prophetic interpretation or is it the other way around?

All the Best,

Uncertain

I think maklelan is answering the question on purely philological grounds.

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Hi Maklelan,

In the end how is this important in determining what LDS doctorine is? (I am sincerely asking) Suppose Moses did not in fact write Moses chapter one. Should/would this change LDS doctrine? i.e.(how the Book of Moses is interpreted) What role should modern scholarship play in determining how scripture is interpreted in the LDS church? Does modern scholarship trump prophetic interpretation or is it the other way around?

All the Best,

Uncertain

Prophetic interpretation should take precedence, but does "prophetic interpretation" mean the interpretation of a prophet, or an interpretation through prophecy/revelation? I don't believe any prophet has ever declared the global interpretation to have been confirmed by revelation.

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Prophetic interpretation should take precedence, but does "prophetic interpretation" mean the interpretation of a prophet, or an interpretation through prophecy/revelation? I don't believe any prophet has ever declared the global interpretation to have been confirmed by revelation.

Maybe so does this same standard hold true for all LDS doctrines? For example as far as I know it has never been explicitly stated that the interpretation of scripture that leads to the doctrine of complete immersion was confirmed by revelation. For that matter has it been explicitly stated that the current interpretation of the WOW was confirmed by revelation? Are we therefore free to regard the WOW and baptism by immersion as non doctrinal? In fact it is hard for me to think offhand of any scriptural interpretation in which the prophets have implicitly stated their interpretation was confirmed by revelation.

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I'm thinking of the French, tout le mond, "All the world," when what is meant is everybody in the room.

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How was the Grand Canyon formed? Do you know?

The Grand Canyon was formed by erosion over millions of years. I realize this argument works best if:

1. you accept that the Earth is millions of years old (4.5 billion years old last time I checked my watch...)

2. you accept the principle of erosion

3. you're not easily distracted by creationist misuse of the term 'uniformitarianism'

4. you don't have a rigid view of Bible stories, otherwise you'd also have to believe in unicorns, giants, a guy who lived for 3 days in the belly of a fish, or Israelites being issued manna from heaven 6 days of the week for many years, or God personally causing all languages in the world to come about because of a Middle Eastern construction project, or a whole bunch of other stories all based on the notion that God _made it happen_. Odd that this same God who goes out of His way to do all those things doesn't seem to give a fig about millions of people who starve to death every year or die of preventable pathogenic illnesses...

5. you willfully reject the teachings of Latter-day prophets who taught that the doctrine that the Earth was baptized by total immersion. Just say "they were speaking as men" and that makes it all better (much the same way putting a Hello Kitty band-aid on a child's boo-boo takes all the pain away...)(I've personally seen that last one...)

6. you tend to find naturalistic ways of explaining the empirical world before asserting that God did it.

7. a host of other rational reasons which are grounded in the empirical, scientific world.

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Maybe so does this same standard hold true for all LDS doctrines? For example as far as I know it has never been explicitly stated that the interpretation of scripture that leads to the doctrine of complete immersion was confirmed by revelation.

D&C 20:74 pretty clearly does that.

For that matter has it been explicitly stated that the current interpretation of the WOW was confirmed by revelation? Are we therefore free to regard the WOW and baptism by immersion as non doctrinal?

The Word of Wisdom is an obligation of membership, not a doctrine.

In fact it is hard for me to think offhand of any scriptural interpretation in which the prophets have implicitly stated their interpretation was confirmed by revelation.

Interpretations of scripture are found frequently in the standard works.

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unicorns

Not a problem. Since Unicorn is a translation issue. Now if you'd have said Saytr you might have a point.

giants,

We have Giants to this very day. Look at Shak of LA.

guy who lived for 3 days in the belly of a fish,

No problem here. Unless you think Hell is in a Belly of a Fish. He jumped into the ocean. Was eaten by a large Sea creature. Began disolving in the sulfuric acids of its stomach. Dead and went to hell. Were he prayed to God, and God... had the fish spit him out and he was brought back to life. Miraculous yes. Impossible, Maybe.

or Israelites being issued manna from heaven 6 days of the week for many years, or God personally causing all languages in the world to come about because of a Middle Eastern construction project, or a whole bunch of other stories all based on the notion that God _made it happen_. Odd that this same God who goes out of His way to do all those things doesn't seem to give a fig about millions of people who starve to death every year or die of preventable pathogenic illnesses...

And yet he cares so little about the hungry, that that is one of the greatest Commandments and concerns he gives to the beleivers. Why are you blaming Mans failings on God?

  1. James 1: 27 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

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