Jesus sweat blood

All around the world there are billions of people journeying through Holy Week and contemplating on the death of Jesus. Being written, performed, and watched are tens of thousands of local depictions, plays, films, characterizations and songs. One image that is often found in these depictions is that of Jesus having sweat like small beads of blood.

This is indeed found in most contemporary English bibles (in some there are tiny little asterisks and footnotes).  The passage in question is:

“And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)

This is indicated only in Luke’s Gospel, and not included in Mark’s, Matthew’s, or John’s account of the Garden of Gethsemane.

What is interesting is that there is even a very rare medical condition, known as hematohidrosis or hemidrosis which includes bloody sweat, and is usually preceded by a very debilitating form of severe stress and agonizing fear. It has been hypothesized that this is the medical condition Luke is describing. This would paint a very interesting picture of Jesus, as a person who is stressed to the point of breaking, who is experiencing unequaled emotional anguish and succumbing to a helpless anxiety and trepidation.

And yet, many biblical scholars, who affirm that Jesus suffered terribly, don’t believe this sweat-blood incident actually happened to Jesus, based on the fact that some of the earliest manuscripts of Luke are missing Luke 22:43-44.

The manuscript evidence

We don’t have the “original bible” or the “original” letters and texts that were penned by its human authors. Instead, we have many copies, which come to us on manuscripts of papyrus or vellum (dried animal skins). Some of these manuscript copies are complete books (a minority) others are small fragments (the majority) that only contain small sections of the New Testament (like Papyrus P52, recognized as the earliest copy of the New Testament, which contains only a few verses from John, and dates back to 125AD, slightly under a hundred years after the death of Jesus).

The job of biblical scholars and textual critics is to go through thousands of these manuscripts and piece together what the original text should have said. Because of the huge variety of manuscripts (5800ish texts in Greek, and thousands of translations in Syriac, Aramaic, Coptic, and Latin), these scholars often find many differences, called textual variants. Sometimes the earlier manuscripts contain phrases that are absent from later ones, or later text have added phrases not present in earlier manuscripts. Scholars then research the textual evidence and decide on what is the most likely answer to account for the discrepancy

This brings us to Luke 22:43-44, which is precisely this type of situation. Some of the most ancient texts that contain the text we call Luke Chapter 22, do not have these verses. Some later manuscripts do. And to make things even more confusing, a few other manuscripts have them inserted elsewhere.

Here are some of the examples cited by textual critics:

A. Manuscripts that do include the text

The following is a list of ancient books (a book was called a codex) or manuscripts/fragments that contain these verses as part of Luke. Uncial refers to large Greek font (capital letters), used very early on, and miniscule refers to small fonts used more recently. These are followed by the best estimated age of the manuscript per modern scholarship.

B. Manuscripts that do not include the text

The following is a list of those that do not that contain these verses as part of Luke. (This means the text jumps from what we call verse 42 to verse 45, though the “verse numbers” are a 16th century invention.) These are followed by the best estimated age of the manuscript per modern scholarship.

C. Manuscripts that do something different altogether

Other manuscripts mark these passages with asterisks to denote them with some kind of footnote. In some they are moved to another place in the text. Or else they leave written history of annotations and edits.

  • Many miniscule texts from the 8th to 13th century leave footnotes that question the originality of the text. These include the following Miniscule texts: 354, 045, 166, 481, 655, 661, 669, 776, 829, 892
  • In a group of texts known as Family 13, these verses are moved to into the text of Matthew 26:39, most of these manuscripts date from  11th to the 15th century.
  • Codex Sinaiticus, is the oldest “complete” copy of the New Testament in Greek, dating to the 4th century. This Codex excludes some sections or chapters from a few NT books and include the noncanonical Shepherd of Hermes and Barnabas. According to a Greek text published by some of the most prolific textual critics, the passage from Luke was “included by the original scribe, marked by the first corrector as doubtful, but the third corrector (c) removed the mark” (1)

The three options

1. It is the return of an earlier removed text

This was the idea put forward by Joel B. Green and Scott McKnight. The argued that the verse was (a) likely included in the earliest manuscripts, (b) was removed to hide the humanity of Jesus and help promote the idea that Jesus was God, and (c) later added. However, the very earliest manuscripts we have already exclude these verses, and there is no way to conclusively prove earlier manuscripts did contain these verses, so McKnight and Green had to make their case based on the vocabulary and literary style in the passage. The argue that while the “textual evidence is ambiguous” the “omission of these verses from so many and diverse witnesses… could not have been accidental”  and that “the presence or absence of these two verse is crucial to an interpretation of the scene as a whole.” (2)

2. It is an interpolation to combat the heresy of doceticism

This idea was made famous by Bruce Metzger, who is considered, even by staunch Biblicist conservatives, to be the greatest English textual critic of the last century. He wrote “These verses are absent from some of the oldest and best witnesses, including the majority of the Alexandrian manuscripts. It is striking to note that the earliest witnesses attesting the verses are three Church fathers – Justin, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus – each of whom uses the verses in order to counter Christological views that maintained that Jesus was not a full human who experienced the full range of human sufferings. It may well be that the verses were added to the text for just this reason, in opposition to those who held to a docetic Christology“(3) This point is also taken up by Bart Ehrman, one of the top textual critics today, who was student of Metzger. Ehrman argues that the two verses are very unnatural and “intrude” into a figure of speech called a chiasmus because they were “added in the second century by scribes intent on demonstrating that Jesus was fully subject to the anxieties and distresses that plague the human condition.” (4)

3. It is an interpolation that was based on an oral tradition

This idea is found vaguely suggested in a few biblical commentaries and theological books that are not academic textual criticism texts. One writer, Mark Moore, states that “Since it is more likely that this information would be later added than purposefully cropped, we conclude that it was probably not penned by Luke, but added later, likely based on a reliable oral tradition” (5) Likewise in a tome edited by the famous conservative apologist/scholar Gary Habermas there is an argument that these verses have “higher potential” to be edited in by someone who had access to “early oral traditions.” (6) However, the authors show some restraint in saying whether this “early oral tradition about Jesus [should be] judged reliable or not is another matter.” (7)

What do I think?

First off, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what I think, I’m not a textual critic. But if we are really pushing me, I think it’s hard to tell, and without the textual evidence, I wouldn’t make an argument that this was in the originals. If an earlier manuscript could be provided, I would be certainly join Scott McKnight (as would everyone else) however, since that hasn’t happened and probably never will, my gut instinct is to stick with Metzger and Ehrman.

At the end of the day, undergoing crucifixion in the Roman empire was a brutally agonizing experience, sweat and blood or no.

heart brain

Science is often seen as an enemy of the Bible. In the minds of many, science is an open search for truth, the Bible is a closed declaration of truth. Science invites us to prove something is true, the Bible calls us to believe something is true. Science asks many questions, the Bible is an answer book. Science is changing and self-correcting while the Bible is eternal and never needs correction. In addition to this false dichotomy, there are other portrayals of Science and the Bible, some are accurate, others are very crude and erroneous. Part of the conflict, is because many Christians have an “all or nothing” mentality about the Bible. They believe that “the Bible must be ‘true’ in every possible way for it to be God’s Word.” This includes what we can call “scientific truth,” or an accurate description of natural processes in the world around us. And so, many Christians have written books, preached sermons, and even made crafty websites purporting that the Bible is a very accurate scientific book. (For some reason the Muslims also do this with the Koran.)

Yet, is it possible that the Bible is wrong about certain scientific principles because it was never intended to portray them? Or that the people who used their hands to write “words inspired by God” were writing those words through their own understanding of the universe? An understanding that was lacking a great deal of contemporary scientific knowledge? The biblical authors did write those words using their own local language like Hebrew or Greek, using their personal style, their own location as a reference, is it not also likely that they used their own, often faulty, scientific descriptions? I believe a careful and honest reading of the text will lead us to that position. If we don’t perform the historical sacrilege of “anachronism” (reading modern day ideas into ancient depictions that were never meant to convey such things) we will be able to read the biblical text in its historic context.

Ancient Neuroscience

In the ancient world the physical heart was seen as the root of all emotion and feeling, while the brain was often wholly ignored. The Egyptians believed the heart was the seat of Intelligence. The great philosopher Aristotle believed that the heart is the source of sensation like pleasure and pain. (1) A famous Roman physician, Galen (130 AD) who was a medicinal visionary, understood that the brain was involved in thinking but still believed that “the spiritual soul was in the heart” and that our physical heart was the source of our passions, such as anger. (2)

The ancient world had two major views about the center of emotion, thoughts, feelings, and intelligence:

1. Both thoughts and feelings come from the heart. The heart and mind refers to the soul, manifested in the physical heart. The physical head and brain are not involved. (Aristotle thought the brain was a cooling chamber.)

2. Rational thoughts came from the “mind,” which is the immaterial soul, but the seat of all emotions, passions, desires, and feelings was the physical heart.

*A tiny minority (only a few thinkers in history) believed the physical brain was involved with thinking, while the heart was the organ of feeling.

Modern Neuroscience

While a few against-the-grain thinkers in the ancient world were surprisingly accurate and included the brain a cognitive processes, these people had no way to prove or document this. (3) Then the renaissance spawned a great deal of anatomical dissections of the brain and modern medicine was born.

1. In the last hundred years we have finally documented that the brain is solely responsible for all thoughts, feelings, and actions. This became available due to neuroimaging. We can scan a brain, and see which parts of the brain are responsible for certain actions. I was trained to do 3d SPECT scans of the brain, and have myself performed these on numerous patients. (4)

2. We have also been able to replace the heart with an artificial “heart” machine, in response to which those persons without a physical heart gave continued to be just as human, just as emotional as before. (5) The heard does not think. The heart does not feel.

3. We have tested our reality and proven that the brain/head is responsible for all thinking and feeling; the heart does nothing. For the first time in history we know that the “mind” is not in the heart, but in the brain.

Biblical Neuroscience

It is my contention that the views of the biblical authors were consistent to the beliefs of their age, which we now know are scientifically inaccurate. The Greek word for heart, that is used in the New Testament & Septuagint is kardia (the word cardiology is derived from this.) Today anything related to kardia refers to the physical heart. The Bible uses ‘heart’ for both the physical heart (“the arrow went through his heart” – 2 Kings 9:24) and the feeling/thinking organ of the human being. Let’s examine the evidence:

1. The word “brain” is not used in the whole Bible, not even one time.

  • There is not one mention in the Bible that a physical organ in our heads is the source of all our thoughts and feelings. There is not even one indication that this physical organ we call the ‘brain’ was ever important in the biblical era, for it is never even alluded to.

2. The word “head” is never used in the Bible in connection with thinking, feeling, or the “mind.”

  • There are references to the “head” as the part of the body that can be injured or pointed to (obviously people knew there was this thing called a “head” as they knew there was a “leg”). There are also references to the “head” as the authority of above something. For example “head of the household” (Luke 14:21) or Christ is the head” (Col 2:10). But we never see a phrase like “think in your head” or “feel with your head.” In fact, the definition of the Greek word for ‘head’, kephale, has nothing to do with brains or minds either. (3)

3. The word “mind” appears in the Bible numerous times, however, it never appears in conjunction with the head.

  • After the recent advent of neuroscience and brain scans, it’s evident to us that the “mind is inside the head,” in fact this is how we define this word. However, that was not how the word was defined in antiquity. The mind was not affiliated to the organ inside our heads, the word “mind” was always defined as the thinking part of the soul. There is not even one passage in the whole Bible where the words mind and head are in the same sentence. Yet, mind appears with heart hundreds of times.

4. The word “mind” in the biblical text was understood to be the same thing as the “soul”

  • For example, a common Greek word in the New Testament that is used for mind is nous, which is not defined in connection to the physical head/brain. In fact, Aristotle, who wrote in Greek, used that same Greek word nous, to refer to the rational/intellectual part of the immaterial and nonphysical soul, and according to him, the mind/nous was most assuredly not in the brain. (4)
  • Other New Testament passages tie in the “mind” with the spirit or soul, and show that “mind” does not refer to a physical brain.. For example, “you be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23) and “he knows the mind of the Spirit.” (Rom 8:27)
  • In the ancient Hebrew the “mind” and the “soul” can be equally synonymous, and both exclude the head. For example, in 1 Samuel 2:35 we see that conservative Bible translators have used different English words for the same Hebrew word, nephesh: some say “in my heart and in my mind” (ESV/NIV) while others say “in My heart and in My soul” (NASB/NET). (5)

5. The word “mind” is almost always used in connection to the word “heart.”

  • There are hundreds of places where the “mind” is used in conjunction with the soul, spirit, or heart. Yet “mind” is not even one time used in conjunction with the “brain” or the “head”)
  • “Test my mind and my heart.” (Psalm 26:2)
  • “sees the mind and the heart” (Jeremiah 20:12)
  • “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37)
  • “guard your hearts and your minds” (Philippians 4:7))
  • “I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them” (Hebrew 10:16)
  • “who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev 2:23)

6. Feelings are depicted as coming from the heart. (Not the “head” or “brain.”)

  •  “the intent of man’s heart is evil” (Gen 8:21)
  • “he will be glad in his heart” (Exodus 4:14)
  • harden his heart so that he will not let the people” (Exodus 4:21)
  • “in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill” (Exodus 31:6)
  • “not hate your fellow countryman in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17)
  • “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • “your heart will become proud” (Deuteronomy 8:14)
  • “had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry” (Ruth 3:7)
  • “why is your heart sad?” (1 Samuel 1:8)
  • “and she despised him in her heart.” (2 Samuel 6:16)
  • “sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5)
  • You have put gladness in my heart (Psalm 4:7)
  • “boasts of his heart’s desire” (Psalm 10:3)
  • Having sorrow in my heart” (Psalm 13:2)
  • “their heart’s delight” (Ezekiel 24:25)
  • “And their heart will be glad as if from wine” (Zechariah 10:7)
  • “does not doubt in his heart” (Mark 11:23)
  • “love the lord with all your heart” (Matthew 22:37)
  • “sorrow has filled your heart.” (John 16:6)
  • “the intention of your heart”  (Acts 8:22)
  • “the lusts of their hearts” (Romans 1:24)
  • “he has purposed in his heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • “their foolish heart” (Romans 1:21)
  •  “making melody with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19)
  • “singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16)
  • “does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart” (James 1:26)
  • “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart” (James 3:14)

7. Thinking and knowledge are depicted coming from the heart. (Not the “head” or “brain.”)

  • “Before I had finished speaking in my heart” (Gen 24:45)
  • “so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart” (Deuteronomy 4:9)
  • “Thus you are to know in your heart” ” (Deuteronomy 8:5)
  •  “Do not say in your heart” (Deuteronomy 9:4)
  • “spend the money for whatever your heart desires” (Deuteronomy 14:26)
  • “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know” (Deuteronomy 18:21)
  • “has not given you a heart to know” (Deuteronomy 29:4)
  • “I brought word back to him as it was in my heart.” (Joshua 14:7)
  • “you know in all your hearts and in all your souls” (Joshua 23:14)
  • “she was speaking in her heart, …lips were moving… voice was not heard” (1 Samuel 1:13)
  • “she spoke with him about all that was on her heart.” (2 Chronicles 9:1)
  • “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend” (Isaiah 14:13)
  • “If you say in your heart, ‘Why” (Jeremiah 13:22)
  • “will say in their hearts” (Zechariah 12:5)
  • “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts” (Matthew 9:4)
  • “understand with their heart” (Matthew 13:15)
  • “out of the heart come evil thoughts” (Matthew 15:19)
  • “scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts”  (Mark 2:6)
  • question these things in your hearts” (Mark 2:8)
  • “in the thoughts of their heart” (Luke 1:51)
  • “pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
  • “thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35)
  • “all were wondering in their hearts” (Luke 3:15)
  • “Why are you reasoning in your hearts” (Luke 5:22)
  • “knowing what they were thinking in their heart” (Luke 9:47)
  • “if that slave says in his heart” (Luke 12:45)
  • “you have conceived this deed in your heart” (Acts 5:4)
  •  “has decided this in his own heart” (1 Corinthians 7:37)
  • “the secrets of his heart are disclosed” (1 Corinthians 14:25)

Listen to my heart?

Wait a minute, isn’t it normal for someone to say “let me share what is on my heart?” Yes it’s “normal” but it’s not scientifically accurate. Ask yourself, why do we use that phrase? Why did this idea of the “heart” even come into common usage? Did we begin to speak about the emotions of the “heart” after we found out the brain is the center of intelligence and emotion, or before?

  • It’s because we have inherited that type of language from people who literally believed the heart was the source of emotions and thoughts. The human language has been around for thousands of years, but the knowledge that hearts have nothing to do with emotion, thoughts, or knowledge is only a few hundred of years old
  • We have inherited these types of phrases, which we now treat as allegorical, but the reason these phrases were used thousands of years ago, is because they best represented the literal understanding of the time.
  • Should we continue to use “the heart” when speaking and singing about of emotion and intellect? If we want to, but it’s still scientifically wrong, even if more poetic than the “limbic system of the brain.”

What does this mean for theology?

When a person turns to you, and begins to “speak from his heart” what do you understand? Is that person speaking from the muscular organ that pumps blood throughout his body? No, they are speaking from their brain, not from their heart. After thousands of years of scientifically inaccurate poems about the heart, the brain just doesn’t sound as romantic, does it? In any case, here are the theological implications we can make:

  • Today we understand that a person who is said to be speaking from “the heart” is not speaking form the physical heart, but from the ‘core’ of their being, from the very essence of their consciousness and identity. We know that scientifically this is in the brain, not in the heart, the ancients were wrong.  Yet we reinterpret this “heart speech” to refer to the “essence” of a person. The scientific location for this human essence has changed, but the philosophical concept remains.
  • The biblical authors used the physical heart to identify and refer to that “essence” of personhood, the very core of ones being. They were mistaken about its location, but not it’s existence. The big idea is that each of us “feels” that our emotions come from deep within our chest, even though natural study has shown these are processed in the limbic system of our brain.
  • The biblical authors were not teaching us about anatomy and physiology, if they were, they would be wrong on many accounts. They were using ancient language and poor scientific knowledge to speak about spiritually meaningful topics.
  • The Bible is not a science book, it was not written to teach men about neuroscience, for then it would be wrong, instead it was written to deal with the very essence of what it means to be human and how we relate to God.
reject biblical scholars
I have recently been reviewing some literature by many biblical scholars, the men who imprudently think they can rely on the foolishness of carnal philosophy, and I realized that so many of us are prone to get very easily deceived by these men with big heads and big books. Here are some reminders of why you must keep yourself and your family safe from the majority of these bibliofascists.

1. They read words penned by human hands, we just read God’s dictated words

When these self-deluded biblical scholars read the text, they read it like a historical document, they are picking at things like the way the words are ordered, the type of language structure that is used, the historical and grammatical context, and other foolish fleshly logical approaches. Instead, we need to reject such carnal methods, and just read the bible the way it sounds. Just read it, claim it, and believe it. Amen!

2. They listen to foolish philosophy, we listen to God himself

These hardhearted men read the text through their own logic and foolish philosophy. They actually use their faulty theological systems and mental processes to interpret and frame the words. Instead, we simply listen to God speaking to us. We, on the other hand don’t interpret and think, we just listen and obey. Remember, biblical scholars rely on their brains to understand the bible, and we just listen directly to God. Who do you want to trust? Biblical scholars who tell you what the text says, or God himself?

3. They translate the texts using grammar, we let the spirit do the translation

It is said that the only reason we understand anything in the Bible is because these biblical scholars have translated the text from the ancient Hebrew language and the koine Greek. Some have even preposterously postulated that without biblical scholars using their brains to translate, we would not know what the bible says, and that this didn’t happen until a few hundred years ago. This is simply ridiculous, it is undeniable that the Bible is open to all and known by all. Do these scholars really expect us to believe that for the first 1500 years of Christian history people didn’t read or know what was contained in the biblical texts? Sheer lunacy!

4. They are all shameless liberals, so we know their views don’t matter anyway

It is evident to anyone with a brain that biblical scholars are generally lazy snobs who are ferocious liberals. It is certain that they are just writing books about the Bible because they want to argue for their liberal left-wing agendas. These liberal schemas were imposed on them in the most prestigious, and thereby liberal, and thereby wrong, colleges of the world. Places like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are completely wrong because they are liberal, this is so certain we mustn’t waste paper to prove it.

5. Biblical scholars have presuppositions, we don’t, we just listen to God

Another aspect that shows the complete depravity of most biblical scholars is the undeniable fact that they alone have many presuppositions. When we read the Bible, we do so with a clean slate, never ever presupposing we know what the text should say or does say. We never even imagine or think that certain disputed texts just happen to fit perfectly with the distinctives of our denomination.  Biblical scholars on the other hand, always start off presupposing many silly things, that is why they keep switching positions. When someone has no presuppositions, that person is stable and never changes his mind, ever. Those who keep evolving are obviously spiritually unhealthy and keep shifting their presuppositions just like they will be shifted in the furnace of hell.

6. They’re just acting out of anger, but we never get emotional

There is undeniable proof that every single biblical scholar that presents views contrary to those held by all normal people, like ourselves, is mentally unstable. Most likely they were abused as children and are now very angry at the church. That is the reason they write such malicious “studies.” It has nothing to do with the academic dialogue about the text, but only their helplessly aggravated emotional state. We should feel pity for them, really. On the other hand, we never argue from emotion, but with our nonchalant spiritual acuteness, we wage war against their voracious heresies.

7. They never go door to door evangelizing, but we do

Have you ever heard of a biblical scholar go preaching door to door and saving souls? I haven’t either. All they do is sit in their ivory towers and craft lengthy tirades that no one cares about. Is there any reason why we should care about the historiographical analysis of papyrus p52? Will that save anyone? No, if it doesn’t, it’s completely useless and we do well to completely ignore it. We must reject the study of anything that doesn’t directly culminate in the salvation of souls.

So there you have it, since it is officially ‘Aprils Fool’s day’ I thought it would be best to write about the most imbecilic of fools, biblical scholars who try to tell us something different than we already know.

noas ark film flood 3

This is a continuation of Does it Float – The Biblical Text and Does it Float? – The Impossible Journey.

There are plenty of other questions that have not yet been considered. These are further indications that the flood story should not be read with modern eyes as historical-scientific narrative, but as something like a myth or a tradition based on a local flood. Unfortunately this sounds very antithetical towards a fundamentalists vision of faith, while it is embraced by progressive Christians and Bible scholars. Again, I would kindly remind you that some of the most influential Christian leaders, like CS Lewis, did not believe in a global flood. Also that I am not writing this out of a bitterness or a “lack of faith” but rather because I am genuinely exploring these hard questions and their implications. Surely if God gave us reason, he did not intend we refuse to use it?

Theology

  • Why create a global flood that utterly failed to accomplish its goal? Let us be blunt, the flood did not work. Earlier we saw there were two repetitions in the story that explained the cause of the flood, the first was the birth of the Nephilim and resulting wickedness (Gen 6:1-7), the second was the violence on the earth (Gens 6:11-13). However, whichever reason you look at, the global flood does not actually change anything. What does Noah do when he gets off the Ark? He plants a vineyard, makes wine, and passes out drunk. Then his son pokes fun of him, and is instantly cursed (Gen 9:20-24). Was there not a 5 year old boy in the neighboring village that was less sinful than these two? The giants (nephilim) are found in later Old Testament violence (and even the author of the Noah narrative admits they continue to exist – Genesis 6:4). And as far as violence, the Old Testament contains millions of violent killings and slayings many of them commanded by God after the flood. The flood did not work. Why would God say he is flooding the earth to get rid of these things, if they instantly reappear? Did God really not know the future? I doubt it. The literal reading just doesn’t add up.
  • Why punish people with a method that destroys all the animals? Sometimes when a person is angered by the actions of others, he will release his vengeance on some “innocent” object, for example, by dashing it against the ground. Is this what happened to the animals and the environment? God was infuriated by the sins of mankind, then God “dashed” the animals against the ground in his anger? Why the collateral damage? Why not just zap all the sinners with lightning or give them all heart attacks? He could just as well show the devastation of sin by killing just the sinners. It’s true animals are not humans, but would we really endorse killing a pet kitten because of its owners crimes? Something just doesn’t feel right about that redirection of punishment. Or perhaps God can destroy anything he wants, because he owns everything? This is certainly true, and God can do anything he wants, the only question is why would he want to? What does it tell us about God’s distribution of justice if polar bears in Antarctica had to suffer because of a man’s sin in Mesopotamia?
  • Why punish children, babies, and unborn infants for the sins of the adults? To make matters worse the only obvious conclusion from reading this story literally is that God drowned every single child and infant. Even the pregnant mothers were drowned with their unborn babies in womb (does this count as divine abortion?) Why would God punish the children for the sins of the adults? And remember, the narrative very clearly says the global flood was a punishment, a form or retributive justice, not just an event. The only consolation I can find in my heart is that most Christians say that babies who die instantly go to heaven. Yet again, this only makes me wish that God never allowed anyone grow up, and forced everyone to die as babies, that way we would all go to heaven? (So it’s possible for people to get to heaven without becoming a Christian? As long as they are babies? So what’s the point of making a world where we grow up and risk eternal torture in hell anyway?) All I am saying is a historic-scientific reading of the flood narrative doesn’t seem to add up.
  • Why does God like the smell of burning animals? As soon as Noah gets off the ark, he is depicted as taking a few of the endangered species, killing them (a hundred liberals just drowned in their tears), and burning them (animals, not liberals) on an altar to the Lord. The next passage plainly states “and when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground” (Gen 8:21) Bible scholars will label this term as anthropomorphism (1) or speak of the Jahwist (priestly) source (2) in the documentary hypothesis, and more recently the supplementary or fragmentary hypotheses to explain this fact. But the fact is, the text very clearly depicts God as smelling (reiach) the pleasant aroma (hannichoach) of burning animals. Does this not show a remarkable amount of humanity within this passage? Or should we take this as historic-scientific fact that God spells aromas, and he truly likes the smell of burnt barbeque? (I vote anthropomorphism instead.)
  • Why does Noah need to use birds to find dry land if God talks to him and tells him when to exit the ark? Before the flood, the narrative depicts God literally spoke to Noah and supernaturally closed the door to the ark (Gen 7:1, 7:16), and yet, Noah uses birds on numerous occasions to find a place to disembark. Then as soon as Noah finds out it is dry, the passage depicts God, again, carrying on a literal conversation with Noah. (Genesis 8:15-16) Releasing these birds seems very unnecessary for a man who has a literal verbal relationship with God. The birds seem instead to be a literary device to add to the story. It makes one wonder, did God really not talk to Noah for a year while on board of the ship? Where was God when Noah was releasing these birds and waiting? Was he not by Noah’s side? (And that brings us to the next question)
  • Why does God need to remember about Noah? The story simmers down in Gen 7:24 with Noah and his family alone in the ark “and the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.” Then out of nowhere, the story picks up speed as Gen 8:1 literally says “God remembered Noah.” That is strange, does God really forget? Does God not have someone in his mind at some time? Can God not be at a place for some period of time? Our traditional conception of God says no, he knows all things and is everywhere at the same time. God should have known about Noah, and s-2hould have been present everywhere, including with him. This this is another indication that these writings are written with a story-like, human centered (anthropomorphic) language in mind, rather than a modern scientific-historic depiction of events. Even if we reinterpret the idea of “remembrance” to say it does not literally mean “God forgot about Noah,” we must admit it depicts God recalling to mind Noah, from the human perspective, because the story is written in human centered story-form to evoke our emotions. This biblical text, if read as historical-scientific literature gives us wrong facts about God, but if read instead as anthropomorphic narrative, it depicts us the human feeling of being forsaken and “remembered” by the divine.
  • Why did God allow Ham to survive the flood if his descendants would need to be slaughtered? In Gen. 10:6–20 we are told that the Canaanites who possess the land that Israel conquers are children of Ham. Surely it was more humane to simply let Cain die in the flood than to let his children grow into thousands upon thousands only to slaughter them. Surely if God was really intending to get rid of the evil by killing people in the flood he would have known to get rid of the man from whom all the wicked nations of the Ancient Near East develop?

History

According to the creationist interpretation of the text, the flood happened in 2348 BC. (3) Recall that time before the year 0 AD/CE is counted “backwards,” so the date of 3000 BC is three thousand years before 0 AD, and 4000 BC is yet another thousand years earlier in history than 3000 BC. This date of 2348 BC causes innumerable historical problems.

  • Why are there hundreds of similar flood legends, but each with different details? Noah’s flood story is not the first in human history, there are older flood stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be 1,500 years older than the Noah story. (4) Yet there are vast differences between the two, from numerous gods and goddesses to a quest for immortality. There are a great many other flood legends, perhaps in the hundreds (5) yet they are all completely different. In some people flee to mountains to survive, in others they build boats, in yet others they hide in mythical caves or climb trees. What is also interesting to note, is that each geographic region has their own twist and theme; African flood myths are different than Ancient Near East myths, which are different from North American flood myths.
  • Why does no one in history remember or mention Noah? If indeed every single person living on the planet descended from Noah after the flood, why is there not a shared collective story of Noah? There are absolutely zero traces of Noah in ancient oral tales and myths. For example, Asian origin myths are vastly different from Latin American myths, but the both ignore Noah. This may not seem strange unless you consider that creationists say the gap between Noah’s time and ours is about 4400 years. And also consider that Noah purportedly lived 300 years after the flood and his son Shem lived almost 500 years after the flood (6). This would mean that living survivors of the flood were still alive 4,000 years ago. Given a new generation born every 40 years (4000/40) this means there are only 100 generations of people from us to the flood, yet in one hundred generations Noah was completely forgotten from oral history as being the sole father of the new human race? He was replaced by stories of magical monkeys in India? And by giant Raven in North America?
  • Why did no one else write about Noah and the ark? According to the most prominent creationist organization the flood happened in 2348 BC. (7) There are many Sumerian writings both before and after this flood date, however, none of them mention Noah. In fact, there is a fairly similar flood myth found in early Sumerian writings (8), that written around the 17th century BCE or about two/three hundred years after what is purported to be Noah’s death. (9) According to the ages given in the story, Noah’s son Shem may have been alive at the time (Genesis 11:11). How is it that a few generations after Noah, possibly during his sons life, and likely during his grandchildren’s lives there stories about the flood were recorded that completely ignored Noah? Other people of the exact same century, like Sargon of Akkad are mentioned in writing, but Noah is not?
  • Why does Egypt have written history before and after the flood, with no gap in between? This is one of the most damming concrete facts against a global flood. The nation of Egypt has an unbroken, documented history going back to 4500 BC, almost two thousand years before the flood! (10) Egypt has a history or its own distinct Egyptian written language of glyphs going back from 3200 BC (11) to 3000BC (12) this is almost a thousand years before the flood. Imhotep built the first Egyptian step pyramid almost two hundred years before the flood. (13) Egypt was in the middle of its 5th dynasty of rulers during the flood. (14) It is accepted by all historians that Egypt has written records of pharaohs that go right through the date of the flood, with no interruptions. (15) How could this be if there was a global flood that wiped them off the map?
  • Why do many distant civilizations thrive and grow right through the date of the flood? Consider that there are archeological records of the city of Mohenjo-daro flourishing in the Indus valley before and after the flood, with no interruptions (16). There is a written Indus script that was developed 200 years before the flood and was used four hundred years after, with no interruption. (17) Consider that mainstream history and archeology is fairly certain of numerous cities and civilizations built centuries or millennia before the flood and prospering right through if (18, 19) Consider that there is much evidence of military invasions, and wars that were fought during the purported time of the flood, when fundamentalists say there were only 8 people alive. (20) Consider that history shows famous conquerors like Sargon of Akkad ruled and conquered cities in the exact same time period as the flood. (21) How could any of this happen if there were no cities and only 8 people in the entire world? Should we reject all history and archeology and believe in the global flood?

Science

This section will be brief as few of my readers “trust science.” The sad reality is many people I know would rather trust a bit of spiritual hearsay that purportedly some prophet said in a different country than the consensus of a thousand scientists who have spent their lives studying some natural phenomenon. There are dozens of complex scientific reasons, but we will skip them and just give a few less detailed points that are easy to understand.

  • Why do virtually all scientists reject the idea of a global flood? The global flood is always used by young earth creationists as the only means to explain away all of the evidence for evolution (sediments, layers, fossils, earth appearing old and etc). Thus the flood is an integral part of young earth creationism, and everyone else (specifically those who accept evolution) does not believe it occurred. The best estimates are that 99.9% of relevant scientists reject the creationism including the global flood theory. (22) Yet, about one third of them believe in God. (23) If the flood is the most accurate geological answer to our physical evidence, why is it rejected by 99.9% of scientists, including the majority of Christians who are scientists? Why do organizations with hundreds of thousands of professional geologists reject the idea of a global flood and creationist lists can only muster three or four that affirm it?
  • How can a rainbow be the first, when the refraction of light is a physical law that our universe cannot exist without? A rainbow is not a physical thing, that exists and can be placed and taken way, it is merely the refraction of light passing through water molecules. (24) Even if there was no rain (which by the way negates planetary physics) before the flood, then Noah would only need to wake up before the morning dew or walk up to any waterfall to see a rainbow. Even creationists have begun to admit this fact, and state that the first rainbow was not really the first, but was repurposed for a new meaning. (25)
  • How and why was the fossil record sorted in an order convenient for evolution? Creationists say the flood caused everything in geology, from the layers of fossils to the order of these fossils. For example, it is said that the reasons there is sorting of animal fossils in the geologic strata (less evolved forms at the bottom, and more evolved near the top) is becase some animals ran into the mountain from the flood. However, the flood does not account for the following (courtesy of talkorigins.org):
    1. “the extremely good sorting observed. Why didn’t at least one dinosaur make it to the high ground with the elephants?
    2. the relative positions of plants and other non-motile life. (Yun, 1989, describes beautifully preserved algae from Late Precambrian sediments. Why don’t any modern-looking plants appear that low in the geological column?)
    3. why some groups of organisms, such as mollusks, are found in many geologic strata.
    4. why organisms (such as brachiopods) which are very similar hydrodynamically (all nearly the same size, shape, and weight) are still perfectly sorted.
    5. why extinct animals which lived in the same niches as present animals didn’t survive as well. Why did no pterodons make it to high ground?
    6. how coral reefs hundreds of feet thick and miles long were preserved intact with other fossils below them.
    7. why small organisms dominate the lower strata, whereas fluid mechanics says they would sink slower and thus end up in upper strata.
    8. why artifacts such as footprints and burrows are also sorted. [Crimes & Droser, 1992]
    9. why no human artifacts are found except in the very uppermost strata. If, at the time of the Flood, the earth was overpopulated by people with technology for shipbuilding, why were none of their tools or buildings mixed with trilobite or dinosaur fossils?
    10. why different parts of the same organisms are sorted together. Pollen and spores are found in association with the trunks, leaves, branches, and roots produced by the same plants [Stewart, 1983].
    11. why ecological information is consistent within but not between layers. Fossil pollen is one of the more important indicators of different levels of strata. Each plant has different and distinct pollen, and, by telling which plants produced the fossil pollen, it is easy to see what the climate was like in different strata. Was the pollen hydraulically sorted by the flood water so that the climatic evidence is different for each layer?” (26)
  • Why are 99.9% of all species that have ever lived currently extinct? “Since life first appeared on Earth some 3.8 billion years ago, it has been estimated that more than 99.9% of all species have gone extinct. Billions of species have gone extinct throughout geologic history.” (27) We have found fossil evidence of strange wild creatures that ancient people did not know existed. Every year we find many new fossilized species, things that we did not know existed. These are found standing in any museum. Yet they are all extinct, why? The command to Noah clearly says that every kind must be preserved, how is it that 99% of the species of this planet were not preserved? Why did the Ark not contain seven pairs of the Phorusrhacidae “terror bird”? (28) In fact, why were they even created if they were simply going to become extinct in the lifetime of the first group of humans?
  • How could 8 people have grown into every single ethnic group over 174 generations? If children are born when adults are 25 years old, we have 174 generations (though a number like 40 is usually used, we will take the lowest possible) between Noah and us today. Are we to believe that 8 people of middle-eastern descent practiced incest to produce over 5,000 of today’s ethnic groups in less than two hundred generations? African, Eskimo, Native American, Indian, Asian, European, Aborigine. All of this ethnic evolution happened in just 170 generations? In addition to that, computer population models show the numbers look strange when compared to known history, for example, leading to absurd ideas like that only a few thousand adults being alive at the same time as the building of the pyramids. (29)
  • Why do creationists believe in superfast “magic evolution,” but reject slow scientific evolution? Noah Ark purportedly carried two (or seven) of every “kind”, and these “kinds” quickly changed into all the other species we see today by a process of microevolution. Creationists also say they do not believe in the horrible evil of macroevolution, where new species can evolve, often aggressively asking scientists to “name one new species that evolved!?” (30) Yet, there is a huge inconsistency in their rhetoric. First, they already believe new species evolved after leavening the ark! They need this to keep the numbers down to 1%. Second, according to common creationist thought, the chihcuacha, the wolf, the pitbull all share the same Ark ancestor! And this species variation of all dogs/wolves happened in 4400 years! Compared to that, evolutionists depict dogs/wolves diverging in evolution 4,000,000 years ago. (31) The creationists version of “microevolution” works a thousand times faster than the evolutionists version of evolution!

Conclusion

Based on these small gleanings it seems very unlikely (and this is a nice way of saying completely and utterly impossible) for there to have been a global flood that covered the earth 4000 years ago. This is not because of a lack of faith on my part. I believe that God could have made people into potatoes who built the titanic out of toothbrushes, if he wanted to. The question is: does the evidence of the biblical text, nature, history, philosophy, logic, and theology support this? I join the vast majority of Biblical scholars, historians, and scientists in saying an emphatic No!

Does this automatically mean we don’t trust the rest of the bible? C. S. Lewis gives an appropriate answer, regarding another account in the Old Testament he considered mythical:

“the whole Book of Jonah has to me the air of being a moral romance, a quite different kind of thing from, say, the account of King David or the New Testament narratives, not pegged, like them, into any historical situation. In what sense does the Bible “present” the Jonah story “as historical”? Of course it doesn’t say, “This is fiction,” but then neither does our Lord say that the Unjust Judge, Good Samaritan, or Prodigal Son are fiction (I would put Esther in the same category as Jonah for the same reason). How does a denial, a doubt, of their historicity lead logically to a similar denial of New Testament miracles? Supposing (as I think is the case), that sound critical reading revealed different kinds of narrative in the Bible, surely it would be illogical to suppose that these different kinds should all be read in the same way?”

(Lewis, Letter from C. S. Lewis to Corbin 32)