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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part I:  The Extent of the Flood

Chapter Two

The Extent of the Flood

          IN THIS chapter we consider two relevant issues: (1) the significance of Flood Traditions found in every part of the world, and (2) the reasons why an ark should be built and animals preserved in it if the Flood was geographically limited, when migration would seem a preferable alternative.

The Significance of World-Wide Flood Traditions

     So numerous among the nations and tribes of the world are the traditions of a Flood that a treatment of such a theme in so small a compass is likely to suffer from two rather serious faults. It may be uninteresting because it approaches too closely to being a mere catalog, or it may be rather superficial and more akin to newspaper reporting because of an over-emphasis on unusual features of such traditions.
     What I propose to do here is to discuss some of the more surprising common factors in these traditions and then to show that many of them, in spite of their diversity, are concordant if the account given in the biblical record is taken to be the true one. As far as I am aware, these stories all differ from the biblical tradition in one particular, namely, that in each one of them the ark comes to rest upon a mountain of local importance to the people who possess the tradition. In view of the fact that the Hebrew people were concerned primarily with Palestine and only exceedingly remotely with Armenia, it is an evidence of the truthfulness of their own account that the ark landed outside their own country -- indeed, in a land very far removed from their interests.

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     It is a curious fact that whenever close parallels have been found among pagan peoples of biblical stories, there has been an immediate temptation to exclaim, "Ah, this is where the Hebrews got their story!" It seems there is some kind of law that the borrowing is always on their side. The idea that the Hebrew record could provide us with the original seems to be considered unreasonable. Accordingly, when the Flood traditions were first discovered in the cuneiform literature, it was immediately assumed that the Hebrews had borrowed the account.
     However, there are some remarkable differences between the biblical record and these others from the Middle East that clearly refer to the same event. The language of Genesis contains none of the polytheistic elements of the others. It is sane and sober -- even matter-of-fact. The Cuneiform accounts speak of the gods crying like frightened children and afterwards buzzing around "Noah's" sacrifice like hungry flies.
(5) The biblical account pictures a vessel without a helmsman or steering equipment. It is not difficult to think of such a vessel preceding one equipped with the means of steering it, but it seems very unlikely that an ark which had these refinements would in a borrowed account become an ark without them. Other things being equal, the details of second-hand traditions are usually embellished -- not simplified.

     Now the common factors of these traditions may be considered briefly under three general headings: first, the cause and effect of the Flood; second, the fact that a favored few escaped; third, the method of their escape.
     The Doorway Paper which follows this one is devoted to a more extensive examination of the Flood traditions of the world. In that paper a list of sources is provided in which may be found either the full details or at least the essentials of such traditions. For our purposes here, we must be content with something in the nature of a very brief summary.
     To begin with, it may be said that these traditions are found among cultured and primitive people alike, the remarkable degree of concordance being evidence of the importance attached to the story. Only in one or two cases do we not find a tradition among such people of the subsequent Confusion of Language and Dispersion of Mankind. This means in effect that the last catastrophic event

5. Lines 114-117 and 161, 162 of the seventh-century B.C. Nineveh Tablet as given by George Barton, in his Archaeology and the Bible, American Sunday School Union, Philadelphia, 1933, pp. 337-338.

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involving the whole human race was the Flood, since it is the last recollection shared by all nations alike. It would seem that to most of these nations the Dispersion was not comparable at all in terms of its effect upon their national history. None of them have any recollection of such events as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the next such dramatic judgment in Scripture. It appears, therefore, that these nations had left the Cradle of Civilization before this event took place.
     Traditions of the Flood are found in Africa, North and South America, China, Oceania, Australia, Burma, India, throughout the Middle East, among the Greeks, the Persians, in Asia Minor, in Europe, Scandinavia, Lapland, Russia, Wales, among the Druids -- indeed, there is scarcely a people known without them. A tradition is found even in Egypt.
(6) This may not seem surprising until it is remembered that to the Egyptians the annual flooding of the Nile is absolutely vital to the survival of the country: to conceive of a flood of water as coming upon mankind as a punishment would be difficult for them. Consequently, the cause of the Flood in their story was, like the biblical one, man's wickedness, but it was not a flood of water.
     Their story tells how the great god Rha once assembled the other gods and said, "Behold the men that you have begotten by me, they utter words against me; tell me what you would do in such a case. Behold, I have waited and not slain them before listening to your words."
     The reply was, "Let thy face permit it, and let those men who devise such wicked things be smitten and let none of them remain."
     A goddess named Hathor then went down and began to slaughter men upon the earth, and for many nights Sechet trod with his feet in their blood even to the city of Heracleopolis. The anger of Rha was then appeased by an offering comprised of 7,000 pitchers of liquor made from a fruit mixed with human blood.
     Rha came to examine the vases and said, "It is well: I shall protect men because of this. I lift up my hand in regard to this and declare that I shall no more slay mankind."
     In the middle of the night he commanded the vases to be over turned, and the result was a

6. For the details of this particular tradition, see John Urquhart, "The Testimony of Traditions Of the Flood," in Bible League Quarterly, September, 1937, p. 119. Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, I,3) refers to the Egyptian tradition as being recorded by Hieronymus, an Egyptian, but gives no details. J. H Titcomb ["Ethnic Testimonies to the Pentateuch," Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol. 6, 1872, p.241] points out that "the water god" of Egypt was named No, which he suggests is the word Noah in a variant form.  

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flood, which in accordance with Egyptian experience was regarded as a sign of favour.
     The Australian aborigines -- like the Greeks, Hawaiians, the Pimas of Northern Mexico, and many other peoples -- refer to the wickedness of man as the cause of the judgment. In quite a few of these traditions it is not only that rain swelled local rivers, but sometimes that water came up over the earth to magnify the Flood. The Hawaiian story says that long after the time of Kumukonna, the first man, the earth became wicked and careless of the worship of the gods. One man alone was righteous, and his name was Nu-u. In this story it is stated that the waters came up over the land. To an island people this would possibly seem the only way that a destruction by water could be effected. Subsequently Nu-u mistook the moon for the god and was rebuked for worshipping it, but excused because it was a mistake. The god, as a token of his forgiveness, left the rainbow behind when he went into the sky.
     A Fiji Island legend states that the cause of the Flood was the killing of a favorite bird of the god Mdengei,
by his two evil grandsons. A small remnant of the race was saved -- numbering, according to the legend, eight persons -- in a vessel which finally grounded in the district of Mbenga. Hence the Mbenga claimed to stand first in Fiji rank.
     An East Indies legend says that the god Vishnu warned one of his worshipers of a Flood about to come and advised him to take "all kinds of useful vegetables" and to embark with the Seven Rishis and with his wife and their wives in a "great ship marvelously built". It is true in this story that the total number of persons is sixteen nevertheless, emphasis is laid on the number of males, which totaled eight.
     The Druid tradition is complex. The judgment began with a great fire (lightning?) which split the earth asunder so that Lake Llion burst its bounds and contributed its waters to the waves of the sea which swept over the earth and destroyed all except a certain patriarch who was shut up together with a select company in an enclosure with a strong door.
     The Toltecs have a story recorded by a native historian of Mexico, Ixtlalxochitl, in which it is stated that the highest mountains were submerged to the depth of fifteen cubits (caxtolmotli). It is possible that some elements of this story may have been borrowed from European sources through the Spaniards -- but this is by no means certain.

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     As to the depth of water, some of these accounts have details which are quite amusing, yet which undoubtedly are seriously intended to emphasize the magnitude of the event. The Crees of Manitoba tell of a universal deluge caused by an attempt of the fish to drown Woesachootchacht, a kind of demigod, with whom they had quarreled. Having constructed a raft, he embarked with his family and all kinds of birds and beasts. After the Flood had continued for some time, he ordered several water fowl to dive to the bottom. The waters were so deep that the obedient birds all drowned. But a muskrat, having been dispatched on the same errand, was more successful and returned with a mouthful of mud.
     In a court of law it is often held that a contradictory witness which can be logically reconciled by taking account of the cause of the contradiction is more valuable than ordinary supporting evidence. The fact is that truth is rather easily distorted, so that some disharmony is only to be expected; deliberate liars seek to make their testimony consistent by collusion, and such collusion is usually very evident. In the East Indies story there is an interesting illustration of this kind of testimony. It is true that sixteen people were saved, a detail which contradicts the story in Genesis. However, to the Hindu, women folk hold a very insignificant place in society. Recollecting that eight souls were saved, they would very probably take it for granted that these eight souls were males. But it would be no good to save them without wives and so the number is swelled to sixteen quite naturally. This, then, proves to be an instance of a contradictory testimony that is more valuable than a direct one.
     In the Druid tradition, the strong door can surely be none other than the door which God shut (Genesis 7:16), "which no man openeth" (Revelation 3:7). impregnable, in fact, by reason of Him who shut it.
     In the Cree story, the first attempt to find land -- in this case at the bottom -- was not successful, though a bird was used as in Noah's case. It must have occurred to the Crees that what the birds could not do, a muskrat could. Noah's second attempt was likewise successful. It is easy to see how the real situation became confused and was given a local coloring as in the American Indian story.
     These are all illustrations of the manner in which the original account, because it is the true one, serves to explain the differences in the later traditions.
     We have also mentioned that these traditions differ from Genesis in one important respect, namely, the location of the grounding of the vessel. For example, the Andaman Islanders say that the  

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survivors landed on a local mountain named Wotaemi. The Menangkalan natives of Sumatra have a tradition that "Noah" landed on their Mount Marapi. The Pimas say that Szenkha, the son of the creator, saved himself by floating on a ball of resin and that when the waters receded, he landed near the mouth of the Salt River. The Phrygians say that the ark landed at the city of Apamaea, and they still point to the actual spot! In the Greek legend of Deucalian, the hero and his wife landed on Mount Parnassus.
     We see, therefore, that these stories quite consistently give details about the moral causes of the Flood as well as its physical causes. They mention the construction of some kind of vessel and in many cases state that animals were taken on board also. The form of the vessel is given in terms which are meaningful to the local residents and, with understandable national conceit, the home country was the favoured landing place.
     There are one or two observations which may be made at this point regarding these traditions. First of all, they do not demonstrate that the Flood was world-wide in the geographical sense, though this claim has often been made for them. If such were really the case, it would mean that in every part of the world there were a few local survivors who originated the local traditions -- in which case the biblical story is in error in claiming that only one family actually escaped: and so are all the other traditions that make this claim! This brings us to a second observation. Not one of these traditions puts the scene of the catastrophe in some other part of the world as an event far removed from them in which they themselves did not share, but of which they had knowledge. This can only mean that there was but one single Flood and all mankind was involved in it, for they are evidently referring to the same event in which their own forebears were involved.

Why Noah Did Not Simply Migrate

     It is sometimes argued that the Flood must have been worldwide or God would merely have advised Noah to migrate beyond its geographic limits. At first sight this seems a reasonable argument. Moreover, animals and birds could surely have migrated under God s direction by themselves, thus sparing Noah and his family a great deal of labour.
    There are several responses to these points. To begin with, God intended to exterminate the whole race except for Noah and his family -- but not without fair warning. The labour of Noah in

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constructing the ark was to serve as a continuing and forceful testimony against the rest of mankind, who in spite of the magnitude of the undertaking evidently paid no attention to it. The New Testament makes it clear that they deliberately ignored this warning and were therefore without excuse. Suppose that Noah had been led to believe that the Flood was comparatively local and could be avoided by migration. He could have declared his reasons for leaving the community and then, taking his family and his animals with him, shaken the dust of the land off his feet as a testimony against them and disappeared. Moreover, any who were merely frightened could rather easily have packed up and gone with them, rather like the "mixed multitude" who joined themselves to the Hebrews in the Exodus. The rest of the population who were evidently very busy in marrying and giving in marriage would not pay too much attention to the sudden disappearance of a single family.
     We are dealing with a real situation here, with real people, and apparently with a community that did not have to work very hard to survive. In every such group there are always some who don't work, who can find nothing useful to do, and who somehow manage to live without accumulating anything and without any fixed abode or permanent home. These would be just the people who would "decide to go along, too." It would require real energy and faith to follow Noah's example and build other arks, but it would have required neither of these to pack up a few things and migrate. There is nothing that Noah could have done to stop them except by disappearing secretly. Such a departure could hardly act as the kind of warning that the deliberate construction of the ark must have done. And the inspiration for this undertaking was given to Noah by leaving him in ignorance of the exact limits of the Flood. He was assured that all mankind would be destroyed, and he probably supposed that the Flood would therefore be universal. This supposition may have been essential for him.  
     It is doubtful whether God could have chosen a more effective way of making sure that while everyone was warned, no one who believed the message need be lost. But this is true only if the existing population of the earth was small enough in numbers or confined enough in settlement to hear about the undertaking. With such a task to be completed as soon as possible, it is highly improbable that Noah could afford the time for a kind of evangelistic campaign, visiting and warning communities scattered far and wide over the earth's surface. If people were living at that time in Europe and Far

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East and, which is worse, in the New World, it is exceedingly doubtful whether they could ever have heard his message. The very method by which God forewarned men implies a situation in which the population of the world was still fairly well congregated.
     Suppose Noah had gone on an evangelistic campaign: by what sign could he have convinced them? Merely to mention that his family at home was constructing an ark would hardly have carried much weight. In other words, the building of the ark was a testimony only to those who could actually see it or have first hand knowledge of it. People can hardly have been scattered to the ends of the earth if this was to be a testimony to them.
     The actual period of time allotted for the building of the ark is probably not given, but certainly it was sufficient only for the completion of the ark and did not allow time for visiting other parts of the world to give warning. In Genesis 6:3 God says, "My spirit shall not always strive with man for that he also is flesh; yet his days shall be 120 years". This passage has been taken by many commentators to mean that God allowed the world that then was 120 years of grace before bringing judgment upon it, during which time Noah was building the ark. There is, however, an entirely different meaning that can be attached to these words, namely, that because of his great longevity man had become altogether too wicked and that therefore from this time on the normal life span should be reduced to a period of 120 years. In I Peter 3:20 the statement is made that God, in His long-suffering, waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being completed, and this has been taken by some to be a reference to the 120-year interval. This might be so. However, the Hebrew of Genesis 6:3 is probably more accurately rendered as the Revised Standard Version has it, "My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be 120 years." I think the Hebrew supports this translation, and I would only suggest that the words "for ever" could even better be rendered "for so long." There is considerable question as to whether the Hebrew word  ('olam) really means "for ever" or "indefinitely," a long period of time of unspecified duration. It may then be asked, If the Flood was geographically limited, why was Noah required to take animals on board? 

     There is much evidence to show that the domestication of animals was first undertaken somewhere in this general area. Assuming that such species as had been domesticated in the centuries between Adam and Noah were confined to the areas settled by man and had not spread beyond this, any Flood  

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which destroyed man would also wipe out these animals. The process of domestication would then have to be begun all over again and probably under far less ideal conditions.
     We have already considered the reasons why the migration of Noah was not suitable for God's purposes. It is almost certain that domesticated animals could not have migrated alone. Although such animals do turn wild upon occasion, they survive in this state only when they are not subjected to predators -- and in the world outside of human settlements at that time, such predators were probably numerous. Domesticated sheep, cattle, pigs, fowl, goats, perhaps camels, and possibly asses -- to mention only the more common ones -- might not have fared too well in a natural environment still quite outside man's control. For this reason, if for no other, some animals at least would have to be taken on board -- but these were probably of the domesticated varieties.
     There were only four men in the ark. These men represented the crew. They did not have sails or other ship's gear to attend to, but they did have animals to care for. Any farmer would tell you that thirty or forty head of cattle requiring feeding, watering, and cleaning out daily could occupy considerable time. The record states that there would be seven pairs of each of the clean animals; this means fourteen head of every clean species. Besides this there were to be two of all the others, however many this may have been. Even if there were only two species of clean animals (e.g., sheep and cows) this would mean quite a bit of work.
     Many commentators have calculated the size of the ark and the total number of species in the world, and spoken freely of its capacity to carry them. What they do not always remember is that such animals need attention and food, the carnivorous ones (if they existed as such) requiring meat which would have to be stored up for one whole year. In any case, a sufficient supply of water for drinking would probably have to be taken on board since the mingling of the waters in a world-wide Flood would presumably render it unfit to drink. While the use of imagination is sometimes considered to be a presumptuous exercise of unbelief, it is rather difficult to visualize a Flood of world-wide proportions but with so little turbulence that four men (perhaps helped by their womenfolk) were able to care for such a flock. It would take very little unsteadiness to make the larger animals almost unmanageable. It becomes even more difficult to conceive how proper provision could have been made for many animals which spend much of their time in the water, such as crocodiles and seals.  

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     The dimensions of the ark are given in Genesis as 300 cubits long, 50 cubits across, and 30 cubits deep. This is generally interpreted as meaning that the vessel was 450 feet by 75 feet by 45 feet. This is an immense structure. It may be that the ark really was of such proportions: but it may also be that the terms of measurement are no longer correctly known. The cubit may not at this early period have been equal to eighteen inches. I think anyone who tries to visualize the construction of a vessel 450 feet long by four men will realize that the size of the timbers alone for a "building" 45 feet high (analogous to a four-story apartment building) would seem by their sheer massiveness to be beyond the powers of four men to handle. With all the means later at their disposal, subsequent builders for four thousand years constructed seaworthy vessels that seldom seem to have exceeded 150 to 200 feet at the most. The Queen Mary has a total length of 1,018 feet, which is not very much more than twice the length of the ark. It was not until 1884 apparently that a vessel, the Eturia, a Cunard liner, was built with a length exceeding that of the ark. It would have to be a very solidly constructed ship for its decks to carry such a load as two elephants, for example, weighing four to five tons apiece.
     I should not like these observations to be interpreted as a criticism of Genesis, in which I have complete confidence. They are intended to give a proper perspective: to me, they suggest that the figures for the dimensions of the ark are not at present correctly understood.
     Or to make a long story short, the size of the animal cargo and the nature of the animals which constituted it must be determined to a large extent by the size of the crew which had to care for them, not merely by the size of the ark. This crew numbered eight, i.e., no more than the number of adults necessary to run many a farm where the animals in large part care for themselves. They certainly could not have cared for tens of thousands of species, even if they could have gotten them on board -- and even if the average size of all animals is only that of a small cat as has been estimated, I believe. It is not a question of size at all, but of numbers to be looked after, of mouths to be fed.
     I am saying in effect that the animals which God brought to Noah were not crocodiles and polar bears and lions and such creatures but only those which had become essential to man in his conquest of nature, or which had become companions, such as cats and dogs. It would surely not be incredible  

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that God should take it upon Himself to bring to Noah also such other creatures whose habitat was to be threatened and who, not yet having spread elsewhere, would otherwise be brought to extinction. Moreover, God had brought animals to Adam for an express purpose (Genesis 2:19). There is an established precedent, therefore, for this kind of action on God's part.
     Yet, for all this, one still wonders why birds should have been included. Here again there is evidence that some of these needed to be preserved by being taken into the ark. To begin with, unless they had left the area before the Flood began, it is unlikely they could have made their escape once the torrential rains had come. Forced to land, whether in trees or on the ground, they could not long have survived the downpour. Nevertheless we are making two assumptions here. First, there were some species of birds limited to this one geographic area; second, in some way these particular species were essential to the economy of nature, or to man, and were therefore to be preserved as God saw fit.
     That such might be the case with birds may seem at first very unlikely. But according to one authority at least, it could well be so. Hugh Miller has quite an extended statement in this connection:

     The grouse is so extensively present over the Northern hemisphere that Siberia, Norway, Iceland and North America all have their grouse; yet so constricted are some of the species that were the British Isles to be submerged, one of the best known of the family, the Red Grouse, or Moorfowl, would disappear from creation.
     This bird, which rated at its money value is one of the most important in Europe . . . is exclusively a British bird: and unless by miracle a new migratory instinct were given it, a complete submergence of the British Isles would secure its destruction. If the submersion amounted to but a few hundred miles in lateral extent, the Moorfowl would certainly not seek the distant uninundated land. Nor is it at all to be inferred that in a merely local widespread deluge birds occupying more extensive areas than that overspread by the Flood would speedily replenish the inundated tract as soon as the waters had subsided.
     Up till about the middle of the last century [8th c. at the time of writing] the Capercailzie was a native of Scotland. It was exterminated about the time of the last Rebellion, or not long after . . . and from that time the species disappeared from the British Isles. And though it continued to exist in Norway, it did not replenish the tracts from which it had been extirpated. The late Marquis of Breadalbane was at no small cost and trouble in re-introducing the species, and to some extent he succeeded; but the Capercailzie is, I understand, still restricted to the Breadalbane Woods. 

7. Miller, Hugh, The Testimony of the Rocks, Shepherd and Elliott, Edinburgh, 1857, p. 293.

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I have seen the Golden Eagle annihilated as a species in more than one district of the North of Scotland; nor, though it still exists in other parts of the Kingdom and is comparatively common in the Mountains of Norway, have I known it in any instance to spread anew over the tracts from which it had been extirpated.

     Since Hugh Miller was writing one hundred years ago [1857], it is possible that his remarks would no longer be true. Some of these birds may have finally returned. Nevertheless it is clear that such birds as grouse, capercailzie, and eagles evidently can be driven out of an area and will not return to it easily as one might suppose. Animals move slowly enough into new territory, but one always imagines that birds know no such restraints. Yet apparently they do.
     To give one more illustration, Miller has this to say about the raven:

     The raven seems restricted to the Northern Hemisphere . . . and when extirpated in a district, it is found that, as in the case of the Capercailzie and the Golden Eagle, the neighbouring region in which the ravens continue to exist fail for ages to furnish a fresh supply. There are counties in England in which the raven is now never seen, and I am acquainted with a district in the North of Scotland from which when a pair that were known to breed for more than a century in a tall cliff were destroyed by the fowler, the species disappeared.

     Quite apart from the implications of Hugh Miller's remarks, there are two other considerations. First of all, it is quite possible that certain fowl had been domesticated and were providing part of man's food requirements. But there is a second possibility that should not be altogether discounted. Many primitive people use birds for navigation purposes, and it happens that the two types most frequently used are the raven and the pigeon. Both these birds have long been found in close association with human settlements, and the history of early navigation could not be written without reference to the use of these animals. It was customary to take on board a certain number of birds of either kind which, once the vessel was some distance out to sea and out of sight of land, were released one at a time. Some of these birds -- the pigeon variety in particular -- would head directly back home, thus giving the mariner a proper sense of direction. This was particularly important when the sun was not visible and prior to the use of the magnetic compass. The raven type was often used to locate land other than the point of departure: If no land was sufficiently nearby, the birds would return to  

8. 1bid., p. 296.

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the ship and would be released later only after traveling some further distance. According to James Hornell, this system was used by the Vikings in the re-discovery of Iceland in A.D. 874. (9)

     In the Saga of Floki, the second Scandinavian to visit Iceland, there is a gloss dating from the time when the Saga was first committed to writing about 1225 in which it is mentioned that Floki before setting sail to re-discover the Island had performed a great sacrifice and had consecrated three ravens to the gods, which he had then taken on board his ship in order to serve as guides on the voyage. After he had voyaged westward for several days without sighting land, he liberated at intervals the three ravens, one at a time: the first flew back to Norway, the second returned to the ship, but the third flew ahead and did not return. He proceeded onwards in the wake of the third raven, duly making a landfall on the southeast coast of Iceland in 874.

     Homing pigeons were carried on board to be used on the return trip in a similar way. The Polynesians used much the same method to re-locate comparatively small islands in the vast Pacific. However, the latter also noted the flight patterns of other birds without actually taking them on board.
     If our interpretation of pre-Flood history is correct, there can have been very little if any open water navigation until Noah's family subsequently spread to other areas. In a sense Noah was instituting a new method of finding one's way out of sight of land. Certainly the use of these birds by this very ancient mariner is not without parallel in other parts of the world, though it probably was the first instance.
     While these explanations of why birds were included in the cargo will not satisfy those who have visualized thousands of them flocking into the ark to escape destruction, it could still be strong confirmation of Noah's use of them as described in Genesis 8:6-11.
     One is apt to suppose that animals roam far and wide at will finding very little hindrance to their freedom of movement, and that an area devastated by such a flood would quickly be taken over once more by the animals from surrounding country. This is apparently an illusion. Even apart from natural barriers such as rivers, animal species tend to establish territorial rights which they neither desert for other territories, except under very unusual circumstances, nor permit other species to invade. The boundaries of these territories are found, at times, to be remarkably clearly defined. Such territorial rights are claimed both by birds and land animals. This may account in part for the fact that after an area is devastated, it is apt to remain deserted for a surprisingly long time while life teems all around.

9. Hornell, James, "The Role of Birds in Early Navigation" in Antiquity, vol.20, 1946, p.145.

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     It is quite obvious that some territories are determined by temperature -- the Arctic regions or deserts, for example. Consequently it is difficult to conceive how creatures accustomed to these very well-defined climatic conditions could pass through great stretches of country with entirely different environmental conditions as they made their way to the ark. Yet this would be necessary if the Flood was world-wide. Desert lizards from Central America, polar bears from the Arctic, kangaroos from Australia, and giraffes from Africa would all have to make their way over thousands of miles of unfamiliar territory, and in one case by sea, to Asia Minor, where the environmental conditions might very well be "unsuitable" for any of them. Multiply this circumstance to cover thousands of creatures who are so small that the journey could only be completed by about the tenth or even the twentieth generation descending from those who began it, and one gets a fair idea of the miraculous supervision required to assemble a crew sufficient to preserve every species from a global Flood.
     There are so many problems in such a view which have been overlooked. One reads of the speed achieved by certain animals such as deer and antelope and imagines accordingly that they could easily make the trip. But this disregards one important fact, namely, that such creatures are herbivorous. The importance of this observation is that these animals must spend an enormous amount of time browsing in order to gain enough energy for ordinary living. In some cases this may even amount to 80 percent of their waking hours. Such a circumstance leaves them little time for making long journeys through unfamiliar territory, and it accounts for the fact that a man can outrun a horse -- given time -- as has been demonstrated on many occasions. In spite of its strength the horse must stop to eat far more frequently than the man who eats meat. Furthermore, the diet of many species is limited to the food supplied by their own natural environment. Thus polar bears cannot afford to be too far away from the water which supplies them with their food.
     These are "objections," but not insuperable difficulties if one is prepared to allow the operation of sufficient miracle. But in the total situation the miraculous element would seem to be unnecessarily great if this is what happened. Moreover, remarkably small barriers to the movement of animal life can be decisive. As E. O. Dodson has put it, "Even a very small amount of salt water is a nearly absolute barrier to amphibians". Similarly he remarks, "Large bodies of water are among the most effective

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barriers to land birds. The Amazon River seems to be an absolute barrier to many of  them. . . ." (10) He points out also that two species of mice will sometimes dwell on opposite sides of a quite small river, unable to get across.
     Even fish life would suffer in a universal catastrophe. The mingling of the salt and fresh water could be fatal to many of them. In a universal deluge without special miracle, vast numbers of salt water animals could not fail to be exterminated: in particular, almost all the molluscs of the littoral and laminarian zones. Nor would the plant kingdom fare much better than the animal one. Of the 100,000 species of better-known plants, few indeed would survive submersion for a year, and the seeds of most of the others would fare little better than the plants themselves, according to Hugh Miller.
     The difficulties involved in getting the animals back to their native habitats after the Flood was over must also be considered. With the longer-lived animals this might not be serious from one point of view, but with short-lived creatures whose breeding cycle might be completed within the ark itself, the young would have to make the long trip in a very immature state -- unless one postulates a further miracle, namely, the suspension of breeding instincts during the period in the ark.
     Some of these problems have been recognized from very early times. For example, this is what Augustine had to say on the matter

     But there is a question about all these kinds of beasts, which are neither tamed by man, nor sprung from the earth like frogs, such as wolves and others of that sort . . . as to how they could find their way to the islands after that Flood which destroyed every living thing not preserved in the Ark. . . .
    Some, indeed, might be thought to reach islands by swimming, in case they were very near; but some islands are so remote from continental lands that it does not seem possible that any creature could reach them by swimming.

     Augustine then adds that possibly man might have conveyed some of them for the pleasure of hunting them subsequently. He also suggests that the transfer could have been accomplished through the agency of angels! But one could hardly account for the transfer of creatures which are not hunted by man and are not pets -- nor for some of the larger animals which are found in Australia and New Zealand, such as the ostrich.

10. Dodson, E. O., A Textbook of Evolution, Saunders, Philadelphia, 1952, p.316.
11. Augustine, City of God, XVI, 7.  

     pg.15 of 16     

     As has frequently been observed, in certain areas (Australia, for example) there is a continuity in form between the animals now existing and those found as fossils in the rocks, and this applies to some species which are unique to that area, such as the marsupials. the significance of this is that these creatures, if the Flood was world-wide, must have crossed the ocean and made a land journey covering thousands of miles to reach the ark only to return later, reversing the sequence and finally swimming home in order to preserve the continuity between the fossils and the living forms peculiar to the area.

     In summary, then, it seems that the extent of miracle required to preserve life as we find it in its present distribution, against the destructive forces of a world-wide Flood, would be quite incommensurate with the purpose God had in mind. This is particularly true in view of the fact that no mention whatever is made of a subsequent re-creation of living forms, especially plant life, which would probably, at least in some instances, be necessary for the preservation of the new natural communities established by the pairs of animals arriving once more in their devastated homeland. 

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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