I recently picked up a copy of John J. Collins’s A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible and he mentions in chapter 2 that there were two versions of the flood story that were interwoven to make up the biblical account. I touched on some of these issues in my discussion of Chapter 7, but I thought it might be worthwhile to present them a bit more concisely here.
When does Noah enter the Ark?
- Seven days before the flood: “Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark, to escape the waters of the flood […] And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth” (Gen. 7:7-10).
- On the same day that the flood begins: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark” (Gen. 7:11-13).
How many of each type of animal did Noah take into the Ark?
- Two of every animal: “Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah” (Gen. 7:8-9).
- Two of most animals, but seven pairs of each clean animal: “Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate” (Gen. 7:2).
I wanted to see if there were more contradictions due to the story being a Frankensteined narrative, so I had a look over at the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. They mention quite a few, such as how long the rain continued, how long the flood lasted, when the mountains became visible, etc. Thing is, when I turned to the Bible itself to look these quotes up in context, either my translation used words that made the contradiction disappear, or I derived from the context that it was actually two different things being talked about.
The Old Testament was not written for ease-of-reading, and it can often be difficult to follow along. Just to make matters worse, all I have are translations – which allows for the translators’ biases and interpretations to sneak in. I have no idea how much reliance I can place in deriving meaning from connotation since I don’t know if those same connotations are present in the Hebrew.
So while I can’t dismiss the claims made by the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible out of hand, I can say that I don’t – based on my personal, uninformed reading – agree with them.