There are strong arguments which show that in the book of Genesis there are two stories of the Flood and not just one, and this observation has important implications for the credibility of these stories. I will approach the two stories of the Flood from two perspectives. The first one will be the examination of the internal contradictions of each story of the Flood. The second one is the relation between the facts described by the Bible and real life.
The stories of the Flood are two different stories from two different sources, stitched together by a redactor who wanted to transform them into one fluent story but without success. The following quotation summarises well the cause of so many contradictions about the description of the Flood in the book of Genesis:
“…Genesis’ supposed flood narrative is in fact a composite of two different textual traditions, each expressing the story in its own terms, language, and emphasis. Contradictions #14-18 are therefore a byproduct of having stitched these two separate flood stories together.”
One can read the biblical texts and see for oneself obvious differences in the description of the alleged event of the Flood. What was the motivation for the destruction brought by the Flood? There are two different motives for waters covering the entire earth. The first biblical text states:
“5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6; 5 NRSV)
The second text extends the motivation to animals also. This text contradicts fully the statement found in the book of Genesis according to which all animals on Earth would have eaten only plants before the Flood, because animals in order to be considered violent would have needed to be aggressive towards other animals. Those animals were mainly aggressive in connection with their feeding, killing other animals in the process.
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“11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.” Genesis 6; 11-13 NRSV)
At the first reading, seemingly the two commentaries complete each other and there is nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, it is a repetition of the story but it is also a different approach of the same theme. In verse 5, humankind was the problem, but in verses 11 to 13 all flesh is corrupted, not only humankind but animals too. There are two different motivations. Wickedness of humankind is not the same as the existence of violence generated by human and by animals.
In the second version, the author tried to explain why animals would have been wiped out from the face of the world but doesn’t explain what corruption means in the case of animals. It is a different way of thinking because humankind having consciousness could have been responsible for their behaviour but animals couldn’t.
In Genesis chapter 2, Adam and animals were created both in the same way, from the dust of the earth. One story of creation and one story of the Flood have in common a different view about the relationship between humankind and animals in which animals are seen as more related to humankind.
In point of fact, it is absurd to blame animals for their violent behaviour as far as they were created by God with a particular nature according to their kinds. God would have created the wild animals together with all other animals on the sixth day of creation, according to the book of Genesis chapter 1. He had created predator animals which eat other animals and He refused Cain’s offering which was bloodless, but He accepted Abel’s offering which implied killing of an animal therefore violence.
The motivation of the book of Genesis for the destruction of the animals through the Flood is absurd as far as many animals were predators and violence was their way of life.
Noah had to take animals with him to preserve their kinds. The number of the animals taken with Noah is different from one record to the other:
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“2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 7; 2-3 NRSV)
“19 And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive.” (Genesis 6; 19-20 NRSV)
“8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.” (Genesis 7; 8-9 NRSV)
“15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.” (Genesis 7; 15-16 NRSV)
It is easy to notice that in one text the number of clean animals is seven pairs of each kind and in the other text the number of all animals, including the clean ones, is two of each. Probably the difference appeared when one of the authors of the two stories noticed that Noah had to kill some of the clean animals from each kind to bring them as an offering to God after the Flood. Killing the only pair of clean animals coming out from the boat would have brought the extinction of those animals and no clean animals would have survived on Earth in order to be sacrificed under Moses’ laws. It is also possible that the late redactors of the stories of Noah have seen that contradiction and tried to rectify the absurdity. They just modified one story so it would have been in accordance with the Mosaic Law.
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They kept the initial version also probably out of respect for its antiquity. The initial story of the Flood was considered by the redactors to be a human creation, not the result of God’s inspiration, otherwise they couldn’t have taken the decision to modify it.
“20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar.” (Genesis 8; 20 NRSV)
Why seven pairs of all birds? In one of the two versions seven pairs of birds would have been required for Noah’s boat but in another place, only one pair of birds is mentioned. This is a contradiction which shows the multiple authorships of the stories of the Flood and which raises serious doubts about God’s inspiration of the book. Moreover, not all birds were considered to be clean by God so not all birds would have been sacrificed to make offerings to God. In the case of birds, the need to conserve them following the sacrifice of the clean ones isn’t an explanation for the presence of seven pairs of birds of all kinds, clean and unclean, on the ark.
The difference in the number of animals which would have been on the ark is a contradiction which cast doubt on the stories of the Flood from the book of Genesis. It is an important aspect because between one pair of clean animals and seven pairs of them, and one pair of all birds and seven pairs of all kinds of birds, the number of animals which would have been on a boat with limited space is very different.
How long did the Flood last? One answer is one hundred and fifty days:
“24 And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred and fifty days.” (Genesis 7; 24 NRSV)
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; 2 the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rainspan> from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred and fifty days the waters had abated; 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.” (Genesis 8; 1-5 NRSV)
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In the first verse “the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred and fifty days” no less and no more. In the second version, the waters only started to recede after one hundred and fifty days but it continued to abate for another few months. The waters would have swelled on Earth more than one hundred and fifty days if we take into consideration Genesis chapter 8, verses 3-5, hence Genesis chapter 7, verse 24 is wrong.
First the ark hit the mountain and after another two months and thirteen days the top of that mountain would have become visible. How deep was the ark sank into the waters? If the ark was about 15m tall or less an important part of its height, probably approximately 10m, was under water. When the ark hit the Ararat Mountain if it was on its peak as it should, another two months and 13 days would have been needed for the 10m recession of water. Only in “the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared”.
Keeping this rate, how long would it have taken for the waters to descend 5,137m, the height of Mount Ararat, in order to render the plains visible? 10m in 2.5 months means 10m in approximately 74 days. This also means 1m in 7.4 days. If we multiply 5,137m by 7.4 days we obtain 38,013.8 days for the recession of the waters from the Earth. If we divide 38,013.8 days by 365.25 days which is the average of the days in a year, we find that 104.07 years would have been needed until the waters would have reached approximately the levels that we know today. These figures show how aberrant is the so-called information given by the stories of the Flood from the book of Genesis. 104.07 years is a huge period of time for the life of animals which would have been on Noah’s ark and during this period of time they would have needed to be fed and watered in order to survive. The figures offered by the book of Genesis are arbitrary and they don’t reflect any reality; they are thrown randomly in order to fill the details of a legend.
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In the moment when the ark hit the Ararat Mountain its peak couldn’t have been seen because it was under water, according to Genesis 8; 4-5. If the height of the water was at the same level as the peak of the mountain or a little bit higher, the ark couldn’t have hit anything else but the peak which was under water. It was impossible for the boat to hit a lower level taking into consideration that the height of the boat would have been 13.5m and the highest point on the mountain was under water. Probably, the peak of the mountain wasn’t plain and a landing on a rock looks more like a shipwreck. From the point of view of the people found on the ark the tops of the Ararat Mountain couldn’t have been seen after two and a half months because they would have been under the ark, being the place where the boat would have landed first. The episode about the landing of the ark on the Mount Ararat is inconsistent because it contains details impossible to be harmonised in a credible scene.
Let’s now imagine the life of so many animals for that period of time. They had to live and feed on the Ararat Mountain for all that time because they were isolated by water and prohibited to live in other locations. On the mountain the entire vegetation was destroyed by the waters which covered the entire geographical relief for a long period of time. When the waters receded the whole reserve of food from the ark would have been long gone.
Noah didn’t see the horizon himself and for that reason he had to send birds to discover if the land was dry or not. Why couldn’t Noah have seen the horizon and needed birds to confirm that he could land? The answer isn’t directly given by the book of Genesis but the explanation could be the unsuitability of the window of the boat for this purpose. Normally he could have seen the land through the window if that window had been big enough and placed at the right angle but it wasn’t, in spite of the fact that its dimensions would have been established by God, according to the book of Genesis.
The two stories of the Flood also diverge from each other in establishing the moment when the Flood started in relation to the time when Noah and his family boarded the ark:
“7 And Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything/span> that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth.” (Genesis 7; 7-10 NRSV)
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“11 In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 The rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons, entered the ark,” (Genesis 7; 11-13 NNRSV)
The discrepancy between the two texts as to the moment when Noah and his family entered the ark is easy to notice. In the first biblical text, the waters came to the earth only after seven days since Noah and his family boarded the ark. In the second text the Flood started on the same day when Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons, entered the boat.
Those are some discrepancies in the Flood stories generated by the mixing together of two different ancient stories from two different sources, Yahwist and Priestly. They were organised together as a unique compound by a redactor who didn’t succeed in generating a consistent account. Besides those types of discrepancies there are others which concern the relationship between the biblical record and the real life.
How big was the ark? It was a relatively big boat after the description of the book of Genesis, but big or small is a degree of comparison which must be related to its assigned purpose. The comparison has to be made first with the complexity and the size of the animal world which is said to have been hosted by it, and not with another boat which wasn’t designed to carry samples of all living creatures on Earth. These are the dimensions of Noah’s ark described in the following quotation:
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“Genesis 6:15 in the Bible tells us the Ark’s dimensions were at least 135 meters long (300 cubits), 22.5 meters wide (50 cubits), and 13.5 meters high (30 cubits). That’s 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high! It could have been larger, because several larger-sized cubits were used. But the 45-centimeter (18-inch) cubit is long enough to show the enormous size of the Ark.”
A cubit is a measurement unit taken from the human body. It is equal to the distance between the tip of the fingers and the elbow of an adult person. More information about the cubit follows:
“Ancient measures were often based on parts of the body — palms, spans, feet, etc. The disadvantage was that everyone else would seem to have a slightly different finger span or arm length, so if you were working on a building project with other people, you would have to agree on whose arm you were going to use as the measuring standard. In order to overcome this problem measuring sticks called “cubit rods” have been produced. The “cubits roads” that have been discovered are thousands of years old and they show a bit of variation in length.”
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Another problem in Genesis chapter 6 is the one found in verses 5-7. Does God Change His Mind? According with the mainstream Christian view God is immutable, unchanging in His person, His perfections, His purposes, and His promises. At the same time, there are several biblical texts that suggest the idea that sometimes God changed His mind over the course of history. One of those texts is found in Genesis chapter 6:
“5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ 8 But Noah found favour in the sight of the LORD.” (Genesis 6; 5-8 NRSV)
The LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” is one of the most intriguing texts of the Bible. What does a Christian expect? God is Omniscient and He knows the future before it happens. When He created the universe, He knew that mankind would fall by disobedience and that such behaviour would attract countless sufferings and death. God decided to create the universe and mankind regardless of the collateral damages. He had taken incredible risks and responsibilities because beside what is great He also created the occasion for pain and death.
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God should have known that mankind wasn’t prepared to discern between good and evil and that it would surely cede when confronted with Satan’s temptation. God had created man as a very curious being, curiosity being the engine of his or her interest in reality. The human beings were in fact not free to choose between good and evil because ignorance is an obstruction for the freedom of choice. Man and woman have reacted naturally according to their innate essence and absolute obedience isn’t in human nature. God created human nature and as far as He kept mankind from knowing good and evil, man and woman could have made only incompetent decisions.
Adam and Eve had missed basic education which was replaced by God’s authority and harsh warnings. How could they understand the meaning of death if even modern human beings have difficulties when trying to grasp it? In the context of the book of Genesis, for Adam and Eve death didn’t mean anything because they didn’t see anyone dying. If death wasn’t present in the creation Adam and Eve just couldn’t have grasped that notion. If death had been present before the human Fall, Apostle Paul was wrong in saying that death came into the world through Adam and Eve’s sins.
The appearance of death as a real phenomenon on Earth would have happened after God had mentioned death to humankind, according to the apostle Paul, but that is inconsistent with logic. For Adam and Eve, the promise of knowledge and the likeness of God would have had a meaning because they had the occasion to see or at least to hear Him. At the same time, the word “death” contained in God’s warning to them would have been meaningless.
Did God not know what the history of the human races would have been before creating mankind? Either He knew and created mankind according to that knowledge or He didn’t know and human behaviour came as a surprise for Him. From Genesis 6; 5-8, the second version seems to follow. What are the possibilities? God had a plan and in this project He knew that mankind would disobey Him, but also in this plan God decided beforehand that He would kill people and animals at a certain moment in the future. The Flood would have been planned by God at the same time as the creation of humankind, and people had to learn from the experience of the Flood and to become righteous. Did God not know that humankind would not learn anything and that the world would become even worse after the Flood?
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If God had known that mankind would fail morally, but in spite of that He created them and after that He killed most of them through the Flood, and in the end He will condemn the majority of humankind to hell, the conclusion is that God’s plan itself failed.
The development of humankind from moral to immoral, proposed by the book of Genesis, is a reversed reality because true evolution is from an initial immoral, instinctual way of life to a higher moral standard. Moral life didn’t diminish from perfection to imperfection, as the Bible says, but it developed in the opposite sense, toward an increase in morality and toward higher ethical standards. People became more conscious in time about the necessity of defending moral values in order to protect the health of the social environment.
Did God have a plan for all He was doing or did He sometimes regret what He did, as Genesis chapter 6; 5-8 states? Did God’s remorse also enter into His plan? Did God anticipate that He would be sorry for the creation of mankind? If the remorse had been anticipated by God and it was a part of the plan, why was humankind punished through the Flood? Was this destruction an element of the plan also? A plan in which God would have needed to liquidate the majority of the human population on Earth and many animals in order to save few human beings at the end of the world couldn’t have been conceived by a loving God. A loving God would have chosen a minimum of collateral damages but according to the Bible He generates huge destruction.
Either God had accepted the future state of humankind before creating it or He had created human beings with the clear intention to destroy their majority at a certain time. In the first option the Flood doesn’t make sense and in the second one God cannot be equated with love as some texts of the N.T. maintain.
In Genesis chapter 6, God’s remorse seems to be authentic and not only a tactic applicable in His war with Satan. God had regretted the creation of humankind and that looks like a change in His mind. God created humankind but He regretted its creation after a while. That description given by the book of Genesis looks like a lack of both planning and of the knowledge of the future. Either way, not knowing the future beforehand or planning inefficiently, or not planning at all, is far from what the Christian apologetics believe about God.
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Consequently, Genesis chapter 6; 5-8, is either an inadequate way of presenting God or speaks about another Being than the Reality portrayed by Christian commentators, a Being doomed to failure similar to humankind.
The text from Genesis chapter 6; 5-8 can be also a pure invention of the author aimed to motivate the alleged Flood, and this inadequate motivation shows that the book of Genesis isn’t inspired by God.
Let’s see what the arguments of the Christian apologetics about God’s remorse in Genesis chapter 6 are. There are many texts in the Bible which affirm that God doesn’t change His mind such as: Numbers 23:19, I Samuel 15:29, Psalms 33:11; 102:26-28; Hebrews 1:11-12; Malachi 3:6; Romans 11:29; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17.
There are also passages in which God “appears” to change His mind. The following is a text in which God changed His mind:
“11 But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ‘ 14 And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.” (Exodus 32; 11-14 NRSV)
To me this text looks very strange. What did God try to do with Moses? Was it a game or something serious? Did God need someone to remind Him about His own oath? Did He not know human nature and its vulnerability? This is not the image of God which we are used to contemplating in the Christian teachings. God ready to destroy an entire population and convinced to do otherwise by a man. Christianity is about God convincing humankind to be meek but not the other way around. In this story, Moses convinced God to prove self-restraint. The whole story is in contradiction with what makes God the Almighty God. The God that we are taught about during catechisms is much different than what the Bible says about Him. Here is another text about God changing His mind:
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“10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3; 10 NRSV)
In the case of Jonah, the repentance of the population of Nineveh explains God changing His mind. This is understandable and is a very different situation to the one happening in the desert which involved Moses. In the latter, God’s decision wasn’t conditioned by a change in the attitude of the Jewish people and it was a pure punitive action for disobedience. In the former, the punishment was conditioned by a change in human behaviour. Another example of God changing His mind is in Amos:
“3 The LORD relented concerning this; ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD. 4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: the Lord GOD was calling for a shower of fire,* and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. 5 Then I said, ‘O Lord GOD, cease, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’ 6 The LORD relented concerning this; ‘This also shall not be,’ said the Lord GOD.” (Amos 7; 3-6 NRSV)
God changing His mind in Exodus 32 is explained by the biblical apologists with the allegation that He had submitted people to a test. God wouldn’t have wanted to destroy the Jewish people but He intended to try Moses’ reaction about such a possibility. This is a very thin explanation. Could Moses have been so indifferent about his people to endorse God’s decision to annihilate his family, his friends, and his people? Such a thing would have been a very unlikely development. In point of fact, God had proposed a similar convention to Moses that He had with Noah, but Moses didn’t accept that proposition. There is a big difference between Moses and Noah because the latter was less concerned with his brothers’ and sisters’ fate. Nevertheless, the repetition of the same motif degrades somehow the credibility of both stories, giving to both of them the aspect of a fictitious literary work.
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The solution given by the apologists of a literal reading of the book of Genesis in this case is highly objectionable for several reasons. First of all, God is expected to have known Moses before giving him a mission in the interest of the Jewish people. God wouldn’t have needed a test to know Moses’ response to a certain situation because He is All-knowing. When God tested Abraham, the challenge was used as a metaphor for the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. The episode with Moses lacks a clear metaphorical sense. This kind of test doesn’t make sense in the biblical context. Comparing with Noah, even if he had failed such a test because he didn’t object to the destruction of the majority of humankind, Noah would have been considered righteous. Moses was righteous also without his defence of the people.
More importantly, the text in Exodus 32 cannot be considered to be a test because God had already acted as He said upon the Jewish people, but on a smaller scale.
"20 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying: 21 Separate yourselves from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment. 22 They fell on their faces, and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one person sin and you become angry with the whole congregation?’ 23 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 24 Say to the congregation: Get away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.” (Numbers 16; 20-24 NRSV)
According to Numbers God wanted to destroy the whole congregation because of the sins of Korah and his company. Moses didn’t agree with such a solution, considering it unfair. Did Moses have a more acute sense of justice than God? Moses asked God the following question: ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one person sin and you become angry with the whole congregation?’ God was really angry, and in His anger He didn’t consider justice, according with the book of Genesis. Moses has reminded God about justice and only after that speech did He change His mind. The motif of God killing entire congregations or even nations for the sins of some people is found again and again in the Bible. What kind of justice was that? Some commentators would answer that God did whatever He wished. This isn’t an acceptable solution because God being righteous, He should have done only what was right.
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Another explanation proposed by the commentators for God changing His mind would be that when God threatened to destroy a nation, if that nation repented, He would have changed His mind. The only legitimate objection in such a case would be that in all nations some people would repent and others wouldn’t. To punish a whole nation even if not all people are corrupt is something specific for the Bible and is based on the principle that no-one is naturally pure in front of God and all human beings are sinners. The principle that humankind is impure is based on the story of Adam and Eve which is only a legend. If Adam and Eve are legendary personages what else would make humankind impure in God’s eyes? Human nature cannot be described as pure or impure, it is structured to allow human beings’ survival in this world. At the same time, human beings can improve themselves and the Christian solution for that is to change their nature, and that is possible only with God’s help.
According to the book of Genesis, God didn’t create “pure” people but complex human beings endowed with curiosity and thirst for knowledge. God would have created human nature as it is today. Nonetheless, if Adam and Eve are only legendary personages their imaginary Fall couldn’t have changed human nature in any way, consequently humankind is what it is following God’s creation through evolution. That means that human provenance is linked with the entirety of nature, and because human beings were originally a kind of animal; they followed the instincts imbedded in their nature and not high moral principles.
At the same time, according to the Bible, there always were people considered to be righteous in God’s eyes, for example Abel, Noah, Lot and his family, Job or David, and that shows that even human nature cannot be seen as irremediably lost. How can we admit the existence of righteous people in the O.T. if Adam and Eve had a sinful nature after the Fall? If we take for granted the story of Adam and Eve the presence of righteous people would be inexplicable following humankind’s Fall. Many Christian commentators maintain that the human nature created by God changed dramatically after the Fall. If this would be the case no righteous people would have been found on Earth after that event because that would have been against human nature. Nevertheless, the Bible speaks about a small number of righteous people in a generation.
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Only Noah and his family have been righteous, all other human beings were unrighteous. What would have generated righteousness in the attitude of few human beings as opposed to the majority of humankind? Probably, faith in God would be the most common answer. At the same time, there isn’t any reason why only one person and his family would have been considered to have faith in God, therefore to be righteous if, according to the book of Genesis, humankind already started to call for His name. This doesn’t make sense because calling the name of God is an act of faith. (Genesis 4; 26)
The puzzle is the number of human beings which would have kept the faith in God between Adam and Abraham, which was very small. Only Noah from an entire generation of many, many human beings had been righteous. One would expect more than one man being righteous amongst hundreds of thousands or even several million human beings. The story is unbelievable if we take into consideration the small percentage of good people amongst humankind in a certain historical time. A minority of good people amongst a majority of corrupt ones would be understandable but only one man on the entire earth is doubtful. Noah was a human being, not the Son of God coming from heaven, therefore his unique situation amongst the population of the earth is inexplicable. As a matter of fact, without a law there wasn’t any objective criteria to know and to judge righteousness. We don’t know how righteous Noah would have been but unlike Moses he didn’t try to dissuade God from His decision to destroy the earth through the Flood.
Why didn’t God reveal Himself to other human beings instead of destroying them? God would have preferred to annihilate the majority of human population instead of revealing Himself to it. This is the logic of the book of Genesis which isn’t based on realities but on a legend which casts a very dark image of God, but that illustration most probably doesn’t correspond with His character.
The rationale about the changing of God’s mind in the case of the creation of humankind belongs to the context of the legend, and within the limits of that, because Noah also is only a legendary character about whom the Bible doesn’t give detailed information and he isn’t a real personage. This conclusion can be drawn from analysing the story of the Flood.
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God had created humankind in His likeness and blessed them and He declared that all His creation was very good. After a while God changed His mind and from being blessed humankind became cursed and He decided to destroy beings that were like Him and who once were very good. Did God bless humankind only for a while? In chapter 1 of the book of Genesis God had asked humankind to multiply and to subdue the earth. This is the biblical text:
“28 God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ (Genesis 1; 28 NRSV)
In those conditions the curse that followed after a while is a pure fantasy. The entire story of Adam and Eve is a legend but the way in which that legend develops shows us that God cannot be accused of things that He never did in reality. He never blessed Adam and Eve because they never existed and He never sent a Flood to destroy the majority of humankind. If He had done one of those things the other one would have been in total contradiction with the other.
From the creation of mankind until Moses’ Law there wasn’t any clear set of norms through which God’s moral standards would have been known by people. Where God’s Law wasn’t in function it wasn’t any responsibility of humankind before God and the nations survived by their own laws, before and after the apparition of Mosaic Law. The Jewish people had been guided initially by the Egyptian laws and after that directly by God through Moses, but other nations had their own religious beliefs and their laws. Those nations wouldn’t have been responsible before God because they didn’t receive His Law.
It is not fair to despise humankind or human nature just because they haven’t been instructed by God in the past. Before the Mosaic Law many legal norms of human origin prescribed similar rules of conduct as Moses’ Law did at a later time. I also wonder if the way in which the book of Genesis says that the human races would have developed on Earth, through incest and polygamy, wouldn’t have been a possible cause for so much sexual immorality if that method of multiplication would have been real. It is hard to give a definitive answer because the story of Adam and Eve is only fairy tale, but generally speaking incest and polygamy can be causes of immorality.
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What is here in contradiction is that God of the Bible sanctioned some causes of immorality which were incest and polygamy, but also punished harshly their effects.
“7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.” (Jeremiah 18; 7-10 NRSV)
It is hard to believe that all individuals from an entire nation would have had an identical attitude about good and evil and that all of them would have changed their behaviour. What would have happened in the situation in which half of the people in a nation turned from evil but not the other half? Again, that black and white approach doesn’t cover all situations. People cannot be judged and punished en masse but they have to respond individually for their deeds in order to reach justice. Some individuals couldn’t have responded legitimately before God for the others’ wrongdoings.
Didn’t God create all humankind? Did He create only the Jewish people? God had a covenant only with the Jewish people but He didn’t propose covenants to other nations. Why were the other nations judged harshly? People were condemned in blocks, good people together with the bad ones. If there had been righteous persons among Jewish people wouldn’t there have been such persons amongst other nations also? There isn’t any reason for which other nations wouldn’t have contained righteous persons together with unrighteous ones. The Bible presents a very strange way of doing justice, a kind of mass judgement which were applied unrightfully later in history to the Jewish people, also by the governments of some European countries. This is the way in which the O.T. depicts the history but most likely this isn’t the reality. Being just, God cannot be as wrathful as the O.T. depicts Him to be.
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Another explanation for God’s change of mind which comes from commentators of the book of Genesis is that He can change His program or strategies but never His purposes or His plans. Here is an example of this kind of argument:
“God promised to bring His people into the land of Canaan. Due to their unbelief the first generation did not possess the land, but the second generation did. When Jesus came He offered Himself to Israel as the Messiah. Her rejection has made possible the offer of the gospel to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, when God’s purposes for the Gentiles have been accomplished, God will once again pour out His grace and salvation upon the Jews. God’s program changes, but not His purposes (cf. Romans 9-11).”
Such an explanation cannot be used to explain the destruction of the majority of humankind through the Flood. God had to know that humankind would fall beforehand and the solution of killing so many people through the Flood wouldn’t have been an efficient one. The Flood could have killed human beings and animals but it couldn’t have been able to eliminate human nature and the sin. After the Flood the situation of humankind from a moral point of view wouldn’t have been superior to what was before. God from the book of Genesis should have known better, sin couldn’t have been eradicated through the Flood.
In Genesis chapter 6 verse 3 God said:
“3 Then the LORD said, ‘My spirit shall not abide* in mortals for ever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ (Genesis 6; 3 NRSV)
This verse is not in conformity with what the book of Genesis says would have happened after the Flood. Noah lived nine hundred and fifty years and not one hundred and twenty years as he would have lived according to Genesis chapter 6:
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“28 After the flood Noah lived for three hundred and fifty years. 29 All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.” (Genesis 9; 28-29 NRSV)
Other patriarchs also lived more than one hundred and twenty years, therefore Genesis chapter 6 verse 3 is in contradiction with other biblical texts also from Genesis.
“10 These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was one hundred years old, he became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived after the birth of Arpachshad for five hundred years, and had other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 11; 10-11 NRSV)
“12 When Arpachshad had lived for thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah; 13 and Arpachshad lived after the birth of Shelah for four hundred and three years, and had other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 11; 12-13)
The book of Genesis contradicts its own assertions. If the human beings were destined to live for one hundred and twenty years there isn’t any reason for which they lived for hundreds of years. If God had set a limit for human life why wasn’t this limit respected? Human beings who lived for hundreds of years are an exaggeration if we accept the opinion of creationist commentators that after the alleged Fall human nature would have suffered a degradation. Most commentators maintain that human nature was badly affected by Adam and Eve’s Fall. At the same time, in spite of this supposed “degradation” human beings would have lived for hundreds of years, against God’s recommendation that they would reach only one hundred and twenty years. Such a situation doesn’t make sense.
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