THE REALITY OF BIBLICAL CATASTROPHES PART TWO

CHAPTER 1: A Mundane Account of Unexpected Importance

In the book of Genesis a list of ‘begottens’ is recorded. In this seemingly exhaustive presentation that goes on for page after tedious page, entries are made for the ancient patriarchs and their ages at the times when they fathered children and for the times of their deaths. Most of us have difficulty in reading these passages. We find them to be quite boring and question why a religious document would bother with such seemingly extraneous trivia. Seeing little in this presentation that furnishes insight into the nature of God or His Creation, we usually skip over the ‘begottens’ without a second glance.

Biblical scholar Donald Patten, however, must have observed something in this listing which turned the mundane into something altogether different. Applying the data contained therein to a graph of lifetimes versus generational sequence, he saw in the result a remarkable pattern. I cannot speak for the mental processes which led to Mr. Patten’s hypotheses. But his writings suggest that it was from this pattern, which he included in his 1966 book The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch, that he truly began to understand the initial text of the Book of Genesis at a much deeper level than most Christians. The graph itself fit well with a constant lifetime up to the time of Noah’s flood, and with an exponential decline thereafter toward the present typical lifetime of seventy years. The exponential curve is well-known among physicists and engineers, a typical example being the time-variant voltage across a capacitor as current is discharged through a resistor.

The exponential nature of this graph is typical of natural processes, indicating rather strongly that one or more of such processes came into play after the flood that sharply reduced the lifetimes of the earth’s inhabitants. That, in turn, suggests that the events associated with the flood caused a significant change to the earth itself. Patten took up the challenge of this suggestion and investigated further. After reflecting on the possible reasons for a drastic reduction in longevity, he proposed that the antediluvian atmosphere contained significantly more water vapor than the present regime, and that there was far less wind and turbulence to cause atmospheric mixing among the various layers. Long-wave radiation from the earth would tend to be absorbed in the upper atmosphere before it reached the ozone layer, making it less effective as a decomposition agent. As a consequence, he reflected, the antediluvian regime had more ozone in the upper atmosphere and less toxic ozone at the surface. Both of these factors would have contributed to a greater longevity prior to the flood.

But there was more that came out of Patten’s conjecture than an answer to the longevity question. Why, he asked, was the atmosphere so different before the flood? What mechanism, which ceased to exist after the deluge, could have produced the pre-flood climatic conditions? By the time he obtained what to him were satisfactory answers to these questions, the Bible must have literally come alive in his mind. Passages in the book of Genesis which had appeared to make little sense before suddenly became strikingly clear and utterly simple of understanding. Rather than representing isolated islands of unconnected, unimportant, and fuzzy thought, they meshed together beautifully to form a precise and self-consistent picture of the climate system of the earth prior to the flood and the destruction of that regime. The picture which emerged of the flood itself described an event of planetary scope and awesome violence.

One of the first of these passages in the book of Genesis which Patten tackled in the pursuit of answers to his questions is the mysterious description of the ‘firmament’ in the first chapter:

“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. . .And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.”

In the context of our understanding of the world as it exists today, this passage seems to be so difficult of visualization as to be incomprehensible. This problem of visualization continues into the second chapter of Genesis, where the source of water upon the earth is said to be a mist from the ground rather than rain.

“. . .for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.”

The difficulty with a meaningful interpretation continues on through the flood of Noah, with many readers of Scripture viewing in these words a lack of sophistication on the part of the writer. Such suspicions tempt those who harbor them to dismiss as unjustified the notion that the Bible was divinely inspired. They invariably choose instead the only alternative answer that appears to makes sense: that the Biblical authors were so primitive of mind that they simply recorded myths handed down from the distant past, and garbled ones at that. The rainbow covenant of God related in the ninth chapter of Genesis is often cited as an example of Biblical myth, being considered a theatrical presentation of the mundane:

“And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

In these passages the supposedly naïve Patten, apparently so lacking in sophistication that he failed to see the same mythical elements in this passage that everyone else did, caught a glimpse of a startling truth. From that perceived truth he formed a novel thesis. He claimed that the earth was once surrounded by a globular canopy of water vapor, in Biblical terminology the waters above the heavens. This water canopy served to moderate the temperature differential between the poles and the equator. With this canopy, our present weather mechanism did not exist before the Flood, the previous order being entirely different than what we observe today. In that order few, if any, clouds formed and very little, if any, rain fell.

With the canopy gone, clouds formed for the first time, produced by the much larger temperature differential that prevailed in the absence of the canopy. The familiar rainbow became possible with the advent of rain. It would be seen from that time forward because the canopy no longer existed. The ‘mythical’ statement, discarded by generations of scholars to be virtually extraneous to the subject, turned out to be a clue to understanding the entire first chapter of Genesis with a clarity that must have been entirely unexpected.

There are other Christian researchers who have also failed to be outsmarted by their own presumed sophistication. These have been so bold instead as to consider these passages in Genesis to have scientific validity. Henry Morris, for example, collaborated with John Whitcomb in writing The Genesis Flood, an extensively researched account of that event. In that book, the concepts and techniques of modern science are carefully applied to the examination of evidence that the flood, as presented in the Bible, actually occurred and was of planetary scale.

Taking a more secular approach to world history, geographer Charles Hapgood found evidence in old maps of a high level of technical sophistication of ancient societies. He marveled at the remarkable information embedded in obscure pre-renaissance maritime charts, some of which accurately depicted the Antarctic continent as if it was free of the ice sheet which currently obscures the shoreline. In the course of his research into the source of these ancient maps, he came to a similar appreciation of great catastrophes of planetary scope which destroyed and buried entire civilizations. He devoted an enormous amount of time and effort in the pursuit of his own theory that the earth’s poles had shifted frequently in the past, with devastating effects on the earth and its civilizations. He was able to obtain the interest of Einstein in his books on the subject, as well as from the public at large. But the attention span of the public was fleeting. It was an interesting topic for a while, but since it didn’t fit in well with the standard party line, it was soon forgotten.

Much more recently, the father-son team of Luis and Walter Alvarez succeeded in the 1990s in scientifically linking the extinction of the dinosaurs with an event which occurred suddenly and was worldwide in its effects. This connection created repercussions within the scientific community which, although not yet appreciated outside that community, are leading to drastic revisions of our understanding of natural history.

In this same time frame, a number of astronomers and archaeologists have been gathering increasingly irrefutable evidence in support of several major catastrophic events that have been visited on earth in the recent past, one of which appears to have caused an end to the latest ice age a mere ten thousand years ago. An increasing number of these scientists have come to at least privately reject the uniformitarian scheme so loudly proclaimed by their more vocal colleagues. According to archaeology author Graham Hancock, the ranks of those who have perceived the profound influence of catastrophes on the recent history of Earth include Sir Fred Hoyle, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, and Drs. Napier and Clube, all of whom are eminent in the field of astronomy.

Patten and the others noted above were not the first of the modern catastrophists. The main thrust of their theses followed those of the Russian-born physician Immanuel Velikovsky, who was the real pioneer of this new paradigm. Around the mid-twentieth century, Velikovsky created an uproar within the scientific community with his carefully-researched account of recent and recurring catastrophes on earth that involved not only the flood, but great periodic upheavals which followed that event. The name-calling and general mayhem that accompanied his books rivaled the violence of which he wrote. Einstein thought his old associate should have seen more humor in the situation: it was difficult to see which was more epic, the catastrophes or the mud-slinging among the uniformitarian-based scientists, who conducted a veritable inquisition. Their tactics had the intellectual honesty and maturity of restraint of a third-grade playground. People are still writing about the episode, trying to explain in quasi-scientific terms how supposedly rational professionals could allow themselves to degenerate into animals.

The cause of this consternation was Velikovsky’s assertion that enormous upheavals recurred at various times throughout ancient times from the flood until about the eighth century B.C or even later. The continuous freedom from Earth-wide catastrophe which the world has enjoyed since that time has permitted mankind to forget the terrible destruction that prevailed earlier and the pervasive fear which accompanied it.

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One response to this post.

  1. Thank you for that beautiful translation. I agree with all that you compiled, very well done! It is the translation of “man” that brings up doubt because our minds are closed. When we seek knowledge one should ask for the truth and believe without-a-doubt the answer the creator “I choose to call GOD,” gives to us. The outer water layer gives more proof that no one has to be wrong? Maybe together we can all be right!
    Those people at NASA and astrologers might just want to read some of Genesis too! We are held to this earth by gravity and it is the gravity of the sun that holds the earth from flying off to space. Maybe it is time to do some measuring of distances of the planets? Finally, last time I taught or informed is that there looks to be traces of water on Mars and please correct me if I am wrong, does’nt Venus have ice?
    Blessing’s to all!

    David

    Reply

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