The main record of the Flood is in Genesis 6-9. In Gen. 6:17 God says:

For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.

On the face of it, the record reads as if the Flood did cover the whole earth, and many people read Gen. 6-9 in this way. However, many other people read the record of the Flood in a slightly different way because the words and phrases that are used in Gen. 6-9 about the extent of the Flood are used in other parts of the Bible to refer to areas much smaller than the entire globe.

For example, the words in Gen. 6-9 that refer to the earth are sometimes translated as ‘land’ and ‘ground’ in other parts of the Bible and refer to smaller parts of the globe (e.g. Nu. 32:11; Josh. 18:8; Ezek. 32:4; Hag. 1:11).

To take another example, phrases like those in Gen. 6-9 that talk about ‘all flesh…under heaven’ (Ge. 6:17), etc., are used in other parts of the Bible in reference to areas that are smaller than the entire globe. Here are just a few verses:

Col. 1:23
…the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…

The gospel message had not literally been preached in all creation under heaven (it hadn’t by this time, for example, been preached in places like the Americas or Australia).

Acts 2:16-17
…this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…

Acts 2 is when the holy spirit comes on the Christians and they start to speak in other languages. In the verses above Peter says that those events were brought about by God pouring his spirit on all flesh. However, ‘all flesh’ here only refers to the Christians, not to everybody on the earth.

So, sometimes in the Bible, phrases like ‘all flesh…under heaven’ are being used in a way that doesn’t refer to the entire world. Two Christian writers sum it up like this:

This [i.e. evidence we’ve just seen] indicates the local stand-point that must be recognised in the understanding of apparently absolute expressions—a thing common to current speech, as when we say of an invited party of friends, “Every one has come,” the “every one” is absolute only within the range of the subject referred to.

Robert Roberts, The Visible Hand of God (Birmingham: CMPA, 1942), 4th Edn, p. 51 [available online here]

We are up against a Hebrew idiom, which can fairly be stated like this: When the Hebrews spoke of “All the peoples of the earth” (or some such phrase) they often meant it in a limited sense. They meant either “All the peoples with whom we have contact”, or “All the peoples with whom God is dealing.”

Alan Hayward, God’s Truth (London: Lakeland, 1973), p. 207 [available online here]

Because of this evidence, some Christians read Gen. 6-9 and see a massive Flood that covered a large area but wasn’t covering the whole globe.

So, it’s possible read the Bible and see the Flood as covering the whole world; and it’s possible to read the Bible and see the Flood as covering only a part of the world.

When we look at the scientific, historical, and anthropological evidence outside of the Bible, however, we see that it tends to support  the reading that the Flood covered only part of the globe.

For more information about a local (as opposed to a global) Flood, see “Noah and the Deluge” and “Upon the Mountains of Ararat“.

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20 Responses to Did the Flood cover the whole world?

  1. Chris Brook says:

    A related problem, and it seems to me more difficult to answer, is that Genesis says very clearly that ‘all in which was the breath of life’ died, and this becomes very fundamental to the later teaching of the Scriptures where the Flood is used as a parable of essential doctrine (Matt 24:39, 2 Peter 2:5). If the Flood was local this could not be fulfilled, because the animals who lived near the very edge of the Flood would have been able to run away from the rising waters.

  2. Jim Day says:

    Ge 7:19 “They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered.”
    The above verse together with 35 plus “all” in the chapters relating to the flood makes it impossible not to conclude that the whole earth was flooded. Any objections to a whole earth flood are answered in “The Genesis Flood” by Whitcomb and Morris.

  3. Luke Buckler says:

    Thanks for your comments, both. I think the ‘all’ and the ‘entire’ comments are dealt with in the main answer.

    The flood can be local and still used as a parable of greater things (e.g. 2Peter 2:5; Matt. 24:37-39) just as the judgement on Sodom was local and also used as a parable of something greater (Luke 17:26-30).

    Re: Morris & Whitcomb — I’m afraid The Genesis Flood is scientifically inaccurate. See the following two books by A. Hayward, for example:

    Creation and Evolution: Rethinking the Evidence from Science and the Bible, Triangle Publishers (London, 1985) [Amazon UK].
    Especially see ch. 8 (‘‘Flood Geology’ and Related Fallacies’), ch. 9 (‘Some Young-Earth Arguments Examined’, which contains evidence against the ‘water canopy’ idea), and ch. 11 (‘Some other Biblical Questions’).

    Does God exist? Science Says Yes!, Printland Publishers (Hyderabad, 1978) [Printland].
    Specifically the Appendix section sub-headed ‘Flood geology’.

  4. Rob Johnson says:

    Alan Fowler’s book, ‘A Drama of Creation’ contains some very compelling arguments for a localised flood. See pages 70-75. See also R.Roberts book, ‘The visible Hand of God’ pages 47-48 for an equally good argument for a localised flood.

  5. Luke Buckler says:

    Thanks, Rob.

    A Drama of Creation is also available from Printland Publishers.

    The Visible Hand of God, ch. 5, is online at:
    http://bit.ly/5bq6Wo

  6. Jim Day says:

    Am I missing something? -“all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered” – how can the whole earth not be flooded?
    1. high mountains
    2. enttire heavens

    Just where did Whitcomb and Morris in “Genesis Flood ” get it wrong? – it all seemed fine to me

    Just tell me ONE thing that bothers you about a whole earth flood and see if cannot be answered if not by me. then by someone else.

  7. Luke Buckler says:

    Hi Jim,

    Jim Day :

    Just tell me ONE thing that bothers you about a whole earth flood and see if cannot be answered if not by me. then by someone else.

    I don’t feel I need to. The answer above is written to accommodate both views that (a) the flood was global and (b) the flood was local. If someone wants to believe either (a) or (b) then that’s fine.

    If you’re interested in seeing where “The Genesis Flood” is incorrect, please see the books recommended above (if I was to recommend just one, I’d say “Creation and Evolution” by A.H.).

    The “entire heavens” comment is dealt with in the main answer above. The mountains being covered was a miracle either way (global or local).

  8. Jim Day says:

    I checked in my old physics book (Martin & Conors) and found that water always finds its own level, Therefore I conclude that if Mt Ararat was covered all mountains worldwide would be covered to this height (at least). I checked in my bath and found the principle worked -well it does here in Mentone Victoria!

  9. Rob Johnson says:

    The ‘water finds its own level principle’ would require an amount of water 8 kilometers high (the height of Everest) over the entire globe. Since fresh water includind all ice, snow, underground water, rivers and lakes only represents around 3.5% of all the water on the planet then one wonders where all this water would come from and more importantly where would an 8 km high water coverage drain to after the flood. We have to assume then that when the Bible says ‘all’ it does not necessarily mean ‘entire’.
    Some good examples are Dan.4:12; Luke 3:6; Acts 2:17. The reference in Acts, ‘…I will pour out my spirit on all flesh’ simply means that some people from many nations would recieve God’s spirit and not every inhabitant of the then known world.

  10. Jim Day says:

    1 God said he covered the mountains (N.B. there are 35+ “complete, total and alls” in the relevant chapters of Genesis – I get the message -ALL)

    2. God said he did it – really then that is a FACT- if you wonder about certain aspects of “how” that is fine but because we cannot necessary know “how” certainly does not mean he didn’t.

    3 A possible solution n.b possible

    If the earth was a smooth spherical ball then the current oceans would cover the whole Earth to about 1.5km (about 1 mile) or about 7500 ft ie above our Australia’s highest mountain.- now that is a lot of water but not enough to cover Mt. Everest.

    Solution

    (a ) the earth is flooded by rain and the fountains of the deep broken up – bottom of the oceans raised .and mountains recede. – earth entirely covered

    (b ) Stops raining and the mountain ranges pushed up and ocean floors lowered allowing the water to recede as in Genesis 8:3

  11. Peter Morgan says:

    I’ve read the comments and am puzzled.
    This is a Christadelphian web site isn’t it? And they believe the Bible and take it as literal unless there is compelling reason to think otherwise? In terms of the flood being universal (i.e. over the whole earth) there is no such compelling reason to think otherwise, in fact every reason to see the Bible means exactly what it says.
    The implied criticism of Whitcomb and Morris is rather too vague isn’t it? Only their comments about the universality of the flood are in question here, so what are the errors in their chapter 1? The 7 arguments they advance for the universality of the flood?
    Rob Johnson’s comments on the water and its amount are fine, but we weren’t there and God was, and He said through Moses that it was all flesh died and all the world covered and all….. Let’s not sully the word of God (inerrant) with our doubts and worries about how it happened.
    Luke Buckler’s comment worries me also. He says “The answer above is written to accommodate both views that (a) the flood was global and (b) the flood was local. If someone wants to believe either (a) or (b) then that’s fine.” Who says it’s fine? Only one of the two views can be true, surely? And if that is so it behoves us to find out which IS true, and start believing it.
    And in this case it’s clear – the flood was universal or God’s words mean nothing at all.
    Enough for a start.
    Peter Morgan

  12. Luke Buckler says:

    Hi Peter,

    Peter Morgan :

    I’ve read the comments and am puzzled.
    This is a Christadelphian web site isn’t it? And they believe the Bible and take it as literal unless there is compelling reason to think otherwise?

    That’s correct. In the answer to the question two Christian writers are quoted; those Christians are both Christadelphians: Robert Roberts and Alan Hayward. Those two, along with many others, believe the Bible and take it as literal unless there is compelling reason to think otherwise. The view that the Flood was local has existed in the Christadelphian community, alongside the view that the Flood was global, right from the early days.

    The implied criticism of Whitcomb and Morris is rather too vague isn’t it? Only their comments about the universality of the flood are in question here, so what are the errors in their chapter 1? The 7 arguments they advance for the universality of the flood?

    I refer you to the articles and books already recommended. Various people have recommended various resources for and against both sides — if people would like to investigate the different view points further then they are free to do so. The main thrust of the answer above is to demonstrate both global and local readings of the Flood are possible (they are both views that the Christadelphian community have held simultaneously right from the early days of the community).

    … the flood was universal or God’s words mean nothing at all.

    The bulk of the main answer above present an argument from within the Bible that the Flood could have been local. The Bible still has meaning if the Flood was local.

  13. Richard Abbey. says:

    According to science it would have been impossible for the whole world to be covered in water, Further more, it was destroyed by earth quakes and volcanic eruptions and yes, it did rain but not enough to cover the entire earth with a deluge. If you go to Gen 1: it reads: And God Created the heavens and the earth; then at verse 2 is a in coded message, which reads: and the earth was without form, and void etc. Which suggests that the earth was destroyed before it was re-created with Human beings. This period would have been the Jurassic and the hominids who were but an experiment by God. If not then why does God say let us now create man in our image after our likeness at verse 26?? More proof of the hominids after Cain slew his brother and God drove him away from the protected area of Eden. Wasn’t he afraid someone may harm him? But according to scripture there were only his father Adam and mother Eve in the world. So who was he afraid might harm him? The hominids of course..! An in coded message that has gone unnoticed for thousands of years. Then there is the concept of the son Jesus Christ. Originally there were sun worshipers, sun rise and sun set when darkness fell upon the earth and when morning came the light of the world arises. Christ came into the world to rectify that which man has and is still worshiping the ‘Sun God’ and not its Creator, the reason for these inbuilt coded messages, or Christ would not have said: ‘Seek first the truth and the truth will set you free.’ Free from what? you may well ask…free within ourselves of the religious lies that have been told down through the centuries.

  14. Mark Morgan says:

    At the end of the flood, God made a covenant, established with descendants of Noah and “every living creature that is with you” (Genesis 9:10). If the flood was only a local catastrophe, this covenant would not cover the remaining living people (if any) and creatures on the planet. There would be no guarantee for these others that another such flood would not come in their area. The covenant would not hold for the majority of the world despite its wording and clear intent. Only Middle Eastern rainbows in the area flooded would have any meaning.

    If we assume that the flood was global, this problem of internal Biblical consistency goes away. The covenant was made with all living and the rainbow can still be relied on everywhere – even down under in Australia!

  15. Luke Buckler says:

    Hi Mark,

    The view that Robert Roberts takes is that all the people were localised in the (no global) area that the flood covered. Thus the covenant after the flood was still with all people.

    Another view is that the judgement was on God’s people — people who should have known God — and these people were localised in the (no global) area that the flood covered. The covenant made after the flood was again made with God’s people — this time, Noah, his family, and their offspring (v9) — and with the animals with them, who were representative of all animals (v10).

  16. carol says:

    i believe just what GOD said that the whole world was covered. it is impossible in men eyes , but we are talking about GOD who made HEAVEN AND EARTH, he made it so i’am very sure he can cover it

  17. Luke Buckler says:

    Hi Carol,

    No one is denying that God could do whatever he wants (after all, all things are possible with God: Mat. 19:26). The issue is over what God actually did.

    The original answer above demonstrates that the record in Genesis of the Flood can be read in both a global or a local way (and the very end of the article hints that the evidence outside of the Bible meshes best with a “local” reading of the text).

  18. Jim Day says:

    Hi Carol, Peter and Mark,

    A few weeks ago I felt like Jeremiah and was beginning to wonder if I was the last of the Bible believing followers who just accepted what God said was true.

    Thank you for your comments and I agree thoroughly with you three – I have been most encouraged by your comments.
    Let us just accept that it is a whole earth flood as the Genesis record very clearly shows.

  19. Luke Buckler says:

    Hi Jim,

    Your comment above isn’t very constructive — it doesn’t help further the discussion one way or another. Please deal with the points in the original answer rather than accusing others of not accepting God’s word. The original answer demonstrates that the Genesis account can be read either globally or locally.