Genesis and Catastrophe

The Flood as the Major Biblical Cataclysm

by Dr. Andy McIntosh, Steve Taylor, and Tom Edmondson on April 1, 2000


While there may have been some localised post-Flood disasters, the sedimentary deposits of a continental scale can only have been deposited by the Flood.


The Genesis Flood should be regarded as the main mechanism for laying down the fossil record. While there may have been some localised post-Flood disasters, the sedimentary deposits of a continental scale can only have been deposited by the Flood because of the huge global effect of Flood hydrodynamic activity. Biblically, there is little warrant for insisting that ‘blot out’ means complete removal without trace. Rather, the natural meaning of Genesis 6-8 is the sudden death of many creatures in the Flood. To progress our understanding of some of the apparent anomalies in the fossil record, the various scientific disciplines need to interact far more. Only then can we properly model the complex fluid dynamics of heterogeneous flows and the consequent pattern of sedimentary layering that took place in the Flood year.


The Genesis 6-8 account of Noah’s Flood very graphically describes the world-encircling cataclysm that affected the earth. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in understanding rock formation as a result of the Flood and to a certain extent, after the Flood. Nevertheless a debate has begun between geologists,1 all of whom reject billions of years, but who take different positions concerning where the Flood ends in the rock strata.2 Some have argued that considerable sedimentation occurred after the Flood, as the earth adjusted to a new equilibrium. What has led geologists, such as Garner,3 Garton4, 5 and others to this view, is that many dinosaur and bird tracks have been found in the rocks which (they maintain) can only be interpreted as post-Flood. Some go further and suggest all fossils of air-breathing land creatures are post-Flood.6, 7, 8, 9, 10 The traditional view advocated by Morris and other workers has been that rising flood waters engulfed creatures at different stages during the Flood—first the 40 days (Gen. 7:11, (12)) of the deluge from above and below, and then the persistence of the waters for about 5 months (Gen. 7:24).11, 12, 13, 14 This view, though sometimes referred to by its opponents as the ‘tranquil Flood’ model, in fact regards the waters as vast surging tidal waves, with water coming from beneath the earth as well as from above (possibly from a pre-Flood vapour canopy). In a companion paper15 we consider a far stronger alternative view of the origins of the water from beneath.

How any post-Flood activity occurred is not easy to prove since we have no way of doing a full-scale experiment! The various theories are not within the purpose of this brief article—the debate on this continues. But all involved in the debate accept that we must always come back to Scripture to test all our thinking. What then are the key points that can be established?

The Flood was cataclysmic and worldwide in scale

Whatever post-Flood disasters may have taken place, one must never marginalise the Flood itself.

Whatever post-Flood disasters may have taken place, one must never marginalise the Flood itself. Clearly Genesis 6-8 is there to show to mankind that in a very major way, God judged the world in its entirety. The Hebrew word mabbul in the Old Testament and the Greek kataklusmos in the New are used only of the Genesis Flood. Psalm 29:10 provides a less certain use of mabbul outside Genesis, but the destruction of cedar forests (Psalm 29:5), the movement of an entire geographical area (Lebanon, Psalm 29:6) and the shaking of the deserts (Psalm 29:8) seem reminiscent of Flood events. The Psalm shows that the power unleashed was never for a moment out of God’s control. A glance at a concordance will show that there are other Hebrew and Greek words used which can be translated to the English ‘flood’, but mabbul and kataklusmos are generally the words reserved as technical terms for the Genesis Flood.16, 17

In a companion article,15 we suggest that the geological and meteorological upheavals of the first 40 days were indeed the major event, possibly with water coming from above because of vast fountains ejected from beneath.

The extent of the Genesis Flood is partly determined by the meaning of the word ‘earth’ (Hebrew erets) in Genesis 1-10, and (Greek kosmos) in 2 Peter 3:5-7. What is erets in Gen. 6:1 referring to? It cannot indicate Eden (Gen. 2:8), since Adam and Eve were evicted from it (Gen. 3:23). Nor can it be restricted to the ‘land of Nod’, where Cain and his descendants settled (and from where they may have spread, Gen. 4:16), since those who had increased in numbers included the descendants of Seth (Gen. 5:6ff.). Genesis 6:5-7 suggests that the reference is therefore to the ‘earth’ of Gen. 1:1 and 2:1 (i.e. all that is not the ‘heavens’), for in Gen. 6:7 there is an echo of the creation (Hebrew bara) of men and animal life recorded in Gen. 1:20-30. Moreover the words of Gen. 8:22 would hardly follow, if the promise in Gen. 8:21 applied only to the inhabitants of the early Middle East, for ‘seedtime and harvest’ are universal phenomena, in the same way that ‘day and night’ bring us to the universal context of creation (Gen. 1:5). This apparent universality continues in Gen. 1:9, where it is not regional man whose life is protected by law, but man made in God’s image (Gen. 1:6). Accordingly, the covenant of Gen. 9:9ff. establishes the universally experienced rainbow as the pledge of God’s promise never again to destroy the whole earth (the word again is erets).

2 Peter (3) clinches this line of reasoning, for in this chapter, Peter refutes uniformitarianism (2 Peter (4)) and proclaims that uniformitarians are ‘willingly ignorant’. He then states that after the creation of the heavens and the earth in Gen. 1:1-2, the ‘world [Greek kosmos] that then was, being overflowed with water, perished’ (Gen. 1:6). The fact that the ‘heavens and earth which are now … are … reserved unto fire’ (Gen. 1:7), and will be replaced by ‘a new heavens and a new earth’ (Gen. 1:13) strongly suggests that the ‘world’ in v. 6 (equivalent to the erets of Gen. 6) was universal in extent.

The agent of the Flood was water

That water was the main agent of destruction may seem obvious, but it needs stating clearly. 2 Peter 3:6 states that the mechanism for the mabbul (Flood) recorded in Genesis was that ‘the world being overflowed with water, perished.’ In principle, the same command, but a different mechanism (fire) will bring in the Day of Judgment to come (2 Peter 3:7). This is relevant to those who suggest that in just the first few days of the Flood all air-breathing land creatures were entirely destroyed without a trace. To remove bones in their entirety would generally require fire, which is not the primary agent recorded in Genesis 6-8. We accept that fire may have played some part during the Flood, with magma flowing from volcanic eruptions, but scripturally the main agent of destruction was water. Fire could not have been the dominant force. Biblically, as discussed later on with the phrase ‘blot out’, it is difficult to make a strong case for all air-breathing land creatures being destroyed without trace. The argument requires that the word machah (Gen. 6:7—‘destroy’ in the KJV) have only one possible meaning, as ‘blot out’. However, there are other equally valid, but more plausible translations of machah as discussed later.

Scientifically, it is very difficult to justify that all air-breathing land creatures were entirely destroyed (bones and all) by the hydrological action of the water alone. One can accept that some creatures out of the millions engulfed by the violence of the first 40 days were dismembered, and that other creatures were pulverised by rocks etc. But to say that every single one of the millions of air-breathing land creatures in existence was annihilated is not consistent with the fluid dynamics of heterogeneous mixtures. Certainly the geological evidence does not support the argument that all land air-breathing creatures were annihilated while the sea-going creatures were not. Land creatures are found fossilised throughout the strata—not only in lower Palaeozoic strata which most Flood geologists accept are Flood deposits, but also in the higher Mesozoic and Cainozoic. The geological evidence suggests that the argued distinction between land and sea creatures is a false distinction since the churning waters would have contained both. Matt. 24:39 confirms that water was the agent responsible for the death of the people for it states ‘until the Flood came, and took them all away.’ The word translated ‘take away’ is the Greek airõ which is often used in the sense of ‘take up’ or ‘lift’ (e.g. John. 5:8Rise, take up your bed’). The biblical evidence is of rushing waters sweeping up people and animals into a vast watery grave. The straightforward truth from Gen. 6-8 is that the agent of global scale devastation by the Flood was water. It is a good rule to take the straightforward meaning of Scripture, unless there is strong testimony otherwise from other Scriptures.

The combination of both words mabbul and mayim

Garton,4 Robinson9 and Garner3 maintain that the mabbul only lasted 40 days. Kline18 (no friend of creationism) writes

mabbul … denotes the cataclysmic phenomena of the 40 day period (Gen. 7:12, (17)) dated in Gen. 7:11. Apparently mabbul is also applied in extension of the precise usage in the Flood record proper to the year-long episode (Gen. 9:11, 15, 28; 10:1, 32; 11:10).’

Hence there is some warrant for allowing mabbul to refer in a general sense to the whole year of the Flood.

But we must also consider a second word, that is mayim which means ‘waters, sea(s), ocean’. The way the two key Hebrew words mabbul and mayim are used is instructive. It seems from their articles that Garton, Robinson and Garner consider mabbul refers to the catastrophic precipitation and release of subterranean water, resulting in the mayim. However, they miss the fact that in the Hebrew, the words mabbul and mayim are linked, so that one is part of the other. This is shown by the fact that they are in the standard grammatical construction to show the genitive (possessive) relationship. In Hebrew, the noun which is possessed is in the construct form, followed by the possessor noun in its normal form.19

Thus, for example, sus ham-melek means ‘the-horse [of] the-king’ and devar han-nabi’ means ‘the-word [of] the-prophet’. In the Flood narrative the words mabbul and mayim occur in reversible genitive relationships. In Gen. 6:17 the Lord says, ‘I will bring floodwaters [literally, ‘the-mabbul (of) the-mayim’] upon the earth.’ Then in Gen. 7:7 Noah and his family ‘entered the ark to escape the-mayim (of) the-mabbul’ (cf. Gen. 7:10: ‘The-mayim [of] the-mabbul’ came [Hebrew ‘were’] on the earth). Therefore the mabbul may be part of the mayim and the mayim may be part of the mabbul. Unlike (say) ‘the king’s horse’ or ‘the prophet’s word’, where the order cannot be changed, the two nouns are reversible. This implies that the mayim is not simply the effect of the mabbul, unless by the same token mabbul can be regarded as the effect of the mayim. Thus the most sensible way to interpret these expressions is to see that in the Flood narrative mabbul, mayim, mabbul-ha-mayim and mayim-ha-mabbul are all the same thing.

So the warning in Gen. 6:17 is that God will bring a catastrophic deluge and release of subterranean waters which will inundate the planet and wipe out the whole of life. The catastrophe would not end after 40 days.

Similarly in Gen. 7:4 (where neither mabbul nor mayim are used) the rain ‘will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature’. But if the rain had been able to drain off the land, there would have been no mabbul, for mabbul necessarily implies mayim. In consequence ‘the-mabbul’ was literally ‘mayim upon-the-earth’ (Gen. 7:6), for mabbul and mayim are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Obviously the mayim of Gen. 7:24 are still the mayim of the mabbul, and it is the end of the mabbul which is described in Gen. 8:13 (‘the mayim had dried up from the earth’). This is underlined in Gen. 9:28 where it says that Noah lived 350 years after the mabbul. Since he was 599 at the outset of the mabbul (Gen. 7:11) and just turned 600 at its end, it is obvious that the mabbul lasted one year, showing that mabbul must here refer to the whole Flood year.

This shows that mabbul and mayim are used almost interchangeably and underlines the importance of regarding mabbul as connected with the whole Flood year notwithstanding the fact that there are places in the text (e.g. Gen. 7:17) where mabbul is especially used in reference to the first 40 days.

Thus the destructive force of the 150 days of the waters ‘increasing’ (Gen. 7:17), ‘prevailing’ (Gen. 7:18), ‘increasing greatly’ (Gen. 7:18), ‘prevailing exceedingly’ (Gen. 7:19), ‘returning from off the earth’ (literally ‘going and returning’, Gen. 8:3) should not be underestimated. It is significant that the death of living creatures (Gen. 7:21-24) is recorded after the waters had covered ‘the high hills’ (Gen. 7:19). The account of chapters 6-8 is so detailed an account of all the events before and during the Flood, that it is difficult to escape the conclusion that biblically there was a process of at least 150 days (Gen. 7:24) involved in destroying all the land creatures (including man). The only other alternative is to have the waters covering ‘the high hills’ (Gen. 7:19) after 40 days with protracted coverage till 150 days (Gen. 7:24)—which still implies that the destruction of Gen. 7:21-23 carried on till the end of the whole 150 day period. Certainly the vast majority of land creatures would have been destroyed in the first 40 days, particularly if the waters from above were due to gigantic fountains of water emanating from beneath the earth (see our companion article where possible models are discussed).15 However, the Scriptures record the final destruction of all land creatures (which was always the expressed purpose of the Flood) near the end of the first 150 days (Gen 7:21-24). The significance of this important point will be considered with the meaning of the word ‘blot out’ in a later section.

Underground water was involved

The ‘fountains of the great deep’ seem more consistent with subterranean water pushed up from large, deep, underground cavities rather than relatively small terrestrial springs. Although the latter may explain the removal of all land creatures quickly, it is not consistent with the straightforward understanding of Gen. 7:17-24, which speaks of the waters prevailing (Gen. 7:18), and then prevailing exceedingly (Gen. 7:19) for 150 days (Gen. 7:24). However, this prevailing is entirely consistent with subterranean fountains issuing water to the oceans with, no doubt, tsunami of continental proportions crisscrossing the globe and leading to gigantic tidal waves on reaching the shorelines of any exposed land.

The floodwaters had to drain off the land, and since all the high ground of the pre-Flood earth was inundated, new ocean basins had to be formed to accommodate the much greater amount of water now on the earth. This fits well with Psalm 104:8 which probably speaks of the mountains rising and the valleys sinking. This implies huge geological upheaval.

The ‘fountains of the great deep’ were literally the ‘springs of the ocean’. Were these visible? Being the springs of the oceans would they be on a vaster scale than those on land? If they were (and the hydroplate model referred to in the companion article15 would suggest this), considerable geological activity must have taken place on the ocean floor.

The stated purpose of the Flood

Genesis 6:7, 17 and 7:21-23 state clearly God’s purpose was to destroy all air-breathing land creatures. The word ‘destroy’ used in Genesis 6:7 is machah which means to wipe out. That used in Genesis 6:13, 9:11 and 9:15 is shachath which means to ‘corrupt, ruin, decay’. In particular, Gen. 9:11 speaks of never again destroying either the earth or all flesh (Gen. 9:15). The earth was not annihilated (that is made non-existent or all traces removed), though it was devastated. Similarly by implication, neither were the creatures totally annihilated. That is why Gen. 7:4 states that all creatures would be destroyed ‘from off the face of the earth.

In the New Testament, Luke 17:27 says ‘the Flood came, and destroyed them all.’ The Greek word here is apollumi which, with persons as the object, means to ruin or destroy.20 The Greek word apollumi is also commonly translated to ‘kill’ (e.g. Gen. 20:4; Mark 3:6; Luke 19:47). Obviously the action of killing results in a corpse, therefore Luke 17:27 does not support the idea that the Genesis Flood caused total annihilation. The word apollumi does not demand or imply destruction without trace. Vine writes, ‘… the idea is not extinction, but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being.’21

Generally the word apollumi means ‘ruin’, ‘destroy’, ‘lose’ or simply ‘failure to obtain’. The force of this word comes out in another passage in the same Gospel. The same word apollumi is used in Luke 15:32, ‘for this thy brother was dead … was lost, and is found.’ The lost son was not utterly removed without trace. Rather the prodigal son was removed from the father.

We also have a further insight from Matthew 24:39 that ‘the Flood came, and took them all away.’ The operative word is airõ which means ‘to take away, bear away, carry off’. Could this be clearer? All of these shades of meaning to the word airõ simply say that the Flood swept all air-breathing land creatures out of sight. Extinction and annihilation of all remains is not ruled out, but is very unlikely in the light of the specific reference to the final death of all creatures taking place at the end of the 150 days. The strong suggestion is death by the initial onslaught of the enormous force of flowing water, or subsequent drowning if some creatures survived the initial waves. This is all consistent with violent, catastrophic burial by sediments and the fossils we observe today.

The word ‘destroy’ in Gen. 6:7 (Hebrew machah) is matched in the Septuagint by the corresponding Greek word apaleiphõ which, in classical Greek, means ‘to wipe off, expunge, esp. from a register’.22

The NIV also translates shachath as ‘devastate’ (Joshua 22:33), ‘destroy’ (1 Sam 23:10—at the worst this would have left Keilah in ruins), ‘ruin’ (Jer. 12:10—in a parallel expression ‘trample down my field’) and ‘destroy’ (Ezek. 26:4). In this last reference the extreme nature of the destruction is indicated: ‘I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock.’ However Wiseman says that excavations have traced some of the ancient foundations of Tyre.23 Evidently, even in this context, ‘destroy’ did not imply that no traces would survive.

Returning to the Genesis account of the Flood, the Lord says in Genesis 6:11, 12a and (12b), that the earth was ‘corrupt before God’. The word for ‘corrupt’ is the same as that used in Genesis 6:13, ‘I will destroy them with the earth.’ The key to the Flood account lies in this word ‘destroy’ (shachath). God did not annihilate all evidence of the creatures, any more than He annihilated the earth. Rather, as men were already corrupt spiritually, God had them destroyed physically, drowned, and removed from sight (‘from the face of the earth’). This is exactly the same way that at the final judgment unbelievers will be put into outer darkness, destroyed (apollumi) and cast into hell (gehenna) (Matt. 10:28). This does not mean, of course, that all fossils of all people destroyed in the Flood are preserved, but suggests that we should expect to find some evidence of catastrophic burial.

The word ‘blot out’ in Genesis 6:7

Robinson, Garner and Garton all consider that the Flood requires ‘blot out’ to mean ‘eliminate without trace’ and claim Psalm 51:1 as support. If the word ‘blot out’ does not mean ‘eliminate without trace’ in Psalm 51:1, they ask what sort of salvation do Christians have? If our sins have been totally eliminated without trace by the saving work of Christ, then the pre-Flood world must also have been eliminated without trace. Hence, the fossils must have been formed after the Flood etc. This may seem a strong argument.

However, the passages listed in Young’s Concordance under the Hebrew word machah do not support Garton and Garner’s view. Consider Psalm 51:1 which speaks of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and its subsequent cover-up. David asks God to blot out his sin which God does. However, the fact that we know of David’s sin implies that God did not blot it out completely. It is still recorded in Scripture. Revelation 5 teaches us that even those in heaven worship the Lamb, that is the Lamb of God who took away their sin and by that redemptive act redeemed His people by His own blood (Rev 5:9). Therefore, not all trace of the sins of God’s people will be eliminated, for the Lamb will be a continual reminder of our great debt. McCheyne’s hymn, ‘When this passing world is done’, expresses this thought at the end of every verse with the statement, ‘then Lord shall I fully know, not till then how much I owe.’

In Deuteronomy 9:14, the threat to ‘blot out [the name of Israel] from under heaven’ did not mean that they would disappear without historical trace, for future generations would surely read of them in Scripture. The very formation of a new nation from Moses would require the reason for it to be written down. ‘Blot out’ in this case just means that they would have no descendants and cease to exist as a nation. Similarly in the case of the Amalekites, total destruction did not mean annihilation without trace. For although Deuteronomy 25:19 says to Israel: ‘you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven’, they were not eliminated without trace. Otherwise their memory ought not to have been preserved in Scripture. As noted earlier in the discussion of shachath and apollumi, eternal destruction is not annihilation, therefore, the threat of Deuteronomy 29:20 to ‘blot out’ a man’s name ‘from under heaven’ does not mean that God will destroy him without trace.

One use of machah which clearly cannot mean ‘eliminate without trace’ occurs in Num. 5:23 which sets out the procedure for trying a woman suspected of infidelity. She has to drink of bitter water, which has previously been used to ‘blot out’ the curses the priest has written in a book. The curses, written in ink on a parchment scroll, were washed off (NIV; KJV blotted out) into a receptacle containing ‘bitter water’. The curse was removed from the scroll, but not ‘without trace’, since it was an essential part of the ritual that the ink should continue to exist in solution. The blotted out curses thus certainly left traces.

Another most instructive use of the word machah is in Prov. 31:3b: ‘Do not give your strength to women, nor your ways to that which destroys kings.’ This very aptly shows what the word means. The man who lusts after women will find he is destroyed spiritually—as many kings and presidents have been. There is no implication of annihilation or wiping out.

We see therefore that the word machah does not mean ‘eliminate without trace’. To say it does is to argue from a shaky linguistic foundation. There is no scriptural proof for this position. These points are developed further in the excellent article by Fouts and Wise24 which studies the meaning of the words used in the Flood account in Genesis. They agree there is no clear evidence exegetically that the word machah is linked with complete removal without trace. Certainly Robinson’s thesis, presented at the same conference, that the Flood destroyed the earth’s crust in its entirety, is very conjectural.25

The rainbow

Robinson26 argues that graveyards of mammoth, dinosaur and all other land air-breathing creatures are all post-Flood. For thousands of mammoths to be buried across America and Asia after the Flood they would have all had to be descended from the original pair from the Ark and spread across the continents. Though we recognise the possibility that frozen mammoths in the Arctic are examples of post-Flood fossilisation27 (as these seem to be localised burials near the surface), the burial under great sediments of reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals (including other mammoths) is worldwide. Such fossilisation with water borne sediment would require enormous upheaval, such that one requires events on the scale of the Flood itself which God said would never be repeated (Gen. 8:21, 9:11, 15).28 The burial of dinosaurs ten metres tall, by their thousands in Alberta and Montana6 and vast tracts of territory from South Dakota, Kansas and Colorado29 would require vast continental instability just before Abraham’s time, 350 years after the Flood.6 (The 350 years is required by Robinson, Garton4 and others to allow dinosaurs and other creatures to multiply and spread out over the globe.) But such vast continental sedimentation (in some places thousands of feet thick) would not be possible without causing gigantic upheaval in other parts of the earth—in particular in the Middle East where the descendants of Noah were repopulating the earth.

Although one does accept the possibility of some post-Flood disasters as the earth settled to a new environment, the extent of burial in such events must be considered local. Burial on such a vast scale of land air-breathing creatures is surely beginning to break the principle that the Flood was the major event in earth’s history. Those who consider most of the fossils to be post-Flood must face the important question, ‘How is it that God has destroyed vast numbers of post-Flood creatures, when He clearly said He would not destroy all flesh again?’ (Gen. 8:21-22). And the problem is not removed by saying that these catastrophes only happened for a few years after the Flood as the earth was settling down. Even if we allow that the population of creatures had vastly increased, is it consistent with the Lord’s mercy in the rainbow covenant to instigate such immense destruction? And this so soon after executing a similar judgment (flooding) on a comparable continental scale? This is a very real difficulty rarely addressed by those who advocate post-Flood catastrophes as being the main origin of all the fossils.

A significant feature of Genesis 8:21-9:17 is the expression ‘never again’ (NIV):

Never again will I curse the ground’ (Gen. 8:21), ‘And never again will I destroy all living creatures’ (Gen. 8:21), ‘Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood’ (Gen. 9:11) and ‘Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life’ (Gen. 9:15).

The formation of the sedimentary rocks and the fossilisation of animals on the vast scale said to have occurred would have required a second cataclysm. This would conflict with the promises made after the Deluge.

The one verse which Robinson, Garton, Garner and others propose for justifying a major post-Flood disaster is Gen. 10:25. The division of the earth referred to in this verse is a mystery. In the present state of knowledge, dogmatism is out of the question.30 Wiseman notes that ‘Peleg’ itself means ‘water course, division’ (watercourse = canal?) and suggests ‘the development … of cultivation, using artificial irrigation canals (Assyr: plagu).’ 31 Kidner simply remarks that it is a ‘matter of conjecture’.32 If the division were the physical splitting of the continents, then the ensuing catastrophe would have been worldwide. It seems unlikely that Genesis 10-11 could proceed serenely along without more reference to these events than 10:25! Moreover, how could the promises to Noah have been kept, since such upheavals would have had immediate global impact? Kevan thinks it was probably the division of mankind after Babel.33 Indeed, many commentators, writing well before plate tectonics was in vogue, believed that the division of Peleg referred to the linguistic/territorial division resulting from Babel.34

In Genesis 9:13-15, God formed a rainbow to indicate there would be no repeat of ‘a Flood to destroy all flesh.’ Holt rightly asserts that to invoke large post-Flood disasters of continental proportions would imply tsunamis encircling the globe.12 There is a limit to localised activity involving further large sedimentation because it is extremely difficult to avoid immediate effects elsewhere on the globe. The comparatively small eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980 showed this with subsequent atmospheric disturbances, and the eruption of Mt. Krakatoa last century in the Far East caused 30-metre tidal waves. Such large quantities of ash were ejected into the atmosphere that Tennyson referred to striking sunsets in England, thousands of miles distant.35 These disasters did not have continental implications. Thus to suggest that Genesis 10:25—the division of the earth in Peleg’s day—was a possible post-Flood disaster involving the physical splitting of continents (and thus providing a mechanism for catastrophic burial of the fossils) would necessitate gigantic tidal waves across the continents, thus negating the rainbow promise. One must always give biblical priority to the Flood as the major disaster affecting the earth, never to be repeated.

We agree with Snelling’s introduction to the discussion papers on this subject, that there is room for some post-Flood activity. But we consider that there is the need to ‘research strategically, thinking laterally or in novel ways if we have to, in order to find explanations for baffling puzzles.’36

We agree with Whitcomb and Morris that the best fit with the biblical text has most of the fossils produced by the Flood.11 However the Whitcomb and Morris mechanism (rising flood water) may not necessarily be the correct model. Morris37 has reiterated this view of the Flood and though some may disagree with the mechanism, it is hard to escape the important hydrological issues which he and others rightly say must be properly addressed. The hydroplate model advocated by Brown38, 39 suggests a much more violent alternative. Although we do not say necessarily that this is the only way to postulate the violence of the first 40 days of the Flood year, it nevertheless offers a plausible explanation for the origin of, and evident force for, the underground waters and the waters from above. The hydroplate theory (different in mechanism from that proposed by Morris), still leads to the same conclusion—that the vast majority of fossils were laid down during the Flood. And in the hydroplate model, a good number would be laid down in the first 40 days.

Another theory advocated by Baumgardner et al.40, 41 proposes catastrophic tectonic plate activity. In this model, part of the earth’s crust is subducted with the initiating of a global-scale flow of the mantle beneath the earth’s crust and vast volcanic activity. All these studies warrant further careful research which should not necessarily regard the geological column as sacrosanct (these alternatives are considered in a companion article15). The events of those first 40 days and right through the Flood year may well have laid and possibly relaid sediments on a continental scale. In the light of this, it is not wise for some to suggest that the thesis of Whitcomb and Morris is ‘fundamentally flawed’. It is premature to draw any such conclusions on the Flood/post-Flood boundary while much research continues—particularly in the area of hydrological sedimentation. We believe there is room for some post-Flood fossilisation (which Whitcomb and Morris11 did not address), but the biblical text strongly implies that the evidence of catastrophic water-borne sediments burying vast numbers of land (and sea) creatures is due primarily to the Flood.


We recognise that there is a clear need to be open-minded concerning some post-Flood catastrophism as the earth settled to a new equilibrium after the gigantic disturbances of the Flood year. However it is not exegetically correct to suggest all air-breathing land creatures were annihilated without trace by some unknown force. Biblically, the words machah (blot out), shachath (destroy) in the Old Testament Hebrew, and apollumi (lose, destroy) in the New Testament Greek, do not justify such an interpretation. The context strongly indicates that the logical and straightforward meaning of these words is that the greater part of air-breathing land creatures were buried by water-borne sediments.

That there may have been some post-Flood disasters is not precluded by the text, since fossilisation is not referred to in the Flood account. But to regard the vast majority of fossils as being from post-Flood disasters runs the risk of (a) marginalising the Flood, (b) weakening the force of the rainbow promise (thousands of feet of sediment over continents hardly seems consistent with God’s promise not to destroy flesh [animal as well as man] by a flood) and (c) gives too much weight to our supposed knowledge of the order of deposition (i.e. the geological column).

There is a great need to gather scientists from all disciplines to consider the problems that have been rightly brought to the attention of the biblical creationist community—problems such as footprints of dinosaurs above vast stretches of sediment and dinosaur eggs at high positions in the strata. The role of sedimentology and the flow of heterogeneous mixtures requires hydraulic engineers, fluid dynamicists as well as geologists to carefully unravel these difficulties. Experience shows that major research problems require interdisciplinary teams to make progress.


The authors are grateful for the helpful exchange of ideas with a number of colleagues which includes Dr Peter Williams (who kindly checked the original manuscript and made very helpful suggestions), Dr David Tyler, Dr Michael Garton, Mr Randall Hardy, Dr Andrew Snelling, Dr Peter Senior and others. Not all will agree with our conclusions, but the spirit of open and courteous debate is to be encouraged.

Originally published in Journal of Creation 14(1):101-109, April 2000


  1. Tyler, D.J., Flood models and trends in creationist thinking, Creation Matters 2(3), May/June 1997.
  2. Special Symposium, Where should we place the Flood/post-Flood boundary in the geological record? TJ 10(1):29-168, 1996.
  3. Garner, P., Geology and the Flood, Genesis Agendum Occasional Paper, 1997.
  4. Garton, M., The pattern of fossil tracks in the geological record, TJ 10(1):82-100, 1996.
  5. Garton, M., A Spanish weekend, Origins (BCS) 22:11-26, 1997.
  6. Garner, P., Where is the Flood/post-Flood Boundary? Implications of dinosaur nests in the Mesozoic, TJ 10(1):101-106, 1996.
  7. Garner, P., Continental flood basalts indicate a pre-Mesozoic Flood/post-Flood boundary, TJ 10(1):114-127, 1996.
  8. Johns, W.H., Did dinosaurs lay eggs and hatch young during the Flood? TJ 11(3):318-323, 1998.
  9. Robinson, S.J., Can Flood geology explain the fossil record? TJ 10(1):32-69, 1996.
  10. Robinson, S.J., Dinosaurs in the Oardic Flood, TJ 12(1):55-86, 1998.
  11. Whitcomb, J.C. and Morris, H., The Genesis Flood, Evangelical Press, 1969.
  12. Holt, R.D., Evidence for a late Cainozoic Flood/post-Flood boundary, TJ 10(1):128-167, 1996.
  13. Oard, M.J., The Extinction of the Dinosaurs, TJ 11(2):137-154, 1997.
  14. Oard, M.J., Dinosaurs in the Flood: A response, TJ 12(1):69-86, 1998.
  15. McIntosh, A.C., Edmondson, T. and Taylor, S., Flood Models: The Need for an Integrated Approach, TJ 14(1):52-59, 2000.
  16. Brown, Driver and Briggs, Hebrew-English Lexicon, Hendrickson, p. 550, 1997.
  17. Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, Greek Lexicon, University of Chicago, p. 412, 1952.
  18. Kline, M.G., Commentary on Genesis; in: New Bible Commentary, (3rd edition), IVP, p. 88, 1970.
  19. Waltke, B.K. and O’Conner, M., An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Indiana, pp. 137-138, 1990.
  20. Bauer et al., Ref. 17, p. 94.
  21. Vine, W.E., Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, p. 302, 1952.
  22. Liddell and Scott, Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford University Press, p.76, 1929.
  23. Wiseman, D.J., Tyre; in: New Bible Dictionary, IVP, p. 1303, 1962.
  24. Fouts, D.M. and Wise, K.P., Blotting out and breaking up: miscellaneous Hebrew studies in geocatastrophism; in: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Creationism, Creation Sciences Fellowship Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, pp. 217-228, 1998.
  25. Robinson, S.J., The Flood in Genesis: What does the text tell geologists? in: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Creationism, Creation Sciences Fellowship Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, pp. 465-474, 1998.
  26. Robinson, Ref. 9, pp. 63-64.
  27. The frozen mammoths of Siberia certainly are an argument for catastrophism (see Dillow, J.C., The Waters Above: Earth’s pre-flood vapour canopy, Revised edition, Moody Press, Chicago, p. 351, 1982, and the summary concerning mammoths by Whitcomb, J.C., The World that Perished, Revised edition, Baker, Grand Rapids, pp. 77-80, 1996). It might first appear that there does not seem to have been enough time between the Flood and Abraham (for instance, when most think of a relatively stable world) to have such vast numbers of mammoths around in Siberia alone. However the burial so close to the surface and in present river valleys suggests they might have been buried by flash floods from melting ice (see for example, How did millions of mammoth fossils form? Creation 21(4):56, 1999). This article argues that a population of 8 million mammoths would have been possible 550 years after the Flood—that is, up to the end of the probable Ice Age subsequent to the Flood. Some mammoths could have been buried in ice bursts similar to those observed recently in Iceland in 1996 (see Snelling, A., Iceland’s Recent “Mega-Flood”, Creation 21(3):46-48, 1996).
  28. Oard, M.J., Where is the Flood/post-Flood boundary in the rock record? TJ 10(2):258-278, 262, 1996.
  29. Taylor, J., Fossil Facts and Fantasies, Mt Blanco Publishing Co., ch. 4, pp. 36-47, 1999.
  30. For an excellent refutation of the view that Gen. 10:25 means the splitting of the continents, see Fouts, D.M., Peleg in Gen. 10:25, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41(March):17-21, 1998.
  31. Wiseman, D.J., Peleg; in, New Bible Dictionary, IVP, p. 957, 1962.
  32. Kidner, D., Genesis, Tyndale Press, p.109, 1967.
  33. Kevan, E., Commentary on Genesis; in: New Bible Commentary, (1st edition), IVF, p. 86, 1953.
  34. For example, Calvin, J., Genesis, 1554; Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, p. 324, 1984: ‘For after he [Moses] has mentioned Arphaxad as the third of the sons of Shem, he then names Peleg, his great grandson, in whose days the languages were divided.’ Also Keil C.F. and Delitzsch, F., Commentaries on the Old Testament, n.d., original German in the 19th century, English translation published by Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, The Pentateuch, Vol. 1, p. 171: ‘Among the descendants of Arphaxad, Eber’s eldest son received the name of Peleg, because in his days the earth, i.e. the population of the earth, was divided, in consequence of the building of the tower of Babel.’ Again, Leupold, H.C., Exposition of Genesis, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 378, 1942: ‘Peleg means “division”, for he lived at the time when the earth was divided (niphlegah) and the name given to the man is in memory of this event. The event referred to must be the one under consideration—the Confusion of Tongues.’
  35. Plage, D. and Plage, M., In the shadow of Krakatau, National Geographic 167(6):750-771, particularly pp. 754-761, 1985.
  36. Snelling, A.A., Introduction to Special Symposium ‘Where should we place the Flood/post-Flood boundary in the geological record?’ TJ 10(1):29-31, 1996.
  37. Morris, H.M., The geologic column and the Flood of Genesis, Creation Res. Soc. Quart. 33(1):49-57, 1996.
  38. Brown, W., In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for the Creation and the Flood, 6th (special) edition, Center for Scientific Creationism, Phoenix, Arizona, 1996.
  39. Selbrede, M.G., Dr Walt Brown’s Hydroplate Theory, Chalcedon Report (Sept.), pp. 37-45, 1998.
  40. Baumgardner, J.R., Runaway subduction as the driving mechanism for the Genesis Flood; in: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, pp. 63-76, 1994.
  41. Austin, S.A., Baumgardner, J.R., Humphreys, D.R., Snelling, A.A., Vardiman, L. and Wise, K.P., Catastrophic plate tectonics: a global Flood model of earth history; in: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, pp. 609-622, 1994.

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.