Just recently I was laid low with a dose of the dreaded ‘flu and therefore had some time to think about things in general, but, in particular, The Great (or Noah’s) Flood. This story in the Bible’s Old Testament always puzzled me and the more I gave it thought (while admittedly mostly in a feverish state of mind) the more questions arose. Now please don’t get me wrong. I am no theologian, nor am I a scientist nor do I wish to tread on anyone’s toes when it comes to things Biblical. All I want to do is explore a few facts about this story that just do not seem to make any sense to me.
It is now a widely accepted fact that there was indeed a huge flood and that Noah built an ark and that he took many animals into it. But let’s first briefly touch on the whole ‘animals two by two’ thingie.
From pandas to pangolins to gorillas, penguins to parrots to puffins, wombats to wildebeest, vultures to ostriches to peccaries and dodos. Really? No, just not possible. Logically and logistically impossible.
We learnt that the ‘world’ was in such a bad state and full of evil ways that God decided to destroy every living thing on it except for the animals and the humans on the ark. Now as far as I know there were actually very few human beings on the ark. Noah was a pretty old dude (some 800 years old we are told!) at the time, his wife must have been close to that age and there were a number of Noah’s offspring and their partners. So far so good. So this limited workforce had apparently to feed and water elephants, rhinos, chimps, hippos, buffaloes, tigers, lions, koalas, goats, sheep, polar bears, kangaroos amongst all the remainder of the alleged menagerie as well as get down to procreating among themselves to repopulate the forthcoming cleansed earth. Let’s be generous and say there were 50 folk on board (way more than the Bible accounts for) and from this small nucleus the entire planet was entirely repopulated! I don’t think my imagination can stretch that far.
But what really puzzles me about this story are the flood waters themselves. I recall that according to scripture ‘the whole earth’ was flooded. In other words, Earth was entirely under water and Noah’s little boat (it would indeed be tiny relative to the water surface covering our planet) was the only thing containing life bobbing around on all that water at that time. Aha! This is where my fevered brain kicked in, big time.
The Earth’s surface area is about 510 million sq. km. The flood had of course to cover that surface area. One cubic metre of water contains 1000 litres. Let’s assume a 1 metre rise in water, so 510 million sq. km. is equal to 510,000,000 million litres of water. Now let’s do some fun maths. The highest point on Earth is the peak of Mount Everest, which is roughly 8,800 metres above sea level. So therefore, if accounts of a world-wide flood are correct the planet would have to have eventually been covered in about 4,500,000,000,000,000 litres of water. Apparently it rained for 40 days and nights, or 960 hours, meaning that nearly 500 million litres per hour (or 130,000 litres per second) was dumped non-stop across the face of the Earth! The ark certainly would have had to have been super strong to survive that kind of pounding! Basically 500 (or is that 50? Whatever the case, A LOT!) metric tons of water pounding the ark every hour for nearly six weeks without a break! And then it suddenly ceased raining! So, the question arises. Where did all this water go? Certainly not into the planet - it would have popped like an overinflated balloon! The numbers just do not make sense to me you know …
But, all those improbable (and even maybe incorrect) calculations above aside, the clincher is this. I remember that when Edmund Hilary ascended Everest (and during most subsequent ascent attempts by others) he needed oxygen to supplement his breathing because the atmosphere was (and remains to this day) extremely hostile to humans - the atmosphere at that elevation is in fact almost non-existent. He could only stay a brief while up there before he ran out of oxygen. Yet apparently Noah, his family, and a whole menagerie of assorted animals spent many days miserably floating around at that elevation struggling to breathe while waiting for the flood to subside!
So taking the above into consideration, I truly believe that a world-wide flood of humungous proportions did not take place. I however do believe that there was a localised flood in Noah’s region, that he had indeed built a large boat thing (ark) and that he used it to save his family, and his farm and household animals. I might add that there are also accounts of similar localised floods all over the world but these do not necessarily point to them being simultaneous with Noah’s.
I may be wrong, I may be right, but what difference does it make anyway? Wiping the Earth clean of evil as was the intention of the account in the Bible and actually proved to be less than successful because pretty soon thereafter evil once more raised its ugly head and has remained with us ever since.