Vol.9: The Flood: Local or Global?
FLOOD TRADITIONS OF THE WORLD
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1. The Nature of the Traditions
Chapter 2. A Selection of Illustrations
Appendix 1. The
Search for the Ark
Appendix 2. The Tower of Babel
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1969 Doorway Paper No.18, published privately by Arthur
1979 Part II in The Flood: Local or Global?, vol.9
in The Doorway Papers Series by Zondervan Publishing Company
1997 Arthur Custance Online Library (HTML)
2001 2nd Online Edition (design revisions)
of this paper is to provide a summary of what is known about
Flood traditions of the world. The paper comprises two chapters,
the first dealing with the nature and significance of these stories
with appropriate illustrations from some of them, and the second
intending to provide a fairly complete bibliography which will
also serve as an index for anyone who wishes to pursue the subject
In the first chapter, I want to
illustrate the fact that, widely different in detail as many
of them are from the biblical record, the traditions are in accord
both with it and among themselves on the following four basic
1. The cause was a "moral" one.
2. They almost all speak of one man who is
warned of the coming catastrophe and thus saves not only himself
but also his family or his friends.
3. They all agree that the world was depopulated
save for these few survivors from whom the present people of
the world were derived.
4. In all of them animals play a part either
in conveying the warning, or in providing the transportation
to safety, or in giving information about the state of things
after the Flood had subsided.
The following features of interest are then
dealt with as in one way or another bearing upon the over-all
value of their testimony to the Bible.
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5. Some of these accounts agree with Scripture
in stating that eight souls survived.
6. In extra-biblical
accounts, the survivors always land on a local mountain. In the
Hebrew account, the ark lands far from Palestine, a circumstance
bearing witness to the objectivity of the biblical account.
7. A number of the traditions give extraordinarily
graphic details of just such incidental circumstances as must
have accompanied the event.
8. A small number of them are almost certainly
borrowed from Christian missionaries but not nearly to the extent
9. Almost without exception they differ radically
from the biblical account by incorporating events that are clearly
fantasy. They are, in short, often greatly embellished with details
that are strictly mythical, in the popular sense of the word,
contrasting very strongly with the dignity, simplicity, and matter-of-fact
character of the Genesis record.
Each of these
will be considered in chapter 1 and then illustrated from a substantial
number of sources with specific elaboration in chapter 2.
Chapter 2, therefore,
contains first of all, a selection of further illustrations of
the more important points listed above; and secondly, a fairly
complete annotated bibliography of works which deal with these
traditions, along with a list of some 140 accounts (according
to the tribes or nations which carry them) with fairly accessible
source references. This will be followed, in conclusion, by an
appendix which gives some information regarding what is known
from antiquity about the ark and what has been reported in recent
times in connection with its supposed re-discovery.
For those who find such traditions
intriguing in themselves, chapter 1 adequately shows the extraordinary
"variations upon a theme" which have been reported
from around the world. The way in which this single event has
been treated in a manner that is truly "native" to
each area is quite fascinating. For those who wish to go further,
the rest of the paper will serve as a springboard for research.
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