This article was first published in the Summer 1998 issue of Bible and Spade.
No other book in the world has been ridiculed, criticized and sought to be destroyed as has the Bible. People have been cruelly persecuted, burned at the stake, and lives have been forfeited by other methods of punishment simply because they read or sought to preserve the Scriptures! There is no logical answer as to 'why' there has been and is such hatred for a Book whose writings have been instrumental in changing lives AND keeping morals in balance. Other books come and go, but the Bible is a supernatural Book, offering spiritual hope for the hopelessly lost.
When the laws of legal evidence are applied to the Biblical Flood story, it makes a compelling case.
Because critics of the Bible do not believe in divine inspiration, they attack anything that is supernatural, labeling it as fantasy, Hebrew folklore, traditional, etc., anything just to say it does not conform to natural reasoning or science. To them the Bible at best is a 'man made' book, not an accurate, divinely inspired record.
The flood of Noah's day, according to the critics, is an example of unscientific, Biblical falsehood. Genesis 6:8-8:14 gives the account of Noah's preparation for the universal Flood and the story of the actual Flood itself. Is this account reliable? While the Christian accepts this account by faith, there is supporting evidence from various sources that critics have difficulty explaining.
The Ancient Document Rule
There is a law covering the presentation of evidence in civil court that is extremely applicable to the account of Noah's Flood called the 'Ancient Document Rule.' In McCormick's Handbook of the Law of Evidence (1972: 549, Section 223 and 747, Section 323), we note his summation.
An ancient writing is usually regarded as sufficiently authenticated if the offering party shows that it has come from high antiquity and is unsuspicious in appearance [no evident marks of forgery], if found in a place of custody natural for such writing [found in the proper repository], and deemed by the law to be authentic and credible. The age requirement probably assures that there will be a special need for dispensing with the heresy rule . . . In such cases [where ancient writings are sufficiently authenticated], the burden of proof to the contrary devolves upon the objector.
It is understandable that the proper repository for military records would be in the archives of the Department of Defense and legal records in the Court House. In exactly in the same sense, the church is legally recognized as the proper repository for ancient documents dealing with things of religion.
The documents containing the record of the Flood are part of the Old Testament. Their history can be traced back in an unbroken chain of records, 1500 BC. These documents bear upon their face the strongest evidence of authenticity and credibility, and have been received by every generation in turn as not only reliable but infallible. The Flood of Noah's day is not tradition, it is fact. It stands today as scientifically attested! Some of the shrewdest intellects at the command of infidelity have again and again sought to assail the historic value of these [ancient] documents without success (Rimmer 1936: 220).
The Science of Ethnology
Not only do we accept the account of a literal Noahic Flood on the basis of the Ancient Document Rule, but this Flood is attested to by at least two sciences. The Science of Ethnology, which deals with living races whose people have in common a body of belief in a certain past event, thus establishing the fact that there was some historical occurrence as the basis of this belief.
In the case of the Flood of Noah's day, the Biblical record states that all living races came by lineal descent from the sons of Noah, and they handed down the same story of the ark and the flood to their descendants in all its essential details. From generation to generation, today one can find records of a great flood in the hands of the Polynesians, some American Indians with their Mongolian or Asiatic origins, the Chinese, east African tribes, South American jungle tribes, and Spanish exploration records of islands of the seas and mainlands of new continents (Rimmer 1936: 223ff). Such records from diverse parts of the world would hold up under the Ancient Document Rule.
The Science of Archaeology
Last, but not least, The Science of Archaeology supports the Biblical record of the Flood. Discoveries of ancient clay tablets and monuments reveal inscriptions of this event, some found in ancient Mesopotamia (Babylonia). In the 'Gilgamesh Epic,' we have the account of the Babylonian Flood. Gilgamesh was an early king after the flood. He tells of his search for Utnapishtim (Mesopotamia's Noah). Utnapishtim relates to him his version of the flood and how he escaped from it. His version closely parallels the account of Moses.
The gods determined to destroy mankind with a flood, and gave warning. Instructions were given to build a boat [ark] and take into it 'the seed of all living things.' The ark was built, a family taken inside and the flood began at a given time. Later the ark came to rest on Mt. Nisir [location unknown], and Utnapishtim sent forth a dove, a swallow, and a raven. The dove and the swallow returned, but the raven saw that the waters were abated and did not return. All left the ark and sacrifices were offered to the gods of Utnapishtim (Boyd 1969:73).
The 'Gilgamesh Epic' may be gauged by its impact upon other nations. As early as 2000BC, it was known in at least four other languages. A fragment found at Megiddo in 1955 reveals that this epic was known in Palestine in the 14th century BC. By way of comparison, it appears that archaeology's Babylonian account and the Biblical account refer to the same Flood.
The burden of proof to the contrary of such evidence as presented here rests not with the Bible believer, but devolves with the objector.
Boyd, R.T. 1969 A Pictorial Guide to Biblical Archaeology. Grand Rapids MI: Baker.
McCormick, C.T. 1972 McCormick's Handbook of the Law of Evidence. St. Paul MN: West Publishing.
Rimmer, H. 1936 The Harmony of Science and Scripture. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans.