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A Universal Flood: 3000 BC

by Dr. David Livingston


A Flatter Earth because mountains had not yet been heaved upward by the weight of new water on the earth's mantle.........
40 days of steady, pouring rain.........
Hundreds of volcanoes exploding all at once and myriads of new, large springs gushing huge amounts of water because "the fountains of the deep were broken up." (Genesis 7:11)

This was the flood of Noah's day. It was a worldwide catastrophic flood sent by God to destroy all living things except for eight people who survived on the Ark. And I must say, in passing, that "all living things" means ALL!

Two problems about which there are great differences are: the date of the flood, and whether it was local or universal. As for the date, I do not insist on it being exactly 3000 BC. It could be somewhere between 2400 and 4000 BC.

Critics of the flood narrative consider it either a myth, or a local flood story. There are seeming conflicts between the Bible and some areas of "science" relative to the date of the Great Flood. However, both biblical and extra-biblical literature, being eye-witness accounts, should control the dating, with secondary importance given to scientific opinions, and radiometric dating techniques. (After all, the C14 scale was calibrated using artifacts with known historical dates.)

For nineteen centuries Christian scholars were convinced by God's Word that the earth was created by fiat in six days, a few thousand years ago. Only in the last 150 years or so have Christian scholars cooperated with evolutionary philosophers who insist that the universe and earth are billions of years old. Many scholars, if they believe in a flood at all, contend that it was a local event and happened as long as 100,000 years ago. In general they hold to the following principles:

  • "Universal" means all that Noah could see. Only his personal "world" was flooded.
  • Present high mountains have been there for millions of years and were as high before the flood as they are now. There simply was not enough water to cover them all (Mt. Everest, for instance, is 29,000 feet high, thus the flood waters would have to be almost six miles deep). "If that much water covered all the earth, where could it possibly have gone after the flood?" they ask.
  • The "days" of Genesis 1 were long periods of time. Most local flood proponents believe in a very old earth been in existence at least a million years with long palaeo-, meso-, and neolithic prehistorical periods.

Languages Used

The Hebrew word mabbul is the word for "flood" used throughout Genesis 6-9. It is a unique word used only for this stupendous event. Eight other Hebrew words are used to describe floods in local streams and rivers. But none of these compare with the extent of the Great Flood.

The Greek word , used both in the Septuagint and in the New Testament, hardly needs interpretation. Cataclysm describes violent destruction. It occurs in Matthew 24: 38-39; and Luke 17: 26-27. In 2 Peter 3: 5-6 we are reminded of that which mankind desires to forget: that is, that God made the heavens and earth with its water, and by that water the world was "cataclysthized" destroying the surface of the earth and all living, breathing creatures. Peter prophesied in 2 Peter 3: 3-6 that scoffers will deny the world was destroyed by a flood. He said these willfully ignore this stupendous event.

In verses 10-11, a prophecy of the destruction of the entire universe is described, with the Great Flood used as an analogy. How could a local flood be the analogy for this awful event?

(Click picture for larger view)

 1.1 Literary parallels to the biblical account

Which came first: the biblical narrative of the Flood, or the Mesopotamian epics? There are three choices:
1) the epics were written first, and the writers of Scripture used them; 2) the Bible was written first, and the epics copied them; 3) both the Bible and the epics were dependent on a primitive original. Most scholars insist that the writer of Genesis used elements from local epics, but this is impossible to prove, nor is it likely with the oddities in them. On the other hand, the theory of a primitive original is based on no evidence whatsoever and is simply an opinion of those who hold to it. Although difficult to prove, the preferred choice is that the biblical record came first and was a basis for the others.

1.2   We begin with Josephus who had access to documents no longer available today. He said, "The time of this event [that is, the flood] was 2262 years after the birth of Adam, the first man; the date is recorded in the sacred books . . ." (Antiquities, Loeb, 39). Whiston in a footnote says, "Josephus here takes notice that these ancient genealogies were first set down by those that then lived, and from them were transmitted down to posterity; which I suppose to be the true account of that matter, for there is no reason to imagine that men [i.e., Adam and Eve] were not taught to read and write soon after they were taught to speak . . ." (Whiston 1.3.2, fn. 3, no Loeb, writer's brackets). If the sources of Genesis are taken into account (i.e., the toledots) it becomes quite certain that Moses used eye-witness testimonies for his compilation of Genesis, including the Flood narrative.

1.3 Sumerian Deluge Story

One of the oldest extra-biblical version of the flood story featured the survivor of the flood, Ziusudra. Found in the Nippur excavations early in the twentieth century, it dates to 1600 BC.

1.4 Gilgamesh Epic-Tablet XI

A well-known tale, found in Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite and Hurrian literature. He was the most popular hero in the Ancient Near East. The flood story in the epic has some similarities to the Bible, but there are also large differences.

Using the version from Ashurbanipal's library, in 1872, George Smith published the eleventh tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic as "The Chaldean Account of the Deluge." According to the Old Babylonian account, Gilgamesh traveled to see a survivor of the Flood, Utnapishtim, to learn how to gain immortality.

Alexander Heidel said (1963, 15), 'The date of the composition of the Gilgamesh Epic can therefore be fixed at about 2000 BC. But the material contained on these tablets is undoubtedly much older."

1.5 Sumerian Kinglists, the Flood and the Establishment of City-States

The Sumerian Kinglists are very old documents. They refer to the establishment of cities and kingship before and after the flood. The first fragments were published in 1906 and the kinglist sources were published by Thorkild Jacobsen in 1939.

Sumerian Kinglist Part I (Pre-Flood)

"When kingship was lowered from heaven, kingship was (first) in Eridu. . . . These are five cities, eight kings ruled them for 241,000 years. Then the Flood swept over the earth." This Flood was Noah's flood. It is the flood in which every human died except those on the Ark.

Since the outworkings of divine kingship was at least one of the reasons which brought on the flood and kingship was thus terminated, (divine) kingship had to be "lowered from heaven" again after the flood (see below).

Sumerian Kinglist Part II (Post-Flood)

"After the Flood had swept over the earth and when kingship was lowered again from heaven, kingship was first in Kish . . . Twenty-three kings thus ruled it for 24,510 years, 3 months and 3 1/2 days. Kish was defeated in battle, its kingship was removed to Eanna the divine Gilgamesh ruled 126 years; Ur-nun-gal, son of Gilgamesh, ruled 30 years; . . . Twelve kings thus ruled it for 2,310 years. Uruk was defeated in battle, its kingship was removed to Ur during 2050-1950 (at the peak of its glory and while Abraham was there).

Kish was the first city established after the flood. Excavations there indicate it was founded about 3000 BC. "Divine" Gilgamesh listed above, actually visited a survivor of the Flood (see Tablet XI of the Gilgamesh Epic). Therefore, he must have reigned shortly after the flood regardless what the kinglist says. It does not make sense to take the length of kings' reigns at face value.

1.6 Ras-Shamra (Ugaritic) Flood Story

First published in 1968, it was written on a single tablet. Only the beginning and end have been preserved, however. It dates to the Middle Babylonian period, but may be a copy of a much earlier Akkadian original. The hero is Atrahasis and what is available of the tablet seems to be like the Atrahasis Epic.

1.7 Berossus

A priest of Marduk, or Bel in Babylon, he had at his disposal hundreds of tablets written in Sumerian and Akkadian.

In Book two, Berossus' flood hero was Xisuthrus. The chief emphasis was the survival of man and the preservation of important books containing the principles of civilization so that after the flood man could begin again. However, although Berossus claims the books which he found and dug up were from before the flood does not mean they really were. Indications are that he was lying about them. The remainder of book two deals with the gradual re-establishment of civilization by the Babylonians.

These are only a few of the many accounts available to demonstrate that all are referring to a ca. 3000 BC flood.

2.1 Flood Levels in Mesopotamian Cities

Early in the archaeological excavations of Mesopotamian river valley sites, deep flood-deposited layers were discovered near the foundations of the cities. At first these were interpreted as evidence of Noah's Flood. However, as excavations continued, it became clear that they were only severe local floods, not the cataclysm of Noah's day.

The Sumerian King List begins with Kish immediately after the flood. Georges Roux said the kingdom of Kish began in approximately 2700 BC (1966: 120). H. W. F. Saggs pointed out that when the city of Kish was excavated, the earliest level was from the Jemdet Nasr period ( ca 2800-2400 BC,1962: 51, 60;).

The epic hero Gilgamesh was king of Uruk at about 2700 BC and, as the legend goes, was actually able to speak with a survivor of the flood. (This would be impossible with a much earlier 10,000 BC date for the flood.) The experiences of Gilgamesh, coupled with the Sumerian King List (in which he is mentioned), suggest a flood date close to 3000 BC.

2.2 Egypt

There is no flood tradition in Egyptian literature. It is important to realize that recorded Egyptian history began about 3000 BC. Egyptian pre-history was probably very short, with little time passing after the great Flood. (To see how much can happen in a short time, just consider how drastically our country has changed in only three hundred years.) Although Egyptian historians consider the pre-historical period to be quite long, C14 dates, out of necessity used almost entirely to date pre-historic remains, are not reliable before 3000 BC.

The First Dynasty of pharaohs, after 3000 BC, appears to have been due to the arrival of a group of people from Mesopotamia, who in a short time established a complete civilization. Arts, crafts, architecture, etc. of a high level rather suddenly appeared all over Egypt. Most Egyptologists think that these new people came from Mesopotamia (Edwards 1964, 35-40; Emery 1961, 30-33; Kantor 1952, 239-50; Roux 1966, 80; Wilson 1956, 36-42).

Much of lower Egypt, at the founding of the First Dynasty, was marshland. Today's deserts were pasturelands. This was true as late as the 5th and 6th Dynasties. None of the land north of Lake Moeris was above water. (Frankfort 1948, 16, Kees 1961, 17-24). This includes the entire Delta, meaning the sea was at least 150 miles inland instead of at the present coast.

The first Pharaoh, Menes, is known for making embankments, draining swamps and establishing Memphis, which became for millennia the capital of Egypt. As founder of Memphis he was its "Creator" and was thus deified in the person of the god "Ptah." The account of this is found in the Memphite Theology. Indications of Lower (northern) Egypt as marsh is taken from tombs (Frankfort 1948, 17-20, 24f.; Wilson 1956, 58-60). This may have been during the period after the flood while the remaining waters were drying and Europe was still in its "ice age."

2.3 Ziggurats/Pyramids

Both in Mesopotamia and Egypt these monumental structures are attributable to the Early Dynasties. However, in neither case are any of them earlier than 3000 BC.

2.4 One Language

According to Scripture, "The whole earth was of one language and one speech" (Gen 11:1) before the Tower of Babel. But God confounded the builders speech so they no longer could understand each others. An amazing text is located in the Oxford Ashmolean Museum that confirms this event. Without reading the entire text, we find the following:

"In those days, the lands Subur and Hamazi, Harmony-tongued Sumer, the great land of the decrees of princeship . . . The whole universe, the people in unison, To Enlil with one tongue. . . The leader of the gods . . . Changed the speech in their mouths, brought contention into it, Into the speech of man that had been one."

The translator, Samuel Noah Kramer, commented, "It is beyond all doubt that the Sumerians believed that there was a time when all mankind spoke one and the same language."

3.1 Extent of the Flood: Geological Consequences

Today the continents and highest mountains are covered with sea fossils. Half of all the continental sediments are of oceanic origin. Geologists say this is because, at times, the continents have been under the sea. And this is exactly what would be the case in a worldwide flood. Since mountains have water-borne fossils at their highest elevations (including Mt. Everest!), it is evident that they were all under water at some time. This does not mean the waters had to be deep enough to cover modern Mt. Everest and other high mountains. Mountains are made by uplifting pressure on the earth's mantle no matter when one says it happened. It seems most unfortunate that students of geology do not take the Great Flood into consideration as they attempt to interpret geological data.

A century or so ago, scientists were saying that the concept of a young Earth had been disproved and that since the mountains had been around before the time of Noah, obviously, they could not have been covered by the flood waters. Without answers to these problems many theologians in the 1800s abandoned the Biblical doctrine of the global flood in favor of uniformitarianism. They responded to evolutionists by proposing a local flood which would be incapable of laying down the fossil-bearing, sedimentary rock around the world. Even today, many, if not most evangelical theologians, denominations, and seminaries teach this compromise. It is time that we reverse this trend!

The world before the flood was quite different from the world today. Some sort of global water vapor encircled the earth (Genesis 1:6-8). Furthermore, the topography was likely much less pronounced with mountain ranges composed of sedimentary and volcanic rocks attributable to the flood (Genesis 2:5), yet rivers flowed (2:10), there must have been great subterranean reservoirs of water.

At the appointed time, the "fountains of the great deep" spewed out their contents and the "windows of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:11) as the canopy was precipitated.

3.2 Radioactive Isotopes Dating Methods:

How are they calibrated? Although the equipment used to date radio-active materials has become more sophisticated through time, basic problems originally discovered by Willard Libby, inventor of the C14 dating method, still hold true. Calibrated using known dates of Egyptian tomb artifacts, it has proven somewhat accurate back to about 2000 BC. But there are problems for radio carbon dating older than 5000 BP (Before Present). Dates earlier than that cannot be calibrated since there is no historical material older than 5000 BP. Furthermore, as Libby made clear in his publication, all "dates" higher than 5000 years BP are not absolute dates, but only the measure of residual C14. Dendrochronology does not help, either, since under certain conditions trees can grow two and sometimes three rings a year. (Libby, 1965, ix, for an application to Mesopotamia, see Mallowan 1968, 7-8).

Max Mallowan reported in Cambridge Ancient History that Early Dynastic I in Mesopotamia should begin about 2000 BC. However, C14 tests were in great opposition to this which created problems for radio carbon dating older than 4000 BP (Before Present). While developing the C14 method, W. Libby himself said:

"The first shock Dr. Arnold and I had was that our advisors informed us that history extended back only 5000 years. We had initially thought that we would be able to get samples along the curve back to 30,000 years, put the points in, and then our work would be finished . . . We learned rather abruptly that these numbers, these ancient ages are not known; in fact, it is about the time of the first dynasty in Egypt that the last [earliest] historical date of any real certainty has been established" (Libby 1958, 531). "The larger group of scientists which question specific dates . . . are probably closer to the actual fact. That is, some radio-carbon dates do not indicate the age of the phenomena described for the samples, even though such dates represent true determinations of the quantities of radiocarbon in the samples" (our emphasis Libby 1965, 144).

Ancient Iraq
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(Click picture for larger view)

3.3 River Deltas Begin Forming Worldwide about 3000 BC

There was only one event in the history of man which was such a stupendous catastrophe as to make it possible for rivers worldwide to begin flowing at about the same time Flood. As the Flood waters dried and rain began falling, rivers cut new channels into unconsolidated, recently deposited sediments and began depositing sediments at their mouths to form deltas. Investigations of these have revealed that, worldwide, river deltas are only a few thousand years old.

1. The Tigris and Euphrates delta is formed in the Persian Gulf. Maps of the earliest periods of history show the shoreline as far north as Ur. That means the delta has filled in at least 150 miles during recorded times.
2. Greek historian Herodotus, reported that Egyptian priests told him none of the land north of Lake Moeris (upriver, south from Cairo) was above water at the beginning of the First Dynasty (p. 104).
3. The depth of the Mississippi River delta was investigated as long ago as 1850 and found to be only 40 feet deep. It has not been flowing very long.
4. One other time-measuring feature -- Niagara Falls -- began falling and receding from Lake Ontario toward Lake Erie less than 10,000 years ago. The point is that none of these rivers could have been flowing for even 10,000 years, and probably less. The usual answer to this is that, until recently, the water was locked up for tens of thousands of years in vast ice sheets. However, this cannot be the case for the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, and the Amazon River, the latter second only to the Nile in length.

Of course, the climate would be altered by catastrophes accompanying the flood. Whereas rain had not fallen before the flood, afterward it became a regular event. Rainbows can be seen in the falling water vapor as God's sign that He would never destroy the earth by water again.

Please note: If the Great Flood was only a local event, God's promise is broken every time a severe local flood occurs.

4.1 Prehistoric man has been described as living in the "stone age." However, stone age people are a relative phenomenon. In every generation, including ours, since the beginning of time, some people have lived in a "stone age," while other nearby people lived with advanced civilizations. The point is that the age of a culture should not be dated based on their use of stone implements. Braidwood's opinion, typical of many prehistorians,was completely speculative when he said,

"Prehistory means the time before written history began. Actually, more than 99 percent of man's story is prehistory. Man is probably well over a million years old, but he did not begin to write history (or to write anything) until about 5,000 years ago"(1967, 1).

If man could not, and did not write during prehistory, there is no way to be sure of his age (of one million years), sophisticated dating methods notwithstanding. This is maintained because radioactive dating methods cannot be calibrated with known dates before 5,000 years ago, thus cannot date stone age cultures which are usually proclaimed to be much older than 3000 BC.

The Table of Nations
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4.2 All Families on earth came from Noah and his sons

Considering the Flood as universal, all mankind since descended from the sons of Noah. All these geneologies begin about 3000 BC. After the flood, God told Noah the same as He told Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful, and multiply! Fill up the earth (with people)." God seems to have no concern about over-population of the planet.

The names of men who fathered the families of mankind are, for the most part, readily found in historical records. For instance, the Ionians (Greeks, Daniel 10: 20) trace their ancestry to Javan (transliterated from Hebrew yavan), the son of Japheth. Mizraim, son of Ham, to this very day, is the Hebrew name for Egypt. And the sons of Shem are the Semites. Thus, all mankind today could, if they knew their lineage, trace it back to Noah's sons.

William Henry Green, a nineteenth century Princeton theologian, influenced many to accept large gaps in the genealogical records. In his opinion, ". . . we conclude that the Scriptures furnish no data for a chronological computation prior to the life of Abraham; and that the Mosaic records do not fix and were not intended to fix the precise date either of the Flood or of the creation of the world" (1890, 303). He has allowed for great genealogical gaps in order to accommodate scientific information which many believe indicates a very old earth (1890, 286) However, it seems obvious that Green did not understand the importance of closely connected geneologies and why they were necessary.

Review and Conclusion: Reasons for A Universal Flood

River deltas suggest a recent (ca. 3000 BC?) flood.

Families of mankind began then. Geneologies date back to it. Long gaps repudiate geneologies.

If as some scholars maintain, that mankind has been around for over a million years during the "stone ages," surely the entire globe was inhabited with humans by the time of Noah's Flood. For comparison, consider the mass of humanity that have come about in only 5000 years. Beginning with eight people, and in spite of wars, famine, and plagues mankind has grown in numbers to the present six billion souls. Therefore, if the globe was filled with humans (whatever the land mass was at that time) it was imperative, to accomplish God's purpose, that the flood be universal in the truest sense of that word.

Considering the biblical narrative, which says that the flood was universal, the words "all" and "every" are used 16 times in Genesis 6-9 to describe the totality of the flood.

The biblical account did not derive from other literature. It is eye-witness testimony. The Gilgamesh Epic (and other epics) fit well into a 3000 BC date. "Flood traditions" even though not as accurate as the Bible, all say the ark came to rest on a mountain. That would be impossible with a local flood. The Ark would simply float out into the ocean and would still be there today!

All written history begins ca. 3000 BC. If, as some scholars claim, the Flood occurred as early as 100,000, or as late as 10,000 BC (instead of 3000 BC), then why has no one discovered anything indicating a 7000 year (or larger) gap in Scripture, nor in any of the other literature of the Ancient Near East?

Cush was the grandson of Noah. The descendants of "Cush" built cities in Mesopotamia whose foundations date no earlier than 3000 BC (Genesis 10). Cities that are said to be older: Jericho (7000 BC), Jarmo (6000 BC), etc., were dated by C14 which cannot be calibrated by known dates any time earlier than 5000 years before the present. As Libby said, more caution should be used when considering these early dates.

70% of the earth is presently covered with water in sufficient quantity to cover the entire (flattened out) earth to a depth of about 7,500 feet. Present mountain ranges are mostly sedimentary rocks attributable to flooding, or volcanism. They could have been formed during the Flood, or finished rising just after it. Thus we can conclude that the biblical story is, indeed, quite reasonable as it is.

Conclusion: There Was a Universal Flood ca. 5000 Years Ago


Braidwood, R.J.
1967 Prehistoric Man. Glenview IL: Scott Foresman

Burney, C.
1977 The Ancient Near East. Ithaca: Cornell University Press

Collins, J. J.
1983 "Sybilline Oracles" Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1, ed. J.W. Charlesworth. Garden City: Doubleday, 317-472

Currid, J. D.
1997 Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Books

Edwards, I. E. S.
1971 The Early Dynastic Period in Egypt. Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. I, Part 2, Chap. 11 Cambridge MA: University Press

Emery, W. B.
1961 Archaic Egypt. Baltimore: Penguin

Frymer-Kensky, T.
1978 "What the Babylonian Flood Stories Can and Cannot Teach Us About the Genesis Flood," BAR 11-12 , pp. 32-41.

Gadd, C. J. The Cities of Babylon. Cambridge Ancient History,, Vol. 1, Part 2, Chap.XIII
1971 Cambridge MA: University Press,

Green, W. H.
1890 Primeval Chronology. Bibliotheca Sacra 48, 286-303

Hallo, W.
1970 Antediluvian Cities. JCS 23: 61-62

1965 (Reprint) The Histories. Baltimore: Penquin Classics.

Hoffman, M. A.
1979 Egypt Before the Pharaohs. New York: Dorset Press

Heidel, A.
1963 The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago: University Press

Jacobsen, T.
1939 The Sumerian King List. Chicago: University Press,

1998 Jewish Antiquities. Books I-III Loeb Classics, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press,

Kantor, H. J.
1952 Further Evidence for Early Mesopotamian Relations with Egypt. JNES 11, 239-50

Kees, H.
1961 Ancient Egypt. Chicago: University Press

Kruger, M.
1996 Does "All" Always Mean All? Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal. 10: 2, 214-18.

Lambert, W. G. and Millard, A. R.
1969 Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford: Clarendon

Libby, W. F.
1958 Chemistry and the Atomic Nucleus, American Journal of Physics. 26, 528-41
1965 Radiocarbon Dating. Chicago: University Press

Mallowan, M. E. L.
1971 The Early Dynastic Period in Mesopotamia. Cambridge Ancient History, Vol.I, Part 2, Chap XVI, Cambridge: University Press,

Roux, G.
1966 Ancient Iraq. Middlesex, England: Penguin

Saggs, H. W. F.
1962 The Greatness That Was Babylon. New York: Mentor

Whiston, W.
n.d. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Boston: D Lothrop & Co.

Wilson, J. A.
1956 The Culture of Ancient Egypt. Chicago: University Press

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