Faith: Noah, the Great Flood and Lake Agassiz’s fury

There are plenty of scoffers who say the biblical flood account is a quaint myth

By Chris Kempling

Kamloops This Week

Russell Crowe looks pretty good for a 600-year-old man.

That’s how old the Bible says Noah was when the flood came.

There are plenty of scoffers who say the biblical flood account is a quaint myth, with no connection to reality.

One of the most remarkable things about the flood story is that, without exception, every single group of people on Earth has a flood story in their oral or written histories.

That’s interesting.

One possible reason for this is there actually was a worldwide flood that occurred within human memory, which affected all the peoples of Earth.

Let’s examine if there is any credence to this claim.

What do scientists say?

At the end of the last Ice Age, there was an enormous lake covering much of central North America (North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northeast Ontario and Minnesota) called Lake Agassiz.

It was fed by melting glaciers and held in check by an extensive wall of ice on Hudson’s Bay.

But, as the world warmed, the ice dam weakened, eventually breaking, resulting in the catastrophic release of an enormous quantity of water.

Scientists have pinpointed the date of this event to around 8200 years before present (i.e. 6200 B.C.).

The sudden release of this quantity of water resulted in a worldwide rise in sea levels estimated to be as high as 2.8 metres (9.6 feet).

However, the initial global tsunami would have been much, much higher than that.

It would have inundated every sea-level settlement used by human beings at the time.

The Mesopotamian plain, thought to be where Noah was residing at the time, is at the head of the Persian Gulf, which is fairly shallow and gradually sloping.

It was flat and fertile and only slightly above sea level, ideal for a large agricultural population. Global sea levels 18,000 years ago were approximately 120 metres lower than today  and gradually rose to their present level about 7,500 years ago.

In Noah’s day, however, much of what is now under water was dry land.

One geologist suggests there was a natural silt dam at the Strait of Hormuz, which was breached, perhaps as a result of the “8.2 kilo-year event” — as scientists call the sudden draining of Lake Agassiz.

This would have caused a catastrophic flood that permanently submerged communities of the lower Persian Gulf.

Another news item caught my eye recently.

It was the discovery of a significant quantity of water inside a large Brazilian diamond.

The March 12 edition of the Globe and Mail stated:

“A pea-sized diamond picked up a decade ago by a Brazilian prospector has unlocked evidence that, hundreds of kilometres under our feet, Earth’s mantle holds as much water as all of our planet’s oceans.

“The discovery by a University of Alberta team bolsters theories about the existence of a water-saturated zone between the Earth’s rocky layers that would explain volcanic activities and the interaction of tectonic plates.”

There is something else this discovery “bolsters.”

In Genesis, when the Great Flood is described, it says: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life . . . all the fountains of the great deep burst open . . . ”

I’ve always wondered what “fountains of the great deep” meant.

Now I know.

Forty days and nights of rain would not be enough water to cause the kind of flood described in Genesis.

Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy has an amusing routine speculating on Noah’s reception in Scotland.

“Forty days and nights of rain? Ach, man, we’re already at 53 days!”

No, there would have to be another major source of water — the sudden release of subterranean water combined with glacial meltwater would do it.

The Great Flood began subsiding after 150 days and “the fountains of the deep and floodgates of the sky were closed.”

The sign the flood was definitely over was when a dove released by Noah came back with an olive branch in its beak.

The dove, and the olive branch, are symbols of peace to this day. Then, it was the sign God had made peace with all of creation.

One of the beautiful things about the Bible is the parallel symbolism between the Old Testament and New Testament.

Humanity was saved by the righteousness of one man, Noah, who came through the waters of the Flood. The symbol of that redemption was a single dove.

When Jesus came out of the waters of baptism at the River Jordan, “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.”

And so began the mission of Christ the Redeemer.

Like Noah, his mission was to save mankind from destruction.

The big difference?

Jesus has a spiritual ark and wants to save everybody.