Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blogging the Bible part 7

So here we are, almost eight weeks gone by and only up to chapter 7 of Genesis - but this one is interesting from a literalist's point of view because we start getting into the contradictions in the Flood story.

And yes, there are plenty.

Next time you are out on the social cocktail circuit (that is what the young 'uns are still doing, isn't it?) and someone mentions the truth of the Flood story try this fun game - ask them 'Which one?". And point out that by 'Which one?' you mean which version of the Genesis flood story. Not which of the Jewish (Genesis), Sumerian, Babylonian, Greek, Hindu, Islamic, Chinese, Lao, Indian, Andaman Islands, Indonesian, Australian Aboriginal, Maori, Malaysian, Norse, Irish, Finnish, Aztec, Incan, Mayan, Hopi, Caddo, Menominee, Mi'kmaq, and Polynesian flood stories is true.

Anyway - Chapter 7.

The Lord tells Noah he should get in the Ark with his whole family because he had found Noah to be righteous in the generation he was living in (which, by the sounds of it, doesn't mean he is necessarily good, just not as bad). (GEN 7:1) And then, by verse 2, we are already into the contradictions:

Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. GEN 7:2-3
Well. Where do we start here? Let's start with the obvious contradiction. In Chapter 7 verse 2 God commands Noah to take seven of every kind of clean animal and two of every kind of unclean animal, as well as seven of every kind of bird. Yet, in Chapter 6 verses 19 and 20 God clearly stated:

You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female...Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. GEN 7:19-20
Oh dear. So, literalist - which is it? Two; or seven, two and seven? Or, as we'll soon see, seven pairs, two and seven pairs? Here, in two consecutive chapters, we have two different versions of what God apparently ordered Noah to do. Which is the correct version and how do literalists know? Why, in the version of the story that everybody knows, was the version in Chapter 6 chosen over Chapter 7? Surely people aren't dishonestly representing their faith and its myths to their children and other people? Are they? Because all these believers know that there are multiple versions of one of their most important myths, right?

Then let's look at the bad maths. Since when does a clean animal male and its clean animal mate add up to seven? And why seven of the clean but only two of the unclean? Could it be... No. But, maybe... Could it really be that this just shows where two different versions have been badly strung together and our incompetent continuity editor rears their ugly head again? But, the Bible is inerrant isn't it? So 1+1 must actually equal 7 I guess. Did someone just forget to edit the numbers of the two different versions they stuck together?

But it doesn't end there. My NIV Bible has a footnote, and in verse 2 'seven' can also be translated as 'seven pairs'. A significant difference. It also makes more sense given the reference to a male and its mate. So why does the NIV choose 'seven' and not 'seven pairs'? And if you thought the size of the Ark and two of each animal was a problem try seven or seven pairs on for size...

Remember though, the Bible is inerrant.

Anyway, onward. Verse 4 tells us that seven days from when Noah gets in the Ark (what is it with the number 7?) God promises to send rain that will last for forty days and forty nights and that will wipe every living thing off the face of the planet. So Noah does as commanded. Not that he had a lot of choice.

Now, we are told that Noah was six hundred years old when the floods came and once again Noah takes his sons, his wife and the wives of his sons on board (no mention of the grandkids though). (GEN 7:6)

Then we get back to the numbers of animals, and it is back to the Chapter 6 standard. Pairs of clean and unclean animals (which contradicts verses 2 and 3 in this very chapter), birds and all the creatures that move along the ground come to Noah and board the Ark. (GEN 7:8-9) So, in just seven days, a pair (or seven, or seven pair) of Koalas made it from the south western coast of Australia to the Middle East. In seven days. Nevermind the sloths that made it all the way from Brazil. In seven days. Go on literalists, give it your best shot. Don't forget to show your working.

Actually, now that I think about it - where does it mention which animals are clean or unclean in the first 6 Chapters of Genesis? If it doesn't, then how does Noah know which ones are? Or is this just bad story telling?

Now, true to his word, after seven days the flood comes. (GEN 7:10) And the Bible is pretty specific about this. Noah is 600 and it is the 17th February. Well, actually it says "seventeenth day of the second month". But taken literally by me now that means 17 February. We are taking this literally, remember. But then the story changes again, because then in verse 11 it says that on this day "all the springs of the greet deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened." Now, God never mentioned anything about springs bursting forth in verse 4 so why the embellishment? Was God showboating? Was it just rain or did the springs burst forth as well literalists? Then the rain falls for forty days and forty nights - Genesis is very clear on this. You can tell because the author/s keep mentioning it. It's just all the other numbers they get wrong.

And we see that they keep getting the other numbers wrong because in verses 13 through 16 we are given another rundown on the animals and this time it just says that on the Ark were every animal according to its kind, all livestock according to its kind, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind, every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Oh wait, it does go back to pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them (GEN 7:15). What the Bible means by 'kind' is never mentioned. But you can bet your arse people have worked over time interpreting what it means. And by interpreting what I mean is "making up what they think it means with no Biblical basis and based purely on their own personal religious beliefs."

For forty days the flood keeps coming (very specific about that forty number so they are). And the Ark floats. Which is impressive I think you'll agree. And all of the mountains on the earth are covered with water. All the mountains. Including the 29,029 feet height of Mount Everest.

That's a lot of water.

In fact, even though the first measurements of Everest's height were not made until 1856, the Bible specifically states that all mountains were covered by a depth of more than twenty feet. (GEN 7:20) Of course, the footnotes in my NIV Bible say this can be translated as "the waters rose more than twenty feet, and the mountains were covered." Quite a big difference once again.

Everything that moved on the earth perished. (GEN 7:21) Everything that had the breath of life in it on dry land died. No mention is made of aquatic life - which as we know can generally (I'm sure this is enough to raise the ire of some but I am speaking in general terms) be seperated into fresh water and salt water. Fresh water fish can't survive in salt water and vice versa. Which does rather lead us to: How did anything in the salt water or fresh water systems of the world survive? Give it your best shot literalists.

In fact, no mention is made of aquatic life at all throughout the flood story. Why not? Could it be that the primitive people who dreamt up these stories didn't know that fish in a fresh water river couldn't survive in a salt water sea so didn't think to dream up an elaborate story explaining how they survived this flood sent by a wrathful God? An elaborate story created to scare us all into obeying 'his' rules? Or could it be that 'God did it'? Why didn't he 'do it' for everything else then? Literalists, have you ever heard of Occam's Razor?

Finally, we're told that the waters flooded the earth for 150 days. (GEN 7:24)

So, remember. When someone starts to tell you about the Biblical Flood story - ask them which one they mean and why they pick that version. Ask them if they are aware of the alternatives. Ask them if they are aware of how common flood myths are amongst different cultures. Ask them how they know it was their god that sent the flood.

Next week, "Land Ahoy!"


  1. Froma scientific point of view there's more salt water than fresh water so I'm guessing (you know if it really happened....which it didn't) that all the fresh water fish died and the salt water things lived.

    Just remember this bit from Red Dwarf "Good evening. Here is the news on Friday, the 27th of Geldof. Archeologists near Mount Sinai have discovered what is believed to be a missing page from the Bible. The page is currently being carbon-dated in Bonne. If genuine, it belongs at the beginning of the Bible and is believed to read, "To my darling Candy. All characters portrayed within this book are fictitous and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental." The page has been universally condemned by church leaders. " ;)

  2. I checked around a bit how Christians cope with this chapter.

    I was curious to see what Generation Word would have to say about the sudden change to seven animals. In their Ch 6 commentary, they carefully calculated how much food and space two of each "kind" would need. Surely someone who is prepared to interpret the bible would have a much better chance of explaining this than a literalist would, because all makes sense when interpreted rightly. So, what would they say about Gen 7:3?

    Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all, the pikers.

    What about the eminently sensible "lay Christian's honest response to the perceived flaws in the Bible"?

    He had two long posts about Ch 6, explaining how it all would've been possible. But after that, he just jumps straight into chapter 8.

    These freaking idiots deal with it directly, claiming there is no contradiction. When it says in Gen 6:19, "two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark", it is only refering to the oderly manner ("not a stampede") in which Noah loaded the animals. Of course.

    Ok, what about the fish.

    I accidentally landed on a site which I didn't realise was connected to Answers in Genesis, the abominable creationist website. They are completely mad.

    The weight of the flood waters caused volcanoes to erupt, and of course, volcanoes produce a lot of steam, which condensed to bring the extra water. The lava also caused many noxious minerals to leach into the water, which made the water uninhabitable for both salt- and fresh-water fish, who all died.......So, where did today's fish come from?

    Silence. No answer.
    Mount everest? They have an answer for that.

    You see, Mt Everst didn't exist back then. After the flood, plate tectonics kicked in and...Suddenly science comes to rescue. Of course, this means India's 90 million year journey after splitting from Gondwanaland, and the 50 million it took to raise Everest, must have happened in a couple of thousand years instead. Science could confirm or refute that, but we only need science when it supports the Bible.

    Passing over all this stuff in silence is actually the most intelligent and dignified response a Christian could give.

  3. Ohhh...the Mount Everest answer was priceless. basically:

    "God decided that he didnt like the way the flood covered the entire earth and thought that man had learned his lesson, so he terraformed mountains and valleys so never again would the earth be flooded completely"

    So, show me the fossilized fish skeletons that can be found above 20,000ft. Because he would have had to drag that shit up from somewhere. Kind of like a ruck in the carpet. One time, it's flat on the surface, then a quick kick and you have a carpet mountain. It's the same carpet, just higher. (hey, my argument makes sense to me).

    I cannot believe that, given two theories:

    1. It's a made up story

    2. An invisible being in the sky pulled a 29,000ft mountain out of his ass and plonked it just north of India after a catastrophic flood wiped out all life apart from the couple thousand animals that a 500-year old dude put on a boat that he built in seven days.

    I know people that would choose #2.