The YEC “Did God really say…?” tactic

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” — Gen 3:1 NIV

The root of human sin, whether we look back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, or at our own sin that is all too persistent, is the desire to put our word and our will above the word and will of God. Somehow, we don’t think that God is enough, or that we know better than God. In my mind I know that only God knows what is best for us, and that God’s revelation of himself in the Bible is true from Genesis through Revelation. But any time I choose my own path, I act as if God doesn’t exist, or as if I know better than him.

Young-Earth creationist organizations, such as Answers in Genesis, take the phrase “Did God really say?” and extend it to cover their narrow interpretation of the Bible. If you don’t read the opening chapters of Genesis the way they do, then you are listening to the lies of Satan himself. Answers in Genesis recently posted a couple devotionals as part of what looks like will be a longer “Attacking God’s Word” series. The first two parts in this series are Did God Really Say? and Did God Really Say the Flood Was Global?

I find it rather humorous that these appeared on the AiG web site above a couple of Charles Spurgeon sermons. Spurgeon accepted an age for the Earth that is in the millions of years.

The YEC “Did God really say…?” tactic goes something like this: A Christian says, “I believe Earth is 4.5 billion years old.” The YEC responds by saying, “That is just compromise with the world; you are listening to the lies of the Devil, just like when he asked Eve, ‘Did God really say?'”

Let’s consider Noah’s flood. The YECs say that it was a global catastrophe, that wiped out all life except what was on Noah’s ark, and that it is the cause of most geologic features we see in the world today. Almost all old-Earth creationists will say they believe that the flood was a local event, perhaps in Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf basin, or even in the Black Sea. The YEC will respond by saying that this violates the plain reading of the text, and comes one way or another from the hissssssssing of Satan in the ear. As the “Did God Really Say the Flood Was Global?” article puts it:

To adopt the belief in millions of years, many Christians have placed uniformitarian philosophy into Scripture to account for their interpretation of the rock layers. Because of this compromise, they have reinterpreted the Flood account as being merely a local event. Therefore, they must also believe God didn’t really mean that the mountains were covered, that everything that lives and breathes on the earth died, and that He wouldn’t flood the whole world ever again.

The Genesis 3 attack seeks to cause a person to doubt God’s Word.

Do old-Earthers compromise when they claim that Noah’s flood was a local event, rather than a global catastrophe? The answer to this isn’t found by looking at geology or archeology, but by taking a close look at what the text of Genesis 6-9 actually says (and doesn’t say) about the flood, its extent, and its work.

Bible translators often have to make choices as to which word to use when they translate a Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word into English. At times, it is possible to translate one Hebrew word with more than one English word, and the translator’s choice can significantly affect how we understand the text. This is certainly the case with the flood account in Genesis. Take, for instance, the translation of Genesis 7:17-24. In the New International Version it reads:

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

The English text you just read is the product of some difficult translation decisions. Consider the following:

  • earth” could be just as legitimately translated as “land
  • mountains” could be just as legitimately translated as “hills
  • heavens” could be just as legitimately translated as “sky

Also consider the NIV footnote on verse 20, which states that an equally valid translation would be “rose more than twenty feet, and the mountains were covered.”

Now read the text again, with the footnote inserted, and with land, hills, and sky substituted for earth, mountains, and heavens:

For forty days the flood kept coming on the land, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the land. The waters rose and increased greatly on the land, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the land, and all the high hills under the entire sky were covered. The waters rose more than twenty feet, and the hills were covered. Every living thing that moved on the land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the land, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the land was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the land. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the land for a hundred and fifty days.

A few completely valid changes to the text give it a completely different sense. It no longer reads as a global event that destroyed absolutely everything on the entire planet. Instead, it reads as something that was vast from Noah’s perspective, but not necessarily more than that. It may have been only twenty feet deep in places, covering low-lying hills at the edges of a wide plain. There is more to the Biblical case for a local flood than just this, but it is clear that a plain reading of the text doesn’t necessarily lead to the global catastrophism of young-Earth creationism.

I think that the “Did God really say…?” tactic can be turned back on the young-Earth creationist movement. They actually read many things into the text that are not there, and then hold these up as standards of orthodoxy for the rest of the church. I would ask them the following questions:

  • Did God really say that Noah’s flood was global? (The answer, as I’ve just explained is “no.” The text can be translated to make the flood appear to be global, or it can just as correctly be translated to make the flood appear to be less than global. At best, the Bible is ambiguous on the complete extent of the flood)
  • Did God really say that the flood laid down most of the world’s sedimentary rocks? (The answer to this one is also “no.” The Bible says nothing whatsoever about how the geological record was formed, so it is not a compromise to state that evidence points to a certain layer as being the remains of a coral reef ecosystem, rather than insisting that this complete ecosystem somehow was placed there by a global flood.)
  • Did God really say that the flood killed the dinosaurs? (The answer to this one is also “no.” While I affirm that God is behind all of creation, including dinosaurs, I see no Biblical reason to suppose that humans and dinosaurs lived together, that there were dinosaurs on the ark, or that they were wiped out by Noah’s flood.)

I could ask many additional “Did God really say?” questions, as there are many more examples of things that the YECs read into the text.

As I stated a few weeks ago in my Creation creeds post:

As an old-Earth creationist
I believe that the universe was created by the triune God of the Bible
I believe that the Bible does not dictate when this creation took place
I believe in a real Adam
in a real garden
in a real fall into sin
in real consequences for that sin
and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin

Belief in an old-Earth or a local flood does not lead to a compromise in regards to the inerrancy of Scripture or the core doctrines of the faith. I’ll stick to what God really said, and not hold my beliefs on secondary matters up as the standards of orthodoxy.

Grace and Peace

42 thoughts on “The YEC “Did God really say…?” tactic

  1. ahumanoid

    Great post.

    Two questions. You said: “Belief in an old-Earth or a local flood does not lead to a compromise in regards to the inerrancy of Scripture. . .”

    Do you believe that inerrancy, as commonly understood, is an important component of the Christian faith. Also, would understanding the flood story as an embellished account intended to convey spirtual truths compromise the doctrine of inerrancy?


  2. geochristian


    Yes, I believe that inerrancy is an important doctrine. The standard Evangelical statement of inerrancy is The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which ends with:

    We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.
    We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.

    It is important to note that the authors of this document refused to include any references to a young Earth, despite the urgings of Henry Morris, co-author of The Genesis Flood and founder of the Institute for Creation Research.

    I think there is a good Biblical foundation for the doctrine of inerrancy, such as 2 Tim 3:16 and 2 Pet 1:20-21. The danger of rejecting the doctrine of inerrancy is that something else will always come in as the final authority when the authority of God’s word is dismissed. Sometimes it is tradition, sometimes it is whatever philosophies are the fad of the hour.

    One can certainly reject inerrancy and still be pretty orthodox as a Christian. I would cite C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as two twentieth century examples. But there are many more who reject inerrancy who go down the path of rejecting key Biblical doctrinal or ethical teachings.

    In regards to “the flood story as an embellished account,” I would say that there is nothing in the Scripture that would point in that direction. The interpretation I presented above, on the other hand, flows from the text itself.

    Thanks for your comment.


  3. Boz

    Coming from your opposite flank, geocristian, I have found “Did Yahweh really say..?”, “Did Ganesh really say..?”, “Did Allah really say..?”, “Did Apollo really say..?”, to be valuable questions.

    Take for example any section of a holy book that says: “Deity said X”.

    e.g. revelation 2.10. The author says: “Yahweh said: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you …””

    Now consider two possible scenarios. Firstly, Yahweh told the author this information, then the author wrote it. Secondly, Yahweh did not tell the author this information, the author got it from another source, or made it up, then the author wrote it.

    Now under both scenarions, we get the same outcome. (That is, the words on the page).

    So, given that the outcome is the same from both scenarios, how do we determine which scenario generated the outcome? I don’t know.

    Did Yahweh really say “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you …”? I don’t know. I can’t tell.


  4. WebMonk


    I think the definition of “inerrancy” gets so convoluted that it isn’t as clear-cut as it is normally treated. The Bible is “inerrant” except for rounding off, poetic language, dramatic statements, parables, common usage phrases, symbolic statements, giving facts of the period, relaying individual’s points of view which are incorrect, etc, etc, etc.

    I tend to use the term “inspired” rather than “inerrant”. I like that term better because it is actually a Biblically-stated adjective rather than derived. Not that just because something is derived means it isn’t correct, but given the choice, I will go with the explicit statement rather than the derived.

    I agree that the Bible is “inerrant”, but the definition of that term starts getting so large that I think it loses some of its value.


  5. geochristian


    Welcome back (at least I think I remember you commenting on The GeoChristian a while back).

    You ask an excellent question. I’ll attempt to give a short answer, though a book-length answer would probably be required.

    The alternatives to the “God question” in a broad sense are:
    1. There is no God or any other sort of supernatural.
    2. There is an impersonal God, as in many forms of Eastern religions.
    3. There is a personal God, but he has chosen to remain aloof from his creation.
    4. There is a personal God, and he has revealed himself in ways we humans can understand.

    I reject #1 for philosophical reasons, such as the cosmological argument. Atheism cannot answer the “Why is there something rather than nothing?” question, as well as other issues raised by the cosmological argument.

    I find Eastern religions to fall short on the philosophical arguments as well. Most of them are rather fuzzy on the reality of good and evil, which I find rather disturbing in terms of ethics (I am not saying that adherents of these religions are less ethical than Christians). So I rule out #2, along with Ganesh.

    I rule out #3 (deism) because I believe God has stepped into history, primarily in Jesus Christ. The intelligent design movement sometimes slips into some sort of deism.

    I’ll rule out Apollo, along with other sub-deities such as Zeus (or Ganesh again) because they are not the ultimate in their religions. In ancient Greek religion, I would have to consider the overall religious structure and look for the highest deity (Chronos? Chaos?) before evaluating the lesser Gods. Apollo just doesn’t stand on the same rung as Yahweh or Allah in Christianity and Islam, respectively.

    Within #4 are the monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I view Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism, and I view Islam (along with some modern day religions such as Mormonism) as a corruption of Christianity. Why do I prefer Christianity? For a lot of reasons, but primarily because of Jesus Christ. I look at his life, his teachings, his death, and yes, his resurrection, and cannot help but to be drawn to him.

    I believe that God has spoken, in nature, in history, through the Old Testament prophets, through the writers of the New Testament, and most highly through his Son Jesus Christ. There are many lines of evidence that point to the reliability of the Scriptures, especially that they give a faithful picture of the life and teachings of Christ.

    Ai, it’s getting late. I’ll summarize by quoting from C.S. Lewis:

    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2 Chapter 3 “The Shocking Alternative”

    Some have summarized this as “Liar, lunatic, or Lord.” Those are the options.(I am aware of the critiques of Lewis on this, and think I can defend his position).

    Have I “proven” that “God said x”? Probably not. My goal in a situation like this is to show that A. Christianity provides a rational answer, and B. That the Christian answer is the best answer.

    I’ll be away from the computer for some time, but I’ll try to give this more thought.


  6. Boz

    geochristian, it is good to hear from you.

    I mentioned other deities because “Deity said X” is a problem not just for christianity, but for all theisms.

    In relation to the trilemma, this argument has a hidden premise that assumes that everything written in the four gospels is historically reliable. That is, jesus said everything attributed to him in the gospels. For several reasons, I am not persuaded that this premise is true.

    Now, if a person accepts this argument, and the hidden premise, then the “Did yahweh say X” question is a no-brainer. We can easily say: “the 4 gospels are correct, and it says that Yahweh said X, therefore Yahweh said X!”. Easy.

    Furthermore, if we accept this premise, then we don’t even need Lewis’ trilemma. We can say: “The gospels say that jesus was ressurected, and performed several miracles, therefore it is true.”, and “The gospels say that jesus is the son of Yahweh, therefore it is true.”.

    I’m keen to talk about the other issues you bring up, but perhaps they are for another thread.

    Maybe we can look at this more objectively. If a person wrote that “Xenu said X”, how would we determine if that was a genuine private message from xenu to the author, or if there was no communication between xenu and the author?


  7. geochristian


    I am aware that Lewis’ trilemma has been criticized for leaving out a fourth “L” — “Liar, Lunatic, Lord, or Legend.” Lewis was aware that his argument hinged on the historical accuracy of the gospels.

    One cannot “prove” that Jesus said everything attributed to him in the gospels any more than one can “prove” that the text of the Gettysburg Address is accurate. What one can demonstrate, however, is that the gospels are largely historically accurate, and reflect a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus was, and what he said and did.

    For example, non-believing scholars (e.g. Ehrman) generally date the four gospels after AD 70, but their primary reason for doing this is their anti-supernatural presupposition that Jesus could not have predicted the destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70.

    There are a couple of strong arguments for an earlier date for the gospels.
    1. The Christian community in and around Jerusalem fled the city as the Roman army drew near in AD 70. They did this based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:

    “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!”

    The early church knew the words of Jesus and escaped the destruction of Jerusalem.
    2. The teachings of Jesus in the gospels do not reflect the controversies that confronted the early church from the 40s and later, such as circumcision, eating of meat offered to idols, or the place of gentiles in the church. If the gospels were invented by Christians in the late first or early second centuries, the authors would likely have placed words into Jesus’ mouth in order to back up their positions. Instead, Jesus is silent on many of these early church issues.

    For these reasons, and others, I believe that the gospels were written at an early date. Because of this, I believe that the gospels accurately portray the life, deeds, and teachings of Jesus. If they did not, there were plenty of witnesses of Jesus’ life still alive who could have said, “No, that is not what Jesus said.”

    These things do not prove the word-for-word inspiration of the gospels. But they do show that the gospels are to be taken seriously as a portrayal of Jesus’ life on Earth. Because of this, I think we can largely rule out the fourth “L”, which is Legend, and we are back to Lewis’ trilemma.

    I don’t think Jesus was a liar or a lunatic. He is my Lord.

    Thanks for the interaction on this. As I said earlier, I have a busy week and will be away from the blog for the most part.

    With respect,


  8. Kathy

    Hi, Kevin, I’ve been reading your blog with interest. I stumbled upon it quite by accident when I read about Ray Wile’s resignation from Apologia and read the comments section in his blog.

    This post of yours resonates with me. Just recently, a YECist told me that the most dangerous word in the Bible is the three-letter word “did” as in “Did God really say…?”

    I used to be part of a church that made YECism almost a doctrine.

    I homeschool my children and when I first started (10 years now!) I was ‘scared’ to use ‘secular’ books. I ‘edited’ as I read.

    I am now a Theistic Evolutionist and am trying hard to ‘combat’ the wrong teachings of YECism when I see them.

    Thanks for your blog!


  9. Excellent post, Kevin. Speaking as a YEC, I have always had a problem with the “Did God really say” argument, mostly because the implied message is, “Anyone who disagrees with my interpretation is the Devil.” While no YEC will come out and say it that way, I think a lot of them think that way.


  10. Kathy

    Dr Wile, I have had one person specifically say to me that belief in a young earth is a salvation issue. It all comes down to “Did God really say…” While he did not say that I am the Devil, it is pretty clear that he thinks my salvation is at stake.


  11. WebMonk

    Kathy, I keep my views under wraps. I’ve seen what happened to several people who weren’t YEC in a church I went to, and I have no desire to have the same sort of explosion happen.

    Some of the individuals at my church (including the pastor) wouldn’t have any troubles if they knew I’m not YEC, but there are several people who are completely adamant that anyone who doesn’t hold the YEC view are completely unfit for any sort of position in the church, and is teetering on the edge of denying Christ.

    I probably wouldn’t lose my position (thanks to pastor who doesn’t view the YEC position as pivotal, though he is YEC), but the fuss it would make is more than I am willing to cause.


  12. Tim Helble

    I went to a “Back to Genesis” Seminar put on by the ICR at Trinity Assembly of God (Lutherville, MD) back in 1994, when Ken Ham was still with the ICR (and his hair was still dark!). Ham did a segment near the middle of the seminar, and I remember him exclaiming “If you believe the earth is old, then Jesus didn’t die for your sins!” Since then, he has toned down his rhetoric and says he’s never said old earth vs. young earth is a salvation issue.


  13. WebMonk

    Tim, I attended a fair number of the AiG seminars in my late teen years and heard pretty much the same thing – the forces of the non-YEC were insidious cancers destroying the church, trying to stop people from believing in Christ, true servants of Satan.

    I still remember some of the illustrations on some of the materials being sold, the most vivid to my memory being a cartoon strip with a “Christian” person talking about evolution to someone with Satan in the background cheering him on. Then a YEC person came along and totally destroyed the evil fake-Christian evolutionist with the “Were you there” argument, and Satan went fleeing.

    Now, looking back …. Not nice thoughts about whoever put that together.

    I don’t think Ken has really changed much because I just watched a video of him a few months ago and he was talking about how the acceptance of evolution in churches is responsible for kids leaving the church and not being saved. That’s a pretty direct restatement of that comic strip.

    I know he is a brother Christian who truly believes he is serving Christ, but when I think of the thousands or possibly millions of people for which his talks, books, and organizations have put huge walls between them and Christ, I have a very hard time thinking of him in a civil manner.


  14. Thomas


    While I myself don’t believe in a global flood, I think the most significant objection to this position is the promise to never again destroy the earth with water. How does that square with your local flood view?


  15. WebMonk

    Geo wrote about this in the post to which we are responding – the word for “earth” is just as correctly translated as “land”. God is talking to Noah, and just like what it says, God promises that he will never again destroy the land by Flood.


  16. Thomas

    WebMonk and Kevin,

    I don’t think that translating “earth” as “land” solves the problem. When God says that never again will he destroy the land with water (9:11), does that mean that he will never again destroy that particular localized area? Do we know for sure that that particular area has never been flooded since?

    And what do we make of the statements in 8:21 and 9:11 that God will not “ever again destroy every living creature”? This statement makes no sense if we view the flood in a localized setting.


  17. WebMonk

    What “makes sense” depends on your opinion of who God is talking to – is He talking to the people 4000 years later by putting in secret information that no one would have any clue about until the 19th and 20th centuries AD are reached (worldwide deposition of sediment miles thick), or is God speaking to Noah and we are witnesses (readers) of the discussion?

    If He’s talking to Noah, then it would be assumed that He’s not discussing the 99.99% of the globe and animals that Noah had never visited or seen, but rather talking to Noah about what did concern Noah – the land he lived in and the animals he dealt with.

    The Bible is replete with statements of “all” this and “every” that, when the speaker (sometimes God) is not using a global reference, but a local one. (for example, no one assumes that “every nation” or “every people” when dealing with the Israelites was referring to the American Indians or the Chinese or Australians, or that “every man” trembled about something)

    There’s nothing that suggests we should suddenly throw out that standard when dealing with Noah. That is a pretty blatant change of interpretation just to back up a theological position, and it is generally looked down upon everywhere else in the Bible.

    But, the YEC position requires that the first several chapters of Genesis get a special method of interpretation distinct from what is used for the rest of the Bible.

    And just to make it clear that I don’t think the YEC position is the one and only theological position to do this, you can see the same sort of twisted interpretation used in a lot of End Times theology to generate helicopters armed with chemical warheads from Revelation.

    And, just to get REALLY far afield from our topic, I think the same sort of special pleading is used in Infant Baptism proof verses, where “everyone in the house” is REQUIRED to mean that 1) there were infants in the house, and 2) they were included in the “everyone”, while just a bit earlier in the book the term “every” and “all” are used in a very broad and generic sense, not a specific and “scientific” use.

    But that’s getting pretty far afield.


  18. Thomas

    WebMonk, I’m a big fan of internetmonk and found that particular article to be very interesting.

    I take your point that the Bible often uses all/every in a sense that shouldn’t be taken in an overly literal fashion. Every single person in Jerusalem and Judaea didn’t go see John; a whole lot of people did, though.

    My own position on the Noah story is to see it as something like divine mythology. I don’t think it actually happened, or if it did, I see the Genesis version as an echo of a major flood in the past. I think it has things to teach us about God, but I don’t view it as historical.

    While I am not on the side of the dogmatic YECer, I certainly see the point of his objections to someone reading the Noah story literally but seeing the flood as local, as geochristian seems to do. I think it was indeed intended by the writer to be interpreted universally, for the following reasons:

    1. God wiped out all human flesh. A local flood assumes that all human beings were in a relatively small area. At the very least, that they were all on the same continent.

    2. God saves the animals. Is this really necessary if the flood is local?

    3. God promises to never destroy the land with water again. A local interpretation means either that God promises not to destroy this particular piece of land or not to send a flood of that magnitude. If he means the former, are we really prepared to say that that area has not been flooded since? He certainly can’t mean the latter, in view of the recent devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

    4. The flood of Noah seems (to me) to be described in terms of totally undoing the creation of Genesis 1. The floodgates of heaven are opened and the springs of the deep burst forth–this is an undoing of the separation of the waters from the waters. They submerge the land and wipe out all life–an undoing of days 3 and 6. At the end of the flood, God assures Noah and his family that the rhythms of nature will continue–implying that they were disrupted by the flood. Such cataclysmic language seems awefully subdued by a local interpretation.

    Anyway, I think there are still some issue to be worked out with this position.


  19. Tim Helble

    On the other hand, God just got through with his magnificent creation and declared in Gen 1:31 that it was “very good,” then just because one (actually two) person disobeyed Him, God lets all the wonderful things He just created all over the Earth and throughout the entire universe be totally corrupted; and in the minds of some YECs, even the laws of thermodynamics kick into motion. That seems to be putting a bit too much power into the hands of two created beings.


  20. geochristian

    I have been on the road for a week without internet access. Thank you to all for your valuable comments.

    — Kevin N, (The GeoChristian)


  21. Boz

    hi, geochristian

    I think you might be taking a whole-of-text approach to Lewis’ four options (Lord, Liar, Lunatic, Legend). I reached this understanding because you said: “If the gospels were invented by Christians in the late first or early second centuries..”. I agree with you in believing that this is false.

    I don’t think it is fair to say that:
    every single statement/action from the 4 gospels are all fabricated; or
    every statement attributed to jesus is an inadvertant lie; or
    every statement attributed to jesus is a deliberate lie; or
    every statement/action attributed to jesus is 100% word-for-word accurate.

    I think it is more accurate to say that:
    some sayings attributed to jesus are probably word-for-word accurate; and
    some sayings attributed to jesus are probably in line with what he actually said, but not word-for-word accurate; and
    some sayings attributed to jesus are probably accurately recorded, but the contect is false; and
    some sayings attributed to jesus are probably inaccurately recorded or misattributed or exaggerated or fabricated; and
    some actions attributed to jesus are probably mostly accurate; and
    some actions attributed to jesus are probably inaccurately recorded or exaggerated or misattributed or made up.

    And we could find examples for each of these categories. Do you agree?

    so, the actual historical events are more nuanced and convoluted and messy than Lewis’ argument suggests. And we must take in to account everything that was written about jesus (otherwise we are cherrypicking). There are dozens of other writings which describe jesus’ sayings and actions.


  22. geochristian


    I have points of agreement with what you said, and points at which I have to disagree.

    I agree that not all quotes in the four gospels are word-for-word transcriptions of the sayings of Jesus. First of all, Jesus’ day-to-day language would have been Aramaic, not Greek, which is the language the four canonical gospels were written in. Second, the gospel writers at times emphasized different aspects of the same events, and would edit their narratives accordingly. This does not mean that what they wrote wasn’t consistent with Jesus’ teachings.

    I disagree with the idea that parts of the canonical gospels contain material that is inaccurate, misattributed, exaggerated, or fabricated. The gospels were written too close to the life of Jesus, and at a time when there were too many witnesses of Jesus’ life and teachings, to contain these sorts of errors. The witnesses (the apostles and others) would have been quick to point out the mistakes.

    I cannot “prove” that everything recorded in the gospels is just exactly the way it really happened. What can be demonstrated is a high level of confidence in the historical accuracy of the text. There is an element of faith in my acceptance of these as the Word of God, but this is not a blind faith, or an I-believe-despite-the-facts sort of faith.

    As far as the non-canonical, or Apocryphal, gospels go (e.g. Gospel of Thomas), most of them can be demonstrated to be considerably later than the four canonical gospels, and none of them gained wide acceptance in the early Church. I would feel comfortable applying your statements to these writings: they may contain some accurate sayings and deeds of Jesus, as well as fabrications, misattributions, and so on.


  23. Boz

    I think I might be understanding that you have a method for assessing historical information. Is this true; do you have a method?

    “If an event is written about within 30 years, and there were many witnesses to the event, then the event is an actual historical event.”

    Is that a fair summary of your method? That is what I am gathering from what you are saying.

    I note that the gospel of thomas falls outside the 30 years, so you note that it may not be historical, which is consistent with your method.

    I think it is very important to use a method to determine what claims to accept and reject. It reduces the bias that we all have.


  24. WebMonk

    Boz, trying to state something like that in a brief form is a bit tricky because of all the real-life stuff that can come into play.

    Take the 30-years example. Sounds good, except when things like motivation to lie, or political pressure, or any list of things can be brought to bear. USSR publications might be an example – many of the publications were blatantly false “history” of what was going one.

    MAYBE it could be stated something like when a variety of sources write of something in the recent past (within a lifetime) and the writings stand up to scrutiny from multiple contemporary sources and are consistent with other history known from distinct sources, then it can be considered very reliable. Add in things like the authors being willing to undergo persecution for maintaining their stories, and the absence of counter-acting statements/evidence from opponents. Add in some variance within the collection of writings which indicates that it wasn’t all coming from the same source.

    Etc, etc, etc. There are standard sorts of methods used by historians. I’m not a historian, but I’ve picked up bits of this from a good friend who is going for his doctorate in ancient near east history (not a Bible college person, a regular non-Christian college attender).

    My point is that putting down a concise summary here is going to be difficult – there have been hundreds of doctoral dissertations and thousands of papers produced on how to determine whether or not historical accounts are reliable from which to extract certain types of information. (a there-with-a-camcorder view isn’t always the type of history some historical writings are intending to give) For example, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would be considered a fine source for historic detail, though not a source for information on a specific person in history.

    Writings can vary within a range. For example, the Gospels aren’t all completely verbatim recitations of words and actions. There are some places which are very likely to be verbatim, but others are summaries, and others are generalizations. This is all considered when saying the Gospels (or any historical accounts) are a reliable witness to events.

    That’s why I would say that “If an event is written about within 30 years, and there were many witnesses to the event, then the event is an actual historical event” is not a precisely accurate way to state the view, though it is a very broadly accurate approach.

    My apologies if I’m interrupting here. I had some conversations with that history doc student about almost exactly this and I couldn’t resist posting.


  25. Boz

    Thanks for the reply, WebMonk

    I agree that putting down a concise summary of determining what to accept historically is difficult, because we can always find a counter-example, like your USSR example. So, we end up adding all kinds of qualifiers.

    From what you are saying, it sounds like you accept the historical method:
    Is that correct?

    geochristian, what is your method for determining what to accept historically?


  26. WebMonk

    Basically, yeah. My approach to it has been pretty hodge-podge, but as I was talking this over a while back with said PhD aspirant, it distilled down to fit within the Historical Method for the most part. Sean tended toward some slightly more esoteric emphasis in the ways he approached it, but I think a few of those were a bit too open to interpretation, so I tended to stick with the Historical sorts of methods.

    Not that his issues were wacky tobacky, but I thought they were open to more insertion of modern thoughts into the interpretations. Of course, he’s the one delving into the inner guts of ancient near east history, so his first-hand experience may show the baselessness of my hesitations.


  27. Pingback: HOW OLD IS THE EARTH? « Fr. Orthohippo

  28. ken stacy

    Question: How does the ark end up on Mt. Ararat (the lowest peak which by the way is still several thousand feet above sea level) in a local flood?


  29. Tim Helble

    Ken – I believe the scriptures say that the ark ended up on the “mountains of Ararat.” You may be forcing modern geographic understanding on an ancient text.


  30. Kent

    Why bother to build an ark if the flood is local? Why not just move?

    Why bother to take animals on the ark? Why not just let them survive in the mountains or beyond the reach of the flood? (Maybe they hadn’t and wouldn’t migrate beyond the boundaries where humans had gone and therefore had to be on the ark to survive?)

    Why bother to take birds on the ark? Why not just let them fly, or let them go to higher ground? (Maybe they hadn’t and wouldn’t migrate beyond the boundaries where humans had gone and therefore had to be on the ark to survive?)

    What kind of local flood would keep a 45-foot high, 450-ft long boat floating in 20+ feet of water for 7 months, hiding for an additional 3 months the mountain tops where the ark landed in the mountains of Ararat?

    Why couldn’t the dove find a place to set down if the flood was only local? A dove can pretty easily fly 100 miles in a day, so the edge of the flood would have been at least 50 miles away from the ark (50 miles out, 50 back) for the dove to not find land. That’s a pretty huge local flood, to have a 20-foot deep puddle, 100 miles on a side, for 7 months.

    Why does this local flood coincide with a gradual drop in lifespans over the next several centuries until they are 1/10 of what they were previously?

    Why does this local flood coincide with a seemingly-new instinctual fear of humans amongst animals?

    Why does this local flood justify God permitting carnivorism whereas previously he had only permitted vegetarianism?

    Why does this local flood justify the rainbow as a covenant sign that such a flood would never again occur?

    Did God’s covenant with the land and the survivors of the ark and their descendants apply to any animals that survived outside the ark?

    Why would Peter indicate that a uniformitarian view of history is incompatible with being cognizant of a local flood (2 Peter 3:3ff)?

    Why would Peter compare the world that perished before the flood with the current world being held in reserve for fire? Is only a local portion of our world going to burn? When Peter says “everything” will be destroyed this way, should we understand that to mean “not really everything”?

    When Isaiah says that YHWH is God of all the ha’eretz, and four verses later says that God promised Noah to never flood again the whole ha’eretz, are we to think he considered YHWH as God of the local land, or the that flood was global, or did he change meanings within four verses (Is 54:5,9)?

    It seems to me that even if you translate earth as land, and heavens as sky, and mountains as hills, additional fine-tuning of the text (and of common sense/logic) is required in order to read the flood as a local flood.


  31. WebMonk

    Kent, try asking just one question at a time. All of those have basic answers, but having thirty of them all at once makes it impossible to answer in a blog comment.

    Maybe pick one or two?

    I’ll pick the first one, just as an example.

    God could have had several reasons for doing this. I’ll pick just one possibility, with the caveat that this is guessing at why God does things the way He does – a dubious enterprise.

    God was doing more than just saving lives – He was giving a giant HERE’S YOUR STUPID SIGN to people. (apologies if involving Foxworthy with discussion of God offends anyone! :-) )

    Sure, God could have told Noah to take his family out of the area and saved their lives, but instead God was giving an unmistakable sign and warning, not just to the people of the area, but also to everyone who heard of what happened. A huge flood happening – sure, some people will know of it, and if Noah claimed God warned him and others, some might believe him.

    But, with the Ark, God placed a giant HERE’S YOUR STUPID SIGN for everyone there to see.

    Most of your questions that you seem to view as unanswerable by a non-YEC, only appear that way because you’re adding YEC assumptions. Take out the YEC assumptions, and the “problems” suddenly disappear.


  32. geochristian


    Thanks for your comment and questions. I have been out of town, so my apologies for taking a week to respond.

    I won’t attempt to answer all of your questions, but will answer a few of them to give you an idea of how an old-Earther thinks about such things. I hope you see that my answers do not come from a “force the Bible to fit science” hermeneutic. Instead, I seek to dig deep into the Word to see what it says, not just what young-Earth teachers have conditioned many to read into it.

    Why bother to build an ark if the flood is local?

    If Noah were to walk out of the valley, it would only demonstrate that he could save himself, and that was not God’s intention. By having Noah build an ark, it showed that it was only God who could save Noah from God’s wrath. This works whether the flood were a local or global event.

    What kind of local flood would keep a 45-foot high… boat floating?

    A large one.

    Why does this local flood coincide with a gradual drop in lifepans?

    What difference does this make to the global vs. local question?

    Why does this local flood justify the rainbow as a covenant sign that such a flood would never again occur?

    The Bible nowhere says that there was no rain (or no rainbows) before the flood. That is something some creationists have read into the text that simply isn’t there. The scale of the flood was still immense, but not necessarily global. Some old-Earthers (e.g. Hugh Ross) believe that the flood was universal in terms of humanity, others only that it was universal in terms of the covenant lineage. In either case, God’s promise was to not send this type of judgement again.

    Why would Peter indicate that a uniformitarian view of history is incompatible with being cognizant of a local flood?

    YECs almost always present a distorted view of uniformitarianism. All “uniformitarianism” means these days (if the term is used at all) is that the universe operates by laws that are understandable, and that these laws operated in the past as well as the present. YECs use this same principle when they try to explain the Grand Canyon with its layers by Noah’s flood.

    When Isaiah says that YHWH is God of all the ha’eretz, and four verses later says that God promised Noah to never flood again the whole ha’eretz, are we to think he considered YHWH as God of the local land, or the that flood was global, or did he change meanings within four verses (Is 54:5,9)?

    Eretz could mean either “earth” or “land” depending on the context. Clearly in the Bible God is the God of the entire universe; there is no other. This does not mean that we have to translate eretz the same way every time.

    Grace and Peace


  33. Pingback: Noah & Abraham and the flood - Page 5 - Christian Forums

  34. Pingback: Toeing the Party Line « A Yewnique Life

  35. Dan

    Although this post was some time ago, it is linked to in a recent post and deals with a vital issue, so I hope it’s okay to join it now.

    First off, how come it took 32 replies before we finally got a comment with a long (but even then not incomplete) list of Biblical and practical problems with a local flood view? What kind of an amen chamber is this.

    Now, looking at WebMonk’s reply to the question of why an ark would even be needed in anything but a global flood scenario: WM suggests there are several reasons why God would have commanded it, without giving Biblical support for any, including the “warning sign” one – while ignoring the one and only reason the Bible DOES give, several times, namely “to the saving of [Noah’s] house”, Hebrews 11:7, as well as the animal kinds.

    Noah warned the people for 120 years. If that wasn’t enough, why would the presence of “Noah’s folly” be? Cf. Luke 16:31.

    Meanwhile I’m amazed by the claim that “Most of your questions that you seem to view as unanswerable by a non-YEC, only appear that way because you’re adding YEC assumptions. Take out the YEC assumptions, and the “problems” suddenly disappear.” I fail to see how that applies to them.

    On the other hand, it’s exactly what does apply in reverse, namely, many objections to a global flood only seem to be that way because of unstated old-earth assumptions. Well, doh!

    For example: “How could any flood have covered Mt. Everest?” Anyone who knows anything about contemporary YEC thinking knows that in this view the Himalayas (and modern mountain ranges in general) didn’t exist before the flood!

    Even more acutely: “How did Noah manage to go to the Arctic to catch a pair of polar bears for the ark, then take them back there afterwards?” I spot at least four unbiblical assumptions without which the question simply doesn’t make sense. Leave you all to find them ;)

    Now Kevin’s reply to the same question went –

    “If Noah were to walk out of the valley, it would only demonstrate that he could save himself” – but he needed God to tell him it was going to happen.

    “and that was not God’s intention. By having Noah build an ark, it showed that it was only God who could save Noah from God’s wrath.” But Noah still needed to build the ark himself.

    Thus, in both cases God and Noah each had an input – so I don’t see the intended distinction.

    Next, Kevin’s partial citation “What kind of local flood would keep a 45-foot high… boat floating?” omits crucial information from Kent’s original question, notably that the ark was aborne for seven months. In local floods, the initial surge/torrents might lift up the great ark for a bit, but the water would soon spread out, hundreds of square miles but barely enough to cover rooftops, and definitely unable to keep the ark aloft.

    Next: “Why does this local flood coincide with a gradual drop in lifepans?

    What difference does this make to the global vs. local question?”

    I’m afraid this response suggest that your reading of YEC studies is inadequate. I’m surprised – I didn’t think you’d really be unaware of it.

    The question of why all the land animals needed the ark to escape a local flood seems to me absolutely unanswerable, and I’m not holding my breath for any local-flooder to attempt it.


  36. wow. this is the first time I seen a “Christian” post quote scripture then post it again replacing it with only the words that support their presuppositions. We’ll keep this debate in prayer.


  37. Simon Hipwell

    If the flood was only local why not save Noah by moving him beyond the flood plain?
    The local flood does not deal with the tainted blood-line by the fallen angels fathering half breed children. Jesus needed to be born fully human of a virgin. We do not know how far the impurity had spread, but for a loving God to wipe out all mankind we have to assume the tainted blood spread pretty far. The Hebrew vocabulary is limited and so words can have many meanings. Noah is often translated as righteous but could also be translated as pure.
    Bless you in your search for the truth.
    Simon Hipwell


  38. geochristian


    Thanks for your comment.

    If God had just told Noah to flee, then the action would have been a picture of Noah saving himself rather than God saving Noah.


    1. Simon Hipwell

      Ingenious, but hardly conviincing!
      Elijah was told to go to the brook Cherith. Mary and Joseph were told to go to Egypt. Neither case is sited as a picture of them saving themselves, rather than God saving them.
      You’ll have to try a bit harder than that!
      Your brother in Christ,


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