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Don Stewart :: Is the Biblical Flood Account Merely a Legend?

Don Stewart
The Book of Genesis records a great Flood sent by God to destroy the wickedness on the earth.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. So the LORD said, I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created - people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them. For my part, I am going to bring a Flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die (Genesis 6:5,7,17).


Is the Flood account as recorded in the Book of Genesis a legend? Many laugh at the idea that the Flood could have occurred as the Bible said. The following is an example of this type of attitude:

To accept the Flood account as history one must not only forsake a logical (and even literal) interpretation of the text of Genesis, one must abandon the principles of modern geology and prehistoric archaeology, both of which deny the existence of a universal Deluge during the span of man's history on earth . . . The Genesis Flood stories, then, are legends, not history (William A. Stiebling A Futile Quest: The Search For Noah's Ark, The Biblical Archaeology Review, June, 1976, Vol II, No. 2, p. 20).

However, the legendary idea does not fit the Genesis account at all. The Bible makes it clear that God did judge the earth by means of a great Flood.

Testimony Of Scripture

In the Book of Genesis, chapters 6-9, we have a detailed account of the Flood occurring. The remainder of Scripture testifies to the same thing.


Simon Peter wrote:

For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being Flooded with water (2 Peter 3:5,6).

Circumstantial Evidence

There are also many traditions from peoples around the world that speak of a great deluge occurring. These traditions also give circumstantial testimony to the biblical account. The scientist Arthur Custance comments upon the worldwide Flood traditions:

Widely different in detail as many of them are from the biblical record, the traditions are in accord both with it and among themselves on the following four basic issues:
1.The cause was a moral one.
2.They almost all speak of one man who is warned of the coming catastrophe and thus saves not only himself but also his family or his friends.
3.They all agree that the world was depopulated save for these few survivors from whom the present people of the world were derived.
4.In all of them animals play a part either in conveying the warning, or in providing the transportation to safety, or in giving information about the state of things after the Flood had subsided.
The following features of interest are then dealt with as in one way or another bearing upon the over-all value of their testimony to the Bible.
5.Some of these accounts agree with Scripture in stating that eight souls survived.
6.In extrabiblical accounts, the survivors always land on a local mountain. In the Hebrew account, the ark lands far from Palestine, a circumstance bearing witness to the objectivity of the biblical account.
7.A number of the traditions give extraordinary graphic details of just such incidental circumstances as must have accompanied the event.
8.A small number of them are almost certainly borrowed from Christian missionaries but not nearly the extent sometimes claimed
9.Almost without exception they differ radically from the biblical account by incorporating events that are clearly fantasy. They are, in short, often greatly embellished with details that are strictly mythical, in the popular sense of the word, contrasting very strongly with the dignity, simplicity, and matter-of-fact character of the Genesis record (Arthur Custance, The Flood: Local or Global?, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 197, pp. 67, 68).

We have, therefore, circumstantial testimony to the Genesis Flood.

The Testimony Of Jesus

There is also the testimony of Jesus Christ, the eternal God. Jesus said concerning the Flood.

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be, For as in the days before the Flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the Flood came and took them all away, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:37-39).

Jesus believed that the Flood occurred in the days of Noah and used the circumstances around the Flood as an analogy to the way life would be before He returned. If Jesus was whom He claimed to be, the Son of God, then the Flood did occur because He said it did.


The biblical evidence, as well as the circumstantial evidence, is that God sent a Flood to judge the wickedness of humanity. The Lord Jesus Himself confirmed the fact of the great Flood. This does not, however, settle the matter as to the extent of the Flood whether it be a universal deluge or a local Flood. It does settle the issue, however, that a Flood did occur.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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