Posted on May 28, 2012
Many Bible skeptics regard Genesis 1–11 as mythical, copied from Enuma Elish, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and other such ancient writings—so not only is it a primitive myth, it’s not a particularly original one, in their view. We’ve often written about the characteristics of Genesis that show it claims to record history.
Sadly many believers have bought into these interpretations, but as Christians, aren’t we supposed to believe what Jesus did? And it’s easy to extend that to believing what the apostles that He appointed and inspired by the Holy Spirit to author Scripture believed as well. If Christians don’t believe the Bible, in what sense are they ‘Christ followers’? So let’s look at what Jesus believed and what the New Testament tells us about the circumstances surrounding Noah’s Flood.
The world at the time of Noah
In Noah’s day, Jesus tells us that people were going about conducting ‘business as usual’ until the Flood came: “in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away” (Matthew 24:38–39). But it wasn’t a pleasant place to live—the culture was so immoral that Peter called it “the world of the ungodly” (κοσμῳ ἀσεβῶν, kosmō asebōn, 2 Peter 2:5). There were even angels who sinned at that time (2 Peter 2:4) by deserting their proper positions (Jude 1:11). While the New Testament doesn’t specify exactly what this sin was, it fits in nicely with the assertion in Genesis 6 that the ‘sons of God’ took wives among the ‘daughters of men’—in other words, angels taking human wives1 and fathering the Nephilim.
The Ark and its passengers
The author of Hebrews says: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7). Peter says that only eight people were saved in the Ark (1 Peter 3:20): Noah and seven others (2 Peter 2:5). Absolutely everyone else was killed in the Flood (Luke 17:27).
The New Testament authors rarely reference the Old Testament for its own sake—they assume basic belief of the Old Testament Scriptures—rather, they are raising the historical events to use as examples or precedents to support their theological arguments.
The extent of the Flood
The Flood of Noah destroyed the entire human civilization that existed at that time (Matthew 24:39; Luke 17:27; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:5–6). The scope was global, and so severe that the earth was, in effect, reversed to its state on Day 2, before God created dry land—the whole earth was covered with water….
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