Noah and his ark?


Okay… question here, about Noah, his ark, and the flood.

Literal or figurative story in the Old Testament? Or is that up to personal choice on what to believe? Is there an official Church stance? What is mostly accepted?


Evidence in the Med and in the Black Sea indicates that sometime over about 10,000 years ago there was a great flood that probably covered an extensive part of that part of the world. So yes there was a flood. There was also probably a man of legend named Noah who survived the flood. Was it all exactly as described in The Book? I believe we are free to speculate on the exact historical details and scientific facts, but there is for sure a lesson about our Faith and salvation there that needs to be learned and accepted. A legend by the way is not a myth and myths are not untruthful.

Lots of folks accept the whole story as complete fact, others do not. I believe the Church requires that we believe what is taught by the narrative including seeing the waters of the flood as prefiguring the purifying waters of Baptism…


As with all questions about Church teaching, it is wise to begin with the Catechism.

Paragraphs 1094 and 1219 demonstrate that the Catholic Church views the Flood as a prefiguring of the sacrament of baptism—i.e., salvation through water cleansing the sins of the world.

Paragraph 289 places special emphasis upon the first three chapters of Genesis as the principal source of catechesis of the mysteries of our origins; a kind of drama of sin and redemption later played out fully in Christ.

Paragraphs 109-114 tell us how we should interpret Scripture:

  1. As a whole
  2. As part of the living tradition of the Church
  3. As an analogy of faith

I typically quote the Catechism here, but in this case I’m going to simply give you an electronic link. You should become familiar with it yourself, and use it to answer questions about Catholic teaching as much as possible.

Online Catechism of the Catholic Church.


You are largely right (I’ve mentioned the relevant CCC passages above); however, while the Church requires that we believe Scripture to be true, it does not require us to believe it to be literally so in all instances, and in this one, you hit it right on the head with The Flood’s prefigurement of baptism.

Put another way, the importance of the Flood narrative to us is to demonstrate how God uses water to cleanse sin.



Scott Hahn has some interesting stuff that might help explain.
Start with Lesson One


The story of Noah is literal



Jesus said “…like in the days of Noah…”(Matthew and Luke gospels).

Saint Peter talks about the Noah event in 1 Peter 3.

It happened.

I’m surprised the tired “animal boat ride” cartoon with caption hasn’t showed up in this thread yet.


The OP is asking about the Church’s stance on this question.



One may believe this but the Church does not teach it.


I saw a science program some time ago and while it had nothing to do with Noah, it talked about how there was a whole bunch of water under the earth and that water suddenly burst toward the surface causing most of the earth to flood.

Combine THAT with a major rain storm in a localized area and sounds like the making of the biblical flood to me,


There is probably an historical event behind the Israelite story in Genesis - a severe flood in the area of the Persian Gulf, probably. As a text, there are many similarities between the account in Genesis (it is made of two accounts woven together), and a number of older Mesopotamian Flood-stories.

But as for a world-wide deluge - nothing in the text justifies this; the world of the authors of the Genesis account did not include China, Scotland, Canada or even Italy, & we cannot retroject our much greater geographical knowledge onto them, because they did not have it; that would be like supposing that because we are familiar with penicillin & motor cars, so must the Apostles have been. What the authirs of Genesis say has to be seen from their POV, & not from ours. If people could only remember that Genesis was not composed by 20th-century Westerners but by people living three thousand years ago, in their circumstances & not ours, there might be a lot less agonising over Genesis 1 to 11.

If OTOH inspiration gives one accurate knowledge of geography, astronomy, & of the details of the natural world, there might be a case for thinking that Israelites living in about 1000 BC had the knowledge of the world that was available in 2000 AD; but until someone shows that inspiration has that effect, there is no reason to imagine that it does. The authors spoke as men of their times & places - not as men of ours.

This limitation, on them as well as on us, does not make what - by our standards, not theirs - are errors in their work, any less valuable: the spiritual & artistic value of Dante’s Purgatorio is not affected by the absence of his Mountain of Purgatory from the Antipodes, & the value of Genesis as a revelation of God is not destroyed by the less than accurate notions about the earth’s geography which it presupposes.

The Church allows both these opinions, & those which treat the texts as though they meant that it was theologically necessary to believe in a world-wide flood. It could be argued that because Divine Providence has brought us a a text that, taken at face value, seems to teach a world-wide flood, that is in fact what God wishes us to believe. Whether this suggestion is adequate as theology is another matter; I don’t think it does justice to the incarnational character of the Church, or to the principle of condescension whereby God speaks to His children in the sort of language that may be objectively “inaccurate”, but is within their limited ability to understand.


Would you like to give us a scientific reference to the claim that there is or was free water below the surface that ‘burst’ out causing a global flood. I should be extremely interested in such a reference as I’d really like to read the scientific paper that makes that claim.

Or could it be that your memory is playing tricks?



Saw it on Nova or Discovery or one of those shows. They said that long ago most of our oceans didn’t exist and most of the water was under the surface. Then for some reason the water erupted covering most of the earth before settling in the lakes & oceans.

I’ll try to do a google search on it. You may want to do the same in case I am unsuccessful.


So is Revelation. So are all texts which use letters, or express an intelligible meaning. Every writing system which has left any literature behind at all has to be understood “literally” - no matter what is being said, unless we can arrive at what the surface markings that we know as writing mean as written signs, unless we can tell what their semantic value is, we have no way of taking the next step, which leads to understanding what the author is trying to convey by using those particular signs.

IOW, the concept of literality is less straightforward than it may appear.

  1. This is not a litera, a letter: 2 - it’s a sign indicating the whole number that follows the whole number we write as 1. It conveys meaning even so, whether what is numbered is real or not. 2 unicorns are “make-believe”, 2 teddy-bears are not: the value of the sign 2 is constant, no matter what it numbers. To understand it rightly, we have to take it “literally”.

  2. “It’s raining cats and dogs” does use letters - that does not mean that the writer lives in a world in which feline & canine mammals have replaced raindrops; nor that he is deluded, lying, or writing a fairy-story. The message those signs are expressing is: “It is raining heavily”; the “literal” or dictionary meaning of “rain”, “cat” “dog”, does not signify what the sentence as a whole signifies. The “literal” meaning of the sentence is not a reliable guide to what is meant by it. “It’s raining cats and dogs” is an idiom, a fashion of speech which would be nonsense in a word for word or literal translation, but makes sense once its function is understood. Idioms signify more than the sum of their parts would suggest, which is why knowledge of only the parts is unhelpful.

  3. Even after the idioms & other linguistic features in a text have been recognised as what they are, the meaning of the text can still be missed. This is because idioms, & other uses of language in texts, do not tell what literary genre a text belongs to. The fact of being written tells one nothing about the relation to reality of what is written - similes & metaphors appear in novels, historical texts, fantasies. “King Kong” does not become historically true merely by mentioning New York during the Depression, so it cannot be assumed that such an animal really existed, still less that the novel is based on reliable historical memories. Again, the “literal” meaning is not enough to show what an author means, what the signification of the text is.

AFAICS, what is often called “the literal meaning” is the same as what is called by some the “plain meaning”. This is not always straightforward either. “The plain meaning” can be a wrong meaning; but this phrase is less ambiguous than talk of “the literal meaning”. “Whisky” is the translation of a phrase meaning “water of life”; Rev. 22 speaks of “the water of life” for the Blessed - this does not mean that they will be drinking some distilled intoxicant.

Rev. 22 could easily be read as a work of literature - the meaning of what it says is not proof of its being of any greater value than (say) the Second book of Ezra, which was written at the same time. Ability to believe, & the believing that is its fruit, are purely Divine gifts. So a book can be literally true in some ways, & yet be a fiction.


You will be unsuccessful. I think that you must have misunderstood whatever TV programme you were watching. There is no scientific hypothesis or evidence for water once being held beneath the surface of the earth and bursting out causing a global flood. In fact there is no scientific support or evidence for a global flood at all. It is a myth or a story that has absolutely no empirical support whatsoever.

So you won’t claim in public ever again that scientists think that there was a subterranean reservoir of water that burst out and caused a global flood, will you? Promise?



No such promises because I was SUCCESSFUL in finding something here, here, here, here and THOUSANDS more if you search for “The Hydro-Plate Theory” – which describes a subterranean reservoir of water that bursted out and caused a global flood … something which I understood & remembered correctly. :thumbsup:


Ah - but I thought you said it was a SCIENCE programme. The Hydro-plate “theory” is the invention of the ridiculous Walt Brown whose absurd ideas about this are his and his alone. There isn’t a qualified geologist in the world who thinks Walt’s ideas have the least value. Basically Walt is a self-promoting creationist crank (he has many other silly and completely unsubstantiated ideas), who is not qualified in any of the subjects he gets laughably wrong. Can you give me a reference to a single scientific paper or respectable geological textbook that makes this nonsensical claim. No.

So you won’t claim in public ever again that scientists think that there was a subterranean reservoir of water that burst out and caused a global flood, will you? Promise?



Yes, it was a science show. It certainly wasn’t a cooking show. :rolleyes:

The man has a Ph.D. is Physics and has taught the subject on the college level according to his bio. I would suspect that makes him a little less than a “crank”.

I never claimed to have researched this theory in detail but merely that I saw an entire science show devoted to it.

Of course I will. I’ll take God’s Word and that of a “questionable” scientist over “reputable” scientists any day of the week.

Just because we lack enough information to understand something does not automaticly make it false. Remember that for thousands of years people questioned how God could have created light on the first day and the stars not until a few days later.

Then the Big Bang theory can along which explains that during the first moments of creation, the universe was bathed in photons (particles of light) all over the spectrum and some in the visible light range.

So much for doubting that light could have been created before the stars.

EDITTED TO ADDED: I don’t know if this is still the case but when I was growing up we were taught that science said that a bumble bee could not fly yet we all saw them flying. Just because science disproves something does not always make it so.


Ted Kaczynski has a Ph.D. in mathematics, taught on the college level and was considered by his peers to be a genius. I would suspect that even you would consider him a crank.

Of course I will. I’ll take God’s Word and that of a “questionable” scientist over “reputable” scientists any day of the week.

Then you probably agree with Robert Sungenis that the universe obits the earth.

Just because we lack enough information to understand something does not automaticly make it false.

We know enough to know that the “hydroplate theory” is false.




And what makes Walt Brown a crank? Because others do not agree with his theories? I’m sure that those who said that the earth was round were also called cranks by the “experts” of their day but who turned out to be right and who turned out to be the cranks?

Why? Is that what the bible says?

In the 1930’s we KNEW that drinking radioactive water produced numerous health benefits – established doctors at respected universities and hospitals were perscribing it to their patients … we KNEW that it would help them lead healthier & longer lives – we knew that until perfectly healthy people started coming down with cancer and dying.

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