Letter to the editor
Fischer Responds to Siemens
2317 N. Jackson St.
Arlington, VA 22201
From: PSCF 46 (December 1994): 284-286.
This is in response to a letter by David Siemens concerning Part I of "In Search of the Historical Adam" (Perspectives, December 1993, pp. 241-251). Some of the objections raised about the first article were addressed in the subsequent installment (Perspectives, March 1994, pp. 47-57), and so I will answer here only those questions not already resolved.
Siemens expressed reservations that "grave new problems" were raised as a consequence of this method of apology. However, many people believe that the Bible is totally out of step with the revelations of science and the historical evidence. I consider that to be a greater problem than the minor theological considerations that would result from an enlightened interpretation of a handful of Scripture verses.
Only an overall benefit can result by adopting this sensible, data-driven solution. My thesis allows for the ideas that Adam could have been a recent creation (ca. 5000 BC) from whom the Adamites and Semites descended, but due to intermarriages by Cain (Gen. 4:17); the presumed mortal "sons of God" (Gen. 6:1-2); and Noah and/or his sons (Gen. 5:32;6:9-10;7:13;8:16,18;9:21), even Semitic populations like the rest of us surviving hominids seem to have a long and intriguing ancestry going back four million years or so, or even beyond.
Langdon and Watelin, who excavated Kish in 1928-29, dated the bottom layer which amounted to about one foot in thickness to 3300 BC, although that was not the thickest layer. This seemed to lend support to Woolley's claim that he had "found the flood," though these dates were still 500 years apart.
Mallowan, who excavated the more northern city of Ninevah, uncovered several strata of mud and riverine sand totaling six feet in depth. He diplomatically called this not a flood, but a "pluvial interval," and placed it at the fourth millennium, similarly dated to Woolley's layer. But then, flood deposits at Kish, Shuruppak, Uruk, and Lagash were all considered, and a consensus opinion put these layers at almost a thousand years later than Woolley's renowned find, averaging around 2900 BC, the probable date for the flood.
It is questionable whether Ur would have contained any Adamite populations by 3800 BC where Wooley dated the lowest and thickest layer. The later deposits at Ur may have been part of the great flood that eliminated the Adamite populations. But it is also possible that no Adamites had ventured as far as Sumerian Ur by even as late as 2900 BC. Thus, the flood was judgment on the Adamite population, not the world population.
It might do well to point out that no area on earth has been excavated by archaeologists any more than the Near East and its immediate surrounds. No "flood deposits" of any kind have been found in Egypt or in the area of Palestine. The only layers of water-laid clay which may have been left by the flood of Noah's day are found entirely within the region of probable Adamite settlements in Mesopotamia.
By adopting this method of apology, I also mean to jettison tired methodologies that have adorned the pages of this revered journal since the inception of the ASA, specifically: the counter-productive young-earth creationism, the long-abandoned gap theory, the data-deficient theory of progressive creation, and the Bible-ignoring theistic evolution.
With that off my chest, one of the objections Siemens raised concerns dating the flood. Dating archeological digs in the absence of deposits of volcanic ash may lack precision, but nevertheless, the thick flood stratum Woolley found at the Sumerian city of Ur was placed at the early fourth millennium, about 3800 BC. Notwithstanding, a higher flood level was uncovered also, dated to about 2700 BC, but it had been discounted as being too little and too late.
I can see no reason why someone would have difficulty with the lack of precision in dating the Mesopotamian deposits, but have no difficulty with the complete lack of deposits found anywhere else, which is just as indicative of where and when the flood must have taken place.
Why did the ark not float out into the Persian Gulf? The eleventh tablet of Gilgamesh offers a solution. The Gilgamesh epic speaks of "punting," and includes a boatman. Long poles would afford a means of measurement. (How did they know they were fifteen cubits high?) Some means of directing the boat might have been useful since it had to travel against the flow, though a raging south wind might have done the work.
The word for "mountains" and "hills" is the same in Hebrew. If the flooding was restricted to the region of the Mesopotamian valley, then the "mountains" submerged by the flood could have been just the lower mountains of the region surrounding the Mesopotamian valley, or it may signify nothing more than the lower foothills at the beginning of a mountain range.
How could "aboriginal Americans have flood legends?" When we examine the flood stories that permeate the mythology of remote populations, the differences more than offset any similarities. Byron Nelson's schematic of 41 flood myths shows that only nine of them relate to animals being saved at all.
It is tempting to attribute all those ancient stories to a one-time global catastrophe to line up with what has been the common interpretation of the Genesis flood. It should come as no surprise that floods should be part of the distant past of many present-day civilizations. A look at a map of the United States, with particular attention to the cities of the U.S., shows that early European settlers usually chose to locate population centers on rivers or at river junctions. The need for water to drink, for bathing, cleaning, irrigation, and transportation overpowered concerns for flooding.
Why should primitive men think differently? It would have been only natural for early tribes to camp along rivers, and to be swept away upon occasion. Indeed, besides tribal warfare, what other kinds of catastrophes could there have been in ancient days? It is to be expected that survivors would be most vocal to their following generations. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible deflates the idea that flood stories from different parts of the world might be related to the biblical event.
At one time this widespread distribution of a flood tradition was considered proof of the historicity of the biblical account, which with some expected modification had spread throughout the world as people migrated from their original homeland in the Near East. This notion has necessarily been given up. We know, for example, that numerous peoples have no flood legends in their literature. Flood stories are almost entirely lacking in Africa, occur only occasionally in Europe, and are absent in many parts of Asia. They are widespread in America, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific. In addition, many of the known flood legends differ radically from the biblical story and stand independently of it and of one another. Many do not know a world-wide flood at all, but only a local inundation.... Often the heroes save themselves in boats or by scaling mountains, without intervention by the gods. Further, only a few of the flood stories give the wickedness of man as the cause for the Flood.... The duration of the Flood, if given, varies from a few days to many years. Facts of this kind disprove the claim that the biblical account is the parent of all flood stories.
Also, the impact of early missionaries on the mythology of primitive peoples has to be considered. The narrative of the great flood of Noah's time, as related by missionaries, may have been co-mingled with ancient tribal stories to produce hybrid myths that would more closely parallel the biblical account.
According to Gaster no flood story can be traced in Sanskrit until after elements of the Aryan civilization began to arrive in India. Further, the Nestorian Christian missionary attempts in China stand out as the source of the flood story among the Lolos people.
As Archer admits:
The list of descendants in the respective lines of Ham, Shem, and Japheth as recorded in Genesis 10 does not permit any easy identification with the remoter races who lived in the lower reaches of Africa, Far East Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Particularly in the case of Australia, with its peculiar fauna indicating a long period of separation from the Eurasian continent, the difficulty of assigning either the humans or the subhuman population with the passengers in the ark has been felt to be acute.
In other words, the Bible is silent on any relationship existing between the descendants of Noah and the Black Africans, or the Mongoloid race, or the native Americans who descended from the Asiatics, or the Aborigines who populated Australia, or even the blond-haired Scandinavians, not to exclude any racial group. That squares exactly with what we know about the antiquity of those races of peoples who were far distant from the Mesopotamian valley by 3000 BC. From C. S. Coon:
Since the beginning of agriculture no new subspecies (of man) have arisen; the principal changes that have taken place have been vast increases in the numbers of some populations and decreases to the threshold of extinction in others. All this points to one conclusion: the living subspecies of man are ancient. The origins of races of subspecific rank go back into geological antiquity, and at least one of them is as old by definition, as our species.
What are the theological consequences of our having no part in the Adamic or Noahic covenants? None that I know of. In Genesis 1:27, Adam was God's representative, having been "created in His own image." This status was passed down through the godly line of Seth (Gen. 5:3). Noah and his generations were God's chosen people, and thus were "in the image" (Gen. 9:6). This status as representatives of God was conferred upon the Israelites through the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 17:1-8).
Those outside the nation of Israel apparently were outside the realm of accountability. This can be inferred from Matthew 23:15, "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." When one outside the Jewish faith was brought to the knowledge of God, he was made accountable. Because of false teaching, he was condemned. This unique status as God's chosen people for Israel was rescinded, or at least modified, at the cross. Christ was appointed by God as His representative. The second Adam, Christ, was in the "image of God" (II Cor. 4:4) just as Adam was, and the mantle was passed to the followers of Christ. As Christians, we come under the new covenant.
God provided a covering after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden (Gen. 3:21). Did Adam wear clothes prior to that time? I tend to doubt that Adam would have made courting calls on potential help mates (before God created Eve) attired in his birthday suit. Sorties outside the confines of the garden in quest of a "significant other" would have necessitated suitable garb. But then, who knows what suitable garb for courting was in 5000 BC?
On a practical level, there would be no need for clothes within the confines of the garden where first Adam and then Eve were the only residents. And one cannot overlook the symbolism of Adam and Eve leaving a state of complete openness, even nakedness before the Lord to their entering a state needing garments to hide their guilt and shame.
There was no gold in Mesopotamia, that's true, but Havilah is shown on some maps to be more towards Arabia where the gold was renowned in ancient times. On other maps, Havilah is shown in North Africa.
As for my "tunnel vision," it probably comes from months spent riding the Metrorail to and from the Library of Congress where most of the research was done. Does the solution presented in the articles "encompass all the evidence?" Well, I think I have studied every proposed solution pertaining to man's origins to date, and have yet to find any other solution that maintains a high view of Scripture, even to the extent of endorsing the doctrine of inerrancy, and yet satisfies virtually every shred of geological, biological, archaeological, and anthropological evidence.
Still, perhaps on the horizon, there is a solution that works better?