I’ve mentioned several times in posts about Glenn R. Morton. Morton was an ardent Young Earth Creationist, so ardent he switched professions from work as a geophysicist working for a seismic company and processing seismic data, and went into seismic interpretation where he would have to deal with more geologic data; so he could better defend YEC when he wrote articles for the Institute of Creation Research (ICR). The story of how he left YEC can be found here. In brief, he was simply overwhelmed by the actual data.
Glenn frequently writes and comments on the BioLogos Forum under the handle “gbob”. His profile for the BioLogos Forum can be seen here. Several of his articles speculate on the location of Eden and the location of Noah’s Flood. They include “Eden and the Flood: A Historical Reading of Genesis 2-3 and 6-9”, “The Location of the Flood”, and “Did Noah’s Flood Kill All Humans except his family?”.
Although no longer a Young Earth Creationist, and fully convinced of the timeline in the geologic record, Glenn is uncomfortable with assigning the early Genesis chapters as myth or allegory. He says:
“No, I am not a young-earth creationist, I am a geophysicist who fully accepts the age of the earth and that we arose at least in part though evolution. My problem with changing what seems to be written as history (Gen 2-11) into mythology or allegory is that we cease trying to solve the problems. I also have an ethical problem with changing what the Bible clearly says. My friend Klax says the whole thing is mythology. At least he is logically consistent which is to be preferred to the position where one gets to pick uncomfortable parts of the Bible and say they are allegory/mythology, but then proclaim other parts as historically true (the resurrection). So, here is why I dislike altering the Bible to make it what we want it to be. In my mind, either make it true or make it mythological–all of it, but don’t inconsistently pick and choose due to the need of the moment.”
So in the articles mentioned above, Glenn tries to concord what is written in the Bible with the geologic record. About 5.5 million years ago, tectonic activity closed off the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea diminished to a highly saline lake, much like the Dead Sea is now. This is known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC), also referred to as the Messinian Event. A succinct PBS video summarizing the MSC can be viewed here. At that time, there was no Persian Gulf and rivers such as the Tigris and Euphrates drained into the Mediterranean basin as the Arabian plateau was tilted in that direction. The remnants of those canyons draining into the Mediterranean basin, including the 2500 meter deep Nile canyon, have been mapped seismically and confirmed by drilling. Glenn speculates that Eden would have been located in the Mediterranean basin. He writes:
“So, where was Eden? Genesis 2:10-14 says:
“A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates (Gen. 2:10-14 [NIV]).
The first river, Pishon, I believe, came off of Cyprus… The second river flows through Cush. Cush is Ethiopia and thus this can be only one river, the Nile. The third and fourth rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates… They fit together if we look at the world as it would have appeared to a very, very ancient Adam… most of the land of Israel didn’t exist. The Persian Gulf didn’t exist. But the Zagros and Taurus mountains of Iran and Turkey did and water flowing off of them had to go somewhere. The nearest low area was the Mediterranean desert. There are canyons cut into bedrock along the Levant coast testifying that rivers did come that direction.”
This is a pretty ingenious fitting of the Bible description to a known geologic event, but what is even more ingenious is that the Strait of Gibraltar reopened catastrophically about 5.3 million years ago in an event known as the Zanclean flood or Zanclean deluge, and the Atlantic Ocean poured through the strait at a rate about 1,000 times that of the present day Amazon River, refilling the Mediterranean more or less to its present level during a period estimated to have been between several months and two years. This, of course, would have been Noah’s Flood.
In his article “Did Noah’s Flood Kill All Humans except his family?”, Glenn notes the following reasons why he believes the Zanclean deluge was Noah’s flood:
- It is the only flood in earth history that matches the Biblical description exactly.
- Only at this time did the rivers of Eden flow into the same place.
- It was just at the time when the earliest hominids appeared on earth. If all the humans are confined to that basin, then when the flood happened, they all died.
- One couldn’t easily walk out of this area so an ark was necessary.
- It covered high mountains. This is the only local flood ever proposed that could cover 15,000 foot high mountains.
- Modeling of fluid flow shows that, depending upon how large the breach in the Gibraltar dam was, it would fill in between 8 months and 2 years.
- An object floating on the waters could have easily landed in southern Turkey, which the Bible calls the mountains of Ararat. The Bible does use the plural for mountains, not the singular, so the Bible doesn’t say Mount Ararat.
- Finally, I know of no other flooding event in geologic history that can satisfy the above check list.
Pretty impressive feat of matching actual scientific data to the Biblical account. This is concordism at its finest. As impressed as I am with Glenn’s attempt, I’ve got a couple of problems –
One is the stark dichotomy Glenn insists on between concordism and myth. I do not think this is a Boolean choice between strict modern journalistic reporting and stuff just made up. Just because a literary form is utilized does not mean true spiritual truth can’t be transmitted, and that transmission still be inspired by God.
I take the position that John Walton takes in books like “The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate”. Walton’s focus is not on concordism, that is, trying to show compatibility between the biblical accounts and scientific findings but rather on understanding the text of Scripture itself. Walton gives primary attention to the meaning and significance of these OT texts and what they communicate in their Ancient Near Eastern context.
Another excellent book that shows the stark dichotomy between concordism and myth is not the only valid interpretive grid is “Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science”, by Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight. McKnight shows that it is manifestly obvious that the text of Genesis came to be in the ancient near East (ANE). It sounds like that world as read from similar contemporaneous texts, uses categories and terms and ideas from that world. It has the “pre-scientific” assumptions of that world. So if you don’t respect that text as designed for an ANE audience, you don’t really respect that text.
The second problem is that given the timeline Glenn is trying to use for the geologic events, the anthropologic timeline just doesn’t work. Adam and Noah would have to have been early hominids like Ardipithecus ramidus or Ardipithecus kadabba. That’s this guy:
Did Ardipithecus ramidus or Ardipithecus kadabba use tools? No they did not; the first known tools are 2 million years after Ardipithecus ramidus lived. So how did Noah the Ardipithecus build the ark? I just cannot imagine how that could be. Sorry Glenn– swing and a miss. Good try, though.
But Glenn’s timeline raises another question not so easily answered. Did Ardipithecus have human consciousness? To what extent did this creature have knowledge of God? Could it choose between right and wrong in any moral or ethical sense? And if Ardipithecus is too “immature” then when did human consciousness arise? With Australopithecus? Homo habilis? Homo habilis is the oldest species given the designation Homo, by Leakey et al. (1964).
How about Homo erectus? Homo erectus is the first known species to develop control of fire, by about 1.5 Ma. How about Homo heidelbergensis (in Africa also known as Homo rhodesiensis). They had long been thought to be a likely candidate for the last common ancestor of the Neanderthal and modern human lineages.
How about Neanderthals? It is possible that Neanderthals believed in spirits and the afterlife. Scientists speculate that Neanderthals possibly buried food and prized items with their dead for their trip to the afterlife as the Egyptians and many ancient cultures did. Would Neanderthals have shared in Adam’s guilt? When did the guilty conscience evolve, or asking the question another way, when did God hold “persons” responsible for their “sins”? I don’t know, obviously it is all speculation. At least as far back as Neanderthals, but Ardipithecus seems too far back to me. The Bible’s answer is the first man – Adam. Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” It would seem the Bible means modern humans i.e. Homo sapiens, but then again, no Biblical writer had any concept of pre-human hominids.
What do you think of Glenn’s theory?