Noah's Ark
Truth or Myth?

by Michael S. Cole, M.D.

Noah's Ark For various reasons, many people today find the story of Noah's Ark quite difficult to believe. I have always found it quite fascinating myself and searched for the truth for many years. Let's examine whether this could have actually occurred or if the tale is merely a myth invented many centuries ago. The real issue is: can we trust the words of Genesis chapters 6 through 9?

Before the Great Flood the Bible tells us that mankind's behavior degenerated to where people's minds were thinking about "only evil continually" and "the earth was filled with violence." Our righteous God became sorrowful for having created people who became so wicked. So, God decided to destroy all people, all land animals, and all birds. (Gen. 6:5-7, 11).

Noah was trying to live righteously in this wicked world, so God was merciful to him and his family. (Gen. 6:8-9; 7:1). Noah was given instructions about how he was to build a big boat--450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. (Gen. 6:14-16). I am told that its dimensions were similar to today's oil tankers, making it practically impossible to overturn even in the worst storm at sea.

God told Noah, "Everything that is on the earth shall die" by a flood. (Gen. 6:17; 7:4). Noah was also told that the Ark would save his family (four married couples) and a male and female pair of every kind of "unclean" animal and 7 each (or 7 pairs) of every "clean" animal. (Gen. 6:18-19). Noah was also instructed to store food in the Ark for his family and for all the animals. (Gen. 6:21).

Noah did "all that God commanded him." (Gen. 6:22; 7:5).

Seven days before the rain started, God ordered Noah, who was 600 years old, to come into the Ark with his family and all the animals. (Gen. 7:1-4, 6). God sealed them in the Ark. (Gen. 7:16). God caused water to both rise up from below the earth and to fall from the sky for 40 days, until the water was 22 feet deep over the highest mountain. (Gen. 7:11-12, 19-20). Everyone and everything that had lived on dry ground was drowned. Only those in the Ark survived. (Gen. 7:21-23).

artist's impression of the Ark during the Flood, from 'Creation Ex Nihilo' 21(3):49
artist's impression of the Ark during the Flood, from Creation Ex Nihilo 21(3):49

After 150 days the water began to subside. The Ark came to rest on a high mountain of Ararat. Three months later the tops of the mountains could be seen. (Gen. 8:3-5). When the surface of the ground was dry enough, the Bible says that God told Noah to go out of the Ark, 365 days after he entered it. (Gen. 8:16).

Later, God made a promise that "never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." The rainbow is the sign of His covenant. (Gen. 9:8-17).




From both believers in God and non-believers, there have been many objections to the credibility of the story above. Also, there have been many attempts to concoct different versions of what might have really happened. In other words, many people don't believe God really meant what He tells us through the writings of Moses in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. I will try to address all of the objections to a Great Flood that I have heard. Please keep in mind that some of my responses are merely my own opinions.

I believe that God said what He meant to say and that He revealed to us things that we can understand. I do not believe God gave us incorrect information in the Bible, especially in passages that seem very easy to understand what He said. The writings of Moses about Noah and the Flood are too simple to misunderstand, in my opinion.


OBJECTIONS TO THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT

  1. The story is a myth based on other flood fables told by various ethnic groups who populated the Middle East at the time of Moses.
      There are many cultures all over the world which have tales of a flood that completely covered the earth and destroyed all but a few people. I argue that the reason that there is so much similarity between the myths and the Genesis account is that this was a real event. All men and women being descendants of Noah, they passed down the story of this major episode in the life of their ancestor. The only truly accurate account is the one which God reveals to us in Genesis through the pen of Moses.

  2. By the days of Noah there were not enough people on the earth to require a worldwide flood.
      I estimate that 12 to 15 generations had been born on the earth by the time of the flood. (Genesis chapter 5 tells us that Noah was the ninth generation from Adam.) Easily, there could have been a billion people alive on the earth by the 600th birthday of Noah.

  3. The flood was only a local flood and not worldwide.
      I see two major problems with the local flood theories. You cannot cover the highest mountains with water for several months if the flood was only regional. (Gen. 7:20). Secondly, and even more significant is the covenant which God made after the Flood. God promised, "Never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." (Gen. 9:11). If the flood of Noah was merely a local flood, then God would have broken that promise hundreds of times since then. Other problems include that a population as large as one billion would not likely be contained within a single valley that would be amenable to local flooding. Besides, some people and animals could have simply gone to higher ground as happens during local flooding today. Even if the world's human population was not widely spread, nothing would have kept the birds and all the animals confined within that local flood area. Genesis 7:21-23 says that all creatures outside the Ark who lived on the land were destroyed. I also object to the possibility of a local flood because God could have merely instructed Noah and his family, along with the animals to be saved, to migrate out of the area that would be flooded.

  4. There is not enough water to cover the entire earth.
      There is nothing to convince us that the oceans were as deep or that the mountains were as high prior to the flood. Consider Psalm 104:5-9. "You who laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever, You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled; at the voice of Your thunder they hastened away. The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You did establish for them. You have set a boundary that they may not pass over, that they may not return to cover the earth." From these verses we might reasonably conclude that God made the mountains higher and the valleys deeper to make adjustments for the greater quantity of water on the earth after the Flood.

  5. There was not enough extra water to cover the entire planet.
      The Bible says, "all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened," in Genesis 7:11. This is consistent with saying that volcanoes erupted and that previously stored water high in the atmosphere was released. A great quantity of water is released with a volcanic eruption. If hundreds of volcanoes erupted both above and below the surface of the oceans, then the amount of water spewing forth on the earth is unimaginable to me. Genesis 1:7 tells us that the earth originally had water above the sky. With the greater surface area at a very high altitude in the earth's atmosphere, the thickness of water, probably in a gaseous state, would not have to be very great to store an incredible quantity of water which God could release upon the earth. This water would have been thin enough to allow adequate sunlight through. Also, the weight of this water would have caused there to be a greater barometric pressure prior to the Flood. Worldwide atmospheric barometric pressure drops and increased sunlight penetration would have created a world that was very different after the Flood. These changes provide reasonable theories about the decreasing life spans and the extinction of numerous species after the Flood.

  6. Noah and his family could not have traveled to all lands and caught all those animals.
      Fortunately for Noah, he did not have to search the world and capture them. God caused these animals and birds to come to Noah. (Gen. 6:20).

  7. The animals could not have all migrated to the Ark because of natural barriers like high mountains, rivers, and seas.
      We cannot be sure what the earth's geography was like prior to the Flood. Five or six generations after Noah, we can read in Genesis 10:25 that in the days of Peleg (which means "division") that "the earth was divided." Many believe that this means that God divided the earth into the continents we now see (though, I have to admit, it might instead mean that God divided people by language). If the land prior to the Flood was one big continent, this would indeed have facilitated the migration of animals to Noah's location. After the Flood it would have provided a way for the animals unique to Australia to get there.

  8. The Ark was not big enough to hold all those animals and carry enough food for a year.
      A very real possibility was that the animals Noah put in the Ark were not full grown. It would not take as much food for young samples of each species. According to calculations in The Genesis Flood, by Whitcomb and Morris, 1961, page 69, the Ark could hold the equivalent of 522 standard two-decked railroad stock cars. To carry the no more than 35,000 estimated individual vertebrate animals, the average size being that of a sheep, would require no more than 146 such railroad cars.

  9. The animals would be out of control in the Ark during the rough weather.
      We must remember that God did not abandon Noah in the Ark. The Lord did not say get into the Ark at the beginning of the trip, nor come out of the Ark at the end. God told Noah to join Him in the Ark. (Note "Come into the Ark" in Genesis 7:1 and "Go out of the Ark" in chapter 8:16.) There is no doubt in my mind that God could have calmed the animals during the storm, as easily as Christ calmed the Sea of Galilee. (Mark 4:37-41). It is entirely possible that God even caused many of the animals to hibernate throughout much of the trip.

  10. The Ark could not have carried enough fresh water for a year.
      This is clearly not true when we consider that the Ark's cargo space was equivalent to 522 railroad cars, as mentioned above. Also, the Ark was surrounded by drinkable water. If we assume that the ocean's salt content was the same as today, then the excess Flood water likely diluted it sufficiently for drinking.

  11. Saltwater fish could not have survived in fresh or less salty water.
      Freshwater fish certainly cannot survive in saltwater. But, there are numerous examples of saltwater fish being able to survive for extended periods in fresh water. Keep in mind that the whole Flood period was a miracle of God, and I see no reason not to believe that He could keep saltwater fish alive during the event.

  12. There wouldn't be enough oxygen for them at the high altitude at the peak of the flood.
      Atmospheric pressure and oxygen concentration are relative to sea level. As the sea rose, so also did the air we breathe. No matter if the Flood waters were as high as Mount Everest (which isn't likely, as I explained above based on Psalm 104:5-9), the oxygen necessary to sustain life would have been more than adequate.

  13. The Ark had no rudder or sails.
      The Ark needed no means of propulsion or steering. There was no particular place that it needed to go. After exposing the land to the incredible Flood waters, it is unlikely that Noah's family could have recognized any landmarks after the Flood. The Ark came to rest where God wanted it to come to rest.

  14. Noah and 7 other people would not be able to care for that many animals.
      This might be true if they were out of control or if they were all fully grown or if they were always awake or if they had no assistance from their Creator. The God who was powerful enough to destroy the earth with a massive Flood, was unquestionably able to care for those in the Ark for a year.

  15. God would not have killed innocent children in the Flood.
      History is filled with examples where children were destined to suffer because of the choices of their parents. If we believe these children were innocent, then we should be comforted to know that by their drowning, God removed them from a wicked society and took their souls to eternal peace and rest.

  16. There is not enough evidence that the whole earth was under water.
      I am told that prior to the theories of Charles Darwin, most educated men explained the vast quantities of fossils as evidence of the global Flood from the days of Noah. In spite of what you may have heard elsewhere, animals and plants decay rapidly under normal circumstances, rarely leaving any trace for very long that they ever even existed on the planet. The mechanism for creating fossils requires unusual circumstances where an organism is buried before it can be eaten by other animals and bacteria. It is my opinion that the fossil record and sedimentary layers are best explained by a worldwide Flood. The Bible tells us that this Flood occurred during the life of Noah to destroy evil men who refused to walk in the righteous ways of their Creator.


IN CONCLUSION

I am convinced of the truthfulness of the story of Noah, because my Savior Jesus Christ believed it to be true. He said:

The writer of Hebrews believed it--

The Apostle Peter believed it--



Footnote: Many Christians and non-Christians have argued that such "explanations" of the Bible should not be needed. Shouldn't we just accept this "by faith"? Those who make that argument apparently define "faith" differently than I do. The Bible describes faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Though I'm now convinced of the reliability of all Scripture, I'm not one who blindly accepts everything I read. Many good people struggle with their faith, especially when they hear or read attacks on the validity of Noah and the Ark (or any of many other Bible stories). God did not leave His existence without clear and convincing proofs that can be found inside and outside the Bible. One cannot use the story of Noah's Ark as the foundation of one's faith. No where does the Bible suggest that God intends for believers to blindly, mindlessly follow without ever questioning. The undeniable proof of His existence and the evidence of His love and power is evident at the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is this single event that is the center of human history and the pivotal moment in the Bible. Once I became one hundred percent convinced that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, all other challenges to faith are minor and inconsequential. The only conclusions that can be reached about Jesus Christ is that He was a legend, a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. Which conclusion have you reached? If you don't yet trust the Holy Bible as a reliable witness, then please read the evidence that comes from historical extra-biblical sources available at this Web site. The evidence is overwhelming, for those willing to take time to study it. If it's true that Jesus Christ died for our sins, then was resurrected from the dead (as I declare), then our acceptance or rejection of Him will have eternal consequences for us all.





If you can think of other objections which I haven't covered, please let me hear from you.
MColeMD@theColeFamily.com
You might check back at this page in the future as I will make changes to anything someone convinces me should be changed.



Recommended Reading:
In Defense of the Genesis Flood [part 1]
In Defense of the Genesis Flood [part 2]



  Link to L'arca di Noè - mito o realtà? in Italian

  Link to West-Ark's Online Library


West-Ark Church of Christ