Was There an Earthwide Flood?
THE Bible book of Genesis says that God used an earthwide flood to destroy the wicked people in Noah’s day. Some persons, however, have assumed that the Biblical account is exaggerated. They think it may refer to a local flood of unparalleled magnitude that likely occurred in the Mesopotamian valley. But they believe that the Bible overstates matters when it says that all humans on earth except Noah and his family died.
Yet the Bible is specific as to the Flood’s being global. There is nothing in its record to limit the Flood to a particular area. Neither is there any indication that others besides Noah and his family survived.
Explaining the universal magnitude of the Flood, the Bible says: “The waters overwhelmed the earth so greatly that all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens came to be covered. Up to fifteen cubits the waters overwhelmed them and the mountains became covered.” (Gen. 7:19, 20) And, recording the effect upon all life, the account continues: “Thus [God] wiped out every existing thing that was on the surface of the ground, from man to beast, to moving animal and to flying creature of the heavens, and they were wiped off the earth; and only Noah and those who were with him in the ark kept on surviving.”—Gen. 7:23.
Is there reliable evidence that a deluge of such tremendous magnitude actually occurred? From where could so much water have come? Where did it go? Does the earth itself bear evidence that it was inundated with waters that overwhelmed all land areas?
SOURCE OF THE WATERS
Obviously the source of the floodwaters was not the moisture that is ordinarily found in the atmosphere today. For it has been estimated that if all the atmospheric water were suddenly released as rain, it would cover the earth’s surface only to an average depth of less than two inches. There must be another explanation, then, for all this water, and the Bible gives it.
In its brief account of creation the Bible says regarding the forming of earth’s atmosphere: “And God went on to say: ‘Let an expanse come to be in between the waters and let a dividing occur between the waters and the waters.’ Then God proceeded to make the expanse and to make a division between the waters that should be beneath the expanse and the waters that should be above the expanse.”—Gen. 1:6, 7.
The waters “beneath” the atmospheric “expanse” were the waters on the surface of the earth. Whereas, “the waters . . . above the expanse” were vast quantities of moisture suspended high above the earth, evidently in the form of a heavy vapor. These waters surrounded our earth in its earlier history.
Regarding the possibility of the existence of such suspended waters, the book The Genesis Flood (1961), by John C. Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry M. Morris, observes:
“The region above about 80 miles is very hot, over 100° F and possibly rising to 3000° F, and is in fact called the thermosphere for this reason. High temperature, of course, is the chief requisite for retaining a large quantity of water vapor. Furthermore, it is known that water vapor is substantially lighter than air and most of the other gases making up the atmosphere. There is thus nothing physically impossible about the concept of a vast thermal vapor blanket once existing in the upper atmosphere.”
However, the exact height and the way in which the waters were held above the earth cannot be known by us with certainty. But we do know that it was to these suspended waters that the Christian apostle Peter referred when writing under God’s inspiration about the Noachian flood. He explains that there was “an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water,” and that “by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.”—2 Pet. 3:5, 6.
The earth in the pre-Flood days was “out of water” in the sense that the ground on which men lived and walked stood above the waters of the seas and rivers. Yet, it was “in the midst of water,” since a vast quantity of it surrounded the earth, suspended far above its surface.
“But,” a person might observe, “such a canopy of water suspended above the earth would greatly affect earth’s climate.”
Indeed it would! The light and heat rays from the sun would be diffused by the vapor canopy, while this vast canopy would prevent heat from escaping. Such a “greenhouse effect” would thus produce a milder, more uniform climate earth wide. Biologist Harold K. Blum explained this effect of water vapor upon climate, saying:
“Just as the warm glass of the greenhouse tends to raise the temperature of the interior, the water vapor tends to raise that of the earth’s surface below it. This surface, or any object on it, is constantly exchanging radiation with the water vapor in the atmosphere, so the temperature of the surface is closely dependent upon the amount and temperature of this vapor.”
That earth’s climate was uniformly warm at one time is commonly recognized. In an article concerning dinosaurs, Scientific Monthly of August 1949 observed:
“In those days the earth had a tropical or sub-tropical climate over much of its land surface, and in the widespread tropical lands there was an abundance of lush vegetation. The land was low and there were no high mountains forming physical or climatic barriers.”
Of the now-frigid Antarctic continent the French magazine Science et Vie, in its July 1966 issue, said:
“This inhuman land, this desert of ice, was once a green land where streams flowed among flowers, where birds sang in the trees.”
According to this source, at least sixty-one kinds of plants then grew in Antarctica.
How consistent, therefore, is the Bible’s explanation that there was a suspended mass of water above the earth in man’s early history! This water vapor would have created the uniformly warm climate that is known to have once existed earth wide. And it was the unleashing of this tremendous reservoir of water, and not simply a severe rainfall, that caused the global deluge. Note how the Bible shows this in its description of the Flood:
“All the springs of the vast watery deep were broken open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And the downpour upon the earth went on for forty days and forty nights.”—Gen. 7:11, 12.
EFFECT UPON THE EARTH
What tremendous changes occurred in earth’s surface with the fall of this vast canopy of water! This immense weight of water apparently caused a shifting and buckling of earth’s relatively thin crust. Thus, new mountains were thrust upward, old mountains rose to new heights, shallow sea basins were deepened and new shorelines were established.
And, too, the sudden fall of this canopy and the tremendous upheavals of earth would create great waves of rushing water—accomplishing in a matter of days what many scientists believe took millenniums of time to occur by slow processes of erosion. Mighty torrents of water carved out deep valleys and huge canyons. Monstrous boulders were smashed together and moved great distances from their native setting, like so many pebbles.
Think of the great destruction of animal life this would cause. Then consider this report by Byron C. Nelson in his book The Deluge Story in Stone:
“The way fishes by the millions are entombed in the rocks of England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Switzerland, the American Rockies; the way elephants and rhinoceroses are buried by the millions in Alaska, Siberia, England, Italy, Greece; the way hippopotami are buried by the thousands in Sicily; the way reptiles are buried by the millions in western Canada, the United States, South America, Africa, Australia, to mention only a portion of such instances, absolutely require the explanation of great catastrophes for their elucidation.”
In this connection, William J. Miller, Emeritus Professor of Geology at the University of California at Los Angeles, notes in An Introduction to Historical Geology (1952): “Comparatively few remains of organisms now inhabiting the earth are being deposited under conditions favorable for their preservation as fossils. . . . It is, nevertheless, remarkable that so vast a number of fossils are embedded in the rocks.” A catastrophe such as the Noachian flood could account for this.
Around the Arctic Ocean there is a great swath of permanently frozen land, the greater part of which is covered with a frozen muck composed of sand, silt and earth. In an article entitled “Riddle of the Frozen Giants,” The Saturday Evening Post of January 16, 1960, observes:
“The list of animals that have been thawed out of this mess would cover several pages. . . . They are all in the muck. These facts indicated water as the agency which engulfed the creatures. . . . many of these animals were perfectly fresh, whole and undamaged, and still either standing or at least kneeling upright. . . .
“Here is a really shocking—to our previous way of thinking—picture. Vast herds of enormous, well-fed beasts not specifically designed for extreme cold, placidly feeding in sunny pastures, delicately plucking flowering buttercups at a temperature in which we would probably not even have needed a coat. Suddenly they were all killed without any visible sign of violence and before they could so much as swallow a last mouthful of food, and then were quick-frozen so rapidly that every cell of their bodies is perfectly preserved, despite their great bulk and their high temperature. What, we may well ask, could possibly do this?”
The logical answer is that it came with the rapid change that occurred at the time of the Flood. With the removal of the insulating watery canopy, the polar regions were suddenly plunged into a deep freeze, trapping animals that then lived far north of their present habitat. The proof that this was a sudden event, and not something that occurred over a long period of time, is the fact that even the green grass they were eating was quickly deepfrozen in their mouths and stomachs, where it has been discovered in modern times. How consistent this evidence is with what the Bible says about the Noachian flood!
WHERE DID THE WATER GO?
But some persons, nevertheless, question the accuracy of the Bible’s account of an earthwide flood. They cannot understand where all the water from such a flood could have gone. When they contemplate waters covering “all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens,” they think of the more than five-mile-high Himalayan peaks.
However, there is no reason to believe that the pre-Flood mountains had to be nearly as high as that. You may recall that the Scientific Monthly magazine suggested that in earth’s earlier days “there were no high mountains forming physical or climatic barriers.” It was apparently the tremendous weight of the Flood waters that pushed mountain peaks to their high levels and produced more than six-mile-deep valleys in the ocean floor.
Then, too, in pre-Flood times there may have been considerably less of the earth’s surface covered by water. Regarding this the book The Genesis Flood observes:
“In the past decade have been discovered great numbers of ‘seamounts,’ which are nothing but drowned islands out in the middle of the ocean. These are flat-topped, and therefore non-volcanic in formation, and are now in many cases more than 1,000 fathoms below the surface. Yet they give abundant evidence of having once been above the surface.”
Thus, there is ample evidence for accepting the Bible’s account of the Flood as true. There is a logical and Scriptural explanation for the source of the Flood waters, as well as for where the waters went afterward. And such a global catastrophe provides a satisfying explanation for such an intriguing phenomenon as the millions of fishes entombed at the top of mountain ranges.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU
But the Christian’s reason for believing that the Flood occurred does not depend upon geological or scientific evidence. He accepts it because this account is part of the inspired Word of God, and because Jesus Christ and his disciples cited it as a warning example for us.—2 Tim. 3:16; Luke 17:26.
The apostle Peter wrote that willingly, “according to their wish,” the fact of this Flood escapes the notice of many persons. Therefore they do not realize that “the heavens and the earth that are now” are being reserved for a similar “day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.”—2 Pet. 3:5-7.
Under divine inspiration Peter added: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which the heavens being on fire will be dissolved and the elements being intensely hot will melt!” Peter showed that persons who want to serve God can have a hope like the one Noah had—that of surviving the end of a wicked system. Furthermore, we can have the hope of thereafter entering into a righteous new system of God’s making.—2 Pet. 3:11-13.
So heed the warning that Jesus gave with regard to the Biblical flood and our day. Conform to God’s requirements. Keep close in mind that we are living in a day in which, according to God’s Word, a wicked system is to be destroyed. By receiving God’s protection you can survive the end of this system, as Noah survived the end of the wicked system of things in his day.