The Flood and Mosaic Authorship
by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
In a special 2004 collector’s edition of U.S. News and World Report concerning “Mysteries of the Bible,” freelance writer Michelle Andrews penned an article titled “Author, Author?,” in which she attempted to enlighten her readers on who did not write the Pentateuch. For those familiar with the Documentary Hypothesis (the theory that the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy were not penned by Moses, but by multiple authors centuries later), Andrews’ material is nothing new. As she rightly pointed out, the theory (which she supports) has been actively taught by various Bible critics and “scholars” for more than 150 years. Her purpose, it seems, was simply to ensure that U.S. News’ readership was educated on this matter. Apparently, we can't have Americans in the twenty-first century still thinking that the Pentateuch was written by a man named Moses in 1500 B.C. (regardless of what Jesus taught; see John 5:46-47).
What compelling evidence did Ms. Andrews cite as proof that numerous authors wrote these books hundreds, or perhaps even one thousand, years after Moses lived? Her most explosive “proof,” and the “evidence" on which she spent more time than anything else, is the fact that… “there are two versions of the story of Noah and the flood” (2004a, p. 28). Allegedly,
In one version, God tells Noah to bring seven pairs of clean animals (meaning suitable for sacrifice) and one pair of unclean animals, while in the other he tells Noah to bring just one pair of each type of animal….
In one story, Noah releases a raven to search for land; in the other, he releases a dove. The flood lasts for 40 days and 40 nights in one version, but for a whopping 370 days and nights in the other. The two versions are cleverly interwoven in Genesis so that they appear as one story, albeit with a few contradictions (pp. 28-29).
Sadly, a large number of Americans turn to secular major news magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report for their “daily devotionals,” rather than to the Bible, where they could read the real, unadulterated message from God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The fact is, Michelle Andrews incorrectly represented God’s Word (which is nothing new for anti-Christian news outlets in twenty-first-century America). In all three of the examples she cited from Genesis 6-8 regarding the Noahic Flood, Andrews failed to realize that supplementation is an acceptable, reasonable explanation to the alleged difficulties and contradictions she assumes are present.
First, the statements concerning how many animals were to be taken on the ark are neither contradictory nor proof that two or more authors wrote the book of Genesis. There is no reason why God could not have told Noah to take two of every kind of animal on the ark (Genesis 6:19-20), and then supplement this command only four verses later by telling him to take “seven each of every clean animal” (Genesis 7:2-3). If a farmer told his son to take two of every kind of animal on his farm to the state fair, and then instructed him to take several extra chickens and two extra pigs for a barbecue, would anyone accuse the farmer of contradicting himself? Certainly not! In the book of Genesis, God merely supplemented His original instruction, informing Noah in a more detailed manner to take more of the clean animals. It was necessary for Noah to take additional clean animals because, upon his departure from the ark after the Flood, he “built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the alter” (Genesis 8:20, emp. added). If Noah had taken only two clean animals from which to choose when sacrificing to God after departing the ark, then he would have driven the various kinds of clean beasts and birds into extinction by sacrificing one of each pair. Thus, after God told Noah to take two of every kind of animal into the ark, He then instructed him to take extras of the clean animals. Similar to how Genesis 2 supplements Genesis 1 by giving a more detailed account of the Creation, the first portion of Genesis 7 merely supplements the end of the preceding chapter, “containing several particulars of a minute description which were not embraced in the general directions first given to Noah” (Jamieson, et al., 1997).
Michelle Andrews’ second criticism of the Flood account, concerning whether Noah sent out a raven or a dove from the ark, is answered just as easily as her first proposed difficulty. This example is neither proof that two authors wrote the account, nor that the account is contradictory. Rather, Noah did just what the text said that he did: he sent out a raven, first (Genesis 8:7), and then, on three different occasions, he sent out a dove (Genesis 8:8-12).
Andrews’ final alleged proof that the Flood account is really “two versions…cleverly interwoven in Genesis so that they appear as one story, albeit with a few contradictions” (pp. 28-29) centers on the duration of the Flood. Supposedly, “[t]he flood lasts for 40 days and 40 nights in one version, but for a whopping 370 days and nights in the other” (p. 28). What is the answer? The elementary explanation to this alleged conundrum, which Andrews had the audacity to set before her readers without telling them the true story, is that God caused it “to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:4), but the land was still covered with water, and Noah was not allowed out of the ark, for another 331 days (Genesis 7:24; 8:5-16). There is a difference between how long it rained on the Earth, and how long the floodwaters actually remained upon the Earth.
It is sad that writers such as Michelle Andrews are more concerned about propagating an old, worn-out theory (using false statements and deception) than they are about honestly presenting the truths of the Bible. It seems that a person cannot be considered a “Bible scholar” in the twenty-first century unless he or she is willing and able to twist the Scriptures so that they say, not the obvious, but the ridiculous. Even my four-year-old son can understand the difference between it raining on the Earth for forty days, and the floodwaters being on the Earth for a much longer time than that. People like Michelle Andrews, a freelance writer who specializes in health care, should stick to writing about things like “The Secret to Great Arms” (n.d.) or “Staking Out Safe Entrees” (2004b), and leave the Bible alone—at least until she is willing to look at it with an open mind.
Andrews, Michelle (no date), “The Secret to Great Arms,” [On-line], URL: http://www.lifetimetv.com/reallife/df/features/arms.html.
Andrews, Michelle (2004a), “Author, Author?” U.S. News & World Report—Special Collector’s Edition, released in the fall of 2004, pp. 28-29.
Andrews, Michelle (2004b), “Staking Out Safe Entrees,” U.S. News & World Report, February 2, pp. 57-58.
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).