The Flood – Fact or Fiction?

Air-Commodore P. J. Wiseman, G.B.E., who spent many years with the R.A.F, in the Middle East and took part in archaeological work then with many of the leading modern scholars, gives the evidence found there concerning the flood.

It is an undeniable fact that modern archaeological research has ‘been a valuable ally to those scholars who accept the Bible view of its own history and compilation. It has been my privilege to meet many modern archaeologists and excavators, both European and American, to watch, and often to help them in their work. We often discussed this question of the relation of modern archaeological discovery to the historicity of the Bible. Generally they agree that the effect on their minds of these discoveries was to create a greater respect for the historical value and accuracy of the Bible.

Yet it is very necessary to explain that excavators do not begin by assuming or even expecting that their discoveries will show the truth of the Bible. As many of them have told me, they began their work with the usual stock of sceptical ideas about scripture, which existed in their places of education. In many instances these were often destructive of any real belief in its historical value. This unverified trust in the so-called “assured results of modern criticism” (so many of which are neither “modern” nor “assured"), is usually the groundwork on which they begin; but a new respect for the historical value of the Bible grows as their work proceeds.

Until more recent years the tendency of archaeologists was to regard the flood as mythical, or at least merely a reflection of an exceptionally bad flood in a country subject to flooding. This was changed by Sir Leonard Woolley’s discovery in 1929 at Ur. He describes what he calls “the most momentous discovery made” in these words: “As we went deeper the successive strata showed very little change; the types of pottery were uniform, and every­thing seemed to show that civilization had long been consistent, not to say static . . . at last, when we got to about the level of the outer plain, the workmen announced virgin soil, a clean water-laid clay without the slightest admixture of pottery or ash or other human debris: the only object that did come from it was a frag­ment of fossilized animal bone. That there might be no possible mistake we carried our pit deeper, through eight solid feet of clean clay, and then suddenly came on a flat stratum rich in flint chips and cores, pottery like that found above and painted fragments’.

He ended this account thus: ‘Only a flood – anti that one of unexampled magnitude – could have deposited the eight-foot bank of clay which we have found overlying the original settlement at Ur … He would have been an optimist indeed who had hoped to produce material evidence for such an event as the flood of Sumerian legend, which is also the Flood at the book of Genesis; but in no other way can I interpret the facts which our excavations here give us’.

Two days later Dr. Langdon, then Professor of Archaeology at Oxford University, gave what he described as ‘conclusive evidence that the Genesis story of the deluge is historical’. His opinion was based on the evidence he had discovered at Kish, near Babylon. He said: ‘When we made these discoveries two months ago we were loth to believe that we had obtained confirmation of the deluge of Genesis, but there is no doubt about it now’.

It is very noticeable that scholars, who once used to write of the flood as mythical, now write of it very confidently as historical. Of one thing we can be certain, the flood to which the Sumerians referred so frequently, though in crude, polluted form in comparison with the Biblical account, was not merely an event which frequently happened, but one great flood which cut clean across their history and left its mark to the remainder of time.

AIR COMMODORE WISEMAN has written about these and other discoveries in New Discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis, and in Modem Archaeology and the Bible.

A message well worth pondering by all who take, or aspire to, the position of elders.


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