Noah's flood: Local or worldwide?

Noah’s flood – local or global?

Years ago I held to an old earth position and also to a world-wide flood. I was always troubled that NO-ONE else that I could find held to those 2 positions. Everyone else (referring to Christians) either held to…

young earth and world-wide flood
old earth and local flood

So the issue of the extent of the flood has always intrigued me.

Hugh Ross, as a leading proponent of the local flood position, says the flood was localized to at least 200 miles in diameter and also smaller than the Roman Empire in total area.

Yet his reasoning puzzles me. Here are some verses and then I will look at his view.
Gen 7:11 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.

Gen 7:12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights .

Gen 7:19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.

Gen 7:20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

Gen 7:24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

Gen 8:1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.

Gen 8:2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained,

Gen 8:3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated,

Gen 8:4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.

Gen 8:5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

Extent of the flood (according to Ross):

By comparing the distance to the horizon a dove could see (presumably flying near sea level for some reason) and Noah in the ark could see (about 30 feet higher than sea level according to Ross), he concludes that the minimal diameter of the flood is 200 miles (since Ross says Noah saw tops of mountains that the dove did not see). Then he speculates that distant mountain ranges held the water above any local hills during the duration of the flood.

Since the Bible has the flood staying above the mountains (or at least local hills according to Ross) for many months, how did all that flood water stay there that long? Note: The heavy rain apparently stopped after 40 days. The only way is either if there is a complete ring of (distant) mountains higher than all local hills or else there is a steady inflow of water into the area that is at least as great as the outflow. Neither choice seems even remotely possible.

Also, a major source for the flood water is said to be ”the fountains of the deep” which sounds like some source of water from down in the ground. Ross never mentions that water source (unless I missed it in his talk).

Promise of the rainbow – to whom? [What life was destroyed in the flood?]

Gen 9:8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
Gen 9:9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
Gen 9:10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
Gen 9:11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
Gen 9:12 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:
Gen 9:13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
Gen 9:14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
Gen 9:15 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.
Gen 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
Gen 9:17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

What life was destroyed in the flood? Hugh Ross and most local flood proponents say all humans lived in a localized area such that all of them were destroyed except the 8 on the ark. But note that the rainbow covenant is not just between God and humans. It is also between God and every living creature that is with you – birds, cattle, and every beast of the earth.

To me, if the covenant requires that all humans except those on the ark were destroyed, then it also requires that all birds, cattle and beasts of the earth except those on the ark were also destroyed. Further, if the animals were NOT all destroyed, then why put so many of them on the ark? A few years after the flood the ones beyond the area of the flood could just migrate back into the land formerly covered by the purported local flood.

So my questions for those who hold to a local flood are…

  1. If the flood was local, how did the water stay above the local hills for so many months without draining away between the mountains of distant ranges? [And where in the world is there a complete ring of distant mountains without an opening in the ranges?]

  2. If the covenant with humans required that all humans on the earth except those in the ark died, then didn’t it also require that all of the birds, cattle and beasts of the earth, save the ones in the ark, died during the flood as well?


Further question…
3. If the flood was local, why put so many animals, including “unclean” animals on the ark?

What was the purpose of that? The animals beyond the boundaries of the purported local flood would soon migrate back into the area after the flood. Bringing some for food and some for sacrifice makes sense. But especially why bring “unclean” birds (like ravens)?


Mel, these are things people like to ask and to find answers for. But you are asking the right questions about the question its self. Logic must be part of the answer.
What I do know is 1. People look for all kinds of stuff to cloud the truth. and
2. I can find sea shells in the hills of Waco, Texas, not fossils. So, mister local flood, how did they get there?

God bless you my friend, interesting stuff…

thank you…


@kenyamel Hey Mel, good question :slight_smile: Since this is not a core Christian doctrine, it is okay to agree to disagree. I originally believed the flood was global and now my opinion is that it was likely local, but I think there are also plenty of unknowns here… While I am sure @Hugh_Ross could provide much more detailed answers to your questions, here are a few initial thoughts:

  1. Think about an actual flood like the one in Houston, Texas a while back. When it floods for a few days, the water can remain for a few days or even weeks (see link below). You would not need a giant mountain range - an area of land that was lower in elevation and bowl shaped might do the trick. Not an expert here - just trying to throw out some thoughts.

Also, there have been some really large floods other than Noah’s flood:

  1. No, God’s wrath was only on mankind; not on the animals. At least in the case of the flood, it was the humans who were acting wickedly, so there would be no need to kill off all of the animals. Even in the global flood model, plenty of fish survive the catastrophe…

  2. Could have been better for the local ecosystem and for the flourishing of mankind? Aided in fast repopulation?

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Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate them.

  1. The key point is that the water remained ABOVE the mountains (or hills if Ross is right about the range of meaning of the Hebrew word). Unless the elevation is minimal for the mountains (or hills), we would expect most of the water to quickly drain away through gaps in the mountain ranges or very quickly if the location Ross gives for the flood is correct since it does NOT have a complete ring of mountains. Keep in mind even a local flood person like Hugh Ross has the flood covering a minimum diameter of 200 miles. This is not 10 to 30 feet of water on the ground like during a Texas flood. This is thousands of feet of water on the ground somehow not draining out of a supposed ring of mountains hundreds of miles away.

  2. Since God’s covenant rainbow was a promise to the animals (and not just humans) that God would never AGAIN destroy them by water, that strongly indicates they WERE totally destroyed in the flood (other than those on the ark). (See Gen. 9:15-17 above)

  3. Why build such a huge boat (which could hold so many animals) just to speed up the repopulating of the local ecosystem? But then again, ecosystems are important! :slight_smile:

Anyway, I know full well that holding to a worldwide flood brings its own difficulties, which is why the local flood position is so widely held among Christians.

God bless!


I am a world wide flood kind of guy…

thank you…

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Why didn’t God just have Noah just move 250 miles away from where he was and watch the disaster from there? He could have just built lawn chairs and a gazebo instead of a huge ark. If indeed the flood was local, then all the wicked could have done was just move, in smaller boats, away to dry land. Why all long time to build the ark? - all that time to build an ark when a 30 day journey would have saved so much wood. The technology used to build the ark could have been used to create a wonderful Parade to Dry Land event.


Hi David. Welcome!

An issue that I have never heard addressed (which is raised in what you wrote) is why (according to the local flood view) all humans, after at least 2000 years since Adam (and MUCH longer according to many local flood folks) still lived in a pretty small area that was supposedly just a few hundred miles across. For if they didn’t still live close together, then the “local” flood would not have wiped out all of mankind except the 8 on the ark.

I do not believe a local flood view fits the text of Genesis 6-9. But a worldwide flood is hard to reconcile with some scientific issues, such as explaining how the current distribution of animals today could have arisen from those on the ark approximately 4000 years ago. Hence the difficulty. I CHOOSE to accept what I see as a straightforward view of the Biblical record and TRY to resolve the scientific issues that arise. I feel like I succeed sometimes but certainly not always.


@kenyamel Interesting thoughts :slight_smile: One thing to keep in mind is that the Tower of Babel occurred after the flood, so humans spoke the same language at the time of Noah. And, just like at Babel, humans have a tendency to bunch together for many obvious reasons, such as protection. So it is not necessarily the case that humans would inevitably have spread out beyond the boundaries of a local flood. It depends on a lot of social, cultural, and technological factors. Also, the men at this time were wicked and so it is likely they were disobeying God’s command to fill the earth.

Just some things to ponder.

Some people tend to “bunch together.” Others tend to be explorers and adventurers and even just loners. So it is difficult for me to accept that over a period of at least 2000 years, no one would have gone exploring and so end up living many hundreds or possibly thousands of miles away at the time of the flood. Can I be SURE of that? No. But it is easier for me to believe it happened than that it didn’t.

People may live in groups for protection. However, given the great wickedness of people at the time of the flood, leaving other people and taking your family far away might have been the best way to keep them safe back then.

As far as disobeying God’s command to fill the earth, we don’t know whether they were or were not doing that. Local flood people need everyone in a very small geographic area at the time of the flood. I am a worldwide flood guy. I am quite content imagining they spread far and wide by the time of the flood. We just don’t know. Also, since local flood folks are invariably old earth folks, they may have many many thousands of years over which people could have scattered around the world before the flood.

Regardless, the issue is, how much do we let science influence how we understand the Bible? That becomes a very thorny question at times. We normally have no trouble accepting Jesus walked on water even though science tells us that is impossible. So the Bible at times wins over science. If science raised no objections to a worldwide flood, would so many Christians still reject it? I suspect not.

We all live with tensions. I find I’d rather live with tensions toward science than tensions toward the Bible. That is perhaps an unfair way of putting it. But if so, why have I never run across someone who is both old earth and worldwide flood or else both young earth and local flood?

Well, Sean, obviously this is an issue I feel strongly about. I hope I did not offend you. God bless!


@kenyamel Not at all :slight_smile: I don’t think there are tensions between science and Scripture. But I do think there are a lot of tensions between different interpretations of Scripture. For example, I think it is unclear that the language of Genesis necessitates a global flood. There is also a lot of tension surrounding how we interpret the scientific evidence. For example, I don’t think we have evidence of molecules to man evolution. I agree we should accept God’s Word over the opinions of our day.

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Hi, Mel! Great discussion and wonderful, civil conversation. Thank you to all for that! One thing to consider is the physical events that God says in Genesis says took place. The fountains of heaven were opened, and the fountains of the deep broke forth.

I have considered this for some time in my Christian walk as our Heavenly Father patiently teaches me over my lifetime. I am so grateful for His patience!! :slight_smile:

Considering the lifespans of people before and immediately after (and then continuously after) the flood, I do think that some kind of water barrier around the earth was present. As the earth could not be closer or further from the sun in any significant way than it is now, would not destructive UVA/B rays still be present creating all kinds of cumulative radiation sickness over the hundreds of years the pre-flood people lived? That creates logical and scientific difficulties for me, although I am no radiation scientist.

Also, if we look at the Pacific Rim and all the volcanos there, and we explore the idea that the fountains of the deep “broke forth”, that language suggests powerful explosions. If just the volcanos in the Pacific Rim let loose at the same time, what kind of devastation would the US East Coast (the opposite side of the continent) experience? If that applied to ALL volcanos or other fountains exploding with great force, it would not seriously take much to destroy the entire world.

Put together both of scenarios of powerful deluges coming from above and powerful explosions coming from below, and I can easily accept complete devastation and destruction. It boggles my mind.

As for the animals, again, the people who lived before the flood were, I believe, much more intelligent and imaginative than we are today if for no other reason that accumulated knowledge. Can you imagine what we may have today if Henry Ford, Einstein, or other incredibly knowledgeable and inventive people with whom we are familiar today lived 500 -900 years? Add to that the degenerative knowledge and bent of people like Hitler, Mao, Stalin, the US mobsters, gangs, etc., and try to imagine how evil animals had been trained to be. As a volunteer at a local animal shelter, I know that there are dogs that come in that we cannot gentle the vicious out of, no matter how patient, no matter how kind, no matter how well their basic needs are met.

I think there is so much we do not consider or understand with the flood, but I love the discussions that spur me on to more than I have right now. Thanks, everyone!!!

Will all of our technology and distractions today, I often neglect to understand the depth of knowledge that comes from being bored or undistracted.

Sean, I am surprised by your statement that there are not tensions between science and Scripture. Many young people “lose their faith” when they are taught large-scale evolution in high school and/or college. They don’t know what to do to either refute it or else resolve that with the days of creation found in Genesis. There are obviously many ways of tackling the problem. But, for those students, there definitely IS a clash (not just a little tension) in their thinking between what science says and what the Bible says.

Whether one is young earth or old earth, whether one is worldwide flood or local flood, there are difficulties with reconciling what the Bible says with science. For instance, if one holds to an old earth view but still holds to an “order of creation” as represented by the 6 days of creation, one finds science objecting to aspects of that order.

It is possible to treat the first few chapters of Genesis as being myth that is only meant to teach us some theological ideas (there is a God, he was involved in the development of the universe, earth and life in some way, etc.). But as soon as one goes beyond that and sees the Bible as making meaningful statements about the creation (the 6 days, regardless how long each one is, are in order, for instance) and/or meaningful statements about how human life came about (such as fiat creation of Adam rather than by evolution from some ape-like ancestor) one ends up dealing with difficulties (tensions) between science and the Bible. The flood itself leads to tensions with science as soon as one holds that all humans except the 8 on the ark were destroyed in the (local or worldwide) flood.

There are many Christians who DO treat Genesis 1 and 2 and also the flood chapters as myth with little to no “scientific” content. But for the vast majority of Christians, including me, Genesis 1 and 2 and also the flood chapters are telling things about what actually happened “in the beginning.” Therefore, at least most of us live with tensions between science and the Bible.That is not necessarily a bad thing.


Hi Cindi. You may want to look up the hydroplate theory, which posits there used to be a layer of water deep in the earth that broke through to the surface of the earth during the flood. I found it an interesting theory but don’t know how much credence to give it.

I’m not sure I agree with your statement…“people who lived before the flood were… much more intelligent and imaginative than we are today if for no other reason tha(n) accumulated knowledge.” We have much more knowledge today, which came about from the collective research and thinking of scientists, theologians and philosophers over the millennia. But who knows, maybe they were.

As far as the issue of radiation damage, there is a concept called genetic load. It refers to all the deleterious (bad) genes carried by individuals in a population. If we hold to a literal directly created Adam and then Eve formed from his rib, it is reasonable to assume God did not give them ANY deleterious genes. Therefore they had NO genetic load. Radiation and other factors can damage genes, leading to an increase in genetic load. So the very long life spans may be explainable that way (if we are trying to “explain” them to a science person). The rapid decrease in lifespan may possibly be explained by a significant increase in radiation reaching earth if the idea of some extra amount of water being around the earth in the atmosphere before the flood is true. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with that, just mentioning its possible implications. That might lead to many more mutations, rapidly increasing the genetic load on the human population.

Thanks for your thoughts!

@kenyamel Thanks for those thoughts :slight_smile: I would offer two responses, one to the idea that there is tension between science and Scripture and the other to the idea that Christians who hold different views of Genesis 1 believe it is a myth.

  1. First, science is not the same thing as either naturalism or scientism. It is true that the Christian worldview is in tension with naturalism and scientism, which deny God’s existence and therefore deny revelation as a valid means of knowing. However, science as a discipline of applying logic and the scientific method to problems does not conflict with Scripture. It is not the scientific evidence that conflicts with Scripture, but the way that those who hold to naturalism / scientism interpret certain portions of that evidence.

  2. Just because a passage of Scripture is not a chronological recounting of events does not mean it is either mythical or untrue. Think about John 1 - in the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh. That whole chapter is a beautiful exposition of God’s creative work through the Son, but it is not a historical record of events. In the same way, Genesis 1 does not have to be a chronological recounting of events to be either true or meaningful - just like John 1.

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Thanks for your thoughts, Mel. The reason I think they were more intelligent is because I think Adam and Eve were created intelligent from the beginning (based on Adam’s intelligent naming of animals, knowledge of how to work, etc.) And knowledge can die in the span of just one generation. I do not think we are even close to as intelligent as they were, although I do NOT purport to prove this from Scripture. It is merely opinion based on current observation – so few people in our country know ANYTHING about growing food, how much is needed to sustain a life, etc., let alone how to make anything like clothes, etc. They could create something if necessary, but true craftsmanship and artistry? Probably not, and certainly not from accumulated knowledge. However, I do see the point you are making.

I agree that there are may possibilities, and it is interesting to consider new and old. Thank you!

Just curious i may have missed it in this thread. But if it is a local flood. When god says I will make a covenant that I will never flood the earth again, genesis 9:11. How is that reconciled? With floods today we continually see catastrophic floods…katrina for example.
So when we are assured of gods coventant of peace through Christ in Isaiah 54: 7 - 10, and it is as sure as the covenant with Noah, . What does that mean? The covenant seems to not be a sure thing if it’s a local flood
Appreciate an answer on this, I haven’t heard an answer on this.

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@Alive_In_Christ Whether the flood was global or local, God wiped out everyone except Noah and his family. So the promise could be viewed as referring not the physical boundaries of the flood, but rather to its consequences. God would never again send a flood to wipe out all living things.

Oh I see thank you. For some reason I was thinking the local flood model was saying just the local population Died. But with the local flood you’re saying all living creatures on earth were in that localized area. Ok well I don’t know if I agree but that makes more sense.

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@Alive_In_Christ Not necessarily all living creatures, but certainly all people.

It’s important to keep in mind when reading ancient texts that when they say things like “all the world”, they do not mean the same thing we mean. For example, in Luke there was a census of “all the world”, but it clearly does not mean that Caesar took a census of Antarctica, of which he knew nothing. It means the Roman world.

Likewise, even when Genesis uses very all encompassing language, that does not necessarily mean the same thing to ancient people that it would to us.

Luke 2:1 - In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.