The Lost World of the Flood
The topic of the flood in Genesis, like the topic of creation, has become a contentious one, and the spectrum of interpretations is certainly as vast. Indeed, this is the reason that the topic is now included in the Lost World series. As the preface states: “The issues the Lost World books deal with are inherently controversial…” (p. vii). Regardless, Genesis 6-9 is holy Scripture and we must deal with it and pursue a better understanding.
Longman and Walton break The Lost World of the Flood down into four parts: 1) Method: Perspectives on Interpretation, 2) Background: Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3) Text: Understanding the Biblical Text Literarily and Theologically, and 4) The World: Thinking about Evidence for the Flood.
Part 1 does well at laying the interpretive groundwork for what follows. Portions of the discussion in Part 1 are very similar to the interpretive groundwork laid our at the start of other Lost World volumes. Several points are stressed here, such as the idea that ancient texts are not bound by modern expectations. Specifically, it is emphasized that it is the theological message of the biblical authors that carry the authority of God, not the event (in this case, the flood) that they are using to craft that theological message. In other words, our modern understanding of historical accuracy is invalid to place upon texts that are functioning as ancient “theological histories” (p. 22).
Parts 2 and 3 look at the text–first, how it relates to similar ancient Near Eastern texts; second, how it functions literarily. Part 2 looks at the ways Genesis 6-9 flows from the “same cultural river” (see p. 85) as the ancient Near Eastern texts, but with different interpretive emphases. Part 3 not only considers literary features of Genesis 6-9 itself, but also considers the placement of the text within the broader context of Genesis 1-11.
Part 4 examines how the text relates to the world, particularly, how our understanding of the text can be aided by scientific fact. This section of the book includes a chapter written by geology professor Stephen O. Moshier entitled “Geology Does Not Support a Worldwide Flood,” which injects a more legitimate scientific element into the overall discussion. This chapter in its entirety is, however, unnecessary. What is ultimately argued and accomplished here could have easily been accomplished by a shorter excursus, and I found this chapter to be more concerned with why “flood geologists” (p. 150) are wrong than why geology does not support a worldwide flood–although, the latter is present nonetheless.
The Lost World of the Flood is a solid addition to the Lost World series. It will prove valuable to those seeking a greater understanding of Genesis 6-9, especially if they are in a place along their faith journey where they are feeling a tension between faith and science. I have been in that same place, and my journey toward the conclusion that faith and science are, indeed, not at odds has led to a deeper faith in God. I invite you to dive into the topic of the flood and see what Longman and Walton have to offer!
2-3 points of application or noteworthy distinctions:
- The Lost World of the Flood includes a chapter written by a geology professor (Stephen O. Moshier) entitled “Geology Does Not Support a Worldwide Flood,” which injects a scientific element into the overall discussion by Longman and Walton.
- Longman and Walton emphasize that it is the theological message of the biblical authors carry the authority of God, not the event (in this case, the flood) that they are using to craft that theological message. “Events are not inspired; interpretations of events are inspired” (p. 23).
In modern times the Genesis flood account has been probed and analyzed for answers to scientific, apologetic, and historical questions. It is a text that has called forth “flood geology,” fueled searches for remnants of the ark on Mount Ararat, and inspired a full-size replica of Noah’s ark in a theme park. Some claim that the very veracity of Scripture hinges on a particular reading of the flood narrative. But do we understand what we are reading?
Longman and Walton urge us to ask what the biblical author might have been saying to his ancient audience. Our quest to rediscover the biblical flood requires that we set aside our own cultural and interpretive assumptions and visit the distant world of the ancient Near East. Responsible interpretation calls for the patient examination of the text within its ancient context of language, literature, and thought. And as we return from that lost world to our own, we will need to ask whether geological science supports the notion of flood geology.
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A bit more on this from an interview with Walton: