A colleague from Missouri wrote:
Hi, Damien –
Not all your readers find very persuasive your case against a global Flood.
Here are a few thoughts from two American Catholic creationists.
Here’s my take:
RS: The Greek of Acts 2:5 means, of the nations that had Jews living in them, all of them were gathered in Jerusalem. It is not including any region of Earth that did not contain Jews. So this context is not the same as Genesis 6-9.
Mackey will need to prove that the expression “all the earth” cannot apply to the whole earth. He will not be able to do so since the Bible uses such expressions in both local and global ways.
More significant is 2 Peter 3:5, which compares the earth completely covered by water at the creation in Genesis 1:1-2 with the flood of Noah’s day that will once again cover the Earth completely with water. The Greek di means “between,” and thus tells us that the Earth was surrounded by water (i.e., water covered the entire spherical circumference). Since creation is global, so is the flood.
It then compares the judgment by fire of the whole earth with the judgment of the whole earth in Noah’s day. Since the fire is global, so is the flood
There is no suggestion that an of these three events: (1) creation water over the earth, (2) judgment fire on the earth at the last day, (3) Noah’s flood, are merely local events.
Genesis 7:19-20 says that the water rose 15 cubits higher than the highest mountain, which is about 300 feet. Whatever the height of the highest mountain, the laws of physics say that water seeks the lowest point and assumes the shape of its container. Water could never reach a height of 300 feet over a mountain locally, since the water would always seek a lower point somewhere on the earth, no matter how far it extended. The only way Genesis 7:19-20 could be accomplished is by a worldwide deluge, not to mention that the same fossils that are found in the Mesopotamian region are found in the Americas, Australia and the Far East.
The proposition that the Garden of Eden was sitting on sedimentary rocks has no evidence to support it. Genesis doesn’t hint to such a circumstance. The only mention of rare earths or elements is Gen 2:12 (gold, bdellium, onyx stone), but these are speaking of what is there as of the writing of Genesis by Moses, not necessarily what was there in the time of the Garden of Eden. Even if they were existing during the time of Eden, gold is a naturally occurring element, not a sediment. Bdellium is the product of tree. The only possibility of something built by layers is the onyx, but that is a quick crystallization process, not a sedimentary process.
The other instance is the use of bronze and iron at the time of Gen 4:22, but these are either naturally occurring elements or forged mixtures of elements, not sediments.
As for the four rivers, flood waters would not necessarily erase the elongated earthen cavity that holds river water. In fact, the exceeding pressure from water that is a mile or two high (as in our oceans) preserves rather than destroys. Once the mile or two of water is removed, the cavity that held the river remains. The only way the cavity would not be present after a flood is if the flood waters were in great turbulence and literally broke up the cavity, but that requires proof of some great turbulence, not assumption.
In a message dated 2/23/2013 8:45:49 P.M. Eastern Standard Time …. :
I don’t know how Damien can argue that he is able to interpret Genesis better than ALL of the Fathers of the Church, especially since the geological evidence fits perfectly well with a global Flood and a post-Flood Ice Age. It seems extremely arrogant to think that the Fathers were incapable of interpreting the Scriptures that refer to the Flood correctly and that we needed the speculations of anti-Catholic scientists like Darwin and Lyell to interpret them aright!
Damien Mackey’s Response
Depth and common sense are needed when approaching a particularly difficult scriptural segment such as early Genesis. By depth, I mean reading beneath the surface of a modern translation. And the application of common sense will ensure that one does not arrive at a conclusion that is unrealistic, unscientific, or even, laughable.
I want to exemplify this by using an example of the geography of the Book of Tobit – which appears quite nonsensical when read ‘at face value’ – and then to apply this type of example- when properly explained – to early Genesis.
Was the Archangel Raphael leading the young Tobias ‘right up the garden path’?
On the surface of things, the angel Raphael got his geography badly wrong when attempting to lead young Tobias, son of Tobit, to the land of“Media”, to “Rages” and “Ecbatana” therein. And this despite the angel’s assurance to the ageing Tobit (5:10): “Yes, I can go with him, for I know all the routes. I have often traveled to Media and crossed all its plains and mountains; so I know every road well.”
However, departing from Nineveh, which is well west of Median Ecbatana (see at far right in Map I below), the travellers arrive in the evening at the Tigris River, which is even west of Nineveh. In other words, they are going in quite the wrong direction – exactly opposite to the way that they ought to be heading!
Map I: Median Ecbatana, Nineveh and Har[r]an
This absurd situation has prompted Fr. MacKenzie, in The Jerome Biblical Commentary (article“Tobit”, footnote comment on 5a), to remark that: “Raphael knows the journey of life far better than the route to Media!”
Whilst, according to The Jerusalem Bible, “the geography is inexact”.
The fact that the Douay-Rheims version of Tobit adds “Charan”(Harran/Haran, see map) as a ‘midway’ point in the journey (11:1) serves only to reinforce the view that the travellers are going right away from their intended (as customarily estimated) destination in the east.
Three possible ways of approaching this difficulty
I should like to suggest – with approaches to early Genesis well in mind – three ways that commentators (e.g. the likes of Fr. MacKenzie) might react to the geography of Tobit:
1. The liberal approach, such as Fr. MacKenzie’s, and The Jerusalem Bible’s, and – as appeared in the March MATRIX – Bro. Guy Consolmagno (S.J.)’s estimation of early Genesis; or
2. The artificial approach towards‘saving’ the Scriptures as used by conservatives, such as the ‘Creationists’with early Genesis, to make the inerrant Scriptures fit their preconceived interpretations: “All of these things are read into the Bible from a centuries-past interpretation of it” (Professor Carol Hill); or
3. The biblical key, allowing the scriptures to open themselves up to us.
Since the Holy Spirit is of course the true inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, then ‘the key to their interpretation will be laid upon the shoulder’ (Isaiah 22:22) only of those who approach the Sacred texts in a spirit of prayer and with a disciple’s ear, and who do not bring to the study a heavy mass of preconceived ideas.
1. The liberal approach
This is basically clueless, and does not respect the work of the Holy Spirit to the extent of looking to defend the Sacred Scriptures. Unable to understand the Bible, lacking any key to unlock its hidden secrets, proponents of this method take the easy way out by labelling much of it “inaccurate”, and by relegating it to “a pious fiction”, and, in the case of Adam and Eve, describing it as “unscientific”, “a marvellous allegory”, and so on.
Bro. Consolmagno posits “three different creation stories in the Bible, so which is true?”
And Fr. MacKenzie does not make any effort to ‘redeem’ the geography of the Book of Tobit, but simply leaves us with who he thinks is a directionally-confused angel.
So much for the liberals!
2. The artificial approach
In astronomical terms, this is somewhat like trying to ‘save the appearances’ (or phenomena) by adding epicycle upon epicycle, until the whole unwieldy model ‘fits’.
Thus e.g. a Creation Scientist, employing a shallow a priori approach to the perfect Scriptures, will endeavor, though quite unwittingly, to force the Sacred texts to fit the hopeful model. The perfect Scriptures are reduced to the absurd, the unscientific (no genuine scientist would want to countenance them), with common sense thrown right out the window.
With regard to early Genesis, they end up with some ridiculous situations like God’s retiring in the evenings and re-starting His creative work on the next day. “Have you not heard”, exclaims Isaiah (40:28), “the Lord will not grow tired or weary”. Then there is Light from the start despite its luminary source not being created, supposedly, until the Fourth Day. And there are the miracles upon miracles (‘epicycles upon epicycles’) needed to get Noah’s Ark built and furnished, with all animals on board, and afloat, and surviving a global Flood, without everyone on board drowning in – forget the Flood – manure (possibly including dinosaurs). Or, as Professor Carol Hill put it (in previous MATRIX): “The “leaps of logic” build one on top of another until finally, as the result of this cataclysmic event, almost all of the geomorphic and tectonic features present on the planet Earth (e.g., canyons, caves, mountains, continents) are attributed by flood geologists to the Noachian Flood”.
I have already discussed the Creationists’ tendency to turn universal biblical language into global modern terms, “whole earth”, “under the entire heavens”, etc. The limited world that the people of the Bible knew, the ‘whole world’ to them, was not the global world of today. And that comment also applies to the early Church Fathers. For example, the entire world assembled at Pentecost incorporated just a tiny percentage of today’s global village.
Consider the differences in meaning of Pope Francis’s saying that they had gone to “the end of the earth” to get him, and for “evangelisation to the ends of the earth”, and of Jesus’s words about the Queen of the South coming from “the ends of the earth” to visit king Solomon. She (be she Hatshepsut – ruler of Egypt and Ethiopia – or an Arabian queen) came from a place which, on a global map, is a tiny step to Jerusalem and is not even in the southern hemisphere.
Now, how might this artificialapproach manifest itself with the geography of Tobit?
Well, a friend has proposed to me a hypothetical archaeologist, believing in biblical inerrancy, with Bible in hand, scouring the world (presumably near Nineveh) and finding the set:Nineveh, Tigris, Media, Ecbatana, Rages, Haran, but not the classical and well-known locations – e.g. ‘a stream called “Tigris” that is not the Tigris River’. Epicycle upon epicycle. And, whilst antiquity did know of a Median and a Syrian “Ecbatana”, I would still say ‘good luck’ to that hypothetical archaeologist in his search for his biblical combination (or key).
1. The biblical key
Nice if we can get it.
However, I think that there is an attainable solution at least to the tricky geography of the Book of Tobit that is right in accord with the textual details and that does fit the story like a finely tuned key, without the need for added baggage – just as will be the case with early Genesis when properly understood. Having the key in hand neither requires one to ridicule and dismiss the text as nonsense, as do the liberals, nor to add epicycle upon epicycle to make it fit, as do the conservatives.
Here, then, is my effort to account for which way the angel was really leading young Tobias (and let us not forget his dog as well).
‘Saving’ the Geography of Tobit
When Raphael and Tobias are properly understood to have been travelling from Ninevehwestwards, not the usually presumed eastwards, then their arrival at the Tigris River in the evening, and later at “Charan” in the midway, and finally at “Ecbatana”, makes perfect sense. “Media” then becomes, with a slight tweak (and that is all that is needed with this scenario), Midian. And indeed there are, as we shall read in the section below, extant versions of the Book of Tobit that supply the appropriate place names here (“Midian” and “Bathania”).
Median Ecbatana and Rhages (var. Rhaga, Rau) do not fit the Book of Tobit scenario eitherdirectionally or topographically, as the former is in the mountains, whereas Tobit’s Ecbatana was in the plain, whilst Rages, in the mountains in Tobit, is in the plain in Media.
It is simply all the wrong way around!
The Book of Tobit’s city of Rages must be the city of Damascus, which fits exactly insofar as it is in the mountain of Bashan, exactly 2 miles from where tradition places Job (our Tobias). Here is my recent account of this stunning geographical fit that completely defies a surface reading of the current text:
… whereas the journey from Tobit’s Ecbatana toRages normally took “two full days”, the almost 200-mile journey from the Median Ecbatana to Rhages would have taken significantly longer. In fact it took the army of Alexander the Great 11 days at full gallop to march from the one to the other 13]. Rightly then does Jan Simons observe (according to a Median context) that the journey referred to in the Book of Tobit “would be a forced ‘journey of two days’ even for an express messenger”14].
…. So we find that the real Raphael [not Fr. MacKenzie’s inept version of him] was escorting the young Tobias, not eastwards, but westwards from Nineveh, to the Tigris crossing, then to Haran, and on to Bashan (where the angel then leaves on an early flight for Damascus).
I … discussed all this in Volume 2 [of my thesis, A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah and its Background], Ch. 2, pp. 38-40, where I had specifically claimed that “Rages”, a city in the mountains, must be the city of Damascus that dominated the province of Batanaea” (p. 39).
Damascus, almost 700 m above sea level, is actually situated on a plateau.
Secondly, I gave there very specific geographical details in order to identify this “Rages” in relation to “Ecbatana” (Tobit5:6), which I had in turn identified (following the Heb. Londinii, or HL, fragment version of Tobit) with “Bathania”, or Bashan (possibly Herodotus’Syrian Ecbatana as opposed to the better known Median Ecbatana). According to Tobit, “Rages is situated in the mountains, two days’ walk from Ecbatana which is in the plain”. Now Damascus is precisely two days’ walk from Bashan in the Hauran plain, as according to Jâkût el-Hamawi who says of Batanaea’s most central town of Nawâ …: “Between Nawa and Damascus is two days’ journey” (as quoted on p. 39). …. Whilst Bible scholars today tend to dismiss the whole geography of the Book of Tobit as nonsensical, a simple adjustment based on a genuine version (Heb. Londinii), makes perfect – even very precise (“two days walk”) – sense of it.
The testimony of Jâkût el-Hamawi here was an absolute clincher for me, not only when trying to make sense of the geography of the Book of Tobit, but also for having Tobias, with the angel, heading to the very region in Naphtali from where Tobit himself had hailed (Naphtalian Bashan) … [and again] from the point of view of having the geography of Tobit converge with that of Job (my Tobias) …with the pair of travellers heading to the very geographical region, Bashan, where ancient legends of Job place his home of Uz and his final resting place.
Again, this Damascene region is the very one in which the Syro-Arabic traditions place the home of Job.
The Jâkût el-Hamawi and Moslem tradition generally mention the east Hauran fertile tract of country north-west of Têmâ and Bûzân, el-Bethenîje (i.e. Batanaea), as the district in which Job dwelt. According to Abufelda 25]: “The whole of Bethenije, a part of the province of Damascus, belonged to Job as his possession”.
Map 2: Damascus, Hauran (Batanaea)
The Syrian tradition also locates Job’s abode in Batanaea, where lies an ancient “Monastery of Job” (Dair Êjûb), built in honour of the holy man.
All the larger works on Palestine and Syria agree that “Uz” is not to be sought in Edom proper. In these works we also find it recorded that Batanaea is there called Job’s fatherland. In Batanaea itself the traveller hears this constantly. If any one speaks of the fruitfulness of the whole district; or of the fields around a village, he is always answered: ‘
Is it not the land of Job (bilâd Êjûb)?’;
‘Does it not belong to the villages of Job (diâ Êjûb)?’.
It seems that Batanaea (Hauran) and the land of Job are synonymous.
Job’s Tomb and other Relics
Regarding Job’s tomb, we read from Ibn er-Râbi that 26]:”To the prophets buried in the region of Damascus belongs also Job, and his tomb is near Nawa, in the district of Hauran”.
Delitzsch27] notes, in favour of Batanaea, that the “heap of ashes” (Job 2:8) upon which Job sat in his misery is variously translated as “dunghill”, and that only in a Batanaean context is there no contradiction, since the two were “synonymous notions”. There the dung, being useless for agricultural purposes, is burnt from time to time in an appointed place before the town; while in any other part of Syria it is as valuable as among any farmer. This distinctive fact, he concludes, is yet another indication that Job’s “land of Uz” cannot refer to the land of Edom.
[End of quotes]
The key easily fits the lock and does not need to be forced.
The problem with reading one’s own meaning into the Scriptures – for instance, reading a global scenario into a non-global world – instead of reading the real meaning out of the Scriptures, is that one ends up erasing all proper meaning from the Scriptures. By imposing upon the Scriptures a burden, be it scientific, historical, or prophetical, which they are not able to bear, one ends up with an, inaccurate at best, and nonsensical at worst, scenario.
The Church has warned against this type of artificial imposition.
Such a method also has serious ramifications for biblical prophecy, since a warping of the intended meaning of the texts (coupled with a faulty chronology) – e.g. an artificial extrapolation of ancient events into a third millennium world – will mean that it is impossible for inspired prophecies to be understood as having arrived at their proper terminus or fulfilment. This is a further source of glee for atheists, who can then point to scriptural personages (including Jesus Christ himself) as being “false prophets”.
Finally, speaking of atheists, I do not properly comprehend how my approach to the Scriptures can be said to support Lyell and Darwin in any way, shape or form. I should have thought that my anti-evolutionary views and my urging for significantly shortened Geological, Stone, and Archaeological, Ages (see e.g. AMAIC sites, next page) would have quite the opposite effect. But I firmly believe that evolution must be exposed using real scientific data and not by means of a pseudo-scientific view of early Genesis.