Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ancient Hebrew writings mention Jesus of Nazareth

If Jesus Christ caused so much trouble in first century Israel, certainly the Jews would have written of Him, right? So, what ancient Semitic writings are extant that mention Jesus of Nazareth? Does the rabbinical literature corroborate Biblical accounts and, if not, why? First, we need to understand the primary source documents from that time period, which are contained in the Talmud.

What is the Talmud?
Briefly, ancient Jews passed down large amounts of Biblical (Old Testament) commentary and tradition from generation to generation. Rabbi Akiba, before his death in A.D. 135, and Rabbi Meir, organized and revised the material. Around A.D. 200, Rabbi Judah completed the project, which became known as the Mishnah (literally “teaching” or “repetition”). This was known as the Tannaitic Period. Commentary on the Mishnah was labeled the Gemaras[1] and was compiled from the third through the sixth centuries, during the Ammoraic Period. Gemara is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “to finish”.

During the Ammoraic Period, two schools existed, one in Babylonia and another in Palestine. From approximately A.D. 350-425, the Mishnah and Gemara were combined in the first school at Jerusalem, called the Palestinian Talmud. The second school, in Babylonia, also included the Mishnah and Gemara, but continued to be compiled until around A.D. 500, so was a larger collection. This became known as the Babylonian Talmud. The word Talmud literally means “learning”.[2] Volumes could be written on this subject, but that will suffice as a short introduction.

Jesus in the Talmud
A highly significant quotation is found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a. Translated into English, it reads:
“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!”[3]

Yeshu (sometimes, Yeshua) is derived from the Aramaic or Hebrew and translated into English as Jesus. But, someone might question whether this refers to Jesus Christ, because this person was “hanged”, not crucified, as the Bible states. Actually, the New Testament twice refers to Jesus being hanged:  Galatians 3:13 (Greek kremamenos) and Luke 23:39 (Greek kremasthenton). The term “hang” does not strictly refer to the modern notion of hanging by a rope noose around the neck, but can include other methods of attachment to a wooden pole, as evidenced by Paul and Luke’s usage of the term.

Five points
From this Talmudic passage, several significant points may be understood. Gary Habermas, Ph.D., Michigan State University, History and Philosophy of Religion, lists these as follows:
1.    The fact of Jesus’ death by crucifixion
2.    The timing of the event, twice mentioned as occurring on the eve of Passover
3.    No witnesses came forward to defend him, and he was killed
4.    Jesus was judged by the Jews to be guilty of “sorcery” and spiritual apostasy
5.    It was publicly announced beforehand that Jesus would be stoned. This was the standard method of execution by the Jews, though not specifically mentioned in the Bible. However, Jesus was threatened with this fate on other occasions (John 8:58-59, 10:31-33, 39)[4] 

So, what significance can we derive for a modern day understanding of the Bible from this passage written from 1,500 to 2,000 years ago? Josh McDowell graduated from Wheaton College and Magna Cum Laude from Talbot Theological Seminary. Concerning this writing, he and Bill Wilson noted:
“This passage is significant because of what it does not deny. First, it does not deny Jewish involvement in Jesus’ death. In fact, it does not even mention the Romans. Rather, it seeks to demonstrate the Jewish authorities carried out the sentencing, but in a just manner. The result is a clear affirmation of the historicity of Jesus and his death. Second, this passage does not deny that Jesus performed miracles. Rather, it tries to explain them away as being accomplished through sorcery or magic. The same response to Jesus’ miracles is reported in Mark 3:22 and Matthew 9:34; 12:24. Once again, there is a clear affirmation of the historicity of Jesus, and this time of his miracles as well.”[5]
Comments in this passage are just about what one would expect of a Jewish rabbinical writer who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.

On the subject of a precise mention of the time period Jesus was sought by the authorities, McDowell proposes the possibility that “The forty days may only be an apologetic device designed to deny that the trial was a speedy one.”[6] The reference to 40 days may be an indicator that the authorities were seeking an opportunity to dispose of this troublemaker from Nazareth. In fact, the Bible mentions this in several places, without providing an exact time frame (John 5:18 and John 11:53-57).

Paul L. Maier, Ph.D., is Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University. His research includes a variety of methodologies involved in manuscript and textual analysis, archaeology, and comparison of sacred and secular sources from the first century A.D. Dr. Maier makes several points regarding the authenticity of this reference:
Four items in this statement strongly support its authenticity as a notice composed before Jesus' arrest: 1) The future tense is used; 2) Stoning was the regular punishment for blasphemy among the Jews whenever the Roman government was not involved; 3) There is no reference whatever to crucifixion; and 4) That Jesus was performing "sorcery"— the extraordinary or miraculous with a negative spin—is quite remarkable. This not only invokes what historians call the "criterion of embarrassment," which proves what is conceded, but accords perfectly with how Jesus' opponents explained away his miraculous healings: performing them with the help of Beelzebub (Luke 11:18).”[7]

The bottom line is this:  The Talmudic reference to Jesus is another in a long line of extra-Biblical documentary records that corroborate information found in the Bible. Many valid reasons exist for the authenticity of the Bible and this is one more piece of evidence showing that the Biblical accounts of Jesus of Nazareth can be trusted.

For those who wish to further research the historicity of Jesus Christ, the books listed in the endnotes of this article by Gary Habermas, as well as Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, are highly recommended.

[Biblical references are from the NASB version.]

[1]Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus:  Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (Joplin, MO:  College Press, 1996), 202.
[2]Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, He Walked Among Us:  Evidence for the Historical Jesus (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, 1993), 57-58.
[3]The Babylonian Talmud, transl. by I Epstein (London: Soncino, 1935), vol. III Sanhedrin 43a, p. 281, cited in Habermas, The Historical Jesus, p. 203.
[4]Habermas, 203.
[5]McDowell and Wilson, 64-65.
[6]Ibid., 65.
[7]Paul L. Maier, Did Jesus Really Exist, North American Mission Board, 2007, accessed 19 Jun 2009,

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Every Man's Battle book review

Sexual temptation
How many men struggle with this issue? Aside from those who always give in (no struggle there), nearly “every man” is tempted by attractive women or visual images. It’s no wonder this book has become so popular, selling more than 2.5 million copies. The topic could not be more relevant today, considering the explosion of pornography and use of sexuality to sell everything from beer to movies and television shows. How can men find the motivation and strategies to resist this fast rising flood? This book provides those things for Christian men who desire to overcome this temptation as well as other guys who want to remain faithful to their wives.

Three perimeters
Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker describe the goal as this: Sexual purity when no gratification is obtained from anyone or anything but one’s wife. To accomplish this, they outline where three perimeters which must be established:  eyes, mind, and heart. The eyes must bounce from objects of lust. The mind must evaluate and capture thoughts. The heart must honor and cherish one’s wife. These concepts are explained in more detail in the book. The authors make the point that impurity is not genetic (i.e., “I’m male, so I’ll have impure eyes and an impure mind”), but is a habit. And, if it lives like a habit, it can die like a habit (pp. 105-106). 

Your sword
When tempted by our own desires and/or Satan, we can counter these in the same manner as Jesus, with the word of God found in the Bible. By memorizing only a small number of key verses we can quickly utter when tempted, say the authors, we can fight off the attacks (p. 141). For example, when a situation arises, we can state as Job did, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin” (Job 31:1). Or, we may have this statement of Jesus ready: “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

The mustang mind
Arterburn and Stoeker explain the natural male mind as like a free roaming mustang, mating with whomever it can. To be faithful to one wife and true to God, the mustang must be brought into a corral. Some proper mindsets are useful in bringing the mustang under control. Our first line of defense when tempted with another woman may include the realization that “This attraction threatens everything I hold dear” (p. 169). Involvement with another woman will ruin a marriage and family. A second line of defense is to declare, “I have no right to think these things.” I belong to another woman and am bought by God with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). 

Strategies and tactics
Once the decision has been made to choose excellence, specific tactics must be employed to achieve victory. The authors list two key strategies:  bouncing the eyes and starving the eyes. Immediately upon noticing an attractive woman, one must bounce the eyes away. If this strategy is consistently followed for six weeks, the authors state “you can win the war” (p. 125). To help accomplish this, two logical steps include studying oneself to determine weaknesses and defining defenses for these weaknesses (p. 126).

Sometimes men may find themselves in a situation in which a friendship begins to grow with another woman. Rather than waiting to see what might happen, we must prepare with “war game” simulations. What if she makes advances? What if you find yourself alone with her? As Josh McDowell advised teens to decide what to do before getting into the backseat of a car, we plan ahead (p. 173). Starving the eyes is part of the defense perimeter. By eliminating the “junk sex” of looking from one’s life, the “real food” – a wife – will be much more satisfying (p. 134).

The authors also provide some useful advice for women to help their husbands to overcome this addiction:
·         Watch what he watches on television
·         Help him to find the new equilibrium
·         Defuse the seventy-two hour cycle of heightened sexual arousal typical for men
·         Allow him to ogle you a bit
·         Do regular status checkups of the situation

The third and innermost perimeter involves “being consumed with God’s purpose to cherish your wife” (187). This can be difficult if she does not behave in a deserving manner. However, the authors make the admonition:  “If you don’t feel like cherishing, cherish anyway. Your right feelings will arrive soon enough” (198). If a man sees his wife as a precious gift and remembers to follow Christ’s example of demonstrating love before being loved in return, he will be more able to cherish her.

Arterburn and Stoeker provide inspiration and present some strategies to overcome sexual addiction. Additional practical, specific methods are available as well to those presented here. Some examples include:  internet filters, accountability partners, and recovery groups. While every man’s battle is not an all-inclusive, comprehensive guide to overcoming sexual temptation, it is motivating and provides much useful guidance.

The authors
Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Clinics and host of the popular New Life Live national radio program. He has authored more than 40 books and won three Gold Medallion awards. He has degrees from Baylor University and the University of North Texas. 
Fred Stoeker is the founder and chairman of Living True Ministries. He graduated from Stanford University with honors.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Does God approve of pornography?

Is it acceptable for a Christian to look at pornography? Does God approve? If He disapproves, why did He give us such a strong sex drive, particularly men, who are easily aroused by visual stimuli? An estimated $97 billion was spent on pornography worldwide in 2006.  Statistics for internet porn are estimated at about 4.2 million websites, the average age of first exposure 11 years old, and 66% of men in their 20s and 30s report being regular users of pornography.[1] A poll of 1,000 respondents conducted on a Christian website found that 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women admitted to being addicted to pornography[2] - and those are the ones who admitted it. One report indicated that 70% of porn is viewed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.[3], frequently on the office computer. Many more similar statistics could be given but, suffice to say, the porn industry is enormous. So many people can’t be wrong, right?

What does the Bible say?
Many books in the Bible clearly condemn sexual activity outside of marriage. But, what if someone is only looking? The Bible also warns against lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16) and heart (Proverbs 6:24-25). Jesus stated, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) According to Jesus, looking with desire or lust is also improper. And Job, even though he had no internet, DVDs, or magazines, recognized the potential pitfall of lust involving the eyes (Job 31:1).

But, why?
Certainly it’s wise to obey God even when we don’t know the reason. But, as humans, we are curious and want to know why. This is especially true when the action only involves looking. What if someone never mistreats women or commits any sexual crime, but only views porn – why is that wrong?

Any addiction places us in bondage (Romans 6:16). A Christian should not be involved in any behavior that places us under bondage or may damage our witness to others (Romans 14:21). And, if a particular behavior causes our heart to condemn us, we should avoid that activity (Romans 14:22 and 1 John 3:21).

Lust is a form of covetousness, which is detrimental to all people, not only Christians. One of the Ten Commandments directly addresses this issue:
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife … or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17)
Combining this commandment with the admonition for men to have their own wives (1 Corinthians 7:2) and be satisfied with one’s own wife (Proverbs 5:18), lust of the eyes would seem to be illicit (1 Corinthians 7:9). Now, someone may make the point that he does not desire to possess the women in the videos and photos; rather, only to look at them. Besides, these women pose for the camera voluntarily and for money. So, they are not unwilling participants in most cases. (We will set aside for now the argument that a certain percentage of these girls and women are coerced to some degree, possibly through drug addiction.)

A Christian must ask himself whether this behavior is worth missing eternal life, considering Paul’s comment:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, … nor adulterers … nor the covetous …  will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
God is certainly willing to forgive (Psalm 136:1, Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 103:3), but we must first admit the behavior is sinful (1 John 1:8-9).

It’s not adultery if I’m not married, right?
Jesus said anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart and adultery applies to those who are married. Would it be correct to say this verse is not applicable to those who are single? Well, the Bible states we should avoid sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 2:22), which can be committed by those who are not married as well as those who are. In 1 Corinthians 7:9, the Apostle Paul speaks directly to those who are unmarried advising to either exercise self control or marry. This does not sound like Paul is giving free license for singles to engage in any sexual behavior they please.

Using images of women to gratify one’s lust leads to objectification of females. Rather than considering them as valuable persons made in God’s image, women are perceived as objects to satisfy a man’s selfish desires. The fact that women allow themselves to play this role does not change the male perception. Public nudity - other than Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:25) before sin entered the world - is described disparagingly in the Bible (Genesis 9:23, Ezekiel 16:36, Ezekiel 23:18, and others). God’s design and plan is for a woman’s body to be enjoyed by her husband (and vice versa), not shown on the internet or DVDs as an object of desire for the entire world.
(For additional information regarding God’s best plan for our lives, see the article on this website “Does God disapprove of sex?”)

What is the difference between adultery and fornication?
Adultery is distinguished from fornication in the Bible in several passages and both are described as sinful behavior:
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:19)
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries” (Mark 7:21)
“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals …  will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)
“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)

The Hebrew word used to indicate adultery in the Old Testament is na’ap (Strong’s 5003), which is more specifically defined as:  “to commit adultery; … adulterer, adulteress; by extension: to be unfaithful to God (by having illicit relations with other gods) … break wedlock”[4] The Greek word moicheuo (Strong’s 3431) is used in most New Testament references, indicating the same basic meaning:  “to commit adultery; … to become an adulterer”[5]

The word “fornicate” in the Greek is πόρνος (pornos, Strong’s # 4205), which is translated as:
“one who is sexually immoral (male or female), in some contexts distinguished from an adulterer (1 Co 6:9):-whoremongers [4], fornicators [3], fornicator [2], whoremonger [1].”[6]
The bottom line is this:  Sexual activity outside of marriage is considered to be sinful in the Bible.

But, it’s harmless
It’s true that many men view porn and never abuse women or children. However, many do. Much porn available today involves children and violence. In only one police operation, 1,500 individuals were arrested internationally and in the United States for downloading child porn.[7] That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Almost without exception, those who commit sexual offenses and murder of women are heavily involved in pornography consumption. The California Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Obscenity and Pornography remarked that:  “In interviews with a great many police officers, the Committee was frequently told, ‘I never arrested a child molester who did not have pornography in his possession.’ Also stated in the report: ‘in an investigation of more than 40 cases of child molestation by the Los Angeles Police Department, including interviews with more than 100 victims and suspects, officers found that pornography was a factor in every single case.’”[8] One report found 116,000 daily “child pornography” requests on the internet.[9] While it is true that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, all or almost all of those who go on to abuse children begin by viewing pornographic images.

Isn’t this just normal male behavior?
But seriously, does anyone expect normal men to not look? Besides, God made guys that way – so it’s His fault, right? Telling a guy not to look at an attractive female is like telling a dog not to bark. Using this logic, since people are selfish and prideful by nature, those who behave as such are not morally culpable. Simply because something is in our nature does not give free license to act on it. Most humans are lazy by nature, but we consider it beneath us to remain in that state. All people have a sinful nature, as Paul explains (Romans 7:18), which wars against what we know in our mind is good (Romans 7:23). Paul lists the deeds of the flesh, or human nature:
            “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21a).
One could easily make the argument that, because these are part of our nature, we should be free to act upon them without condemnation. But, Paul goes on to state, “as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (v. 21b)

Brain chemistry
Chemical activity in the brain during pornography usage is nearly identical to that which occurs in drug addiction. Testifying before a Senate subcommittee, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, M.S., M.D., stated:
“…modern science allows us to understand that the underlying nature of an addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction: Only the delivery system is different, and the sequence of steps. That is why heroin addicts in particular give up sex and routinely compare their ‘rushes’ to ‘orgasms’. The chemistry involved is as follows: Upon viewing or reading the ‘expression’, the pornography addict experiences an irresistible impulse to self-stimulation… Upon achieving climax, the brain releases opioids—chemicals that are the naturally occurring analogs to synthetic opiates such as morphine or heroin.”[10]

Larry and Wendy Maltz, both Licensed Clinical Social Workers with more than 25 years of experience with sexually related issues, have concluded:
“… porn can have as powerful an effect on your body and brain as cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Porn stimulates and area of the brain known as the 'hedonic highway,' or median forebrain, which is filled with receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is released when you get sexually aroused. It is also released by other pleasurable activities, such as kissing, intercourse, smoking a cigarette, or taking other drugs. Porn causes the dopamine production in your system to spike. This dramatic increase in dopamine produces a drug-like high some researchers believe is most similar to the high caused by crack cocaine.”[11]

This article is not intended to advocate political or legislative action; rather, to provide accurate information. The message promoted in society today is that pornography is perfectly acceptable. However, the enemy (Satan) would like to weigh down and entangle Christians (Hebrews 12:1) with foolish and sinful behavior. God has a higher calling and purpose for every one of us (2 Timothy 2:21).  Ephesians 5:3 states, “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.”  This is not meant to bring condemnation, but to show that we have a greater purpose as children of God (Galatians 3:26), heirs of God (Romans 8:17), and coworkers with God (2 Corinthians 6:1). To run the race to our full potential, we must throw off every weight that hinders.

(For those who need help in breaking this habit, the book every man’s battle, by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, is recommended.)

[Biblical quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.]

[1]Family Safe Media, “Pornography Statistics”, statistics through 2006, accessed 5 June 2009.
[2]The Christian Post, “Porn Addiction Flooding Culture, Church”, June 5, 2007,
[3]The Washington Times, “Porn Corrupts America”, 24 Feb 2009.
[4]James Strong, The Strongest Strong’s (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2001), p. 1534.
[5]Ibid., 1628.
[6]Ibid., 1638.
[7]International Business Law Services, “The Child Exploitation Section of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement is Resolute to Apprehend Internet Child Pornographers”, April 23, 2007,
[8]Coral Ridge Ministries, “Issues Tearing Our Nation’s Fabric”, updated 13 July 2002, accessed 31 May 2009,
[9]Family Safe Media.
[10]Testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, “Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and the Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities, 18 Nov 2004,
[11]Wendy and Larry Maltz, The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography (New York, NY:  Harper Collins, 2008), pp. 18-19.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Was Noah's flood global or regional?

Does the Bible really say the flood of Noah covered the entire earth? Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, is about 8,850 meters (29,029 feet) in height. The Bible seems to indicate the flood covered all mountains (Genesis 7:19) by 15 cubits – about 22 feet – or more (Genesis 7:20). If that is true, where did all of the water come from? And, where did it go after the flood?  Was the flood local, not global, as some assert? There are good arguments on both sides of the issue, many of which are described in this article. More importantly, couldn’t one of the people on the ark swat those two mosquitoes?

All life destroyed?
The Bible certainly seems to indicate the flood of Noah was global and destroyed all life:
“Then God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13)
“I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.” (Genesis 6:17).
The Hebrew word basar (Strong’s 1320) is used in these verses – and many others - for “flesh”, defined as:       
“…the soft tissue mass of any animal; the whole body; particular parts of the body… humankind, living things…”[1]
Other verses in Genesis which use this same word basar (flesh) in reference to Noah’s flood include:  6:12, 6:19, 7:15, 7:16, 7:21, and 8:17. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, this Hebrew word appears about 270 times, normally indicating the skin and/or meaty part of a human or animal, sometimes used to distinguish from the spirit, soul, or heart. In the Old Testament, the term “all flesh” can mean “all mankind” or “all living creatures”[2], as in Genesis 6:17-19. So, it seems apparent that all land-based life was destroyed by Noah’s flood.

That’s a long time.
The Bible very specifically indicates the floodwaters remained for more than nine months (compare Genesis 8:13 with Genesis 7:11) and the people remained on the ark for one year and 10 days (see Genesis 8:14). If the flood was merely local, as some have stated, it is difficult to imagine why the passengers of the ark would need to remain on board for that length of time.

All the earth?
Upon initial reading, it seems to be very apparent the Bible states the flood covered the entire earth. It will be useful to examine the Hebrew words used in the Bible to describe the entire earth. The Hebrew word translated into English as “whole” is kol (Strong’s 3605), used by Moses around 249 times, to indicate “all, everyone, everything … any … whole … always”[3] and words with similar meanings.

The Hebrew word translated as “earth” is erets (Strong’s 776), used about 250 times in the book of Genesis and more than 2,500 times in the Old Testament. According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, this word “does not only denote the entire terrestrial planet, but is also used of some of the earth’s component parts.  English words like land, country, ground, and soil transfer its meaning into our language.  Quite frequently, it refers to an area occupied by a nation or tribe.”[4] In fact, this word erets is used in many Bible verses to describe concepts other than the physical surface of the globe. One example is given in Genesis 11:1:
            “Now the whole (kol) earth (erets) used the same language and the same words.”
Obviously, these words are not used to signify all 510 million square kilometers of the globe’s surface area, but the people of the region. Even here, we can see that humanity had not yet spread to the rest of the Earth. That happened a few verses later:
“So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth (erets)”
(Genesis 11:8)

How does one explain this verse in Genesis 41:57:
“The people of all the earth (erets) came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth (erets).”
These are the same Hebrew words used to describe Noah’s flood covering “all” the “earth”, now describing a famine during the time of Joseph. Does this mean there was a famine in Japan? And, people came from South America to buy grain in Egypt? Even though the words used in these verses could potentially be translated “all the earth”, they clearly indicate a regional phenomenon.

Other Old Testament verses, written by the same author – Moses – are indicative of local, not global, geography. For instance, in an area of Israel between Bethel and Ai (Genesis 13:3), Abram said to Lot:
“"Is not the whole (kol) land (erets) before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left." (Genesis 13:9)
As these are the same Hebrew words that were used to describe Noah’s flood, should we believe that Abram and Lot divided up the entire globe for their flocks and herds? Or, is it more reasonable to believe they separated a section of Israel?

Did the wind dry up the water?
Genesis 8:1 states:
“God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.”
This is a difficult verse to explain if one believes water covered the entire globe. How would a wind cause the waters to subside? Where would the wind cause the water to go? This method of evaporation does comport much better with a regional flood.

Was the earth completely dry?
Genesis 8:13-14 states:
“By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.” (NIV)
Other versions do not contain the word “completely” in verse 14. Nonetheless, using the reasoning that the “earth” implies the entire globe, does anyone really believe the earth was dry? Were the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans dry? If this is interpreted regionally, it makes much more sense.

All the high mountains covered?
The Bible, in Genesis 7:19-20, appears to clearly state all mountains on Earth were covered:
“The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered.”
The Hebrew word used here for “covered” the Hebrew word kasa (Strong’s 3680), which can mean “to cover, conceal; to decorate; to overwhelm; … be shrouded … hide”.[5]

However, the word kasa (or kasah) can be interpreted in this passage to mean, according to Astronomer Hugh Ross, “more than twenty feet of water stood, that is, remained, over the high hills or mountains; or it could mean that this quantity of water either ran over them as in a flash flood or fell upon them as rainfall. The context gives no clear indication which of the three meanings to choose.” And, any “of the three scenarios would guarantee total destruction, no survivors.”[6] According to this interpretation, the Himalayas may not have necessarily been covered completely, but hills and mountains may have had large quantities of water running over them. Another point Ross makes is that the understanding of the earth as a large globe about 40,000 kilometers in circumference is a relatively recent conception. People of Noah’s time understood the earth to be the land, implying people and societies.[7] Whether Mount McKinley in Alaska was flooded or Aconcagua in Argentina was covered would have been irrelevant to Noah.

High mountains – globalist position:
How do those who believe in a global flood account for the problem of the incredible quantity of water needed to cover all of the high mountains? The issue involving the tallest mountain peaks, as well as the deepest ocean trenches is handled by asserting that the earth at the time of the flood was much flatter. These mountains and trenches arose from tectonic activity within the last 6,000 years, after the flood:
“Clearly, what the Bible is telling us is that God acted to alter the earth's topography. New continental landmasses bearing new mountain chains of folded rock strata were uplifted from below the globe-encircling waters that had eroded and leveled the pre-Flood topography, while large deep ocean basins were formed to receive and accommodate the Flood waters that then drained off the emerging continents.”[8]

This would answer the question of where the water came from. If all mountains were flattened and ocean trenches were raised, there is sufficient water on the planet to cover all land, making this a “water world”, similar to the (second-rate) movie with Kevin Costner. Alfred Russel Wallace wrote:
“According to the best recent estimates, the land area of the globe is 0.28 of the whole surface, and the water area 0.72. But the mean height of the land above the sea-level is found to be 2250 feet, while the mean depth of the seas and oceans is 13,860 feet… and if all the land surface and ocean floors were reduced to one level, that is, if the solid mass of the globe were a true oblate spheroid, the whole would be covered with water about two miles deep.”[9]

This solves the problem of Noah’s family requiring oxygen masks to endure the altitude of the Himalayas. However, global flood proponents also believe the rise of mountains and even separation of continents occurred within about the last 6,000 years.[10] Currently, though, Everest is rising less than an inch per year. To rise to over 29,000 feet would require an elevation increase of approximately 4.8 feet per year – a change of 57 times more than the current rate. And, one would suppose the Mariana Trench, at a depth of about 11,000 meters or 36,000 feet, developed within the last 6,000 years.

What about the promise God made?
If the flood was not worldwide, how does one explain the promise God made in Genesis 9:11 and 15:
“I establish my covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth."
“and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
God promised to Noah there would never be another flood to destroy the earth. Certainly there have been many regional or localized floods since that time. If Noah’s flood was regional, that would imply God has broken His promise many times, including at New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

On the other hand, if one understands “all flesh” in these verses as a reference to humans primarily in the Mesopotamian region, it is true that God has not destroyed all people since Noah’s flood. This makes sense because there was no reason to destroy all animal life. What would be the point of God destroying wallabies in Australia for the sinfulness of humans in the Middle East?

What about the animals?
But, doesn’t the Bible say that all animals on the earth died, not only humans? That would be the reason take animals on the ark, right? God states in Genesis 6:17, “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it.  Everything on earth will perish.” And, in Genesis 7:21, “Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.” The Bible seems to be clear that not only humans, but also animals, were destroyed in the flood.

Why did Noah take animals if the flood was local?
Global flood proponents question why God directed Noah to take animals on the ark if the flood was localized. After the flood, animals from surrounding areas could easily migrate back to the flooded region, right? In response to this, Microbiologist Rich Deem makes several points:
·         Some animal species are indigenous to the Mesopotamian region.
·         Noah would have spent considerable time replenishing his herds. Whether the flood was global or regional, vegetables and fruit would not have been available for some time, making meat the only food source for Noah and his family.
·         Animal migration back into the entire region would have taken a considerable amount of time.[11] Even if the flood was not global, it was still geographically immense. Animals migrating back would have had no food source – plant or animal – for a period of time following the flood.

If local, why take birds?
Those who believe in a global flood make a good point that it would be unnecessary to take birds on the ark (Genesis 7:8 and Genesis 7:14); they could have simply flown back after the flood was over, couldn’t they? Rich Deem notes that, except for a few migratory species, most birds remain in a relatively small territory. And, since most are not designed for long distance travel, they would have drowned. Furthermore, it is difficult for birds to fly in heavy rain, meaning they would have sat in trees until water covered the trees and they had nowhere to go.[12]  

Why didn’t God just send Noah on a trip?
If the flood was regional, would it not have been much simpler for Noah and his family to travel out of the region until the flood was over? One answer has already been given as the same reason God wanted animals on the ark – to replenish fauna in the region. A second reason, offered by Rich Deem, is that God’s method of operation is to precede judgment with a warning and opportunity to repent. For example, the Lord sent Jeremiah to warn the people of impending judgment if they did not repent (Jeremiah 18:8). Also, God was rather insistent that Jonah preach to the people of Nineveh who, by the way, did repent (Jonah 3:10). Whereas Jonah spent three days preaching to the Ninevites, Noah spent 100 years building the ark. Peter explained that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness”. He went on to explain that, when they did not repent, God “brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5). Peter understood the purpose of the flood:  Notice he mentioned ungodly persons were the target of the flood, not necessarily plants, animals, or the earth itself.

So what?
Noah lived more than 4,000 years ago, so what difference does it make now whether the flood was global? This is an important issue because, if the Bible states there was a global flood, but geological and other evidence proves that is not true, the Bible is discredited. As has been shown in this article, it is not an absolute requirement for belief in the Bible to necessarily correspond with an inflexible belief in a global flood. Believers may respectfully debate this issue without malice. Whether someone believes the flood was global or local is not relevant to his or her salvation.

Conclusion:  The most important point
Whether Noah’s flood was global or local is inconsequential if each of us is not on the “ark” today. What is meant by that? As with some other historical accounts in the Old Testament, the ark Noah built symbolizes salvation through Jesus Christ. 
“…in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Noah believed the ark would save him from judgment. Each of us needs to be certain we are saved from judgment by belief in the “ark”, which is Christ.

[Biblical quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.]

[1]James Strong, John Kohlenberger, and James Swanson, The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2001), 1297.
[2]W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, 1996), 83-84.
[3]James Strong et. al., 1515.
[4]W. E. Vine, p. 66.
[5]James Strong et. al., 1516.
[6]Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs, CO:  NavPress, 1998), 145.
[7]Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe website, “Exploring the Extent of the Flood:  Part One”, 25 Apr 2009,
[8] website, “Where did the floodwaters go?” 29 Apr 2009,
[9]A. R. Wallace, Man’s Place in the Universe, (New York, NY:  McClure, Phillips & Co., 1903), 225-226,
[10]Ken Ham and Tim Lovett, Answers in Genesis website, “Was There Really a Noah’s Ark and Flood?”, published 11 Oct 2007, accessed 2 May 2009, <>.
[11]Richard L. Deem, God and Science website, “The Genesis Flood:  Why the Bible says it Must be Local”, 26 Apr 2009, <>