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A source for the stories of Noah's flood?

Part 2: The catastrophic deluge
that flooded the Black Sea

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Verification of this theory:

Their theory of William Ryan and Walter Pitman has been verified in a number of ways:

bulletIn 1999-summer, maritime explorer Robert D. Ballard and his team located the ancient coastline, almost exactly where Ryan and Pitman said that they would find it. The team dredged up samples of rocks from the old shore line of the New Euxine Lake. They found seven distinct species of salt-water mollusks, all of which were carbon dated as being from 2,800 to 6,820 years old. They also found two species of freshwater mollusks which ranged from 7,460 to 15,500 years old. This supports the theory that the Black Sea switched from being a fresh water lake to a salty sea about 7,000 years ago.

bulletA survey of the floor of the Black Sea shows that the river beds of the Dniester, Dnieper, Danube, Don, Volga and other rivers continue beyond the present sea shore for as much as a hundred miles. The river beds all stop at the same level. This would have been the ancient shoreline of the New Euxine Lake.

bulletA number of features have been detected on the bottom of the Black Sea near its old shoreline. They are shaped like tells -- a characteristic shape of the remains of ancient towns or cities.

bullet At one site, some 150 meters (500 feet) under water, archaeologists found more than 30 stone blocks, pieces of wood and other objects -- possibly ceramics. The site "appeared uniquely rectangular." The stone blocks did not appear to be part of a natural geological formation. They tentatively conclude that they have found the remains of a site that was once occupied by people. 1

bulletA tell near Ilipinar which is south of the Bosporus Straight, has been excavated. At the approximately 5500 BCE level the excavation reveals a sudden change in pottery design. Archaeologists have studied other tells in the area which also showed similar abrupt changes in pottery at the same time. This shows that one society was overrun by another culture at about the same time that the New Euxine Lake was flooded. Presumably the more recent culture were refugees from the flooded lake.

The next logical step would be to search for the remains of villages and sunken boats from the 6th millennium BCE. 2,3 

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Human consequences of the deluge

The fields in all the villages which surrounded the lake would have been quickly inundated. Most or all of the fish life in the lake would die as the salt level became intolerable to the fresh water species. The salinity would eventually be high enough to support salt-water species. The people would have had to scatter immediately in all directions in order to survive. Ryan and Pitman suggest that groups of immigrants migrated into islands in the Aegean, and up the Dniester, Dnieper, Danube, Don and Volga rivers. This would have led them into much of Europe, the Balkans, and what is now Russia. Other groups would have migrated to areas of what is now Turkey, Egypt, the Levant (now Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine), northern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Anatolia (now Turkey). Within a few years, the lake level reached equilibrium, at more-or-less its present value.

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Did the Noachian flood story originate in the Black Seas event?

As noted above, conservative Christians generally believe that God prevented the authors of Genesis from making any errors in their writing. They believe that the Noachian flood must have happened precisely as the Bible says. The story was derived from the events of a world-wide flood, circa 2350 BCE that covered the tops of all mountains. It was not based on a local flood of the Black Sea in the 6th millennium BCE. To many conservative Christians, the 6th millennium BCE did not exist, since they believe that the world was created circa 4004 BCE.

Many mainline Christians, liberal/progressive Christians, secularists and others are open to the theory that the Genesis flood story was not based on an actual, world-wide flood.

Archaeologists have found two truly ancient versions of the flood story which were written down "over two millennia after the [Black Sea] event:"

bulletOne in Sumerian "the language of the first known writing, a language with no known roots and no known descendants" and

bullet The other In Akkadia, "one of the ancient tongues of the Semitic language group to which the Arabic dialects, Hebrew, [and Aramaic] belong."

Linguists are able to trace elements of languages back before they were first written down. William Ryan and Walter Pitman claim that "It is possible through linguistics to tie these people together, with speakers of other languages at about the time of the flood and to the region of the Black Sea." 4

The Babylonian flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh is generally regarded as having been derived from these earlier flood stories. The Epic dates back to the third millennium BCE. The Epic, in turn, appears to be a main source of the flood stories in Genesis. According to the Documentary Hypothesis, there were originally two stories written in Hebrew by two unknown authors, called "J" and "P." These were interleaved into the single Genesis account of the flood by a redactor (editor) called "R." There are about 20 points of similarity between the Bible story and the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. 3 The Hebrew version is believed by many to be a monotheistic re-writing of the original Babylonian polytheistic text.

There were other flood stories in ancient times. For example, a 1999 article in AAnews states:

"The Greeks had the story of Deucalion, son of Titan Prometheus, who was king of Phthia during the time Zeus destroyed the human race in his own anger-inspired deluge. [Zeus']... flood did the job in only nine days.  Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha were the lone survivors, thanks to a warning by Prometheus.  Deucalion constructed a boat, which, after the inundation, came to rest on the top of Mt.  Parnassus." 5

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Developments in the year 2000 and later:

  • 2000-FEB-17: Search for Noah's Ark: According to ReligionToday:

    "The explorer who discovered the wreck of the Titanic wants to find Noah's Ark. Robert Ballard will look in the Black Sea near the Bosphorous where a cataclysmic flood is believed to have occurred 7,500 years ago. Ballard, 57, will use a sonar exploration vessel, undersea search equipment, and a fleet of submarine robots, the Los Angeles Times said. He has discovered the wrecks of the Lusitania, the Nazi battleship Bismarck, U.S. and Japanese warships in the Pacific, and ancient Roman and Phoenician ships. Work begins in a few months." 6

  • 2000-JUL: Article in National Geographic: The National Geographic magazine has published an article titled "Black Sea Flood" in its 2000-JUL issue. It describes a massive flooding of the Black Sea by Mediterranean seawater -- perhaps started by an earthquake.

  • 2012-AUG: David R. Montgomery wrote a book titled: "The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood." Amazon.com customers gave it a 4.5 star rating out of 5. "Geo in Indiana," a geologist, posted a review of the book, saying:

    "... it spells out the origin and timing of competing beliefs about a global deluge, pointing out why many Christians see no contradictions, and why others find the arguments of geologists to be an attack on their faith. The author clearly makes the argument that Christianity has informed and guided science, and that scientific evidence has informed and guided Christianity. ..."

    "I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of both the argument some make for Noah's Flood, and the argument that science and religion cannot peacefully -- and beneficially -- coexist." 7,8

  • 2012: Christine Amanpour was featured on an ABC News special "Back to the Beginning." The advertising of the feature says, in part: "Noah's Biblical Flood: New Evidence Suggests It Happened." The special was repeated during 2014-FEB:

 9

This ABC special is somewhat confusing:

  • The above preview seems to imply that Noah's flood as described in the Bible really happened. But that would require a world-wide flood, deep enough to cover the highest mountain, and associated with a massive genocide that only left 8 survivors alive on earth. There is no evidence that any of that has actually happened.

  • The TV program instead discussed the evidence for an isolated freshwater lake being converted to a salt water sea linked to the Mediterranean Sea -- a local occurrence that disrupted a lot of lives and probably resulted in many deaths, but hardly a genocide that almost wiped out the human race.  

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Related essays on this web site:

bulletWriter(s) of the book of GenesisNoah and the ark   The flood 
bulletWho wrote the five books of Moses? -- The documentary and literalist hypotheses
bulletComparison of the Babylonian and Hebrew flood stories

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. John Wilford, "Black Sea Clues to Biblical-era Flood," New York Times Service, at: http://www.iht.com/articles/34271.html
  2. "Ballard & the Black Sea: The search for Noah's flood," at: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/blacksea/ 
  3. Frank Lorey, Impact #285: The Flood of Noah and the Flood of Gilgamesh", Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA (1997) Online at: http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-285.htm

  4. book cover image William Ryan and Walter Pitman, "Noah's Flood: The new scientific discoveries about the event that changed history," Page 200, Simon & Schuster, (!998) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  5. AANEWS for 1999-NOV-23.
  6. ReligionToday for 2000-FEB-17. They provide free newsletters to which you can subscribe at: http://www.ReligionToday.com. These summaries are part of GOSHEN.net

  7. book cover image David R. Montgomery, "The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood," Page 200, W.W. Norton, (2013). Read reviews or order this book
  8. Brook Wilensky-Lanford, "High Ark: A Geologist on the True Meaning of Noah’s Flood." Religion Dispatches, 2012-SEP-2012, at: http://www.religiondispatches.org/
  9. "Noah's Biblical Flood: New Evidence Suggests It Happened." ABC News, 2012-DEC-21, at: http://abcnews.go.com/

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Copyright © 1999 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-NOV-20
Latest update: 2014-FEB-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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