Review: Grappling with the Chronology of the Genesis Flood

Click to see the MB product page

Click to see the MB product page

Steven W. Boyd & Andrew A. Snelling, Editors. Published by Master Books

Warning: this book is most definitely not for kids!

In fact, it’s so advanced I’m going to go past my normal article length to do it justice. But the topic was something I wanted to learn for myself so as to be able to help you better.

I asked to review this for Master Books only having seen the cover. Several months ago I’d read through the most recent issue of Answers Magazine and was surprised to see an article talking about the different theories of the timing of Noah’s Flood.

Did it peak at Day 150 or Day 40? Did it quickly peak and then start dropping right away, or did the waters continue to cover the whole world for many months?

I’d never heard anyone discuss this issue and had taken the basic English text and come to my own conclusions. It seemed plain enough I included my findings in my book manuscript. But, I’d assumed the Flood peaked at Day 150 while the article in Answers Magazine had a brief statement that the author believes the high point was already reached on Day 40… Next topic, please.

What? Why did he think that, and should I revise my book to accommodate this insight into the original language? I was left with more questions than before.

Here was a place to get answers.

My first view of the book was a bit of a shock. The book is a tome! The main body of the book takes up 756 pages followed by 72 more pages of glossary/index. Instantly, I was excited. Whatever they had to say was going to cover way more than a statement expecting me to just trust them.

The book was so big, it brought back memories of reading the Lord of the Rings for the first time. Here was a book I wouldn’t get to the end of in just a day or two.

As it turned out, in a learned and enlightening way it was a lot like reading the Lord of the Rings. Even to the suspense of just getting the first section. This book, big as it is, is only the first of three planned treatises on the subject! So, the only disappointment I had is how many loose ends there still were when I’d finished.

The book is so vast, I’m not going to try to describe all the subjects for you, but rather tell you what the experience of reading it is like.

It’s like sitting in on a series of lectures by university professors, specialists inCS4K-Salle_de_lecture_vue_d'ensemble various disciplines. Not lectures aimed at freshmen newbies, but rather to aid their fellow profs to understand what their research has uncovered.

You never get the sense that they expect you to already be well acquainted with their subject (except grad level English and even then there’s the glossary at the back), it’s more like they expect you to be quite smart, but having focused your studies on other things besides what they are covering.

The chapters are really scholarly papers, both in presentation and depth. This means, for the price of the book, you get full access to 16 in depth reports on various topics.

These topics vary wildly. My favorites were:

  • A review of creationist thinking on the geology we find and the hugely different takes scientist have had connecting the details of Scripture into it.
  • The closing application of Hebrew studies breaking the Flood text into topical paragraphs. This chapter alone makes the book a treasure for pastors and others wanting to dig deep into God’s Word. The same principles they uncover and apply to Genesis 6-9 work just as well all through the Old Testament.

I was surprised and a bit puzzled to see a long section on the philosophical theories of time. I slogged through that section with my eyes mostly crossed, but thought everyone’s (from Isaac Newton to Einstein) ideas rather silly. Who cares whether we can stuff time into a logical definition? But some people do, and the author of that section was covering the topic he was asked to.

If you look at the top of my copy of the book, you will see dozens of folded down corners where I high-lighted something I really enjoyed, but they tend to be in clusters. There are three long sections where the pages are all pristine. These were the spots I skipped completely because they were so technically focused on some esoteric linguistic topic. I didn’t worry about doing this as the opening chapter encourages such behavior, pointing the lay reader to the parts it would be most worth flipping to.

It took me about 30 hours to get to the back of the book, even with skipping, so there are a few things already fuzzy in my memory. Here are the things I found most interesting:

There is a verb form in Hebrew, called the way-ick-tall, that causes the most trouble in deciding the time frame for a passage. Some have thought every time it is used, things are being told in chronological order. But, this cannot be the case, as the book’s example after example (after example, after… you get the idea) show of places where the way-ick-talls did not move time ahead.

Why is this important? Some people try to claim the Bible says Noah got into the ark three times. They discredit the whole passage because of these verbs. For serious Bible students, recognizing this means some of the verses recorded later in the text can be talking about things happening earlier. More study must be done to figure the text out than just checking the verb form.

It was a delight to see the book apply the same carefulness with the text to Genesis chapters 2 and 3. Several of the points Boyd brought out I had never considered and the principle they were developing for the Flood chapters helps with those who claim Genesis 2’s recap of Creation is contradictory.

The way the authors unpacked the structure and focus of the Flood account was a pleasure as well. We learn to recognize Noah as the unifying theme throughout, along with God in both his judgment and mercy. The beauty of the Hebrew structure and literary style is inspiring. I’ve seen other places it is clear God chose a language that translates its feel well to new tongues. The book showed me several more ways it does this.

If you’ve ever wanted to study cause and effect, tense, or other fine points of grammar, this book is a great textbook. Over half the linguistic sections were not only readable, but interesting because of the ways they were presented. I got rather fond of Al, Bob, Carl, and their imagined playground exploits. And, when they weren’t starring, the examples were taken from the Bible or even, to my delight, from the Lord of the Rings!

Is this book for everyone? No, it is a scholarly work meant for serious students. But, if you enjoy using your brain and can read at a college level, this book is full of some extraordinary nuggets.

Perhaps best of all, we get to experience what it’s like being on the inside of an important moment of creationist development. The angst Dr. Snelling shows over the lack of coherence in the big picture we’ve been able to develop so far is palpable. Knowing this book and its future sequels is going to help clear this issue is an amazing feeling. Supporting this type of research is an honor.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. Genesis 6:8

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. New Leaf Publishers didn’t tell me what to write, all thoughts are my own.

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