Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Were there rainbows before the flood?

In his "commentary" on Gen 1-11, Jonathan Sarfati has an interesting take on the rainbow. On p529, one objection he raises to the local flood interpretation is that:

God would have repeatedly broken his promise (Gen 9:11-16) never to send such a flood again, because there have been many local floods since them. The Genesis Account.

That's not unusual. That's a standard young-earth creationist argument. 

I'd add that, as it stands, it's an inadequate objection. God's promise is more specific: "never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth" (v11).

That's consistent with less destructive local floods. 

But that's not my main point. What's interesting is that on pp612-14, Sarfati contends, contrary to some young-earth creationists, that there were probably rainbows before the flood. He bases that on the science of rainbows (dispersion), the continuity of natural laws before and after the flood, as well as examples of God designating symbolic significance or new significance to preexisting phenomena (e.g. bread and wine).

Like Sarfati, Andrew Snelling is noncommittal on whether rainbows antedated the flood (Earth's Catastrophic History, 1:283). Although he's less detailed. 

That stands in contrast to old-guard creationists like Whitcomb, Morris, and Dillow, who argue that the rainbow is a novel postdiluvial phenomenon. 

On the face of it, Sarfati's argument is rather odd because a creationist could agree with him on the science of rainbows and continuity of natural laws, but still deny prediluvial rainbows on the grounds that there was no precipitation before the flood. Dispersion and the laws of nature need something to work with to produce rainbows. 

I'd add that all by itself, a rainbow wouldn't signify anything regarding God's providential promise. You have to know the story of the flood to to appreciate the contextual significance of the rainbow. Without that background information, it's just a rainbow rather than a divine sign. When a Christian sees a rainbow, that reminds him of God's covenant with Noah. Considered in isolation, a rainbow says nothing about the extent of Noah's flood or future flooding. 

1 comment:

  1. I lean toward a local flood. In response to the above objections to local flood I'd say that The Flood may be different from other local floods if it affected all of humanity (and so was "universal") even if it wasn't global. Also, the word "earth" can merely mean "land". The original Hebrew need not refer to all land everywhere [i.e. the entire globe]. Though, I'm open to the Flood not being universal [meaning there might be some modern descendants of Adam who aren't also descendants of Noah].

    Regarding the destruction of "all flesh", maybe it's limited to the writers own limited conception of the world and/or land (i.e. that area of Mesopotamia). If some of the fish weren't killed, then not "ALL flesh" were completely destroyed. "All" doesn't always literally mean "ALL" (as we Calvinists say). If that qualifying exception is possible, then that leaves open the possibility the exemption I mentioned above in defense of a local Flood.

    Regardless of local or global, I don't think it's necessary to postulate that rainbows never occurred before the Flood. God may merely be saying that He gives a new significance and meaning to rainbows that will hold from that time forward. I also don't think that people need to know that significance for it to hold. Since, analogically, humans have dignity as being made in the imago dei irrespective of whether they know about or believe either.