BC Volume 2 (1996)
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The Biblical Chronologist Volume 2, Number 1
The Route of the Exodus
Scholars have puzzled over the route of the Exodus for quite a few centuries. Today one can find a selection of theories regarding it in most standard Bible encyclopedias. See Figure 1 of the previous issue for a visual representation of some of these theories. Scholars' inability to determine the true route of the Exodus was understandable a generation ago---it is inexcusable today.
A generation ago, scholars had only the Biblical text and the geography of the Sinai peninsula to go on. This was simply too little information to uniquely determine the actual route the Israelites took from Egypt to Palestine. In the last several decades, however, the situation has changed entirely. The Biblical and geographical data has now been strongly supplemented with data from the field of Biblical archaeology. In particular, extensive surface surveys have been carried out in the Sinai peninsula. The nature of the resultant archaeological data is such that the encampments made by the Israelites at the time of the Exodus cannot help but be exposed by them.
Unfortunately, modern conservative scholars have largely eschewed the Biblical archaeological data bearing on this question. This approach to the problem has been dictated by necessity, however, not preference. It has been a necessity because the Biblical chronological framework which these scholars have assumed misdates the Exodus by a full millennium. This gross chronological error prohibits any meaningful alignment of any of the Biblical narrative prior to the time of Eli and Samuel with any significant Biblical archaeology datum. As a result scholars have been unable to make any sense of the archaeological data, and they have generally opted simply to ignore them.
Since the problem which gave rise to this erroneous Biblical chronology has been discovered and mended, it is no longer necessary to labor under this handicap. It is now possible, for the first time, to bring the data of archaeology to bear on this problem. The present article introduces a number of the exciting discoveries which result when this is done.
This article is not everywhere as easy to follow as I would have liked. I have been forced by space constraints to abridge the discussion at a number of points. You can compensate for this to a large extent by taking the time to read through the Bible references provided in the article, and by thoroughly digesting its two figures. The extreme importance of the present discoveries cannot be overstated; I think you will find whatever effort you expend to thoroughly understand this matter to be well worth your while.
In the previous issue I introduced a paper by Eliezer Oren and Yuval Yekutieli describing sites located by Oren through surface surveys conducted in the Sinai peninsula between 1972 and 1982. I showed that the pottery from these sites completely satisfies our expectations, based on the new Biblical chronology, of the Israelite encampments at the time of the Exodus. I suggested, on this basis alone, that these sites should, in fact, be recognized as the modern-day remains of those ancient encampments.
In the present article I resume this discussion of the Oren and Yekutieli sites, bringing additional evidence forward to show that what Oren and Yekutieli have found, in fact, are the first three encampments which the Israelites made after leaving Egypt. I begin with a brief look at more of the archaeology of these sites, and then turn to a detailed discussion of their placement on a map of the Sinai peninsula relative to the Biblical information regarding the early route of the Exodus. ...
Biblical Chronology 101
The cover of the December 18, 1995 issue of Time magazine featured the question, "Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?" That the magazine would certainly not answer this question with an unequivocal yes was foreshadowed by the cover's byline which read, "Archaeologists in the Holy Land are shedding new light on what did---and didn't---occur in the greatest stories ever told".
Inside the magazine, on pages 62 through 69, was an article by Michael D. Lemonick bearing the title, "Are the Bible's Stories True?" I would like us to take a critical look at this article in this class session. It exposes much of the nature of the times in which we live, the urgency of the present hour in the defense of true Christianity, and the pivotal role of Biblical chronology in it all. ...
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The Biblical Chronologist Volume 2, Number 2
The Chronology of Egypt in Relation to the Bible: 3000--1000 B.C.
The following article synchronizes two independent chronologies: one derived from the Bible, the other derived from the secular history of Egypt. This synchronization lays a scientifically sound chronological foundation for all studies---Biblical, historical, archaeological, geophysical, climatological, etc.---dealing with Egypt in the second and third millennia B.C.
The span of time covered here---two millennia---is comparable in length to that which extends from our present experience back to before the time of Christ. The synchronization of these two ancient chronologies over such a long span of time is a major milestone in the field of chronology building.
The proper synchronization of these two chronologies has only become possible in the last decade. Prior to that time both chronologies were sufficiently in error to preclude any meaningful alignment. The most serious problem was with traditional Biblical chronology. The major breakthrough came in 1990 with the realization that traditional Biblical chronology was missing a full millennium just prior to 1000 B.C.
The historical chronology of Egypt was also found to be missing a chunk of time. In 1987 Haas et al. reported that radiocarbon dates on samples taken from Old Kingdom monuments were some three centuries older than the historically derived chronology of Egypt predicted. This immediately implied that some 300 years had been left out of the chronology of Egypt by the Egyptologists somewhere during the First Intermediate Period. Such an error during this period is not too surprising. The First Intermediate Period is not only very remote, it is also a time of turmoil in the history of Egypt, and little by way of chronological record has survived from it.
With such large errors present in both traditional Biblical chronology and the modern historical chronology of Egypt, synchronization of the two was impossible. Indeed, they seemed to be telling entirely different, contradictory stories about history. But when the chronological errors were mended, the contradictions disappeared, and a beautiful harmony emerged. ...
Biblical Chronology 101
In the lead article of the November/December 1995 issue of The Biblical Chronologist I proposed a new location for the Biblical Mount Sinai. While I was preparing that article a subscriber kindly sent me a copy of the book The Mount Sinai Myth and asked for my critique of it. Subsequently another subscriber wrote with a similar request. I am supposing that many other subscribers have seen or heard of this book---it is currently being actively promoted by its author, Larry Williams---and would appreciate a scholarly critique of it.
Larry Williams has proposed that the Biblical Mount Sinai should be identified with Jabal al Laws, a mountain in Saudi Arabia (Figure 2). In an effort to acquire evidence to substantiate this idea he and his "cop turned businessman" buddy, Bob Cornuke, have made several Indiana Jones style forays into Saudi Arabia. The Mount Sinai Myth sets forth their case and recounts their various adventures in Saudi Arabia.
To the casual observer Williams' thesis may seem to gather immediate momentum from Galatians 4:25 which mentions "Mount Sinai in Arabia." But a little study soon shows that Arabia, in New Testament times, included the Sinai Peninsula (where the traditional site of Mount Sinai is located) and the Negev of Israel (where I have suggested Mount Sinai is really located). (You can easily verify this using a Bible atlas or maps of the Mediterranean regions at the time of Paul found in many Bibles.) Significantly, Williams does not attempt to launch his thesis using Galatians 4:25.
I met Larry Williams at a seminar he gave to the staff and faculty of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, California back (as I recall) in the late 1980s. Larry is quite open about the fact that he is a businessman, not a scholar. ("We are not scholars, nor are we attempting to make any representation that we are." [Larry R. Williams, The Mount Sinai Myth (New York: Wynwood Press, 1990), 24.])
I have no doubt that Williams and Cornuke had lofty motivations for the activities they describe in their book. Nonetheless, the Indiana Jones approach to archaeology which they chose to follow cannot be applauded. This approach may make for good adventure stories, but it makes for exceedingly poor archaeological scholarship and raises a number of disturbing ethical issues as well.
I will not dwell on any of this, but it does seem important to point out that amateurs can destroy more evidence of greater value than they are likely to ever find by grubbing about freely in ancient archaeological sites. That is why Williams and Cornuke found the ancient sites at Jabal al Lawz and its environs to be surrounded by high chain link fences topped with barbed wire. Saudi Arabia obviously regards its archaeological sites as a priceless, irreplaceable heirloom, as every modern nation does, and wishes to keep amateurs and the general public from unwittingly destroying the precious information they contain.
But let us move on to the factual evidence bearing on the identification of Jabal al Lawz with Mount Sinai. ...
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The Biblical Chronologist Volume 2, Number 3
Wood's Jericho Tumbles
The beleaguered and aging conservative Biblical archaeology regiment had been fighting a loosing battle to hold the line for Biblical historicity for decades. All would-be champions had so far failed, but Bryant G. Wood, a relatively young man and new recruit, had been polishing his weapons for several years and was eager to have a go at it. He felt he knew how to save the day---how to recapture Jericho.
They had lost Jericho, the coveted high ground, a quarter of a century previously. Though originally seized for them in the late thirties through the exploits of British archaeologist John Garstang, their glory and seeming security on the mound had been short-lived. In a stunning turn of events they had been utterly routed from Jericho by further excavations there by British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon in the fifties.
Since then, very much on the defensive, they had struggled to hold the line from their trenches and foxholes off the mound. But attrition was slowly doing them in. The situation was clearly desperate when ... enter archaeologist Bryant G. Wood.
Yes, and also enter---stumbling into no-man's-land from off to the side somewhere; relatively oblivious (like most conservative Christians) of the modern battle over Jericho; surprised to find shots being fired at him from both sides---chronologist Gerald E. Aardsma.
In the March/April 1990 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review conservative Biblical archaeologist Bryant G. Wood argued for a redating of the destruction of the so-called "City IV" at Jericho. The consensus of modern scholarship dated this destruction to ca. 1550 B.C., but Wood shrugged the consensus aside. Wood's desire was to bring this destruction into temporal coincidence with the Biblical account of the destruction of Jericho by Joshua at the traditional Biblical date of the Conquest of ca. 1400 B.C. (Figure 2).
Wood was trying to solve a serious problem in his bid to redate this destruction of Jericho. He described the problem thus:
Kenyon concluded that her field work confirmed her earlier review of Garstang's work. ... The destruction of Garstang's City IV, which he had dated to about 1400 B.C.E., occurred, according to Kenyon, at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, about 1550 B.C.E.
In short, there was no strongly fortified Late Bronze Age city at Jericho for Joshua to conquer. The archaeological evidence conflicted with the Biblical account---indeed, disproved it.
Wood argued that Kenyon had misdated the City IV destruction and that Garstang had been right all along. He claimed that detailed excavation reports, which had only recently become available, subsequent to Kenyon's death, showed that her date for the final destruction of City IV Jericho was flawed. He argued that: a reanalysis of pottery shards excavated from City IV; stratigraphic considerations; scarab evidence; and a single radiocarbon date all converged "to demonstrate that City IV was destroyed in about 1400 B.C.E., not 1550 B.C.E. as Kenyon maintained".
As I recall, Wood's claims found their way into the popular press. They occasioned considerable rejoicing and shouts of victory in some conservative sectors.
But Wood's fellow-archaeologists were not impressed. In a subsequent issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Piotr Bienkowski attacked Wood's arguments and then summarized his assessment of Wood's claim as follows:
Wood has attempted to redate the destruction of Jericho City IV from the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.) to the end of the Late Bronze I (c. 1400 B.C.). He has put forward four lines of argument to support this conclusion. Not a single one of these arguments can stand up to scrutiny. On the contrary, there is strong evidence to confirm Kathleen Kenyon's dating of City IV to the Middle Bronze Age. Wood's attempt to equate the destruction of City IV with the Israelite conquest of Jericho must therefore be rejected.
Wood responded to Bienkowski in the same issue with a more detailed discussion of pottery shards. He charged:
Bienkowski's attempt to explain away the evidence for lowering the date of the destruction of Jericho is misguided and void of substance. Assertions made without data to back them up are unconvincing. His discussion is superficial, at best, lacking both depth and precision.
And so the battle raged in 1990. ...
Is Imhotep Joseph?
It would certainly be fascinating to be able to identify Joseph in Egyptian historical sources; his high position in Egypt gives one high hopes of being able to do so.
I have previously broached the possibility that the Biblical "Joseph" may be the same as the vizier of king Djoser called "Imhotep" in Egyptian sources. But, as I have previously pointed out, this identification is complicated by secular chronological uncertainties so that it must be regarded as a tentative possibility only.
Dr. David Noel Freedman has also expressed the need for caution in identifying Imhotep with Joseph. After reviewing an early manuscript of mine containing this tentative suggestion he wrote to me in a personal letter dated December 2, 1991 as follows:
While there may well be parallel features in the careers and life-stories of the two men, it would be very risky to identify them. Analogies are one thing, equations are another. There is no hint anywhere that Imhotep was anything but a real Egyptian, which is exactly what Joseph was not. And Joseph's Egyptian name [Zaphenath-paneah (Genesis 41:45)] is totally different [from Imhotep], in fact a name that doesn't find any similarities in Egyptian onomastica before the Saite period [ca. 675--525 B.C.], I believe.
There is clearly reason for caution. ...
Biblical Chronology 101
(How is one to know whose reconstruction of history to believe? How can the truth about history be separated from the many "pseudo-harmonizations" which have been advanced? The key is shown to be chronology, and the important methodological "Rule #1" is presented.)
I have spent several decades working on the problem of the proper harmonization of Biblical and secular accounts of earth history. In the course of my labors I have had occasion to acquaint myself with a fairly large number of schemes and theories for how this should be done which other individuals have suggested. Some of these schemes are grand theories of everything. They purport to tell the whole story from Genesis 1:1 onward. Others are much more limited in scope, dealing, for example, with just the Exodus from Egypt, or just the Flood. But all are involved in the same basic problem of trying to synthesize Biblical and extra-Biblical data.
You have probably encountered some of these harmonization schemes yourself. You are, no doubt, aware of some of the different emphases which characterize their proponents. There are secularists and Biblicists, creationists and evolutionists, old-earthers and young-earthers, global-Flooders and local-Flooders, catastrophists and uniformitarians, and so on. From Velikovsky to Stiebing to Sagan to Ross to (most recently) Rohl to Morris to Dever to Custance to Courville to Bimson to (yes, even) Aardsma to many others, each has a different story to tell about the history of the earth, in part or in its entirety.
The difficulty, of course, is in trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong. When one reads these different authors one finds that each seems able to bolster their particular story with at least some convincing factual evidence from history. Yet no two tell the same story.
Since history actually only happened in one way, only one of these authors, at best, can be correct. The theories and stories which the others have to tell, no matter how convincing they may each individually seem, must be "pseudo-harmonizations"---stories about what happened in history which do not correspond to what actually took place.
How can one tell pseudo-harmonizations from the truth?
A major portion of the answer to this question can be found by first answering another question---why do so many, individually persuasive, pseudo-harmonizations exist? ...
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The Biblical Chronologist Volume 2, Number 4
Chronology of the Bible: 5000--3000 B.C.
I have previously published a time chart of Biblical chronology in the period from 3000 to 1000 B.C. That period covers the Biblical historical narrative from the birth of Jacob to the reign of David. The following article extends the Biblical time chart into the preceding two millennia. It covers the period from the birth of Seth, Adam's son, to Jacob.
While Biblical history immediately prior to Solomon is being hotly debated by Biblical archaeologists at present, Biblical history before Abraham is seldom even mentioned these days. As best I can determine, liberal Bible scholars regard the Biblical narrative of this remote era as high mythology, and conservative Bible scholars are at a loss to know what to say about it.
There are several reasons for this unhappy situation. First, and most importantly, in the millennium immediately prior to 1000 B.C. Biblical historicity appears to modern Bible scholars to be visibly crumbling with every turn of the archaeologists' spades these days. They do not understand that this crumbling is apparent only---that the mismatch between what one reads in the Bible and what the archaeologists have been finding is caused by a missing millennium in traditional Biblical chronology just prior to 1000 B.C. And since Biblical historicity appears to most scholars to be taking such a beating in the millennium prior to 1000 B.C., it is understandably difficult for them to maintain confidence in Biblical historicity at 4000 B.C.
Second, this portion of Old Testament history is almost entirely dependent upon the very succinct first eleven chapters of Genesis. These move through history at a very rapid pace, providing few potential points of contact with secular data. This has fostered an isolation of this portion of Bible history from secular studies, and a feeling that it is somehow not really attached to the real world.
Third, the miraculous nature of the Creation account does not naturally lend itself to scientific investigation, and the scientific enterprise at present is so strongly steeped in naturalism that few are able to think in any other terms.
Fourth, the failure of Bible scholars to identify Noah's Flood and the Tower of Babel with any actual physical remains either from archaeology or geophysics has further contributed to the view that this portion of Biblical history is simply not right or not real.
Fifth, and finally, the extreme longevity credited to Biblical individuals in this period seems preposterous and innately mythological to some. This deduction, though widespread, is rather curious. Science is certainly unable to rule out the possibility of greater life spans in the past. Decades of research on the question of why humans age has still yielded no definitive result. (See, for example, Ricki L. Rusting, "Why Do We Age?" Scientific American (December 1992): 130--141.) And some researchers involved in the quest to understand the causes of aging are openly envisioning a time in the near future when life spans will be greatly increased as a result of advances in their field. These researchers obviously do not find the idea of greater life spans an intrinsically impossible or ridiculous one. ...
Biblical Chronology 101
In the September 1993 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology Professor Muller-Hill of the Institute fur Genetik der Universtat
zu Koln in Germany observed:
In science and elsewhere there are two types of truth: (1) The truth everybody already knows, and (2) the truth that is not yet discovered. Most persons deal in science, as elsewhere, with the first type of truth. Most scientists just analyze another homologous system, and thus simply produce more of the same. The second type of truth is different. At first it looks too bizarre to be true, and it may be as dangerous as fire. If you are not clever it may destroy you.
As you know, I have been grappling with a bit of the second type of truth for the past several years. You have been patiently hearing me out as I have attempted, first in my book, A New Approach to the Chronology of Old Testament History from Abraham to Samuel, and then in this publication, to explain and defend this new discovery of a missing digit in 1 Kings 6:1. I feel I owe you some account of its reception to the present time, and it is principally the fulfillment of this obligation which I am seeking to satisfy by the present unusual article.
While it is easy in one sense to fulfill this obligation, in another sense it is extremely difficult. Rather than trying to explain why this is, I will attempt to fulfill my obligation through a historical analogy. I hope, by this means, to convey to you as accurately and fully as possible where things presently stand and why.
Toward the latter part of the first decade of the seventeenth century after Christ, a professor of mathematics in his mid-forties, Galileo Galilei, learned about a newly invented instrument which was said to make distant objects look much closer. It was a spyglass, a first primitive telescope, the earliest forms of which were not too effective, with a magnification of only three or four. Galileo quickly built his own spyglass and proceeded to make improvements on its design until he had produced a twenty-powered spyglass. He soon used this to view the moon---and he was immediately thrown into a great conflict with the wisdom of his day, and, indeed, with age-old wisdom, by what he saw. ...
Research in Progress
Noah's Flood: A Global Cataclysm?
In 1961 theologian John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and engineer Henry M. Morris claimed Noah's Flood "was a gigantic catastrophe, beside which the explosion of the largest hydrogen bomb, or of hundreds of such bombs, becomes insignificant!" They argued that the Biblical text and the book of nature clearly portrayed this historic event as a cataclysm---a great overwhelming geologic upheaval. They pictured the Flood as accompanied by great tectonic events, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tidal waves which together wreaked unimaginable havoc upon the face of the globe world-wide. They claimed it produced most of the layers of sedimentary rock strata which are found around the world, some of which are over a mile deep.
Many Christians today have accepted this conception of the Flood. Indeed, the entire so-called creation/science movement is built around it. But is this understanding of the Flood correct? Was Noah's Flood a global cataclysm? ...
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The Biblical Chronologist Volume 2, Number 5
"Pharaohs and Kings" A Biblical Quest?"
A new book about the chronology of the ancient world in relation to the Bible has recently appeared on the market. Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest is a well illustrated volume of 425 pages. It is not intended as a scholarly volume; its author, David Rohl, tells us plainly that it is "intended as a `popular book' ".
The publisher has obviously aimed to capture a large number of conservative Christian sales. The thesis of the book---a major revision of ancient chronology---is presented to the lay public as a new discovery which proves the Bible is true in the face of scholarly skepticism. Unfortunately, having examined the book over the course of several months, I find that it does no such thing, and that the perspective of the book is not conservative Christian.
The front flap of the dust cover of the book states,
Ever since excavations in the Lands of the Bible began at the beginning of the last century, biblical scholars have systematically stripped out elements of the narratives---the stories of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, and Solomon---and consigned them to the realms of myth and folklore.
This is true enough. I hope you understand by now why the scholars who have done so are wrong. (If you don't, please read my book and the previous issues of this publication.) The flap goes on to inform us that the author of Pharaohs and Kings has made a new discovery which "reveals the true historical setting of the biblical epics".
The wording here is rather ambiguous. To the conservative Christian, who believes the Bible is simply, historically true, it seems to say that the author will show that the Old Testament historical narratives are true, in contradiction to the skeptical scholar. But please note that this wording is equally acceptable to the liberal. The liberal believes the Bible contains some kernel of historical truth, but that it is all encrusted about with myth and unreliable tradition. To the liberal the phrase, "the true historical setting", is a reference not to Biblical historicity, but to the kernel of truth for which he endlessly searches. And "the biblical epics" are not the moving, majestic, true stories from the past which God has preserved for our instruction in the Bible, but rather the supposed semi-mythological tales about the past found in the Old Testament.
Such wording offers clear marketing advantages ---nobody gets offended, and everybody buys a copy. However, it also creates some confusion regarding the book's true perspective and purpose.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to shrug this off as a mere marketing technique on the part of the publisher. When we open the volume and begin to read inside, we discover the author using the same basic come-on and exhibiting the same duplicity of viewpoints.
Rohl brings what is certainly the key issue today to the forefront in the second sentence of his introduction. He asks:
Simply put, is the early Old Testament real history or just legend?
This question is phrased the way a conservative Christian would ask it. ...
More on Imhotep
In the Volume 2, Number 3 issue of The Biblical Chronologist I published two letters from readers dealing with the matter of whether the Egyptian vizier named Imhotep might be the same person as the Biblical Joseph. The first letter was from Mrs. Beverly Neises. She listed several apparent difficulties with the identification. She noted that Egyptian historical sources record that Imhotep's father was an architect, which Jacob was not, and that Imhotep constructed sanctuaries of stone for the pagan gods of Egypt, which she felt was inconsistent with the character of Joseph which is revealed in the Bible. The second letter was from Mr. Thomas Godfrey in support of the identification. He pointed out a striking phonetic similarity between the Egyptian name, Imhotep, and the Hebrew name, Joseph.
Mr. Godfrey wrote me with a number of comments on Mrs. Neises' letter, after reading it in the Volume 2, Number 3 issue. I forwarded his letter, with his permission, to Mrs. Neises for her further comments. Both letters are published below.
The principal limitation which emerges from the two letters is that the Egyptian historical sources which tell us about Imhotep and his parentage date very much later than when Imhotep actually lived. The monument on which the claim that Imhotep's father was an architect is found was built nearly two and a half thousand years after the time of Imhotep, for example. This raises obvious concerns regarding the historical accuracy of this inscription.
The two letters raise many other interesting points as well, so I have chosen to publish them below in only slightly abridged form. ...
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The Biblical Chronologist Volume 2, Number 6
Noah's Flood at Elk Lake
Was Noah's Flood global or local?
Two issues ago I introduced some remarkable sedimentary data from Elk Lake in Minnesota and applied it to a different question. I asked, "Was Noah's Flood a global cataclysm?" By "cataclysm" is meant an overwhelming geological upheaval in which the entire surface of the earth is torn apart in great tectonic convulsions. I showed that the Elk Lake data combine with Biblical chronology data to answer this question with a definitive no.
This issue it is not the geological potency of the Flood (i.e., was the Flood cataclysmic or tranquil) which is in question. Rather, it is the geographical extent of the Flood (i.e., was the Flood global or local) I wish to probe. This latter question was, in fact, the entire reason I began to study the Elk Lake data. My motivation for launching into a study of these data was to investigate the question of the geographical extent of the Flood as forcefully and directly as possible using the data and methods provided by modern science.
Falsification of the cataclysmic Flood model falls out of the Elk Lake data with very little effort whether one is looking for it or not. Not so the question of geographical extent. I have had to labor over this one.
But Elk Lake has certainly rewarded my investment of time and mental energy. Its sedimentary data preserve a record of the past which speaks with considerable clarity to this long-debated question---once the technical chronological work has been done and the mass of available data from the lake has been digested, that is. I trust you will find the result---another new discovery of far-reaching consequence---as exhilarating and edifying as I did when, after hours of effort, and no little consternation and confusion, light suddenly dawned.
Some conservative Christian scholars have argued from the Biblical text that the Flood must have been world-wide, while others have argued, also from the Biblical text, that a world-wide Flood is not demanded or intended.
For example, many have noted that the text says "the mountains were covered" and have gone on to conclude that this necessitates a world-wide Flood, since water seeks its own level. This seems a sound inference, and a cogent argument for a global Flood. Other weighty arguments from the text of Scripture can be added to it, as Whitcomb and Morris have capably shown in The Genesis Flood.
But then, to an unbiased reader, the text does not appear entirely one way on this question. For example, the text says, "and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided". This wind is the only mechanism for drying up the Flood which is explicitly mentioned in the historical narrative of the Flood which we are given in Genesis. (The next verse specifies that the "fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed", but these actions merely shut off the source of the water, they play no role in actively drying up the Flood waters which had already accumulated.)
This reference to the wind comes right at the turning point in the narrative. Previous to the wind the Flood "prevailed"; after the wind is mentioned, the Flood "subsided" and "decreased". Consequently, the text does not seem to be saying the role of the wind was merely to dry up the soggy earth after all the water had finally receded in some unspecified fashion. Rather, the text seems to be saying that the wind was itself responsible for causing the waters of the Flood to decrease.
But this is difficult to understand in a global Flood context. How could wind, apart from some supernatural mechanism (which the text gives no hint of at this point), cause the waters of a world-wide Flood to subside? Wind can evaporate water, but the atmosphere can only hold a small amount of water in vapor form relative to the indicated depth of the Flood. For evaporation to cause the waters of the Flood to subside, there would need to be some place for the evaporated water to be precipitated to, and this demands a Flood which is not world-wide. Wind can also drive water from one area to another through surface friction and wave action, but here again there must be some available basin to receive the driven waters if wind is to cause a flood to subside, as the text seems clearly to say was the case with Noah's Flood. So there is this difficulty; if the Flood was world-wide, then how could a wind cause the waters of the Flood to recede?
Let me be perfectly clear that I am not arguing we should adopt a local Flood model. Rather, what I am driving at is that the interpretation of this portion of the Biblical text in regard to the geographical extent of the Flood is not a trivial exercise with an obvious conclusion---there have been dedicated men of God on both sides of the question. My point is simply that the final resolution of this matter seems unlikely as long as the evidence is restricted to the Biblical text alone. In addition to the written Word, it seems at least reasonable and appropriate, if not, indeed, essential, to hear whatever testimony can be elucidated from the book of nature. ...
I have received more correspondence as a result of the "Research in Progress" column of the Volume 2, Number 4 issue of The Biblical Chronologist than any previous issue. In that column I showed how Elk Lake sedimentary data combine with Biblical chronology data to falsify the idea that Noah's Flood was a global cataclysm.
I am not surprised at the volume of mail on this issue. The modern creation-science movement in America has made an enormous investment in the cataclysmic Flood model. It is beyond hope, of course, that a single article in The Biblical Chronologist arguing against this notion could leave all readers feeling completely satisfied.
But I do care very much about those who read this newsletter, and I am quite concerned that your questions be answered honestly and openly. This column provides the best forum I can presently conceive of for accomplishing that goal. So I hope to publish several of the letters I have already received regarding the nature of the Flood in the next few issues of The Biblical Chronologist, and to personally address the questions they raise.
I have also invited Dr. Henry Morris, the most articulate and well known scientific proponent of the cataclysmic Flood model today, to respond to my Volume 2, Number 4 "Research in Progress" article in this column, but he has, unfortunately, declined the offer.
There is sufficient space remaining this issue for just a single letter and response.
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
I just received the July/August issue of The Biblical Chronologist, and I wish to share some thoughts and concerns regarding your research into Noah's flood. I do appreciate your desire to uphold the historicity of the Genesis account of the flood. I also grant you that Whitcomb and Morris made a number of assumptions in their flood model that are not specified in the Biblical text. However, I am puzzled by your apparent advocacy of a tranquil flood model. Even local flooding often has profound geological effects. Consider the "Channeled Scablands" of eastern Washington. It has been demonstrated that the large canyons in this part of Washington resulted from a series of local floods. How then could a flood such as is described in Genesis occur without devastating the surface of the earth?
I have visited Itasca State Park in Minnesota several times, and I fail to see how the Genesis flood could have occurred since the formation of Elk Lake. That entire region is noted for its glacial lakes and thick deposits of glacial till. Even very moderate catastrophism during the Genesis flood would have seriously eroded such a landscape, unless God miraculously protected the landscape from erosion. But would God work miracles to hide the Genesis flood from geological inquiry? I doubt it, as nature itself testifies to God's existence and power. (Romans 1:20) "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (NASB)
Of course, many evangelicals have advocated a local flood in the middle east. Such a flood model poses no significant geological problems, but it seems to me that it is ruled out by Genesis 8:4. Mount Ararat is 17,000 feet above sea level, while the Ararat plateau is 6,000 feet above sea level. Only a global flood could raise a ship to such an altitude. ...
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