SEE THIS LINK FOR BLOG SUMMARY AND SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM

Click this link for TOPICAL INDEX OF POSTS

About Me

A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. 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. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Challenge of Noah, Part Two

Updated thru 11/4/2016 - added commentary from JPS

Please at least skim The Challenge of Noah, Part 1 first.

This post will be devoted to sinking the Apologetic that the Noah story is an allegory/metaphor/parable. Religious people who advocate this approach probably acknowledge there was no world wide deluge, yet the Tenach and Oral Tradition is most likely describing a global deluge as I explained in part one. 

We will see that the Tenach and Oral Tradition almost certainly did not consider the Noah story an allegory, but rather as actual history. 

We will see the story provides the basis for actual commandments (see below). It would be odd to base commandments on a fictional story. Also, for example the Noahide laws apply to all mankind. They are called Noahide laws because the children of Noah were given seven laws and accepted them. But if all mankind did not descend from Noah, the laws would only apply to Noah descendants and not the rest of mankind.

Finally, if the Noah story is fictional which parts are fictional ? It is a slippery slope. “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 it refers to the flood story. But if the flood story is fictional maybe the Torah genealogies are fiction. The genealogies leading up to Avarahum Avinu (Abraham our father) could be fictional. Then maybe Avrahum is also fictional and so the  Israelites would not be descendants of Abraham. 

The Tenach

The Tenach most likely meant the Noah story as actual history. Here are some examples.

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 - Establishing a covenant based on a parable makes no sense.

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.


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. 20 And Noah the husbandman began, and planted a vineyard. 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. 23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. 24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done unto him. 25 And he said: Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said: Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant. 27 God enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant. 28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29 And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died. 10:1 Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth; and unto them were sons born after the flood. 2 The sons of Japheth...


Verse 18 writes Noah and sons leave the Ark-an event-period-marker, Noah plants the vine yard after which various blessings and cursings and then in verse 28 we are back to the flood - an event-period-marker and writing Noah lived after the flood. It makes no sense that Noah lived 350 years after a parable. Verse 10:1 again used the flood-event-period marker and it makes no sense to write about people being born after a parable. 


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..

Psalms 29:10 The LORD sat enthroned at the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth as King for ever.

Psalms 104 and 29 recalls the flood.

Isaiah 54:9 For this is as the waters of Noah unto Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. 

Isaiah is treating the flood as an actual event.

Oral Tradition 

I am aware of no traditional sources advocating that the flood is an allegory.  My Orthodox Yeshivas taught the flood as a real event. In addition, if the story is an allegory why does the Talmud, Midrash, traditional commentators all provide additional real world information, details, miracles and facts about the flood ?

Here is sampling where it is self evident Oral tradition treats the flood as a real world event and sometimes it has legal implications.

1) Rambam - Guide to the Perplexed Part 3 Chapter 50

“It is one of the fundamental principles of the Law that the Universe has been created ex nihilo, and that of the human race, one individual being, Adam, was created. As the time which elapsed from Adam to Moses was not more than about two thousand five hundred years, people would have
doubted the truth of that statement if no other information had been added, seeing that the human race was spread over all parts of the earth in different families and with different languages, very unlike the one to the other. In order to remove this doubt the Law gives the genealogy of the nations (Gen. v. and x.), and the manner how they branched off from a common root. It names those of them who were well known, and tells who their fathers were, how long and where they lived. It describes also the cause that led to the dispersion of men over all parts of the earth, and to the formation of
their different languages, after they had lived for a long time in one place, and spoken one language (ibid, xi.), as would be natural for descendants of one person. The accounts of the flood (ibid, vi.-viii.) and of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (ibid, xix.), serve as an illustration of the doctrine that “Verily there is a reward for the righteous ; verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Ps. IVIII. 12).

I have highlighted some very informative Rambam commentary. Let me explain. Rambam cites  Genesis X which begins with 10:1 Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth; and unto them were sons born after the “flood”

Rambam is advocating the genealogy as history. Notice people are being born after the “flood”. Would it not be odd that a history lesson’s first sentence involves an allegory ? It makes more sense the sons are born after the flood is being understood as history. 


The accounts of the flood (ibid, vi.-viii.) and of the destruction
of Sodom and Gomorrah (ibid, xix.), serve as an illustration of the doctrine that “Verily there is a reward for the righteous ; verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Ps. Iviii. 12).

Rambam is writing the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah are  illustrating a doctrine. How would fictional stories illustrate a reward for righteous or judgment ?  

2) Ramban commentary on

Genesis VI - Ramban asks how did the Ark space accommodate the many large animals ? And answers is was a miracle.

[It make no sense for G-d to provide a miracle in a fictional event.] [A reading of Ramban’s Noah story commentary makes clear he understood the flood as a real event.]

3) Rashi commentary on

Genesis VII:11 Rashi cites a dispute among the ancient Rabbis regarding which month the flood starts.

4) Genesis Rabbah 

28.8 - The earth acted lewdly; wheat was sown and it
produced pseudo-wheat, for the pseudo-wheat we now
find came from the age of the deluge. [Thus the flood is considered a real event]

28.8 Judgement of the flood generation lasts twelve months. [Talmud explains they also had no portion in the world to come.]

34.11 Discusses if the planets functioned during the flood. [Why the discussion if the flood was an allegory ?]

5) Talmud

The Talmud almost certainly is treating the Flood as a real world event and using the Noah story  to deduce actual law. Here are some examples. 

In Sanhedrin 56b, the Talmud tries to deduce halacha (oral law) from Genesis 9:6. 

Sanhendrin 59a “Our Rabbis taught: But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat, [Genesis9:4] this prohibits flesh cut from the living animal. R. Hanina b. Gamaliel said: It also prohibits blood drawn from a living animal....” [A halacha embedded in a fictional event ?]

Zevachim 113a - It seems halacha depends on  whether the holy land was flooded or not. How could a halacha depend on a fictional event ?

Sanhedrin 108a “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...”

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.”

Roah Hashona 11b “ ‘In the sixth hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month.’ [Genesis 7:11]  R. Joshua said: That day was the seventeenth day of Iyar, when the constellation of Pleiades sets at daybreak and the fountains begin to dry up, and because they [mankind] perverted their ways, the Holy One, blessed be He, changed for them the work of creation and made the constellation of Pleiades rise at daybreak and took two stars from the Pleiades and brought a flood on the world.”

Rosh Hashona 12a “Our Rabbis taught: ‘The wise men of Israel follow R. Eliezer in dating the Flood and R. Joshua in dating the annual cycles, while the scholars of other peoples follow R. Joshua in dating the Flood.”

6) Stone edition commentary

Page 14 - The flood begins in the year 1656 from creation.

Page 19 Be fruitful and multiply found in Genesis 9:7 is a command (Rashi).  Genesis  9:3 G-d now givess man permission to eat meat.  Genesis 9:5 G-d places another limitation on man’s right to take life. An accounting from one who spills his own blood.

Regarding Genesis 9:18-27  - Noah was humiliated resulting in blessing and curses. And regarding 9:25-27 Rav Hirsch calls them the most far reaching prophecy ever uttered.

[Can all the above based on an allegorical story ? ]


{ETA 11/4/2106 7)  JPS - Jewish Publication Society The Jewish Study Bible - Berlin and Brettler Editors 2004

Page 25 In the Talmud,  Genesis 9:5  is interpreted as a prohibition against suicide (Talmud Bava Kama 91b).  And verse 6 is cited as support against abortion (Talmud Sanh. 57b). Regarding verses verses 8-17: "In the talmud, it is taught the 'descendents of Noah'   - that is universal humanity - are obligated by seven commandments:..."

[Notice all humanity descends from Noah. This must mean all other people had been wiped out in an actual flood. Also odd indeed for the Torah to embed laws within a fictional narrative. ] }

No comments: