The Black Sea Deluge

The Black Sea, from spaceAs the last surviving remnants of the ancient Tethys Ocean, the various bodies of water in the area stretching from the Mediterranean to (what’s left of the) Aral sea have had a rough time of it during the last couple of million years. The Mediterranean is of course connected to the Atlantic via the narrow Strait of Gibraltar, which has closed in the past causing the sea to largely dry up. Similarly, the Black Sea is connected to the Mediterranean via the even narrower Bosporus.

There is a hypothesis, recently brought back to public attention, that around 5600 BC the Bosporus was opened, flooding what had previously been a freshwater lake and bringing its level up to the modern height. This idea has become associated with a possible origin for the Noachian flood myth. Hence Brian Thomas’ latest article, Did Underwater Archaeologist Confirm Noah’s Flood?

Underwater archaeologist Robert Ballard claimed to have found evidence beneath the Black Sea that Noah’s Flood really occurred. Christians who only read headlines may count this as confirmation of the Bible. But whatever Ballard found should not be considered direct evidence of Noah’s Flood.

Thomas’ position is unusual: similar to what we saw with the apocalypse business yesterday, Brian is pointing out that no this is not evidence of the Flood, but at the same time insisting that the Flood did in fact happen anyway.

Ballard described an Ice Age flood in the area. Back then, a mile-thick layer of ice covered broad expanses. Over centuries, that ice melted and caused catastrophic natural dam failures around the globe. They also elevated the sea level by hundreds of feet. One of those natural dams separated the Mediterranean Sea from what once was a freshwater lake. Ballard’s team discovered an ancient shoreline 400 feet below the surface of the Black Sea—likely the ancient lake’s shoreline.

Apparently, the sea overcame its barrier one day, carved the Bosporus strait, and violently overtopped the ancient lake to become today’s Black Sea. Ballard told ABC News, “It probably was a bad day. At some magic moment, it broke through and flooded this place violently, and a lot of real estate, 150,000 square kilometers of land, went under.”

So far as I can tell, the idea that this flood was as dramatic as Ballard claims doesn’t hold a great deal of water – just because he found evidence of a shoreline more than a hundred meters below the waves doesn’t mean it all happened at once. But that’s not the primary issue at hand.

According to ABC News,

The theory goes on to suggest that the story of this traumatic event, seared into the collective memory of the survivors, was passed down from generation to generation and eventually inspired the biblical account of Noah.

This “theory” did not come from the Bible. It came from secular researchers Bill Ryan and Walter Pitman, whose idea gained extensive popularity in 1999. But whereas there probably was a grand and terrible flood into the Black Sea when the Ice Age was waning, this could not possibly have been the same as Noah’s global Flood for at least three reasons.

Thomas’ three criticisms seem to miss the point. It is not being claimed that this flood was the Flood, but that it inspired the story.

First, the Black Sea sits upon miles of rock layers that at one time were mud and sand. They even include fossils of sea creatures. These layers extend across large parts of the continent and are the real evidence of a truly global flood. Since these Flood layers are below ice age deposits, they show that a far greater cataclysm occurred before local ice age catastrophes.

Aside from the point-missing, this rests on the non sequitur that sedimentary rock layers mean catastrophe (and therefore the biblical Flood). The second is a little more substantive:

Second, if the Black Sea flood was “seared into the collective memory of the survivors” to become the “story” of Noah, then only the descendants of those local survivors should retain its memory. On the other hand, if the Flood covered the whole world, then all descendants of Noah’s three sons—all cultures—might remember its terrible history. Sure enough, as historian Bill Cooper carefully documented in his recent book The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis, Flood legends reside in every corner of every continent. Thus, the story of Noah is not merely a Middle-Eastern myth.

Flood myths in general are quite common but, crucially, so are floods. Personally I think that a Black Sea deluge is unnecessary as an explanation for the origin of the story of Noah’s flood, but that’s not to say that it couldn’t have contributed in some way. The idea that only the descendants of the survivors could have known about the flood – as if they were incapable of telling other people who they weren’t related to – seems to be an amusing way for Brian to more easily argue that Noah himself had to have been involved, without regard for accuracy.

The third returns to the point-missing:

Finally, Scripture is clear that Noah’s Flood covered the entire planet. This Black Sea flood was miniscule in comparison. If this local flood is really the source of the Genesis Flood, then God was wrong when He co-wrote Genesis 7:19: “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.” There is no scientific reason to make God out as a liar in this case, since the Black Sea flood was not Noah’s Flood.

Again, this hypothesis argues that Genesis 7 is an exaggeration of a real event. And even the creationists themselves try to argue that the “high hills” weren’t actually all that high, as it mucks up their ideas for how it could have worked.

Thomas concludes:

Does archaeology confirm the Genesis Flood? Probably not. But geology certainly does. When looking for evidence of a truly global watery catastrophe, one needs to broaden the search area, looking at the continents themselves and not their minor surfaces scuffs. Are Ballard, Ryan, and Pitman willing to think much bigger?

The claim that geology “certainly” confirms the Flood is of course absurd, but the archaeology admission is a keeper.

3 thoughts on “The Black Sea Deluge

  1. Yes, and the interpretation that Thomas gives is the standard YEC interpretation. However, the text doesn’t actually necessitate a flood that covered the entire planet. It merely necessitates a universal flood insofar as humans are concerned (if that)! In fact, some old earth creationists hold that this Black Sea flood was the Flood after all, because they hold that the text only necessitates a large flood.


    Well, there are numerous points in the Bible where it talks about “whole earth” and the like but doesn’t mean that. For example, the people of the whole earth coming to hear from Solomon, yet only certain nations are mentioned, which even at the time the author would have known wasn’t the entire known world. Instead, what is meant is the “whole land” which is another translation of the Hebrew anyway.

    Anyway, interesting post. Thanks for it.

  2. I’ll read Thomas and your response a bit later.

    Meanwhile I had the following response (not actually sent to Tas Walker as it’s a time of good will) to this:

    Reason 13

    They were seeking to claim that they had made discoveries that confirmed the validity and historical accuracy of the Genesis account of a devastating recent worldwide flood, but their claims were not supported by the facts.

    Though I do welcome the accuracy of the blog post’s TITLE.

    • There was of course NO, waning, ice age glaciation 7,600 years ago or subsequently (the same applies – even more so – 4,300 years ago when the worldwide flood of Genesis is meant to have occurred according to YECs).


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