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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Challenge of Noah, Part One

11/4/2016 Updated for a correction regarding Talmud Sanhedrin 108
Updated 11/19/2021 to cite Isaiah 54:9

The story of Noah and the Deluge encapsulates many of the major problems with the Orthodox Jewish narrative. The story conflicts with Biology, Genetics,  Geology,  Archaeology,  History, and Modern Bible scholarship. It has logistical impossibilities, and has pagan parallels. 

The focus of my Noah posts will be to show Orthodox Judaism has no intellectually honest responses to the challenges posed by the Noah story.

No modern scientific text advocates a worldwide deluge of the Biblical scale within the past 6000 years, and for very valid reasons. We may accept that it is almost certain it did not occur.

Apologetic responses have advocated a local flood or the Noah story is an allegory/metaphor/parable. Another approach is to accept a Biblical world wide flood and to make the flood fit with modern academic knowledge, typically by distorting modern academic knowledge or ignoring certain incongruities. When all else fails, cite miracles galore.

This post will torpedo the local flood approach and sink it.

Religious people who advocate this approach probably acknowledge there was no world wide deluge. It is a post hoc rationalization to force fit the Torah to modern science.  

The Tenach and Oral tradition are almost certainly describing a global flood.

The Tenach

I will quote some but not all chapters and verses supporting a worldwide flood.

Genesis 6:17 And I, behold, I do bring the flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; every thing that is in the earth shall perish.

Note the text “all flesh...under heaven”

Genesis 7:4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I blot out from off the face of the earth.'

Note the text “every living thing that I have made”

Genesis 7:19-20 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. 

Note the text “all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. “

Genesis 7:23 And He blotted out every living substance which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping thing, and fowl of the heaven; and they were blotted out from the earth; and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark. 

Note the text - “Only Noah was left”

Genesis 9:11 And I will establish My covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

Note - If the Torah deluge was a local  G-d’s promise makes no sense. There have been many local floods. What the text means is there will be no more world wide floods.

Isaiah 54:9 
“To me this is like the days of Noah,when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.”

This implies Noach was a global flood, because there have been many local floods.

Genesis 9:13 I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow is seen in the cloud, 15 that I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Note verse 15 “all flesh”. 

{ETA 11/3/2016 Genesis 9:18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth from the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth; and Ham is the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and of these was the whole earth overspread.

Note these verses imply all mankind descend from Noah and so ther must have been a global flood destroying all mankind.}

Psalms 104:5 Who didst establish the earth upon its foundations, that it should not be moved for ever and ever;
6 Thou didst cover it with the deep as with a vesture; the waters stood above the mountains.

Note verse 6 “cover it [the earth] and verse 5 it is referring to the entire earth not a local portion. 

I came across this in Commentary on the Torah by Richard Friedman 2001 - 

Page 35 [Regarding Genesis 6:11 And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.] The book explains here the Hebrew word Eretz (translated as earth) refers to all the earth. 

Page 37 Regarding Genesis 7:11 “It is far more than an ordinary rain. It is a cosmic crisis, in which the very structure of the Universe is endangered.”

Oral Tradition understood the Flood to be Worldwide

I am aware of no traditional sources advocating a local flood.  My Orthodox Yeshivas taught a global flood.

Here is sampling of traditional understanding.

A) Radak Commentary 

On Genesis 7:11 - he explains the surface of the globe was flooded.

On Genesis 7:21 he explains 15 cubits of water covered even the tallest mountains making it impossible for ANY person to survive. [My caps].

On Genesis 8:17 - only very few of each species left the ark. They were told once more they would be numerous. [It seems to me this implies a global flood. If the flood was only local, they were already numerous]

B) Ramban  Commentary 

Ramban explains - The Ararat mountains are among the highest under the heavens per all commentators. [Also see Genesis 7:19-20 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered.] 

On Genesis 8:2 - Water spread over the WHOLE EARTH. [My caps].

C) The Stone Edition Tenach - Rabbi:Blinder, Gold, Zlotowitz, Scherman 1996 Edition.

Page 14 Regarding Genesis 7:10-24 “The flood inundates the world”

D) Leviticus Midrash Rabbah 5.1 explains that after the flood the world was reconstructed from one man [Noah].

E) The Hirsch Chumash - Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch 2002 Translated by Daniel Habarman.

He writes beginning on page 172 - that the flood decayed bones and flesh and this would explain why no Antediluvian remains of man have been found. [This implies a world wide flood, because otherwise his explanation makes no sense.]

The Rav writes “Thus a whole generation went to its ruin because of its sin”; The whole generation was condemned to extermination, except Noach. “After 1,600 years of Human history, one man and his family stand alone and God continues to build his world upon this one man.”

Page 176 A new humanity descends from 3 ancestors.

Page 193 In the days of the Catastrophe a new world was formed.

Page 195 “Everything came to pass exactly as had been previously announced.”

F) Talmud 

Sanhedrin 108

“R. Johanan said: The corruption of the generation of the Flood is characterised as great, and their punishment is characterised as great. Their corruption is characterised as great, as it is written, And
God saw that the wickedness of man, was great in the earth; and their punishment is characterised as great, as it is written, All the fountains of the great deep. R. Johanan said: Three of those [hot
fountains] were left, the gulf of Gaddor, the hot-springs of Tiberias, and the great well of Biram.”

{It seems to me that “All the fountains of the great deep” are opened except three implies more, a lot more than a local flood. ETA 11/4/2016 - I think the talmud means to say all the fountains were closed after the flood except three.}

“Our Rabbis taught: The generation of the flood have no portion in the world to come, as it is written, And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground and every living substance was destroyed refers to this world; which was upon the face of the ground to the next....”

{It seems to me the term ‘generation of the flood’  is used without ‘local’ qualifiers thru out the Talmud and Rabbinic literature, meaning the entire generation of the flood, not just a local portion of the generation of the flood.}

Berachoth 59a 

“For at the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to bring a flood upon the world, He took two stars from Kimah and brought a flood upon the world.”

[It seems to me the terms “upon the world” implies non locality.]

Some Apologetics mislead by claiming there is a Talmud section that writes the flood was local. There is discussion in Talmud Zevachim 113a about whether the holy land was flooded or not. One master says yes, another no. Neither cite any other region that may not have been flooded. 

Continued Part 2

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