Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last word (yeah right) on the local flood

Was Noah's flood local or global? Did it cover the whole world, or merely the world known to Noah? Last week, I discussed the problems with the universal flood, and now Rabbi Josh "the only blogger I call Rabbi" Waxman has has provided a mild rebuttal to any suggestion the flood was local.

Of course, he's right that the text seems to be speaking clearly of a universal flood. However in many other instances we're not shy about ignoring the plain meaning of verses. "An eye for an eye" is a famous example of Chazal telling us that a verse does not mean what it appears to mean, and though no one from Chazal offered a re-interpretation of Noach, no one from Chazal was aware of the difficulties with the universal flood, or the evidence against it. However, there are instances of their successors, the rishonim and achronim,  providing new interpretations to psukim after new scientific evidence came to light. For example, after science brought counterarguments, psukim that had previously been used to support the flat earth and the geocentric universe were given new explanations.

Based on what we know today about geology and genetics, I think we have no choice but to follow their example and reinterpret Noach, as well.

Here's some terribly weak textual evidence in support of the local flood. As noted by many, the story of the destruction of Sodom parrallels the Noah story in some interesting ways:

- The word himtir appears in both places; both destructions are via precipitation

- In each case, moral perversion is the reason given for the destruction
- In each case, one family is marked for survival
- In each case, the hero becomes drunk immediately afterwards, and is involved in an illicit act.

At the end of the Sodom story, the daughters of Lot are certain they are the only people left in the world, though what they suffered was very much a local catastrophe. Could they same be true of Noah's flood? (I know, I know: terribly weak)

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