The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Noah’s flood

The ESV Study Bible is a theologically conservative Evangelical work, and is certainly one of the most comprehensive study Bibles ever produced. It has been out for only three years, but it looks like it will be a highly influential reference work for decades to come. 

One potential positive impact of the ESVSB relates to its treatment of the doctrine of creation. The ESVSB does not take a stand on geological issues such as the age of the Earth or the extent of the flood. In both of these cases it offers cautionary notes that could open the doors to old-Earth interpretations for many readers. The authors of the study notes, though firmly committed to the inspiration of the Scriptures, believe that it is not necessary to hold to the “literal” young-Earth interpretation of Genesis.

My hope and prayer is that, just as the Scofield Reference Bible led many to accept the Gap Theory (rather than young-Earth interpretations) a century ago, so the ESVSB will introduce Christians of our day to alternative viewpoints on Genesis 1, such as the analogical days and day-age interpretations.

This is my third article on the ESV Study Bible’s coverage of issues related to the doctrine of creation. My first two posts were:

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Introduction and Introduction to Genesis

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Genesis 1

ESVStudyBibleThe ESV Study Bible‘s notes on the extent of Noah’s flood are not as comprehensive in some ways as were the notes on Genesis 1, but they still contain a lot of useful information to help the reader better understand the text. I have already noted that the ESVSB’s introductory notes to Genesis state that one should be cautious and not read too much into what the text of Genesis 6-9 says about the extent (global or local?) and work of the flood. The ESVSB Introduction to Genesis states:

One must take similar care in reading the flood story. The notes will discuss the extent to which Moses intended to describe the flood’s coverage of the globe. Certainly the description of the flood implies that it was widespread and catastrophic, but there are difficulties in making confident claims that the account is geared to answering the question of just how widespread. Thus, it would be incautious to attribute to the flood all the geological formations observed today…

The notes on 6:17 discuss the extent of the flood:

Although God intends the flood to destroy every person and his remarks have a strong universal emphasis, this in itself does not necessarily mean that the flood had to cover the whole earth. Since the geographical perspective of ancient people was more limited than that of contemporary readers, it is possible that the flood, while universal from their viewpoint, did not cover the entire globe. Indeed, Genesis implies that prior to the Tower of Babel incident (see 11:1–9), people had not yet spread throughout the earth. Many interpreters, therefore, argue that a huge regional flood may have been all that was necessary for God to destroy all human beings. The expression “all the earth” (7:3; cf. 8:9, “the whole earth”) does not exclude such a possibility: later, “all the earth” came to Joseph to buy grain (41:57), in which “all the earth” clearly refers to the eastern Mediterranean seaboard. In support of the view that the flood covered all the earth, other interpreters point out that the text says that “all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered” (7:19) and that the water was “fifteen cubits” above the tops of the mountains. If “the mountains of Ararat” (8:4) refers to the range that includes present-day Mount Ararat in Turkey (elevation 16,854 feet or 5,137 m), the amount of water necessary to cover it would be at least 16,854 feet above sea level.

The first part of this note won’t make all old-Earth advocates happy, and is in line with the writings of Hugh Ross, a prominent day-age interpretation advocate. It does bring out some important considerations:

  • The importance of perspective: from Noah’s perspective, a vast flood in the Persian Gulf/Mesopotamian basin (if that is where the local flood occurred) would have seemed vast, covering everything as far as he could see. That doesn’t mean that the flood necessarily covered the entire spherical earth.
  • Clearly, “all the earth” doesn’t always mean “all the earth” in the Old Testament.
  • The flood did not necessarily have to be global in order to be universal in terms of humanity.

I’ve written more about the extent of Noah’s flood elsewhere.

The second part of the ESVSB note on 6:17 presents what many young-Earth creationists would consider to be a weak case for a global flood. Most of them acknowledge that the flood didn’t have to be over 16,000 feet deep to cover the entire planet if pre-flood mountains were not that tall. But even aside from that, there are other ways to read what the text says about the depth of the flood (click on the “elsewhere” link above).

The notes don’t say much more about the extent of the flood, and say nothing about its work. But enough has been said to show that the text of Genesis 6-9 does not require a global flood, and there is certainly nothing in the text that would lead us to assert on Biblical grounds that the flood laid down the sedimentary rocks that blanket much of the planet.

Grace and Peace

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Around the web 1/29/2011

Credit: Missouri Department of Conservation

Mountain lion in St. Louis County! — This doesn’t happen too often. A night-time wildlife camera captured a mountain lion in suburban St. Louis, less than ten miles from our home. We’re a little more used to opossums, raccoons, deer, and wild turkeys around here.

I don’t worry too much about mountain lions when hiking in Missouri. I’ve never seen one in the wild while hiking in the West (I’ve lived in Montana, Utah, and Colorado), but I suspect they have seen me.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mountain lion spotted in suburban St. Louis.

From the Missouri Department of Conservation: Chesterfield sighting confirmed to be a mountain lion.

Yellowstone Supervolcano eruption NOT imminent — From National Geographic: Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells. The ground within the Yellowstone Caldera has swelled upwards up to ten inches (25 centimeters) as magma slowly intrudes into a magma chamber 10 kilometers beneath the surface.

“At the beginning we were concerned it could be leading up to an eruption,” said [University of Utah geologist] Smith, who co-authored a paper on the surge published in the December 3, 2010, edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

“But once we saw [the magma] was at a depth of ten kilometers, we weren’t so concerned. If it had been at depths of two or three kilometers [one or two miles], we’d have been a lot more concerned.”

Apparently, intrusion into the magma chamber is somewhat cyclical:

Based on geologic evidence, Yellowstone has probably seen a continuous cycle of inflation and deflation over the past 15,000 years, and the cycle will likely continue, Smith said.

Surveys show, for example, that the caldera rose some 7 inches (18 centimeters) between 1976 and 1984 before dropping back about 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) over the next decade.

IBM Supercomputer wins Jeopardy — The 1997 computer victory over chess champion Garry Kasparov was nothing compared to this one. Chess is complex, but the logic of chess is nothing compared to the complexities of language as expressed in the TV gameshow Jeopardy. reports that the Watson supercomputer defeated two Jeopardy champions at the game, which means that the computer could understand the nuances of the categories and questions (actually the answers). The author believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will operate at human levels within two decades, and adds “I for one would then regard it as human.” He continues, “By the time the controversy dies down and it becomes unambiguous that nonbiological intelligence is equal to biological human intelligence, the AIs will already be thousands of times smarter than us.”

From PC Magazine: Why IBM’s Jeopardy Victory Matters (three parts) by Ray Kurzweil.

My questions:

  • Is there more to being human than being able to process information? (The Christian answer is “yes.” Humans are created in the image of God, and some things such as genuine emotions just cannot be programmed.)
  • How long will it be until someone falls in love with a computer? Until someone gets married to a computer?
  • What will stop the Episcopal Church or ELCA from ordaining computers as pastors? (Too bad these denominations don’t require baptism by immersion; that would prevent computers from being eligible for ordination).

HT: John C

Ski Joring Championship — Huh? From the Billings Gazette: World Ski Joring Championships in Whitefish.

The event involves horses and riders pulling a skier who navigates a course with a series of jumps and gates.

Somehow I missed that in the last Winter Olympics.

Stairs are more fun — I almost always take the stairs at work, rather than the elevator. I figure that I climb about 40,000 feet per year, which is more than climbing Mount Everest. But the stairs at work are not this fun…

Grace and Peace

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Christianity, Fun, Geology, Montana, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment