The Pre-Flood World
Author: Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.
To discuss this topic meaningfully, we necessarily must think in terms of a recent creation. If we are thinking in terms of five billion years of earth’s history, about one or two billion years of life’s history, and about one or two million years of human history, the study of the world before the flood would be more or less without meaning. One would then have to think in terms of a local flood, and the world before such a flood would be no different from the world after the flood. To discuss the pre-Flood world with meaning, we therefore have to think in the framework of Biblical history, in terms of thousands rather than millions of years, in terms of six days of creation culminating in a perfect and finished world, in terms of the introduction of sin and God’s curse on creation, and finally, of the destruction of the world as it then was in the waters of the Flood.
St. Peter says that the whole world at that time perished by a great cataclysm of water. Our belief that the entire world was destroyed in the Flood is based especially on II Peter 3:6, where it says the “kosmos,” the whole world that then was, was “cataclysmed” (Greek “kataklusmos”) with water and perished. The entire structure, the entire system that then was, perished. This is why we don’t know too much about how it happened or what the ante-diluvian world was like.
We might look first for clues in secular history. There was certainly a civilization before the Flood, and presumably, the people had a written language. We read in Genesis 5 of the “book” of the generations of Adam (Genesis 5:1), for example. Genesis 5 also tells us that they were able to develop musical instruments, metal-working instruments, etc., and this all implies some kind of means of written communications and records. So we ought to be able to turn to secular history in some way for information about the world before the Flood. Of course, the problem there is that the very purpose of the Flood was to destroy mankind and all his works. Only Noah and what he took with him were preserved. Undoubtedly, Noah took some records with him into the Ark. I would believe, personally, that the record of the early chapters of Genesis were originally written by the antediluvian patriarchs – Adam, Noah, etc., perhaps on tables or stone. These records were carried on to the Ark and were preserved. They then ultimately formed the basis of Genesis as written by Moses. Noah probably, however, took only those records which were of direct interest in connection with the divine promises.
We do have also the mythologies of the early peoples. There is bound to be some basis of fact in many of these ancient legends and traditions. If we knew how to sift the mythological from the factual, perhaps we could derive some information from these sources of the world before the Flood. All these legends speak of a golden age way back long ago in history. These may be recollections, perhaps wishful thinking, of a world they once knew. There are stories about Atlantis and other vanished civilizations. With all these legends of the world before the Flood found around the world, if we only knew how to sift the wheat from the chaff, we might have some information of the pre-Flood world.
Book of Enoch
We have some books that have come down to us, which purport to describe the conditions before the Flood -for example, the book of Enoch. Actually there are really three so-called “Books of Enoch.” Here again, though, most likely most of the books of Enoch were written about the time of Christ. We don’t know how much to accept as true history in these books. We do know from the book of Jude, verse 14, that Enoch was a prophet, and he prophesied that the Lord would come with ten thousand of His saints, to exercise judgment on all, and to convince all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way. Perhaps this is an actual remnant from the original book of Enoch which has been preserved in the book of Jude. But how do we know and how can we determine how much of the rest is genuine? And so it would seem that secular, historical records cannot give us any reliable information about the world before the Flood.
How about geology? Again, we go back to our basic presupposition. If we believe the world was destroyed by a worldwide flood, then we must believe that the rocks, the fossils, and the sediments bear record primarily to the great fact of the Flood. But we obviously can’t go the standard geology textbook to get information about the Flood, since these are all written around the framework of evolution and uniformitarianism. Even though there are many Christians today who have gone over to the concept of the local flood, mainly to avoid difficulties with geology, it does seem to me that if we want to accept the full authority of Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, we must accept the position of a worldwide Flood. Jesus said the Flood came and destroyed them “all” (Luke 17:27) “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man,” He said. When the Lord returns, it will be a worldwide event; so, by analogy, must have been the Flood. Furthermore, the whole story in the book of Genesis becomes almost ridiculous if we think of it in terms of a local flood. The ark would not even have been necessary. The ark was big enough, by every known calculation, to hold much more than two of every known kind of dry-land animal. If it was built only to take the animals in a restricted region, there would have been no need for such a tremendous structure. In fact, there would have been no need for an ark at all. Noah and his family and the animals could have just migrated out of the region. It also says the mountains were covered. All of this means nothing, if it refers only to a local flood. Then the promise of God that he would never again send another flood like that flood has not been fulfilled, for there have been many local floods since. Thus God not only does not keep His promises, but the Scriptures do not mean what they say if the Flood was only a local flood. It just seems to me that if we are going to accept the Bible as the Word of God, we must accept the universal Flood.
From a geological viewpoint, if there was actually a universal flood, then all the pre-flood geological and geographical structures must have been changed very drastically. Therefore, we cannot expect to find in the geological record any information about the situation before the flood, unless we take full cognizance of the Flood in producing that record. For example, there are many great deposits of fossils, often in extensive “graveyards” of fossils. These seem to speak very clearly of some kind of a catastrophe. Fossils, especially fossils in large numbers, don’t get preserved unless they are buried quickly. In order to be preserved in the sediments, be lithified, and be preserved for ages, they certainly would have to be buried quickly, in an aqueous catastrophe.
Sir Charles Lyell said the present is the key to the past, and he believed all the past deposits can be explained in terms of present processes. But when we look at the fossils, and other geological formations, we see that forces must have been at work in the past on a far greater scale than we know of now. We see great faults, factures, uplifts, earth movements of a nature entirely incommensurate with anything happening today. We think also of the great region-wide lava flows of the Northwest, and of the continental glaciers. Almost every geological phenomenon like that we study today indicates that forces in the past must have been operating on a far greater scale than we have now. We are going to have to think in terms of catastrophism if we are going to make any ultimate sense out of the geological record. More and more of even the orthodox geologists are accepting at least local catastrophism today. The old type of uniformitarianism is beginning to go out of vogue. They are, however, still speaking of many local catastrophes, rather than one global cataclysm, such as the Bible describes.
Once we accept the basic premise of catastrophism, whether in terms of one great worldwide catastrophe, or many local ones, we are completely outside the realm of true science, since a geological catastrophe cannot be duplicated experimentally. One can’t study a past catastrophe scientifically, and so the field is thrown open to all kinds of speculation. We urgently need some kind of constraint and restraint on our speculations. And this, of course, we have in the inspired record of the Bible.
The Bible, the Only Reliable Record
In the past decade or so I have seen a dozen different books, Velikovsky’s being the most prominent, each one advocating a particular form of catastrophism. We have proponents of shifting poles, of a slipping crust, of astral visitors, cometary encounters, asteroid swarms, meteoritic impacts, axis flopping, and all sorts of things. Each one is advocated by a different proponent of catastrophism as being the explanation of earth’s geological history. All these claim a certain amount of evidence and may in some cases be partially valid. But in the last analysis, how can we know? This is altogether outside the domain of experimental science, and there can thus be no solid data here to build our understanding of the world before the flood. It seems to me, finally, that we are driven to the Word of God alone, if we are to obtain any really reliable information concerning the pre-flood world. The fact that some men don’t believe the Bible is not an argument against it. It is still the Word of God. Romans 3:3,4 says that the unbelief of some does not make the Word of God ineffectual. “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” The most sure position to take is to believe what the Bible says, exactly and fully.
When we look into the Bible to get the record, to find out what the world actually was like before the Flood, we have certain clues given to us. If we follow these clues, and take them to mean exactly what they say, then study the geological record, and the record of mythology, and all the other data we can bring to bear on the subject, it should be possible to fit everything into the Biblical framework and ultimately to have the most consistent and satisfying explanation of all the data.
The Word “Day”
When we look into the Bible we immediately encounter the six-day creation, of course. Now we should first of all be clear on what the word “day” really means in Genesis One. God clearly defined the word “day” the first time He used it. In Genesis 1:5 it says that “God called the darkness Night and the light He called Day. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” The light He thus called “yom” the Hebrew word for “day”; the evening and morning were the first “yom.” He is telling us there was a source of light (what it was we do not know, it may even have been God Himself), and there was a succession of light and darkness. The word day, as used in Genesis 1, thus means the light period in the succession of light and darkness. We have to think then in terms of the earth rotating on its axis and something like our present solar day. The sun, the moon, and “the stars also,” God made on the fourth day, to serve as “light bearers.”
The Water Canopy
On the second day it says that God separated the waters that were under the firmament from the waters that were above the firmament. Before this the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters, and darkness was on the face of the deep. This great deep was thus divided into two parts, the waters above and below. These two reservoirs were separated by a firmament, which He called Heaven. Later the birds would fly in the open firmament of the Heaven. This is the space, the thinness, the open expanse in which the birds would fly, -in other words, the open atmosphere.
This atmosphere separated the initial waters which covered the whole earth into two great reservoirs. It says that the waters were “above” the firmament, not in or scattered through it. This ties in very well with other statements made in the early chapters of Genesis.
The fact that the light from the sun, moon, and stars shone through, indicates that the upper waters were in the form of water vapor, not ice or clouds. Water vapor, of course, is invisible and thus fully transparent. If this is true, certain inferences would follow.
The greenhouse effect in our present atmosphere, for example, would have been tremendously augmented. The present greenhouse effect of the atmosphere is provided by the water vapor, ozone and carbon dioxide in the present atmosphere. There was probably also much more carbon dioxide in the antediluvian atmosphere than in the present.
World Uniformly Warm
The greenhouse effect would have meant that the earth was uniformly warm and mild. The latitudinal differences in temperature would have been minimal. This would have meant also, since the wind is mainly the result of latitudinal differences in temperature, that there would have only have been only mild air movements. The great storms of the present world would have been altogether absent in the antediluvian world.
This would mean, too, that the present hydrologic cycle would not have been in effect. There must have been a different system in antediluvian world. Although evaporation took place then in somewhat the same way as now, there could have been no large-scale transfer of evaporated water from the oceans to land by air movements, as at present. This would preclude continental precipitation. The condensation of water vapor also requires dust particles or other nuclei of condensation, and these would have been have been absent before the Flood. Genesis 2:5 says that God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there is no indication that this situation was changed before the time of the Flood. The watering of the earth was accomplished primarily by a sort of a ground fog, a mist that “rose up, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:6).
The Four River
According to Genesis 2: 10, there were four rivers that parted out of the one river coming from Eden. These waters must have been fed by some kind of artesian spring. It seems reasonable that there were also similar rivers in other parts of the world. Together with the daily “mist” and the intricate network of shallow “seas,” they would have provided water for abundant plant life and animal life.
Where Did Flood Waters Originate?
The Bible says there were torrents of rain that came down continuously all over the world for forty days and forty nights, and on a lesser scale, for 110 days after that. Literally, the “flood gates” of Heaven were opened. This, today, would be impossible. There is only an inch and a half of water vapor in the present atmosphere. There must have been then, before the Flood, far more water vapor in the atmosphere than we have today. This seems to have constituted the “waters that were above the firmament” before the Flood.
Harmful Radiation Shielded Out
One other effect of this water canopy would be that it would inhibit as a thermal blanket the passage of ultra-violet rays, of cosmic rays, and other harmful radiation. Even the present-day water vapor does this to a sufficient extent to make life possible on the earth. This would have made the environment much more conducive to longevity. Men did die before the Flood, of course, for the curse of sin upon them. But it wasn’t until after the Flood that one began to see a very rapid reduction in man ‘s life span.
More Waters in Present Ocean and Higher Mountains
If these waters from the canopy were precipitated and came down in this flood, then they would be now in our present oceans. This would mean that the land and sea ratio would be different in the antediluvian world from that today. The oceans would be shallower, there would be more land area, the mountain ranges of the present world-the Himalayas, the Rockies, the Andes, and others, give indications of having been uplifted in geologically recent times, probably even in the Pliocene or Pleistocene Epochs. In terms of flood geology, this implies in the closing stages of the Flood year. The continental and oceanic structures before the Flood would seem by this to have been significantly different from, although probably the major continental blocks and central ocean basins were roughly the same as now. These were also intricate systems of shallow seas, more or less along the lines of the present mountain rages, which served as geosynclinal trough into which tremendous thicknesses of sediment were washed during the Flood. There is in geology today an accepted position on mountain building, but mountains today give evidence of tremendous stratified sediments of such nature that must have been formed in shallow water. Although the exact mechanisms of orogeny are still obscure, one almost has to think in terms of a geosyncline, of the tops of the mountain ranges having been formed under water in a shallow sea, and then somehow, later, the entire land mass uplifted, with the still soft geosynclinal sediments especially subject to great compressive forces and structural distortion in the uplift process.
Fountain of the Deep Broke Up
As there were waters above the firmament, so there were also those below the firmament. Genesis 7:11 says the fountains of the great deep were broken up. The word “deep” is mentioned before in Genesis 1:2. Now this great deep is broken up at the time of the Flood. It seems to follow that if something were broken up, there was something that came out. Probably great subterranean pockets of compressed waters, associated with molten rock, or magma, that were restrained before the Flood, under the antediluvian crust, now broke forth. Perhaps some of these waters provided the source for the artesian rivers before the Flood. Then, at the time of the Flood, on one day, all these were broken up. After 150 days, Genesis 8:2 says that God stopped the fountains, of the great deep. This means that for 150 days great masses of water and lava and magma came out of the earth. This surely means that the present system of isostasy, with its balance between continental and oceanic crustal weights, would have been different before the Flood. In geophysics today it is suggested that below a certain depth most of earth’s materials are in a plastic state and earth’s crust is thus more or less floating on the mantle. It is thought that this implies a uniform distribution of weights around the entire earth’s sphere. Where the earth’s crust is thin, as in the ocean basins, there the density of the crust is heavy, as with basaltic rocks but where continents and mountains have been uplifted, the earth’s crust is less dense. Now, if for 150 days tremendous amounts of materials were coming out of the fountains of the deep, this would mean that the isostatic balances must certainly have been different before the flood than now. It would mean that there would be many changes in the earth’s crust, and this would demand rifts, earthquakes, and other movements, to help achieve after the Flood a new isostatic and hydrologic balance. We should not be surprised then to find there are evidences in the geological strata that there have been such great earth movements.
A Picture of the Pre-Flood World
A picture of the world before the Flood is bound to be partly speculation, because there is no way of checking it out scientifically. There will always be problems, but we can try to imagine what the pre-Flood world was like in the framework of the Bible and the data we have. One thing we should not do is to change or distort what the Word of God says. Geological data are subject to varying interpretations, but we cannot do this with the Bible. Geographically I would visualize a much greater land surface. The land surface would be gentler and more rolling than now. The seas would take the form, roughly, of the present mountain ranges because of the geosynclines found there. At the same time there is some evidence that the present oceans and the central cores of the continents were permanent and existed in some form before the Flood.
There is much talk of continental drift these days, and it does seem that Europe and North America, and Africa and South America fit with each other. But the dynamics of this sort of thing are very difficult and no adequate mechanism has yet been determined to reconcile these movements with the forces needed to accomplish them. Thus, although there seems to be some definite relation of the shape and structure of the continents with each other and the mid-oceanic ridges, just what that relation is, is still open to much discussion. In any, case, it is probable that many of these remarkable features of the face of the earth today are best subject to explanation in terms of the huge tectonic forces and tremendous movements of the earth during and following the Flood year.
Would A Water Canopy Demand Too Much Pressure?
The antediluvian meteorology and hydrology would have been controlled by the greenhouse effect of the vapor canopy. Some think that with all this water in the upper atmosphere, in the water canopy, the atmospheric pressure at the earth’s surface would have been intolerable. However, this is not at all necessary. It seems conceivable that this water canopy could have been maintained more or less in orbit, or by means of the electro-magnetic forces in the upper atmosphere, without necessarily increasing the barometric pressure at the surface. But even if there were more pressure, there is much evidence that life thrives better under what is called hyperbaric pressures than under pressure conditions. Further study is needed on this problem, but it does not appear to be a serious objection to the vapor canopy concept.
Abundant Plant and Animal Life Before the Flood
Biologically, with the greater extent of land areas and the more congenial environment, one would anticipate that there would be a much more virile, varied, and abundant life upon earth before the Flood than afterwards. This is supported by the tremendous fossil deposits of plant and animal life we find and the tremendous coal deposits. Coal, of course is made up mostly of fossilized plant life.
There is thus evidence that there was very lush vegetation and very abundant animal life before the Flood. There were undoubtedly ecological niches for the various assemblages of life forms, with a variety of topographic and Zoologic relationships at all latitudes and longitudes. Dinosaur and other extinct forms existed simultaneously with present forms, including man, but probably in different areas.
Why So Few Human Fossils?
It is significant that we find very few human fossils. The reason probably is that most men, representing the highest form of life, and the most mobile, would be able to reach the high hill before being caught by the Flood waters. After finally being overtaken and drowned, they would float on the surface and would only rarely be trapped and then buried in the sediments. Actually, the problem of the scarcity of human fossils is more serious for the evolutionist than for the creationist. If the earth were really billions of years old, and if man has actually lived several million years on earth, we ought to be able to find multitudes of prehistoric human fossils rather than only few widely scattered bone fragments. Especially should we find many fossils of primates evolving from animal life to modern man, but instead have found no such half-way creatures at all.
No Zones of Animal and Plant Life
The thermal effect of the canopy blanket of the pre-Flood world would mean that the latitudinal differences in climate we now have in the world would not exist. Today we have a different form of life in the Arctic from what we have in the Equator. There would still be ecological zones as thee result of differences in elevation, but otherwise the same general forms of animals and plants would be distributed throughout the world. Thus Noah did not have to send expeditions to Alaska or elsewhere to find representatives of exotic forms of life to put on the Ark. All the main forms would have been close by. Of course, he did not have to hunt for them anyway, because God sent the animals to him.
Man Did Die
In spite of the ideal climatic conditions of the antediluvian world man did die. He might have lived 900 years, but he did die. We find evidence in all the geological strata that the whole earth was under the bondage of corruption, decay, and death in the geological past as well as in the present. The strata abound with evidences that the whole earth was groaning and travailing in pain under the Curse of God. Romans 8:21-23 explains this by saying all of nature is under the bondage of corruptions, the result of sin. Before the Flood, man filled the earth with people, but also with violence. Every imagination of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). The main lesson we receive from the world before the Flood is not physical one, although this is astounding. The main lesson is spiritual and this is given by Jesus in Matthew 24:37-39: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark. And knew not until the Flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.” We must learn to see the awful judgment of God on man’s sin when we study the pre-Flood world, and this must drive us to the Lord Jesus Christ as man’s only hope of salvation.
By Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., Professor of Hydraulic Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia and Chairman of Creation Research Society. This talk was delivered at the Creation Seminar, Springfield, Illinois on July 8, 1968.