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Meditation 305
The Myths of the Great Flood

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A Dr. John Morris published an article in "Back to Genesis", September 2001 edition entitled “Why Does Nearly Every Culture Have a Tradition of a Global Flood?”

He listed a number of similarities in the flood story among the 200 cultures he studied:

    1. Is there a favored family? 88%
    2. Were they forewarned? 66%
    3. Is flood due to wickedness of man? 66%
    4. Is catastrophe only a flood? 95%
    5. Was flood global? 95%
    6. Is survival due to a boat? 70%
    7. Were animals also saved? 67%
    8. Did animals play any part? 73%
    9. Did survivors land on a mountain? 57%
    10. Was the geography local? 82%
    11. Were birds sent out? 35%
    12. Was the rainbow mentioned 75%
    13. Did survivors offer a sacrifice? 3%
    14. Were specifically eight persons saved? 9%

Is it surprising that a flood story with some relatively standard features appears in a large number of myths?

I don't think so. As various cultures switched from hunting and gathering to agriculture in prehistory, they settled on the flood plains of the rivers on the world as that was where the richest farmland was. And the fertility of the land was directly due to seasonal flooding regularly depositing a fresh layer of silt upon the fields.

Such flooding tends to be relatively predictable, but occasionally there are dramatic variations. Those who live on or near a flood plain are probably familiar with the terms "50 year flood" and "100 year flood," the unusually high waters that have a 2% or 1% chance of arriving in any given year. In 1995, shortly after I moved to Medicine Hat, we had a "200 year flood" and much of the older part of the city was inundated. Now if it had been a 1000 year flood...

Culture developed in flood plains, and flooding was part of life. Inevitably in nearly every such culture an extreme flood came along, one which was beyond any previous flood in memory, covering the land in water as far as the eye could see. And there were few survivors, probably those lucky enough to be out in a boat fishing, or to have a boat nearby. But those who did survive now had a flood myth where all the land was covered and only they had survived. And details got added over the years to justify the flood, the survival of the lucky few, and the survival of animals in terms of the wishes of the local deity.

It does not require one great flood covering the earth. All it requires is a memorable flood for each culture that chose to settle and farm on a flood plain.

The Answers in Genesis website has the following Grand Canyon legend:

According to the Havasupai Indians who live in its deep gorges, the Grand Canyon originated in the following way:

Before there were any people on earth there were two gods. Tochapa of goodness and Hokomata of evil. Tochapa had a daughter named Pu-keh-eh, whom he hoped would become the mother of all living. Hokomata the evil was determined that no such thing should take place, and he covered the world with a great flood. Tochopa the good felled a great tree and hollowed out the trunk. He placed Pu-keh-eh in the hollowed trunk and when the water rose and flooded the earth she was secure in her improvised boat.

Finally the flood waters fell and mountain peaks emerged. Rivers were created; and one of them cut the great gushing fissure which became the Grand Canyon.

Pu-keh-eh in her log came to rest on the new earth. She stepped forth and beheld an empty world.

When the land became dry, a great golden sun rose in the east and warmed the earth and caused her to conceive. In time, she gave birth to a male child. Later a waterfall caused her to conceive and she gave birth to a girl. From the union of these two mortal children came all the people on the earth. The first were the Havasupai, and the voice of Tochopa spoke to them and told them to live forever in peace in their canyon of good earth and pure water where there would always be plenty for all!’.

This is, of course, a recognizable (albeit distorted) version of the world-wide flood of Noah’s day. It adds more evidence to support the fact that all races are descended from Noah and have a common cultural background.

The Answers in Genesis conclusion demonstrates the faulty logic of those who believe that all the answers really are in Genesis. With equal justification, the conclusion could be:

The Noah story is, of course, a recognizable (albeit distorted) version of the world-wide flood of Pu-keh-eh’s day. It adds more evidence to support the fact that all races are descended from Pu-keh-eh and have a common cultural background.

Pick whichever cultural great flood myth you want and plug the name of the survivor into the conclusion. They all work out to the same level of "truth." And at least the Havasupai have the Grand Canyon and their waterfall as evidence of the truth of their version.

In reality, no great flood myth provides "more evidence" or indeed any evidence at all to support the flood myth of another culture. If anything at all, it suggests that most human communities developed by settling in flood plains.