Thursday, April 27, 2017

Was the ark a lark?

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them”…Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth (Gen 6:19-21; 7:2-3).

i) The rationale for this is pretty straightforward on the YEC interpretation. Since a global flood will destroy all land animals, breeding pairs are preserved on the ark to replenish the earth after the flood. 

ii) Mind you, that position is not without complications. For instance, after the predators and prey disembark, what are the predators supposed to eat? The prey species. But if there's just one pair for each unclean species, and a predator eats the male or female member before they have a chance to reproduce, that species becomes extinct. Even with seven pair of clean species, that's an awfully slim margin with all those hungry predators afoot. 

There are other familiar questions, like whether the gene pool is rich enough. Whether there's enough time for such a small sample to reproduce and diversify to where the situation is today. Of course, young-earth creationists are used to fielding those objections. 

iii) But what's the rationale, if any, on the OEC interpretation? That's a neglected interpretation. Consider some stock objections to the OEC interpretation: the size of the ark is out of all proportion for a local flood. Indeed, the ark is pointless since Noah and his family could just hike out of the flood zone in advance, while the flood zone would be repopulated by neighboring species after the fact. What about that?

iv) I'm not a shipwright, much less an authority on ancient shipbuilding, but it's my layman's impression that larger vessels are apt to be more seaworthy than smaller vessels. So even if, on the OEC interpretation, an ark that size was unnecessary to accommodate a regional sample of species, perhaps it would still be necessary or beneficial for stability. 

v) What about the objection that on the OEC interpretation, neighboring species could simply repopulate the flood zone, so preserving a sample on the ark is pointless? 

Although, on the OEC interpretation, neighboring species probably expedited a restoration of the status quo ante, I think that, by itself, is a shortsighted objection. To begin with, consider the destruction of habitat. What's the impact on flora to be submerged for a year? I'm not a botanist, but I'm guessing many plants would die under those conditions. To be under standing water for about a year will block sunlight, which will, in turn, impede photosynthesis. So I'm guessing the flora would be fairly devastated in the flood zone. 

But neighboring herbivores can't repopulate the flood zone until there's enough flora to support their diet, and neighboring predators can't repopulate the flood zone until there's enough prey to support their diet. So it might take a fair amount of time for the flood zone to naturally recover. 

What is Noah's family supposed to eat in the meantime, after they disembark? If most of the fruit trees and other edible plants perished in the flood, the fallback might be a diet heavy on meat. But in that case, it would be advantageous or even necessary to have game animals aboard the ark. That would give Noah's family something to eat after the flood. Indeed, that may be one reason there's an emphasis on a carnivorous diet after the flood. 

On the OEC interpretation, moreover, Noah's family might continue to supplement their diet from food stored on the ark. Because the ark wouldn't need to accommodate so many animals, there's been more available space for food storage. 

vi) In addition, there might be animal breeding on board the ark. On the OEC interpretation, the ark would have lots of extra space for animal breeding and food storage. The number of animals that deboarded the ark might greatly exceed the number of animals that boarded the ark. That would expedite the process of repopulating the flood zone. 

That doesn't work as well on the YEC interpretation, where space is at a premium. 

vii) Furthermore, even if wild animals are replaceable by neighboring species, the same can't be said for livestock. It would make sense for Noah's family to bring their livestock on board. Imagine if all the livestock was destroyed in the flood, so that Noah's family had to start from scratch by catching, taming, and domesticating wild animals. That's a Hurculean So on the OEC interpretation, preservation of livestock on the ark would still be beneficial or even necessary. 

viii) Also, the suggestion that Noah's family could just hike out of the flood zone in advance is pretty facile. To make a trek on foot, you need to know where the terrain is passable. Where there's fresh water along the route. Where there's edible plants and game. You need to be able to catch game animals. You need temporary shelter. 

And even if Noah's family had the hunting skills and survival skills to hike out of the flood zone, that doesn't mean they could take their livestock with them. Consider modern farm animals like pigs, cows, and chickens. Imagine trying to take those with you on an expedition through the wilderness. Trying to keep them fed and watered. Keep them from escaping. Protecting them from predators. Likewise, to my knowledge, hens and cows require a certain routine to produce milk and lay eggs. Imagine the disruption to their daily regiment.

I'm not claiming that Noah's family had modern farm animals. My point is that we have to take that sort of thing into consideration when critics of the local flood interpretation breezily suggest that Noah's family didn't need the ark.  

There are, of course, other stock objections to the local flood interpretation, just as there are stock objections to the global flood interpretation. But my aim in this post is to say something new, and not to rehash my answers to other stock objections. 


  1. Another possibility for the local flood is that the ark served a specific redemptive illustrative and/or typological purpose. I'm not sure how good the objection "God could have done it simpler" really is. Why the Ten Plagues? God could have put the Egyptians into a temporary coma and let the Israelites walk out leisurely. The plagues were not just about getting Israel out, they were also a message. I think a similar thing can be said about the ark.

    1. Good point. God could just teleport the Israelites from Egypt to the the Promised Land, and teleport the Canaanites out of the Promised Land. So none of this is necessary from a utilitarian standpoint. Rather, the primary rationale lies in the concrete symbolism.

  2. What is YEC's explanation for the formation of geologic column and survival of vegetation during Noah's global flood?

    1. To my knowledge, they attribute part of the geologic column to mature creation and another part to diluvial sedimentation.