Was the flood/creation account Historical?


#1

When Dei Verbum said

“Therefore since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings [5] for the sake of our salvation”

Does that mean only things which pertain to man’s salvation are true viz, the truths “for the sake of our salvation”


#2

No-one really knows for sure. Noah forgot to pack paper and pencils for the trip, and everyone else drowned.


#3

[quote=John of Woking]When Dei Verbum said

“Therefore since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings [5] for the sake of our salvation”

Does that mean only things which pertain to man’s salvation are true viz, the truths “for the sake of our salvation”
[/quote]

No. It means the truth is there. And it’s there for our salvation.


#4

There are two flood accounts and two creation accounts.

These writings were not ever good sources of history, they reflect oral traditions handed down through Semitic people in the levant.

There are several interesting theories as to the origin of the flood story. The point is, the Bible is not a history text.

The Bible will not teach us math, science, logic, geology or world history. It teaches us what God wants us to know and think about Him. The stories provide a vehicle to get these ideas across.

The parables of Jesus are another way of doing this, they draw from the real fabric of life in His day, but they are fictional. The parables still can inform us in their powerful retellings.

Evolution as a theory may be a challenge to Creationism as a theory, but Evolution does not directly contradict the Catholic Christian Faith. God could chose to work in just such a way to form the material world and it’s created lifeforms. We are not in a position to discount that as a possibility.


#5

See Pontifical Bible Commission declaration, “On the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis.”

From MSgr John F. McCarthy’s article, "Pontifical Biblical Commission: Yesterday And Today "
catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=4679

Between 1905 and 1915 the Pontifical Biblical Commission emitted fifty-nine authoritative replies regarding certain doubts raised by historical critics. Among other things the Commission in 1905 denied that “those books of Sacred Scripture which are regarded as historical, either wholly or in part, sometimes narrate what is not history properly so-called and objectively true, but only have the appearance of history and are intended to convey a meaning different from the strictly literal or historical sense of the words” (EB 161). In 1909 it excluded that “the various exegetical systems which have been elaborated and defended by the aid of pseudo-science to exclude the literal historical sense of the first three chapters of Genesis are based upon solid arguments” (EB 324). And also in 1909 it denied that “the three aforesaid chapters . . . contain [purified] fables derived from mythologies and cosmologies belonging to older nations . . . ; or that they contain allegories and symbols destitute of any foundation in objective reality but presented under the garb of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truth; or, finally, that they contain legends partly historical and partly fictitious, freely handled for the instruction and edification of souls” (EB 325).


#6

That’s an overly broad characterization. For instance, are you saying that the miracles performed by Jesus are not historical?


#7

Exactly! The bible is a library - a collection of books - and these books contain all the different literary forms authors have always used. To assume all are literal history is to often miss the entire point of the author. The bible is also a lens - a device used to see God more clearly, not to learn history or science. Stories such as Noah, Jonah, Adam & Eve, etc. are teaching great truths but it is a terrible injustice to the author to miss the points while debating historical accuracy.

An excellent Catholic book on this subject is “And God Said What?” by Dr. Margaret Ralph.

This is all in accord with Dei Verbum which states:

To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms.” For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.


#8

[quote=patg]Exactly! The bible is a library - a collection of books - and these books contain all the different literary forms authors have always used. To assume all are literal history is to often miss the entire point of the author. The bible is also a lens - a device used to see God more clearly, not to learn history or science. Stories such as Noah, Jonah, Adam & Eve, etc. are teaching great truths but it is a terrible injustice to the author to miss the points while debating historical accuracy.

An excellent Catholic book on this subject is “And God Said What?” by Dr. Margaret Ralph.

This is all in accord with Dei Verbum which states:

To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms.” For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.
[/quote]

IOW - it’s unreasonable to treat the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 as though it were an historical text such as we find in 1 and 2 Kings; or to treat the Song of Songs as though it were history. Or as though it “must be” history; for historical truth is not the only sort - if it were, books on astronomy would be valueless, because they are concerned not with history, but with astronomy. as would recipe-books, and most others.

Can’t people see the difference between reports of a football match, a trial, and the FTSE index ? We take these things in our stride, and don’t insist the FTSE index is worthless rubbish for failing to tell us about the OJ trial or the Kennedy assassinations of 1963 and 1968. Yet these all convey truth in different ways.

So with the Biblical texts - it makes no to insist they must all be historical texts; it would be as loopy to insist they must all be love poems or laments or prophecies or mathematical texts: As though being inspired made the literature in the Bible less various, less human, than non-inspired. ##


#9

John of Woking,

Fr. William Most addresses what Dei Verbum #11 means in his article here:

Basic Scripture
geocities.com/Athens/7273/scr525p1.htm


#10

[quote=miguel]That’s an overly broad characterization. For instance, are you saying that the miracles performed by Jesus are not historical?
[/quote]

No, I am not saying that.

I am also not saying that they are historical. That is not to say that I think they did not happen, it is to say that you are not going to learn history from these things.

The truth of the raising of Lazarus, or the healing of the paralytic or any of these other marvelous incidents doesn’t make them history. The authors of the Gospels retold them from oral accounts. The order of the incidents is all jumbled up between the various authors, that will tell us two things: they probably are true stories and the people who recorded them for us weren’t attempting to write a biography. They were compiling spiritual snippets for the retelling in Eucharistic celebrations.

Compare that to a family reunion where all the old-timers are telling stories about great-grandfather, now long gone. First one person tells a story and that reminds someone else about another incident. The dates and locations become kind of vague in the retelling and no one is quite sure when the boat sank or when the bear got into the kitchen but everyone knows that the stories are true. That’s not history, but it makes for a delightful evening.

But as far as Genesis goes, it’s better if we recognize right off the bat that the authors were not journalists. They were not writing it all down as witnesses, they were told these stories and wrote them down to save them for us, because the stories had value in and of themselves. There are lessons for us in the stories.


#11

[quote=Hesychios]No, I am not saying that.

I am also not saying that they are historical. That is not to say that I think they did not happen, it is to say that you are not going to learn history from these things.

The truth of the raising of Lazarus, or the healing of the paralytic or any of these other marvelous incidents doesn’t make them history. The authors of the Gospels retold them from oral accounts. The order of the incidents is all jumbled up between the various authors, that will tell us two things: they probably are true stories and the people who recorded them for us weren’t attempting to write a biography. They were compiling spiritual snippets for the retelling in Eucharistic celebrations.

Compare that to a family reunion where all the old-timers are telling stories about great-grandfather, now long gone. First one person tells a story and that reminds someone else about another incident. The dates and locations become kind of vague in the retelling and no one is quite sure when the boat sank or when the bear got into the kitchen but everyone knows that the stories are true. That’s not history, but it makes for a delightful evening.

But as far as Genesis goes, it’s better if we recognize right off the bat that the authors were not journalists. They were not writing it all down as witnesses, they were told these stories and wrote them down to save them for us, because the stories had value in and of themselves. There are lessons for us in the stories.
[/quote]

To me, if an event really happened in the past, it’s historical. The fact that God created the universe and the earth and populated it with vegetation and critters, including Adam and Eve (the first couple) is historical. But are all the chronological details of God’s creation process recorded? Obviously not. That’s up to science to figure out if it can. The fact that death came into the world because of Adam and Eve’s sin (original sin) is also historical. The flood is also historical. Are we told every detail? No. But that doesn’t mean the details we are told are not historical. In that respect, Christ’s miracles, since they really happened, are also historical.


#12

[quote=miguel]To me, if an event really happened in the past, it’s historical. The fact that God created the universe and the earth and populated it with vegetation and critters, including Adam and Eve (the first couple) is historical. But are all the chronological details of God’s creation process recorded? Obviously not. That’s up to science to figure out if it can. The fact that death came into the world because of Adam and Eve’s sin (original sin) is also historical. The flood is also historical. Are we told every detail? No. But that doesn’t mean the details we are told are not historical. In that respect, Christ’s miracles, since they really happened, are also historical.
[/quote]

This is a serious misuse of the term “historical”. The events you are referring to are matters of faith and are accepted or not accepted based on one’s faith. History deals with actual physical events which can be verified in some way. Yes, there may have been some type of major flood - that qualifies as history. Was it caused by God for the reasons given in the bible? History has no way of determining this. Thus it is a matter of faith NOT history.

Did Christ’s miracles realy happen? These are supernatural events and as such are outside the realm of history - again, matters of faith.


#13

[quote=patg]This is a serious misuse of the term “historical”. The events you are referring to are matters of faith and are accepted or not accepted based on one’s faith. History deals with actual physical events which can be verified in some way. Yes, there may have been some type of major flood - that qualifies as history. Was it caused by God for the reasons given in the bible? History has no way of determining this. Thus it is a matter of faith NOT history.

Did Christ’s miracles realy happen? These are supernatural events and as such are outside the realm of history - again, matters of faith.
[/quote]

Supernatural events can be empirically verifiable. You don’t need faith to notice a miracle. Likewise you don’t need faith to believe in the existence of God which can be known by the light of reason alone


#14

[quote=patg]This is a serious misuse of the term “historical”. The events you are referring to are matters of faith and are accepted or not accepted based on one’s faith. History deals with actual physical events which can be verified in some way. Yes, there may have been some type of major flood - that qualifies as history. Was it caused by God for the reasons given in the bible? History has no way of determining this. Thus it is a matter of faith NOT history.

Did Christ’s miracles realy happen? These are supernatural events and as such are outside the realm of history - again, matters of faith.
[/quote]

I guess I have a philosophical view of history. I maintain that any event that really occurred in the past is a historical event, whether or not we know about it, whether or not it can be verified. If it really occurred, it’s history. Just because historians don’t know about an event, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Historians are in the business of tweaking the historical record based on newly surfaced information. And when that happens, history doesn’t change, historians knowledge of history changes. I guess I also have a philosophical view of Faith. It doesn’t leave a person out on a limb without any support. For example, Catholic tradition has long held that the authors of two of the gospels, Mathew and John, were his apostles. As such, their writings are eyewitness accounts - the highest level of historical credibility. So I don’t think it’s accurate to just dismiss them as faith. Real people saw real events occur and wrote it down. In a nutshell, that’s what all history is.


#15

[quote=John of Woking]Supernatural events can be empirically verifiable. You don’t need faith to notice a miracle. Likewise you don’t need faith to believe in the existence of God which can be known by the light of reason alone
[/quote]

I have two problems with this reasoning:

  1. Events appear as miracles or not based on ones knowledge and world-view. Like [font=Arial]the weather being understood not as the result of God’s wrath, but as the result of such things as El Nino winds and low pressure systems, or when the victory or defeat of a nation in military conflict was explained not on the basis of divine intervention, but rather on which nation had the larger army and the greater military capability. The observation of a “miracle” is a VERY subjective event.[/font]
    [font=Arial][/font]
  2. Miracles were often attributed to people in the ancient world in order to increase their stature in the eyes of readers. There were many Jewish holy men and women to whom the same miracles Jesus performed (and others) were attributed. When almost nothing was known of science, biology, medicine, geology, and cosmology, miracles were quite common!

Pat


#16

One has to reconcile this :

11 I will establish my covenant with you, and all flesh shall be no more destroyed with the waters of a flood, neither shall there be from henceforth a flood to waste the earth.

15 And I will remember my covenant with you, and with every living soul that beareth flesh: and there shall no more be waters of a flood to destroy all flesh.

What exactly was God saying here?


#17

[quote=patg]I have two problems with this reasoning:

  1. Events appear as miracles or not based on ones knowledge and world-view. Like [font=Arial]the weather being understood not as the result of God’s wrath, but as the result of such things as El Nino winds and low pressure systems, or when the victory or defeat of a nation in military conflict was explained not on the basis of divine intervention, but rather on which nation had the larger army and the greater military capability. The observation of a “miracle” is a VERY subjective event.[/font]
    [font=Arial][/font]
  2. Miracles were often attributed to people in the ancient world in order to increase their stature in the eyes of readers. There were many Jewish holy men and women to whom the same miracles Jesus performed (and others) were attributed. When almost nothing was known of science, biology, medicine, geology, and cosmology, miracles were quite common!

Pat
[/quote]

  1. ST. Thomas calls miracles motives for Faith. They point to a specific supernatural intervention beyond the supernatural intervention which set the laws of bature into motion.The weather or the outcome of a war may be divinely guided but this is not miraculous. Miraculous means a transcending of the natural law.

  2. Ahem, Science can’t explain the Resurection of Lazarus or Christ. It cannot explain the Miracle of Fatima or certain healings. People may well mistakenly attribute natural events to miraculous causes but that does not exclude the reality of supernatural events which may compel one to believe but to have faith is certainly not a pre-requisite for witnessing a miracle.


#18

[quote=buffalo]One has to reconcile this :

11 I will establish my covenant with you, and all flesh shall be no more destroyed with the waters of a flood, neither shall there be from henceforth a flood to waste the earth.

15 And I will remember my covenant with you, and with every living soul that beareth flesh: and there shall no more be waters of a flood to destroy all flesh.

What exactly was God saying here?
[/quote]

The covenant seems to be based on a historical event.


#19

Here is an interesting web-site www.creationscience.com/

Thanks for starting the thread. It got me thinking and I did a little traveling around the inter-net.


#20

[quote=patg]I have two problems with this reasoning:

  1. Events appear as miracles or not based on ones knowledge and world-view. Like [font=Arial]the weather being understood not as the result of God’s wrath, but as the result of such things as El Nino winds and low pressure systems, or when the victory or defeat of a nation in military conflict was explained not on the basis of divine intervention, but rather on which nation had the larger army and the greater military capability. The observation of a “miracle” is a VERY subjective event.
    [/quote]

[/font]

Just because subjective observation is open to error doesn’t mean it is in error.

Personally, I’m not aware of the “many Jewish holy men…” you are referring to. But if that is correct, how many of them were able to attract and keep a large following? You can only fake it so long before people will catch on.


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