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There are flood myths from all over the world (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (There are flood myths from all over the world (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CG201:

Many cultures around the world have flood myths, indicating the universality of the Flood.


CreationWiki response:

This is a misrepresentation of the actual claim. There are actually two variations.

  • The many similar elements in the various flood legends, suggest a common historical source. Walt Brown uses this one.
  • If a global flood did occur accounts would be passed down as legends. This version is preferred since flood legends are a prediction of the Global Flood model.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Flood myths are widespread, but they are not all the same myth. They differ in many important aspects, including
  • reasons for the flood (Most don't give a reason.)
  • who survived (Almost none have only a family of eight surviving.)
  • what they took with them (Very few saved samples of all life.)
  • how they survived (In about half the myths, people escaped to high ground; some flood myths have no survivors.)
  • what they did afterwards. (Few feature any kind of sacrifice after the flood.)

That there would be differences is expected and even predicted by the Global Flood model.

The only written accounts of the Flood that could exist before the Babel dispersion would have been in the original language. If that language had been Hebrew then Moses could have had Noah's log book or a similar written account to work from.

No other language but the original could have come out of Babel with a written account of the Flood. Furthermore, no other language would have had a written language. As such, until a written language was developed in these other languages, the accounts of the flood would have been passed down by word of mouth. Passing information down by word of mouth is notorious for causing distortions. There would have been a tendency to adjust the account to the groups' cultures and religions over time. It is also likely that the accounts of the original Flood would get mixed up with accounts of local floods.

What TalkOrigins has not done is explain the similarities. To take one example from TalkOrigins' own list of flood accounts,[1] the following accounts include a raven being sent out after the flood:

  • Hebrew: "Noah sent out a raven, which kept flying until the waters had dried up. He next sent out a dove, which returned without finding a perch. A week later he set out the dove again, and it returned with an olive leaf. The next week, the dove didn't return."
  • Assyrian: "Utnapishtim released a dove, but it returned finding nowhere else to land. He next returned a sparrow, which also returned, and then a raven, which did not return. Thus he knew the waters had receded enough for the people to emerge."
  • Altaic (Central Asia): "On successive days, Nama released a raven, a crow, and a rook, none of which returned. On the fourth day, he sent out a dove, which returned with a birch twig and told why the other birds hadn't returned; they had found carcasses of a deer, dog, and horse respectively, and had stayed to feed on them."
  • Cree (Canada): "A man survived the deluge in his canoe. He sent forth a raven, but it did not return, and in punishment it was changed from white to black. He next sent out a wood pigeon; it returned with mud in its claws, by which the man inferred that the earth had dried, so he landed."
  • Chippewa (Ojibway) (Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin): "He sent a raven to determine [the island's] size, but it didn't return. He next sent a hawk, which reported back that the raven had been eating dead bodies on the shore, so Nenebojo cursed the raven never to have anything to eat but what it steals."
  • Montagnais (northern Gulf of St. Lawrence): "Messou sent first a raven and then an otter to find a piece of earth, but neither could find any. He next sent down a muskrat, which dived and returned with just a tiny amount of land..."
  • Tarascan (northern Michoacan, Mexico): "When the flood started going down, the man sent out a raven, but it stayed out to eat dead bodies. He next sent out a dove, which returned to tell what the raven was doing, and ravens have been cursed to eat carrion since."

Differences between accounts are to be expected and therefore easily explainable. Similarities of details such as this one from around the world cannot be explained as being due to "repeated independent origins" or "because floods are common" as TalkOrigins later claims.

By the way, some flood legends perhaps do refer to local floods.

If the world's flood myths arose from a common source, then we would expect evidence of common descent. An analysis of their similarities and differences should show either a branching tree such as the evolutionary tree of life, or, if the original biblical myth was preserved unchanged, the differences should be greater the further one gets from Babylon. Neither pattern matches the evidence. Flood myths are best explained by repeated independent origins with some local spread and some spread by missionaries.

This is mostly unsubstantiated assertion. However, if it's true that "the differences should be greater the further one gets from Babylon", why does TalkOrigins go on to claim that "The biblical flood myth in particular has close parallels only to other myths from the same region". Is it simultaneously claiming that differences are not greater the further from Babylon the stories are, and that the more-similar stories are the ones from the region around Babylon.

The Biblical flood myth has close parallels only to other myths from the same region, with which it probably shares a common source, ...

This is also predicted by the Global Flood model. Babel was in modern-day Iraq, which is in the same general region of the world as Israel. The groups that spread out from Babel would not have developed a written language until they had settled some place. So the further a group settled from Babel, the longer the account would be passed down by word of mouth and the more distorted it would tend to become.

...and to versions spread to other cultures by missionaries.

Talk Origins' reference makes no reference to this, so on what basis do they make this claim? Besides, a comparision shows considerable similarity that cannot be attributed to missionaries.

Reference: Flood Legends from Around the World

Moreover, the data does not fit this claim. If missionaries were the inspiration for any number of flood stories, then how come the missionaries spent so much effort preaching about the Noachian Flood? Wouldn't they have placed more emphasis on the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How come myths based on this obviously far more important doctrine are not as common? Where are the myths based on Jonah and the Fish, the Exodus, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc? Clearly, the data indicate that the prevalence of flood myths is due to a universal event that left a universal impression on all people, since all were descended from Noah's 6 sons and each language family's ancestor would without a doubt have heard the story second-hand from Noah and/or his sons.

In addition, if the stories came from the missionaries, why do they have so many differences to the biblical story? Why does the Chippewa account replace the dove with a hawk, for example? If the stories were really from missionaries, you would expect a lot more similarity than exists.

The reason why the other stories are not universal is because they happened subsequent to the dispersion at Babel. This is why only the Global Flood has such a universal occurrence.

  • The only other myth that approaches the universality of the Genesis Flood is the myth of Dragons, which would logically result from real-life encounters with dinosaurs that survived for centuries (or millenia) after the Flood, and would have interacted with mankind wherever the dinosaurs managed to find a suitable habitat to live in.
2. Flood myths are likely common because floods are common; the commonness of the myth in no way implies a global flood.

Except that many of these legends speak of a global flood, and such a flood is not common. Even local floods that are large enough to be exaggerated into a global flood are not common, particularly in deserts.

The most common type of flood is an overflowing of a river, which is not likely to inspire an idea of a global flood. It might inspire a few, but not the 500+ flood legends known to exist.

Myths about snakes are even more common than myths about floods, but that doesn't mean there was once one snake surrounding the entire earth.

This is nothing but a straw man argument. If Talk Origins could produce 500+ legends about a snake surrounding the world, then they would have a point.

Note that the abundance of flood myths around the world have mainstream scientists curious. They do not accept Biblical explanations or an original event which descended with modification through oral tradition, but they do acknowledge the number of flood myths is worth noting.[1]

Further reading

See Also


  1. Mark Isaak, Flood Stories from Around the World